The Truth Behind Work from Home Ads

Who wouldn’t want to work from home? Yet work-from-home ads are notorious for being scams. How do we tell the real deal from the fake?

Feature image belongs to Steve Wilson 

  1. Data entry


Image belongs to Don Hankins 

In 2016, a man in Malaysia applied to a work-from-home ad which promised RM30 (S$10) for every email he answered. His questions met with vague answers although he was reassured with a picture of a seemingly authentic bank statement. He paid the upfront fee of RM60 (S$20) for the detailed instructions to join the home business.

Since sending an email isn’t something people generally pay $10 for, the ‘instructions’ merely announced the scam and taught him the steps for cheating someone else – basically, to advertise a work-from-home ad and get them to pay the RM30 – to earn his money back.

  1. Package forwarding

money mule - pixabay free

In 2014, a housewife in Singapore stumbled on an online ad seeking a middleman for $1,500 a day to send letters and parcels to South Africa. However instead of handling any parcels she was told to handle cash, transferring payments from local ‘customers’ to the South African businessman. Imagine her shock to find her account frozen by the police and herself suspected of money laundering.

In the end, any “job” that wants a middleman for transferring cash is likely shady, since merely having a bank account isn’t an actual job qualification. If your job duties are what anyone else can do, you might question the legality of it.

While there are obviously plenty of times that you’ll encounter job ads that are more of a pyramid scheme than a job, there are some real work-from-home jobs out there. These include:

Virtual assistant (VA)

assistant - pixabay free

Make money off your expertise, whether it be in photoshop, or doing sales invoices. Small businesses seek inexpensive help for important but often infrequent tasks, admin support, data entry, report writing, sourcing images for brochures, making powerpoint presentations or typing up meeting minutes, and working for multiple employers is A-OK.


translate - pixabay free

Companies need one shot jobs, often translating technical writing (like instruction manuals) or business proposals from English to Mandarin, Japanese or Bahasa Indonesia. Copy writing skills are helpful. At up to $42 for every page and with 12-15 pages in a typical instruction booklet, the gains are nothing to sneeze at.

Music tutor

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Image by woodleywonderworks 

Do you know how to play an instrument, especially one in demand like the piano or guitar? If you have at least an NIE qualification (and possibly charge a lower fee), students may come to your home to learn music. The significant workload of lesson preparation and assessment is balanced by the steady income it brings.


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Contributors are in demand for company blogs, journals and magazines. Payment might begin from $20-25 per article. Burnout is an occupational hazard. To start off, advertise your service on a blog or your website and show them to editors to get the word out. Working from home lets you set your own target, but the pay would generally be low until you firmly establish your reputation.  

These are all legitimate, work-from-home jobs. The flip side is the less-great shady schemes that people fall for.

clue money - pixabay free

Some signs the job is real…

  • The company is an established name.
  • You can contact HR staff with questions
  • Realistic details like benefits, vacations, policies, etc. are mentioned
  • An interview is required
  • Job duties are clearly spelt out

Check for a fishhook if these are true…

  • The company is not based in Singapore
  • The payoff is amazing
  • A fee is required upfront

Work-from-home ads either help you make money, or help someone else make money off you – both simultaneously in many cases. If it’s too good to be true, someone’s trying to sucker you.