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How to decide if something is a scam before it breaks your heart and the bank…

“It’s a scam”

“That sounds like a scam.”

“Stop trying to scam me.”

First things first, we need to make sure we understand what a scam is. Currently, any time someone feels like they don’t appreciate what you’re selling you can be accused of trying to scam someone. In the case of network marketers and multi level marketers they are accused of participating in pyramid schemes. 

As virtual assistants we are somewhat vulnerable because our businesses are all based off of not having to work face to face and trusting that our potential customers are working towards a business relationship.

Red Flags

The first, and most obvious, red flag that indicates a scam is the offer, business, deal that is too good to be true. 

You are not that special that this once in a lifetime deal is only going to work for you, belong to you, or catapult you to greatness. Offers such as: 

“Copy information from a Google Sheet into a Google Doc, 200 entries, $1000.00 USD”

“Send inquiries to companies, work from your phone, 1 hour per day, $500.00 USD per day”

Do I know what these people are doing with those who apply and actually start working for them? No. No I do not. Why? Because I’ve not ever replied to those sorts of job postings. My gut always told me that they were not something I would want to be involved in. 

A second red flag for a scam is making a lot of money for very little work. 

Another scam, sending money back and forth between you and a client for “equipment” (see below)

The Money Switch (or money laundering scam)

You will see, on every job board and some Facebook groups, the person that posts looking for someone to work for them as a virtual assistant. There will be a long list of duties, reasonable pay, and an email address to reply to. Sounds legit, right?

So you reply to the email. Then you get a request for a Google Hangouts interview. But not over video ~ only via chat. 

During the chat you will be asked to fill out paperwork that includes your social security number and direct deposit information. The potential client will then tell you that they are going to send you a check that you are to deposit. The check is usually for something around $3000.00 USD and you are told to buy equipment and that you can keep a few hundred dollars for yourself and send the remainder to the client. 

These fake clients check out in some regards. They claim to work for a legit company that you can look up online. 

A lot of newer virtual assistants fall for this scam. That’s how legit it looks. 

Best advice? If you are going to take a chance with a client that sounds anything like this, please take whatever check they send to a bank that can look up the information before you deposit said check. Because if you deposit and withdraw to send to the scammer, you will be responsible for all of the money. Seriously. It’s money laundering and a huge problem. 

Tips

Check out every potential client to the best of your ability by checking websites, the BBB, or ask around if they claim to be local.

Ask for references of others who have worked with the client if you have a bad feeling.

Meet face-to-face over Zoom or another app.

Ask questions. You are allowed to ask as many questions that you need to feel comfortable with a potential client. This is a business relationship. 

Scams can be avoided by doing research, being diligent with questioning and using some common sense. If a client passes all of these tests and you still get scammed ~ that will be on them, not you.