Tech support scams

Scams target everyone, including people working from home (perhaps like yourself). We’ve discussed scams before, and how to avoid them. However, there’s an increasing amount of reports about a newer type of scam that targets people who are less technologically savvy. Having been targeted by a scammer trying to implement this type of scam I thought I’d spread the word.

What it’s about

Like most scams, they are after your money. The scammers will ring you up and claim to be from a support center – typically claiming to be from Microsoft’s support team. They will say there is a problem with your computer, a virus of some sort, that they have detected. Their aim is to get you to pay for “tech support” or get access to your computer, or both.

How it works. has a great article giving the rundown on the scam, but I’ll give you a brief outline of how it played out for me.

It was early in the evening when I received a call from “Steve” claiming to work for Microsoft. He said that my copy of Windows operating system was telling Microsoft that my computer had several problems including viruses.

Steve then asked me to open the Event Log program. Not knowing where that was, he gave me directions to how to find this program in the Administration Tools. There was a series of messages there but nothing seemed serious or concerning. I told Steve that and at this point he became pushy and asked me to visit a website he said proved I had a virus.

I ended the call at that point.

If I had continued, the next step is ot be asked to download a program that will let the scammer connect to your computer, where they will claim to inspect your computer, and usually find more things wrong with it.

At this point they will ask for money – $100 or more – as a fee to “repair” your computer. Usually they will open a web page when you can enter your credit card details.

If you agree they will make it look like they are trying to fix your machine. If you refuse they will often threaten you with damage to your machine, such as deleting all your files. Either way they may install programs that will let them track what you do and try and steal information – such as bank account or email logins – from you.

Never give them access to your machine. The call itself is harmless.

Watch it happen

If you’re really keen to see what happens, the man in this video, Carey Holzman, records a call from a scammer like this, and gives the scammer access to a spare computer, taping what happens. It’s a long video (at more than an hour) but it is very interesting:

What to do if it happens to you

The easiest thing to do is hang up and ignore such calls. Legitimate companies will not contact you this way. If you want to see if the call is real or a scam then say you’ll ring back on a publicly listed number (like on a website) and ask for a name.

Never give access to your computer, and never provide any credit card details over the phone.

But what do you do if you’ve already dealt with a scammer? If you have given someone your credit card  then either cancel the card or try to reverse any charges (or both). And if you did allow a scammer access to your computer then get it looked at as soon as possible. It might cost money but it’s better than someone having long term access to your machine.

The right stuff: equipment you need

Whatever job you are doing, having the right tools make doing the job a lot easier. And working from home doesn’t change that fact. While money is tight when you start, and no one is paying your work related expenses any more, there is no excuse in not being properly set up for your new independent work  So make sure you have the right equipment for the work you are planning to do.

Computing Equipment

Most work from home will involve using a computer. Freelance work, like the type found on oDesk, will definitely need some form of computer.

While computers can cost a lot of money, there are decent cheaper options that will fill most people’s needs. The type of computer you need will depend on what type of work you are doing.

For most people I recommend buying a laptop or notebook computer. There is really very little that a laptop can’t do when compared to a traditional desktop computer. If you’re doing some heavy duty video editing or something where you need more than two monitors (like a day trader, for example) then you might need the additional graphical power of a desktop, which supports discrete graphics cards.

If you’re one of these people then you probably have a good idea about what you need, and how much it costs.

If you’re not someone with a specialist need yet still prefer the idea of a desktop over a laptop then you should look at spending $500 to $1000 to buy a desktop PC that comes with all the accessories you need. This will usually be a mouse, keyboard and monitor. Desktop computers are usually quite small these days (unless, again, you have high-end needs) and come with built in speakers.

As to where the best deals are, shopping online is hard to beat. In the past I have found Newegg to have good prices on computers (and extra things you might need.

Monitors: how much do you need

Desktops obviously need monitors, and generally come with them. However it can generally be a good idea to get larger monitors if possible, or have more than one monitor, to allow you to see and do more at once. This eliminates the need to constantly swap between windows using Alt+Tab, saving you time and making you more productive. When buying a computer (especially in store) see if they’ll upgrade your monitor – even if it costs you more it is money well spent.

A 27 inch monitor or two smaller monitors (like two 22 inch) will allow you to have more programs visible at once, or have things at a more comfortable resolution (like me) or both. I like two monitors: on one I have my email and maybe an IM program open for communication, and on the other I usually have a browser for internet tasks and Word or Excel windows.

Even if you have a laptop, you can still attach at least one monitor (sometimes two) to allow you to have multi-monitor capacity when you’re home at your desk.


