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It hurts me to say this, but…
Some people online really SUCK.
As a new virtual assistant, all you want to do is make an honest living online.
But unfortunately, the internet has some bad eggs that trick new VAs who don’t know any better.
Sad, but true. (speaking as a VA who’s had some sketchy experiences).
The good news is, it’s pretty easy to avoid virtual assistant scams…if you know what to look out for.
Here’s everything you need to know to avoid getting screwed.
Table of Contents
- 7 virtual assistant scams to avoid at ALL costs
- How to protect yourself from a virtual assistant scam
7 virtual assistant scams to avoid at ALL costs
1. High pay for easy work
Sometimes an ad offers high pay for minimal work. Sounds tempting, right?
WARNING — scam alert!
These too-good-to-be-true posts are a scammer’s bread and butter.
Scammers know inexperienced virtual assistants are desperate to earn good money and work from home.
By combining the two, they create a tempting trap that’s easy for a noob VA to fall into.
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
In these cases, be extra careful with your personal information, like passwords or financial details.
Just because it’s a good offer doesn’t automatically make it a scam. But it should make you think twice and check for the rest of these red flags.
2. Job posts that sound funny
For some weird reason, scammers suck at grammar.
I don’t know if they’re in a rush to blast out a million job scams and can’t take the time to grammar check…
Or if they’re just written by non-native English speakers.
But usually, scam posts are littered with mistakes and smell a lil’ fishy. Here’s an example:
A professional company looking for a real VA will probably take the time to proofread their job listing (especially if they’re paying for it).
That said, if there is an innocent mistake or two, don’t write off the opportunity too fast.
The idea here is to assess all these warning signs together to determine if it seems legit.
3. Asking you to pay a fee
Some scammers might trick new virtual assistants by demanding payment for training or resources.
Remember, real clients won’t charge you before hiring.
One tactic fraudsters use is giving vague information on fees. They may mention an investment without specifying what it’s for.
During your application, a potential client might ask you to pay $200 for an “exclusive training package.”
If you ask them for more details, they’ll become evasive or might not reply at all.
When you see this, keep your distance!
I know you’re eager to find the perfect virtual assistant job for a beginner, and scammers can be surprisingly convincing…
But don’t fall for it.
Keep in mind, it’s one thing if a so-called “employer” asks for a fee — that’s a no-no.
However, there are some legit paid job boards where you need to pay to use the platform. We’ll cover this in a sec.
4. Offering you the job without an interview
Getting a job offer straight out of the gate sounds like a dream come true.
But this might be a classic scammer move.
They’ll give reasons for not calling first, like being out of town or super busy.
If you find yourself talking to these “employers,” stay alert!
They might be more interested in fishing for your personal information than actually getting to know you.
On the other hand, legit companies value their hiring process.
They take the time to do interviews to see if you’re a good match. And they don’t skip out on reading your resume or portfolio.
Of course, not all clients will ask you for a live interview.
Some of them will talk to you through email or pre-recorded videos.
The important thing is they communicate with you about the type of virtual assistant they’re looking for.
…Instead of handing the job to you on a silver platter.
5. Using unknown emails to contact you
It might sound easy to spot a fake email, but more unsuspecting VAs fall for it than you think.
That’s because some scammers pose as real companies.
They use slightly different version of the real email address hoping you won’t notice.
An address like firstname.lastname@example.org could be real, but email@example.com already smells fishy.
They might ask you to click a link or share sensitive information to complete your application.
Trust your gut feeling if it’s telling you something isn’t right.
And another thing:
If you don’t remember applying for a job and someone emails you for a follow-up…
It’s not a mistake. It’s just a scammer trying to trick you out of a few bucks.
6. No information about the company or client
A quick Google search can already tell you if a job post is a scam.
Real companies or clients have some kind of online presence – a website, Facebook page, or LinkedIn profile.
They avoid giving details about themselves so you can’t look them up.
Or they might use a generic name that’s impossible to check like “George Smith from Tech Solutions.”
That said, it’s best to get started with job posts that have clear info about who’s hiring.
Sometimes the client won’t post their name or company but you can always ask.
7. Requests for personal information
The main goal of most virtual assistant scams is to steal data like your home address, bank details, or names of your family members.
Scammers may even ask for your social security number.
When the “client” tells you it’s required for the next step of your application, WALK AWAY.
In a legit job, there might be a reason for the client to request some personal information.
…but only after you’re hired.
And even then, make sure the company 100% checks out if you get any requests that seem too intrusive.
Pro tip: I am always extremely careful with who I give my social security number to. Even if it’s a legit company, I’m wary. It’s normal for clients to ask you to fill out a w9 tax form (if you’re in the US). This form asks for your social security number. One way to protect your social security number is to provide a business EIN number instead (these are free, and you can get one on the IRS website).
How to protect yourself from a virtual assistant scam
Use secure communication channels
When emailing potential clients, use popular services like Gmail or Outlook.
They’ve got nifty scam detectors that automatically flag fishy emails before you get a chance to read them.
Also, when you’re using email, don’t forget to check the sender’s email address if it’s from an actual company.
Job offers sent through social media are an instant red flag.
WhatsApp messages, for example, account for 70% of online scams. And 6 in 10 of these cases are job related.
One of my VAs received this WhatsApp job scam message.
It only mentions the recruiter’s name and the company, without any details about the role.
Here’s what she did when she saw it:
“When I Googled the company, it’s actually real. It has a website and tons of social proof from other users. But it’s weird that a legit company would reach out to a potential employee through instant messaging. It’s too informal. Plus, it’s fishy how they even got my number in the first place. I didn’t apply for a job with the company and I don’t follow them on any online platform. So I just ignored the message.”
If you receive a message like this, ask the client or company to set up a phone call.
Legit employers aren’t scared of the phone — they have nothing to hide.
Dig up dirt on the company
Start with LinkedIn.
Here, you can verify the company’s profile, read employee reviews, and check its reputation.
You might even stumble on interesting conversations about the company on the platform.
You can also use Glassdoor to find authentic company reviews.
It’s great for sizing up your potential boss and learning about the work culture.
And don’t forget the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB lets you see if a company has any complaints against them.
If possible, reach out to former or current employees in the company.
I know it sounds like a hassle, but it will give you the clearest picture of what it’s like to work for someone.
Check reviews from VA communities
The best way to learn about a client is to hear from other VAs who’ve worked or applied for them before.
One way to do this is by joining online groups or forums for VAs.
There are plenty on Facebook and LinkedIn.
Just post your question and ask if the client you’re applying for is legit.
If a bunch of them are all saying, “Uh, watch out for this company,” then you know something’s up.
Keep in mind, reviews from fellow VAs are way more reliable than random comments online.
Keep records of all your interactions with potential clients.
Save emails and messages so you’ll have a copy of your agreements.
A legit client will likely provide a contract with the roles and expectations.
During the onboarding, take notes on what they offer, who provides it, and how it’s organized.
As I mentioned, be careful of any employer who asks you to pay for training materials.
Look for jobs in trustworthy places
Finding VA jobs is about knowing where to look.
There are tons of places that advertise VA job listings. So you need to choose carefully.
One of the easiest places to find safe, curated virtual assistant jobs is through some of these virtual assistant courses.
Many of them include exclusive VA communities where they post vetted job offers for students of the course.
And since these courses are taught by actual VAs, they have your best interests in mind.
Another place to search for VA jobs are freelance websites.
One of my favorites is Flexjobs, which focuses specifically on remote and flexible positions (like virtual assistance).
The cool thing about Flexjobs is they verify every single job listing on their platform to make sure it’s legit.
This is one of those job platforms I mentioned that you have to pay for. But if you don’t find any jobs, you can ask for a refund (within the refund period).
It is also a widely known and respected company.
If you use platforms that don’t vet job listings, you need to stay cautious.
Scammers do sneak into real freelance websites with bogus job posts every now and then.
Always remember that there are way more legit job posts out there than fake ones.
Just take your time, do your research, and you can avoid those pesky virtual assistant scams.
After the pandemic put an end to her peaceful art museum job, Lianne went full-on beast mode to learn everything about digital marketing and online business she could get her hands on.
This helped her snag her first virtual assistant gig. And then another. And then another.
Now, instead of fighting Manila’s horrendous traffic every day, she’s island-hopping around the Philippines with her trusty laptop.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).