How to Identify and Avoid Scams as a Virtual Assistant
Creating a career as a Virtual Assistant can be fun and exciting. You get to choose your clients, the type of work they do, your hours, and the kind of work you want to do for them. It is very fulfilling to help someone upscale their business and see it grow, knowing you had something to do with it.
On the flip side, there are a lot of people out there that will take advantage of that excitement and willingness to work hard. As a Virtual Assistant, you need to be able to identify a scam and know what to do if you find yourself involved in one.
Working as a Virtual Assistant can make it hard to identify scams because we work virtually. You don’t usually meet a potential client in person; therefore, you don’t know if their business is legitimate. It’s important to do your homework before entering into a business relationship with a virtual client.
Signs It Might Be a Scam and How to Identify One
·They want you to pick up money at Western Unions, banks, or Money Grams. Or they may even send you a check, ask you to cash it, keep some of the money for yourself as payment, and then send them the rest. This money is more than likely being laundered and you will take the fall for it!
·They want to hire you on the spot without getting or giving much information. It’s hard enough trying to get an interview with legitimate companies, so to be offered a job without even getting an interview is cause enough for you to run!
·The pay is more than you’ve ever been offered anywhere else for the same services. This type of scammer is hoping you’ll be so enthralled with the money, you won’t look into the details of the job. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
·The client wants too much personal information from you, information that includes your bank account. You shouldn’t ever have to give a new client your bank account number. There are so many other ways of getting paid that will protect you, such as PayPal. Other personal information they may ask of you is your social security number. It’s important to note something about PayPal here. PayPal is great at protecting buyers, and in this case the client would be the buyer. A scammer will pay you via PayPal and as soon as they get the work you’ve completed for them they will request a refund and PayPal will remove the money from your account. In order to protect yourself, it’s advised to move these payments as soon as you get them into a separate bank account.
·Someone contacts you out of the blue for a job you haven’t even applied to. It is easy for these scammers to obtain email lists for phishing campaigns and other scams. Be wary of these random emails and phone calls.
·The correspondence is full of grammatical errors. This should be a major red flag as any reputable business will proofread any emails going out to a potential employee.
How to Investigate a Potential Scam
If you’ve been approached about a job opportunity, it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new job. But don’t forget to do your due diligence and investigate the client or company beforehand.
·Research the company or client on Google to see what others say about them. Also try Googling the company name plus “scam” or “rip-off”.
·Reach out to any of the Virtual Assistant groups on Facebook and see if anyone has heard of the company before.
·Check the company’s name in the Better Business Bureau. You won’t find much information here, but it’s a good sign if the company went through the effort to be listed. Other business listing sites are Dun & Bradstreet, and Hoovers.
·Check to see if there are complaints with their state attorney general. Also check to see if they’re licensed by the state.
·Try to call the phone number that is listed for them. Does someone answer? Is it the correct person?
·What type of email address do they have? Is it professional?
What Do You Do If You Discover a Scam?
If, after you investigate a company and you feel that it is indeed a scam, you should report this to prevent them from scamming others.
1. You should first file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Be prepared to give them your name, mailing address, phone number, and the same information for the company you believe is trying to scam you, along with your reasons for thinking it’s a scam.
2. You should then file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC collects complaints for all businesses.
3. Don’t forget to report them to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) so that others will be able to find this information when investing them.
4. Lastly, report any fraudulent websites to Google. This would be a look-a-like website to a legitimate company trying to gain trust in that way.
We at Valley Virtual Assistance know how terrifying it can be to suddenly be involved with a scam. We want you to be informed on how to identify a scam and what to do if you find one. We hope that scammers never find their way to you, but as a VA you should know they are out there and preying on the uninformed. For more information, read the articles on Clark, StarVA, and The Balance.