I recommend a laptop for most people for one reason: flexibility. You’re not tied to your desk, which is great for location independence. Travel a lot? You can take it with you. Want to work outside? Or on the beach? You can. And you don’t give up much in the process.

In terms of what to buy, like always it depends on your needs. While cheap netbooks and “Chromebooks” can be had for $300 or so these tend to be small, and are suitable for online tasks but nit much more.

For most people laptops that are 15 inch in size are the best option. These tend to be “entry level” machines that are still capable for a wide range of tasks. Such laptops from companies like HP or Dell start from $500.

For people who are on the move more often, or need more power, than not you might want to look at smaller laptops, like those that are around 13 inches. Many of these fall under the “ultrabook” tag, and tend to have more processing power and/or more battery life in a smaller size. Dell sell such laptops, but it is a competitive area, and companies like Toshiba and Apple, with their MacBook Air, tend to make good machines in this category as well. They do cost more, usually starting at $1000.

If you like the comfort of sitting down at a desk you can easy use your laptop there. Laptops usually have all the necessary ports to plug in monitors, USB mice and keyboards and whatever else you need. Smaller laptops will have fewer port, though.


Finally, you’ll need to be connected, both at home at remotely.

For the home you’ll need a DSL or cable modem to connect to the internet. If you have a laptop or multiple devices (like iPads or cell phones) you might consider a wifi router as well, allowing all of the devices in your home to share the one connection. There are plenty of devices where the modem and the router are combined.

When you’re out and about you need your cell phone. Smart phones that can help you communicate and connect online are not cheap. If you can’t afford to pay for your phone up front then consider taking out a contract. It doesn’t matter if it is an iPhone or an Andriod, but look for ones that will connect to the newer and faster network types.

The best cell phone company differs based on the coverage in your local area, so look not only based on price but connectivity and coverage.


Taking your profession home

One of the best ways to get started working from home is to take whatever it is you currently do for a job and simply to transfer to doing it at home. Of course, this will not always be possible, but many professions can be completed at home with a bit of thought and planning.

Could you do your job from home?

Most jobs can be completed at least partly from home. Some questions to ask yourself about whether your job could transfer to home:

  1. How often do you have to meet with clients face to face? Could this be done over the phone or via email instead?
  2. Could your work be completed fully online or could you utilize couriers and the mail so that you don’t need to be in the office?
  3. Would your existing company allow you to work from home or will you need to find a new job or your own clients?

It can be easy to write off your job as only being able to be completed in a work place unless you actually analyze why you believe this. Often there are many ways to get around having to be in the work place, like using Skype to communicate. If there really is no way to avoid all human contact (and perhaps you don’t want to), maybe it would be possible to have all your meetings in one day, so that you only need to go into work one day a week.

Jobs you can do from home

Some professions particularly lend themselves to being able to be completed at home. This includes ones such as programming, design work, accountancy and bookkeeping. It is also very possible to be a work from home lawyer, marketer or PR representative.

You can also get more creative. Perhaps you work in retail now. Why not open a home store and start selling on eBay or Amazon? There are so many ways to get started and so many jobs you can do from home.

The other option is to start freelancing. You can read my article all about that. The main thing is to get creative and just give it a go. You never know what might happen!



Why a work at home mom with a business should hire a virtual assistant


A virtual assistant is the newest and most convenient way of getting help with your business without worrying about all of the problems that usually come with taking on new staff. Often, virtual assistants are professionals experienced in this type of work or freelancers who are looking for a project to work on that can benefit both themselves and their employer.

If you’re a busy work from home mom with an equally busy family life, then not only hiring some help at home, but hiring a VA or virtual assistant is right for you. Sometimes you need to pour all of your effort into organically developing your business, or you might need some help because of family commitments. Either way, a virtual assistant can help you cut through your work load and let you focus on what’s important to you.

Why hire a personal assistant?

A personal assistant is something to think about when your business grows to a point where you’re starting to turn a profit, but your workload is threatening to swallow you. Otherwise, they can be a great edition to a new business and can help you deal with the day-to-day running whilst allowing you to focus on larger goals.

While at the moment you might spend valuable time and energy on mundane things like checking emails or putting appointments into your diary, a virtual assistant can take on everything a normal assistant would. They can cut through the red tape and free you up.

Virtual assistants, like you, work from home and manage their own career; they can help lend perspective to your job and free up more time for you to spend with your family. And the biggest advantage? They are location independent!

You don’t need to worry about giving them desk space or setting up a time shift system for them to work in. They work from home just like assistants in an office, but don’t provide so much of headache. The only downside is they can’t get you coffee, but if you’re working from home, your coffee machine is just in the other room.

How do I hire a virtual assistant?

Nowadays the ways to hire a personal assistant are varied and come with many different parameters. Regardless of what way you choose, the most important first step is to write a job description outlining exactly what you want your virtual assistant to do and how you want them to do it. This is universal for every different way of hiring a VA.

You might consider using a freelance site like oDesk or, as these are often populated with a great number of highly skilled freelancers. This way, possible candidates ‘bid’ for the job and try to showcase exactly what they can do for you. Whilst these sites take a small percentage for the service, it is more than worth it. All pay is easily facilitated and there are often measures in place to enable easy collaboration and communication.

The other popular and effective method is to post a job listing on an online site such as Craigslist. However hiring a VA in this way often involves more work, and considering you want a virtual assistant to decrease your workload to spend more time with your family, the first option might be more appropriate for your needs.

Whichever you choose, you can be assured of more free time and a more enjoyable business with a virtual assistant, as well as having help to develop your business and increase your output. With a VA in place you can start to concentrate on the important things in addition to organically developing your business and growing your client base.

Why the location independence of working from home is perfect for moms

working on a beach

Working from home can be hugely rewarding as a career option from the get-go, but deciding to work from home when you’re a Mom is one of the best decisions you could make.

It’s important to firstly mention the overall advantage of working for yourself: you can do what you love. Imagine being able to do exactly what you want to do; something you love, something you’re good at, something that gives you joy. Imagine turning your hobby into a viable business doing something like becoming a freelancer.

They say that if you do something you love, you never work a day in your life. Working from home and starting your own business means you’re the boss and you decide what projects you complete

Location independence

On to the subject of location independence, this is the most obvious draw for anyone to start their own business or start working from home, especially moms who have to juggle work and family. Why not combine them into one easy role?

You can literally work wherever you want. You can manage your emails and clients while you’re waiting to carpool your kids from school, go out and have lunch time meetings with clients where you choose, complete that important report while grabbing coffee. With the power of the internet and mobile phones you can manage your entire business from the couch – with your feet up and a glass of wine.  You can even work from the beaches of Thailand as a digital nomad or wherever else takes your fancy.

Do other moms work like this?

In my job I’ve dealt with a lot of freelancers, as well as business owners who work from home. A larger majority than you might think are stay at homes moms who have decided to start working. Often they’re highly skilled and don’t want leave the work force of stop doing a job they love because of a family.

If you have something that your passionate about, or something that you’re naturally good at such as graphic design or copywriting, but want to spend quality time with your kids, then a working from home role is perfect for you.

What sort of things can I work as?

One of the top location independent jobs I find moms doing is as an online virtual assistant. The concept of the role is simple and may be something you’re familiar with or even something you worked at before you left work. Just like a normal assistant, the role is to answer emails, organize files and make appointments – the best thing? You can work from where ever you want.

The advantage of virtual assistants for employers is mainly that of location; it often cost extra to give an assistant a workstation at an office; your employer might even also work from home and so can’t legitimately hire an in-house secretary. For you, this means booking a plane ticket for someone while you’re making dinner, and then adding the details to someone’s calendar while you sit down in the evening.

The location independence of a stay at home job isn’t the only attraction – often working from home will yield the same wage for similar work within a company. It may even be slightly more because you charge for the service, but there are no overheads. You get what you deserve.  There can also be tax advantages.

In this day and age, working from home as a mom can not only be a viable career path, but it can also be a hugely rewarding role. The independence you have, both in what you work on as well as where you work means that you have such a larger majority of free time to spend with your family. You can work for yourself and get paid for what you do in addition to still being there at all times for your loved ones.

If you’re looking for a career change or looking at getting back to work, then working from home is for you.

Read my article about working and parenting on the move here.

Why working as a freelancer on oDesk could be your next career move

work at home dad

Freelancing is a job that most people know little about. The world of a freelancer can seem mysterious to outsiders as well as ever changing and insecure. Freelancers are usually highly skilled individuals who have decided to take their career into their own hands.  This can be a fabulous option for work at home moms.

What Is a Freelancer?

A freelancer is someone who performs multiple tasks, or ‘projects’ for a variety of different employers over the course of a fiscal year. They work for themselves and sell their particular skills to clients who need projects completed. Often the freelancer is given the free reign of a contract and allowed creative license and freedom to complete the task whichever way they choose.

