Three Easy Ways to Verify That an Online Employer Isn’t a Scam

“Hello! We’re Company X. We will pay your teen money to do work online, as long as they give us their Social Security number, address and PayPal account.”

This message is very sketchy, and I would run far, far away from “Company X”. But often times, it’s hard for parents to differentiate between Company X and a legitimate business. After all, real businesses also need a lot of personal information that you don’t want your kid giving out to just anybody. If your teenager has come to you and asked to work for a specific company online, here are three easy ways to determine if it’s safe to give them permission.

1. A Strong Social Media Presence

Scams survive by picking on people who don’t do their research. No fake company will go to the trouble of creating a Facebook page and accruing thousands of likes just to turn around and scam all of their employees. If a company has a couple thousand likes, a few hundred reviews, or dozens of people listed as employees, you should be 100% certain that they are legitimate.

A website, on the other hand, is easy to create and doesn’t necessarily mean that a business is real. If you happen to stumble across the company’s website, search for contact information or links to social media. If the business doesn’t have social media but they do have a concrete address, professional email, and phone number, you’re good to go. But never trust a website without looking at contact information or social media.


2. Professional Company Reviews

If you google “[company name] reviews”, you’ll probably stumble upon a few sites that claim to rate the company. While these are a great resource, don’t treat them as an end-all-be-all. A person who is angry at a company will be much more likely to go out of their way to write a review than a person who was satisfied with their services. Furthermore, your teen will usually be working with smaller businesses, which often don’t have enough reviews to make a strong impression.

If you do choose to look at professional reviews, I’d suggest Glassdoor or CareerBliss. Both are acclaimed sites that feature reviews for about 700,000 companies all over the world. Aside from these two sites, there are definitely other reputable sources, but NEVER pay to see a company’s ratings. Not only is it a waste of money, but it’s probably a scam.


3. Personal Experiences

Finally, there is the most helpful, albeit rarest, form of company ratings—personal experience. Particularly if you’re looking into the writing or web development industries, bloggers tend to publish their personal experiences about working with a certain company.

Finding these reviews is easy. Just google “my experience working with [company name]” and any available reviews will come up. If there’s nothing on the first page of Google, there aren’t any good reviews. That doesn’t mean that the company is illegitimate—it just means that no one has written about their experience yet. In fact, in the case of personal experience, no news is usually good news, since that means there’s no big controversy over the site.


Bonus: “Who Pays Writers”

Unless I state it in the title, I try to publish posts that are applicable to all industries. This is a special exception. I couldn’t help but include “Who Pays Writers” as a valuable resource on this list, even though it’s specific to freelance writing.

If your teen is looking to pitch a certain publication or work on a certain site, all you need to do is type the publication’s name in the search bar. This will pull up a listing of verified reports from other writers about how much they got paid, how easy the invoice process was, and how the company treated them overall.

Some companies ask contributors to sign a confidentiality agreement that prohibits them from publishing these types of income reports, so even a big publication might not be listed here. But if your kid’s publication of choice is listed with bad reviews, you’ll know to advise them to stay away.


ANOTHER Bonus: The One Thing You Should Never Do

Under no circumstances should you contact the site and ask if they are legitimate.

There are only two ways for this to go. On the one hand, you could never hear back from them. This could mean that they aren’t a real company with a legitimate staff, OR it could mean that they are too busy to deal with a parent’s concerns. The second option is much more likely.

The only other option is an affirmative reply. This is equally as useless; would a scam ever admit that they weren’t legitimate? And if the business is real, they’ll most likely be offended that you called them out for looking unprofessional.

Above all else, when you email a company acting as a concerned parent, you tarnish your teen’s reputation. A company wants to hire a teen who is professional and independent—not someone who relies on their parents to snag a job.


Keep an eye out for scams, and make sure you educate your teen on the dangers of giving sensitive information to the wrong people. But don’t overdo your protection and make your kid look silly in front of a potential client. Follow these three suggestions and you’ll avoid that situation entirely.


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