identify online job scams as a virtual assistant

How to Identify Online Job Scams as a Virtual Assistant

It is totally normal to feel a burst of excitement when you set up your virtual assistant business and are ready to start getting clients.

You’re motivated and ready to put in the work so you go everywhere to find clients.

 With a brick and mortar business, you would walk into a place, interact with staff and then make a decision.

But since your business is virtual, at least 90% of your marketing is going to be online.

What you might not know is that there are bad people on the internet looking for unsuspecting virtual assistants like you, to scam.

You need to know how to identify online job scams as a virtual assistant and protect your business.

Because scammers are everywhere. They are in different job boards out there like Upwork, LinkedIn, Fiverr, Facebook groups, Indeed, etc.

They are on social media, and they can also email you.

So today, I’ll tell you how to identify online job scams as a virtual assistant.

Here are the online scams you should look out for as a virtual assistant

online job scams virtual assistant

#1.) Direct Offers From An Unknown Source For A Job You Didn’t Even Apply For

Some months ago, I received an email from a brand offering to pay $50/hr for my writing services.

I was very excited but found out the email said I  had to accept the offer within 5 days or lose it. The email was in my spam folder so I didn’t see it until it was already way past day 10 and that dampened my spirit. I talked to my husband about it and decided to just research the company.

A simple Google search revealed so much!

A lot of freelance writers were complaining about the company and some of them even wrote articles on how the scam company operated. I could relate to their experience with the company’s offer so I deleted the email and moved on. 

Be wary of unsolicited job offers. I see them a lot on Instagram and via email. Sometimes they want you to be an affiliate or influencer Now this should not be confused with legit offers from real brands. 

I can hear you asking “so how do I differentiate what’s legit and what is a scam?”

Keep reading. 

2.) They want you to pay to get started working.

Whatever they call it, it’s the same. Training fee, application fee, registration fee, pay for something and they’ll make a refund plus interest etc. You shouldn’t have to pay to get a job

3.) They want to send you a cheque, ask you to cash it, keep some of the money for yourself as payment, and then send them the rest. 

This money is likely being laundered and they want you to take the fall for it.

I heard a story about a car dealer who had some potential buyers in his lot. They took a car for a test drive, agreed on the price and told him they’d make a transfer the next day. True to their word, they made the transfer the next day and the car dealer was happy he had made the sale. Barely hours later, the buyer called to say he had an emergency and would be unable to go ahead with the purchase. They begged him to take 25% of the money for his troubles (which was a lot), and send them the balance. 

He happily did.

Only days later, the car dealer was arrested for links to kidnapping. Apparently, they had used the car dealer’s account to collect a ransom and there was nothing the car dealer could say because it looked like he took his share of the loot with the 25% he accepted.

You need to be careful. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

4.) You are offered the job immediately 

This is always a red flag. A good brand would always want to recruit the best talents. They’d want to vet you and even get on a discovery call with you.

If someone refuses to get on a live call with you where you can see their face, they are probably trying to hide their identity so you shouldn’t take such offers.

5.) When There’s Little To No Job Description Provided

This is usually an easy route to get into a work relationship where they’ll give you any job that comes to mind, at any time so you can’t call it scope creep.

You shouldn’t take a job that doesn’t clearly state what is expected of you from the onset. It always leaves room for abuse.

6.) The client doesn’t want to pay a deposit until the job is complete.

I always tell people to never trust anyone that says “money is not a problem, just do the job”.

If money isn’t a problem, then they should have no issue with paying a deposit.

You can’t trust people to keep their word if they can’t trust you to deliver the job if they pay a deposit. If a prospective virtual assistant client doesn’t want to pay before service, you’re better off without them.

7.) The prospect has an unprofessional email address

If their email address is, you can go check out their website and learn more about them through their website. If they don’t have a website yet and a gmail or yahoo account instead, then at least check them out on social media to make sure you are not talking to a scammer.

Scammers are not always very smart. One time I got a job offer from an email marketing company. They had a custom email address and sounded professional. On a closer look, I noticed that there were discrepancies everywhere.

The custom email address used read alex(at)scamcompany(dot)com, the prospect introduced himself as Henry but his email signature had Noah. Go figure!

8.) Grammatical errors in the job listing or offer. 

This is a MAJOR red flag. I don’t know why people fall for it. Most scammers are lazy people on the dark part of the internet. They are so lazy that they either don’t have time to proofread their content or just can’t read.

Your ideal client would want to put their best foot forward.

9.) When the pay is simply amazing for little effort on your part? 

In the first couple of months after I got my first phone, I received a text message from my internet provider at the time.

The message was to inform me I had won twenty eight million naira for being a loyal customer and I should call Mr Sam to claim the money.

I showed the message to my cousin and he was happy for me. It was too late into the night to call Mr Sam so we agreed to proceed early the next day.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I thought about all the things I’ll buy and how my life was pretty solid. I felt like I would get robbed that night and they’d take my phone and claim my price. Slowly but surely, morning came and we swung into action. I called Mr Sam to inform him I was one of the lucky winners. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. Mr Sam was a scammer.

Another one happened two weeks after I completed my NYSC orientation and left camp. I received a message from a stranger who claimed he was a fellow corp member in my camp, he said he had a few spots to offer lucky corp members at Chevron (an oil and gas company that pays very well) and the salary was about 400K.

The scammer knew my name, state code, platoon, profession and other details. The Rose of 2008 would have been over the moon but I said “not today Satan” and replied to him saying I had a few spots at shell (another oil and gas company) to offer him too. He never replied.

I later found out lots of corp members got a similar message from the scammer.  This type of scammer tries to lure you in with the money. If you get greedy, you’ll fall for it and not see the red flags.

10) There’s something weird about the job

Call it whatever you choose. Gut feeling or intuition.

When you can’t shake off that weird feeling that something isn’t right, then don’t take on that project. Don’t be desperate

In the times when I have focused on the amount of money after doing my research instead of going with my gut feeling, I have regretted it even when the client wasn’t a scam. We just didn’t align and they stressed me a lot.

Always respect your gut feeling. If you feel like it’s a scam, it probably is. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Final Words

Desperation makes you vulnerable to scams. That is why I encourage virtual assistants at all levels to have a source of passive income to fall back on. When you are not desperate, you will easily identify online job scams as a virtual assistant.

Found this post helpful? Please share this post to help other virtual assistants to avoid scams and share your experience in the comments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *