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I’ve been going through the application pipeline of a company that (potentially) hires people to do customer service from home. I’ve had one phone interview, and it looks promising, but now they want me to pay fees for a background check? Is this legit? Should I be worried? Should I pay?
I tend to think that the general rule of thumb when it comes to work at home jobs is, “If you have to pay…stay away!” but even that phrase needs some clarification, as it’s a bit simplified within the complexities of the work-at-home industry. If you follow these guidelines before you fork out your money, you’ll have a much better understanding of what you’re getting yourself into, and you won’t get frustrated by unrealistic expectations:
It is NOT OK to pay:
1) For the joy and privilege of working for someone
There are “companies” out there that charge prospective home workers an administrative fee to get started with the company. An example of this can be seen in the Mystery Shopping field, where a (supposedly real) company states that they’re trying to “weed out” the flaky Mystery Shoppers by charging a nominal fee to get started. The reasoning is that if you pay to receive assignments, you’re more serious about the business. Don’t do this. Legitimate Mystery Shopping companies will not charge you for the joy and privilege of working for them. They pay you…that’s how it works.
2) For a job-placement agency to find you a job
There are tons of job-placement and temp agencies out there who help people find employment. You’ll notice in their ads that many state, “Never a fee to our clients!” that’s because a legitimate company makes their money from the business who will be hiring you. If you pay money to a recruiter, chances are, they’ll take your money and blame the lack of employment on the economy.
3) If the employer “guarantees” employment if only you pay a fee
Be very wary of companies that guarantee employment where you have to pay in order to get an assignment. Now, sometimes this is a legitimate practice when it comes to training and background checks (see below), but other times the company just takes your money and disappears.
4) If you don’t thoroughly research the company before handing your hard-earned money over!
If you pay money to a company without completely and thoroughly researching the heck out of every single detail they provide, and it turns out to be a scam…well, you have no one to blame but yourself. Do not blindly accept any job offer that looks to be legitimate, especially if they’re asking for money! Look them up on Rip off Report to get other’s opinions. Check out who owns the website by going to Whois.com. Google everything that you find on the company: their email addresses, their phone numbers, their physical address. Look up their employees on Facebook and Linked-in, not just by their names, but by the email addresses they provide, and stay away from anyone overseas, or who requires you to deal with transferring money by Western Union or other wire services.
It IS OK to pay…
1) For Training, Background Checks and Credit Checks (make sure you research the person/company first!)
Some companies who hire people to provide customer service from home have specific procedures to follow to remain in compliance with government regulations. These VA (Virtual Assistant) companies require that their potential employees pay for training…otherwise it becomes a huge expense to that company, especially if you overstated your skills and can’t actually do what is required of the job.
If you’re working with customer’s sensitive information (like SSNs for medical work, or credit cards for order processing) you’ll have to pay for a credit check and background screening to make sure you’re not prone to thievery. Many companies will allow you to roll over these costs and take that out of your paycheck once you start working for them. Don’t immediately dismiss a company if you have to pay for these things. Of course, you should make sure you do your research on the company first, but know it can be standard practice to pay for training and background checks.
2) Materials, Technology or Programs
You may have to purchase specific programs or hardware to do certain jobs (transcription machines come to mind) so understand that even when working for someone else, you may have some expenses come up. Usually, (but not always) these expenses are tax deductible. Talk to your taxman to be sure, as every case is different.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with paying for information. It’s called getting an education. However, many people get confused and frustrated when they see ads online thinking that they’re applying for a home-based-job, when in actuality, they’re paying for an ebook about home-based jobs, or a service that sends mystery shopping assignments. There is a VERY big difference…so know what you’re buying before you pull out that credit card!
4) For a Home-Business opportunity
This cannot be stressed enough: Direct Sales Companies (like Avon, Tupperware, etc) are not scams. They’re home-based business opportunities not jobs.
Business opportunities do require capital. You have to pay for products or a website, or marketing materials, or other items to run your business. Direct Sales companies allow people who have the entrepreneurial spirit to buy into an established system. You’ll get the training and support like with a franchise (Subway, McDonald’s, etc) but without the half-a-million dollar franchise fee. But it’s not a job! You are responsible for earning income, so make sure you have your business plan in place before jumping into any opportunity.
Whether you’re looking for a work-at-home job, or a home-based business opportunity, understand that additional expenses may come up. By following the guidelines above, you’ll quickly learn when it’s OK to pay, and when you do need to just “stay away!”
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