10 Key Actions to Avoid a Virtual Assistant Scam

Virtual assistant jobs conceal work-from-home scams: Internet Scambusters #887

Work-from-home gigs are all the rage these days, with opportunities for virtual assistants offering up to $5,000 a month.

But many of these supposed jobs don’t really exist. They’re a cover for scammers who are after your money and personal information.

We’ll give you the details in this week’s issue, along with a timely warning about the key security steps you must take if you’re trading in or selling your phone.

Let’s get started…

10 Key Actions to Avoid a Virtual Assistant Scam

Want to help? How about becoming an online virtual assistant (VA), someone who helps people run their businesses — or even their lives.

With the rapid online growth in self-employment and small businesses, virtual assistants are all the rage. They take the administrative burden off employers’ shoulders while they get on with what they do best.

There are hundreds of thousands of them, mostly working from home. And according to a survey by Canada Life Group, they’re 12% more productive than office workers.

That’s fine if you can find this type of job. You get the luxury of working from home, with flexible hours and, according to some legitimate surveys, you can earn as much as $5,000 a month.

Not surprising then that the job is now one of the top-ranking work-from-home scams.

For example, victims may be hired to collect and re-send items which, unbeknownst to them, are actually stolen or have been bought with stolen credit cards. Same goes for cashing checks and forwarding payment, a tactic used for money laundering by drug dealers and other criminals.

If you get caught doing this, even innocently, you could find yourself in trouble with the police.

In other cases, victims receive an email after applying for a job or posting their credentials online. The message usually refers to one or other of these and offers the recipient an opportunity to work from home as a VA.

The lure is the work-from-home opportunity plus payment of around $500 a week, which is not an unreasonable sum.

What happens next depends on the type of scam but the tricks are all painfully familiar — advance fee dud checks, requests for payment for material or training, and requests for bank account details supposedly so that your payment can be transferred directly.

All of these are attempts to steal money or information. It would be highly unusual for any legitimate firm to do this. Even providing your bank details is not something you should consider until you’ve established that the “employer” is legit.

10 Top Tips

Use the following tips to avoid falling victim to these scammers.

  1. Be wary of job offers you didn’t apply for.
  2. If you do apply, be cautious about poor or vague job descriptions, or lack of checkable contact details.
  3. Check the wording of any messages you receive and look out for poor spelling and grammar.
  4. Research any potential employer carefully, checking their reputation independently online.
  5. Don’t accept any job that involves cashing checks and/or forwarding payments.
  6. Don’t accept instant job offers that don’t require checking out your credentials.
  7. Don’t provide any personal, confidential information until you’re sure you’re working for a legitimate employer.
  8. Never pay upfront for training materials or office supplies. A legitimate employer should provide these free of charge. According to the Society of Virtual Assistants (SVA), fake or inadequate VA training courses are one of the top sources of complaints they receive.
  9. If you receive a contract for signing, check it carefully, including the small print, to ensure you don’t get caught up in illegal activities.
  10. And if you’re already an established or a new VA, beware of phony directory listing offers. Don’t pay to be included until you have reliable evidence the product exists and will be circulated to your target market.

If You’re Looking to Hire a VA

If you’re looking for a VA yourself, it’s obviously common sense to check out their credentials.

One of the best ways of doing this is by asking for references and by looking for providers on legitimate freelance service provider sites.

There are plenty of these, like Zirtual.com, Upwork.com and the social media site LinkedIn.

One other warning that we’ve touched on before is the use of online search engines like Google, Safari, and Bing.

Scam employers use all the tricks of the trade to get their ads to appear high up in search results.

You could fall foul of these tricksters if you use another personal assistant in the form of your home-based devices like Amazon Echo or Google Assistant.

If you ask them to search for job opportunities or virtual assistants, chances are they’ll give you the top name from the search. So, use your PC or mobile device instead and do a proper search.

There’s no doubt that being or employing a virtual assistant can make great business sense. Just make sure you go about your search sensibly.

Begin by checking out and registering with a professional organization such as the SVA, a UK-based organization, the International Virtual Assistants Association, or the Global Alliance of Virtual Assistants.

Alert of the Week

This is the time of year that many people choose to upgrade their phones.

If you’re one of them, make sure you:

  • Back up your data first.
  • Remove any SIM or memory storage cards.
  • Delete all personal information — and check that it’s been erased.
  • Disconnect it from accounts and devices.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.