The Biggest Remote Working Scams And How To Avoid Them

You can’t be a digital nomad without some form of income that comes from online working. That means a lot of digital nomads and would-be-nomads are out hunting for remote work. Sadly, that can leave them at the mercy of getting scammed.

No matter how badly that you need work, there’s no point in signing up for a con. You won’t get paid and worse, in many cases – you’re going to end up paying for the privilege of working. So, here’s what to look out for:

13 Generic Warning Signs That The Remote Job You Are Looking At Is A Con


Firstly, can we just exhort you to employ some common sense? Nobody is paying $20,000 a month for basic administration. One of the easiest ways to get conned is to put your intelligence to one side as you chase something that is way-too-good to be true.

Now let’s look at our first 13 warning signs for the digital nomad:

  • They want you to send them money. No legitimate job expects you to pay the employer money. None. Not ever. Now, there are direct selling jobs and multi-level marketing schemes that require some cash upfront but these, whilst strictly speaking not cons, are rarely good investments of money, either.
  • There’s no contact with a real person. People generally don’t hire you to work on a salary without actually speaking to you or making some form of personal contact. While you can land $100 worth of work on Upwork without an interview, you are not going to get paid $X,000 a month without one. Alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear if you’re not dealing with a real person.
  • They use a Gmail (or Hotmail, or Yahoo, etc.) account. Small business do occasionally use these accounts but it’s rare for any serious business not to use an e-mail address based on their web domain. It is true that some Southeast Asian businesses rely on free e-mail but in our experience, these businesses never have any money either. You don’t have to run screaming over this, but it is something that should indicate that caution is required.
  • The job description has no detail. We’ve met the occasional incompetent hiring manager that can’t define what they want but it’s a warning sign when someone says they’ve got $5,000 to spend but couldn’t be bothered to write down any details about what they’d like to buy for it.
  • There’s a promise of speedy hiring. Positions in the real world are occasionally urgent but any corner-cutting on the hiring process smacks of a lack of professionalism and possibly a scam lurking behind it.
  • You can’t find any information about the hiring company. This is not a good sign. If they won’t get on a video chat to clear things up, walk away. It’s a bad idea.
  • They want you to buy equipment for the job. Now, if you don’t have the tools of your trade – you probably ought to buy them. I’m a writer and I’m expected to own a laptop with Word installed (and Internet access just in case the client is a Google Docs user, *shudder*). But if the client wants me to use a $5,000 bit of software that I don’t already have access to – they’re paying for it and sending me the license key. It’s not coming out of my pocket and it shouldn’t come out of yours.
  • There’s a promise of “very little work”. Nobody pays good money for “very little work”. This is a huge screaming red flag that you’re about to be ripped off and while we understand you’d rather have time to travel than spend the time working – this is a fast way to digital nomad disaster.
  • A lack of a grasp of the English language. Clients and employers that can’t use the language are a bit of a worry. Now, some ESL (English as a Second Language) employers are legit but many are straight-up fraudsters. Do your homework carefully on this.
  • A request for too much information. If you apply for a job, they don’t normally ask for copies of your ID and your bank account details on the first contact. Think about what’s being asked for before you hand over information – many fake jobs are actually phishing scams. Don’t give a fraudster your identity.
  • They want you to pay for training. Not happening. If they want you to undergo any training they need to pay for it and they need to compensate you for any expenses incurred for undertaking that training.
  • The work involves recruiting other people to do what you do. This is likely a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing job. Pyramid schemes are illegal and MLM is rarely a good idea.
  • They offer to send you a check for something and they overpay. This is really mean. They ask you to buy something and say they’ll send you the money. Then they cut a check for too much cash. So, they ask for a $100 software package and send you a $1,000 check. They ask you to cash it and send them the change. You do. Their check bounces and you end up completely stuffed.

The Most Common Remote Working Scams To Watch Out For


There are a bunch of common remote working scams to keep an eye out for if you’re offered any of this kind of work – it’s time to run away as fast as your legs can carry you, the only opportunity here is one for you to get ripped off.

  1. Envelope Stuffing. Nobody actually pays you to stuff envelopes at anything other than abysmal rates. Nobody expects you to recruit other people to stuff envelopes at these amazing rates either. This is a pyramid marketing scam in which they want you to mail out chain letters and then pray that you’ll get paid by the suckers who receive them. Fortunately, most digital nomads won’t even consider this work because it’s not very portable.
  2. Medical billing. People do need to be billed for medicine, but nobody subcontracts a medical billing operation to some guy working from home by themselves. They charge you for software and equipment and then provide a “client list” which is 100% fake and you lose all your money.
  3. Internet business opportunities. There are plenty of opportunities to make money online. All of them require at least one of two things: a large cash investment or a large time investment. There is no opportunity which is relatively cheap, and which requires no work that will earn you money. That “training course” you sign up for is often a recurring monthly charge that will cost you a fortune and bring no benefit in return.
  4. Mystery shopper opportunities. I’ve been a mystery shopper and you only get that work with industry experience and the right contacts. Otherwise, you get sent out to spend money that you will never see again.
  5. Filling in surveys for cash. Yes, there are companies that pay people to fill in surveys legitimately. The pay is so bad that you’re going to struggle to make $2-$3 an hour and the work is not regular. Anybody offering more than that is almost certainly operating a con. Anybody trying to sell you the opportunity to earn money filling in surveys is definitely operating a con.
  6. Multi-level marketing (MLM). Not all MLM opportunities suck but most of the do. If you’re told that recruiting other people will make the most money, walk away and don’t look back – the opportunity definitely sucks.

How To Avoid Being Scammed: The Digital Nomad’s Guide For Getting Out Of Dodge


Do your research. If you intend to work online and travel the world, then you ought to know how to Google. Google the company, the type of work and the company name with the word “scam” attached to it.

If this is a con, somebody has probably already fallen for it. Get online and find out.

If you want, feel free to throw the idea around in a chat room or social network group too – you’ll soon hear if somebody else thinks you’re about to get ripped off.

Note: Use Google for this. While we fully support using DuckDuckGo to avoid giving Google money and data – their search is simply better at providing accurate results. If you want to remain unscathed by con artists, Google is the way forward.

What To Do If You Got Scammed


It happens. No matter how careful you are, somebody can sneak past your defenses and scam you anyway. What matters is not that you got scammed but that you deal with it as fast as possible when you learn that you’ve been scammed.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Contact your bank and any other financial institutions you do business with and let them know immediately.
  2. Change all your passwords and logins. Particularly, if you’ve been using “company systems”.
  3. In the case of identity theft – take all required action to put a brake on things. The US government offers this advice.
  4. Report the scam to the Better Business Bureau scam tracker.
  5. Call the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and report the scam and file an official complaint.
  6. Check with your local attorney general and see if there are any local laws that you can use to seek redress against your scammers.
  7. If you paid any fees by credit card to your scammers, speak to the credit card company and see if you can reverse them. Do the same if you paid via PayPal.



There are plenty of legitimate remote jobs for digital nomads out there but sadly, there are quite a few scams too. You can avoid most scams using common sense and Google but if it does happen to you – don’t sit and stew on it, take immediate action to stop things from becoming much worse for you.

Nicholas Barang

Nicholas Barang is a veteran digital nomad. In fact, he was probably "digital nomading" before it was called that. He believes that anyone can make a free and independent life if they want to. He wants to help those who commit to finding their own path. And to cut through the nonsense told about this "lifestyle" by those in search of a quick buck. If you want to reach him you can send him an e-mail to nick at You can learn more about him here - About Us

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