Freelancers that work for longer periods are sometimes referred to as ‘permalancers’ and often fall into the position through employment of a single contract from which a business relationship grows between freelance and client. This might sometimes benefit both parties; the employer because they like the original work and the freelance because the market can sometimes be very unpredictable.

Freelancers were originally named so because in medieval times, knights without allegiance would roam the country looking for work. These were referred to as ‘free’ lances because of the weaponry they carried. They are not called this because they work for free, or for very little money; many freelancers who have found a niche and a client base can make a very adequate salary.

Why Become a Freelancer?

Freelancing is the first and easiest step to working for yourself. There is more creative freedom than most jobs and once you’re established you can pick and choose which projects you complete. In this way, you can often work on something you’re really passionate about and really enjoy, as well as having a varied roster of potential jobs.

As a freelancer, you can expect no two days to be the same. If you’re good at content writing you might be drawing up press releases for a mid-range furniture company on Monday and contributing to a blog on flower arranging on Tuesday.  You can also choose which days and when you want to work, so you can wait until the kids are in bed, or work harder on the weekend, when dad can take care of the kids.

There is also a great satisfaction knowing that you will be doing work and helping many different people out. If you work more high profile projects or are allowed to publish work under your own name, you can start to build a portfolio off of which you can launch bids for bigger, more ambitious projects for bigger clients.

Why Use oDesk and How Does It Work?

Of course, there are many different freelancing websites out there that facilitate the great work that many freelancers do and many clients benefit from. oDesk is different because of how dynamic it is. As a new freelancer, you can easily bid on projects and start your career.

That is, indeed, how freelancing on oDesk works, as it does on many other sites. An employer will post a job advert. Within this advert an employer can write a job description, ask applicants to answer certain questions, set certain restrictions (e.g. only looking for workers in North America) and specify the type of job, be it hourly or fixed price:

An hourly job is one where you, as a freelancer, get paid for every hour you work on a particular project. oDesk have a handy little program that you can use to track your work and bill your clients for exactly how much time you spent.

A fixed price contract is one where an amount is agreed upon by both employer and is paid when the project is completed and submitted.

What makes oDesk so much better than its competitors is how much of a complete service it is. As a freelancer you can guarantee your privacy as well as benefit from an easy to understand and use interface which allows you to keep track of projects and interact with clients.

Literally anyone can start freelancing on oDesk. If you have a particular skill, or are looking to develop meaningful experiences then freelancing is for you, and there is no better place to start than somewhere that can nurture your career and also provide high stakes contracts when you become establish.  It is a perfect job for a work at home mom and can even give you the option of location independence. Just make sure you avoid any online scams!

Top 8 ways to avoid work online income scams

Tips to avoid online work scams

There are many wonderful work at home options in the online job world. Unfortunately there are also many scams. Here are my top ten ways to avoid internet work online income scams.

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it is

This sounds obvious, but it is amazing how many intelligent people are sucked into scams which sound too good to be true.  Unfortunately, the old axiom that there is no such thing as a free lunch is true.  There are good work online options out there, but you are going to have to work.

2. Be skeptical

An advertisement that popped up in my browser recently showed someone’s supposed bank account with a voice over about how this footage can not be faked.  Of course it can.  Be skeptical of any claims.

3. Do your own research

One good way to find out if a work online income deal is legitimate is to do an internet search.  Try searching for the company and job offer and see what others are saying…  Or check out sites like this one!

4. Check out for common scams

This site is run by the National Consumers League and has lots of useful information about common work online income scams.

5. Ask for references of other people they have worked with

Call these people and ask them about their experiences.  A legitimate company will have no problems finding references for you.

6. Be weary about any opportunity that requires money up front

You shouldn’t have to pay for training, instruction manuals etc.  If someone is asking for money upfront, ask them why.  Ensure you get all information about the deal in writing – including what exactly you are paying for and what they will pay you for and what each of your rights and responsibilities are.

7. If you do pay money, pay via credit card

If you pay via credit card rather than cash, then you have some chance to be able to recover the money if it is a work online income scam.

8. If you have a funny feeling, trust it

Finally, listen to your gut.  If you have followed all the advice above and you are still not sure, leave this opportunity and look for others.  You will find something!

Also read my article about tech support scams here.

Parenting while working online

parenting while working online

It is not always easy being a parent.  In fact, it is quite often very difficult. Being a work at home mom is not easy. Juggling a job while parenting at the same time is hard.

One of the hardest parts for me is not letting the time I spend doing my job impact on my parenting.  When I am in the middle of a seemingly important task, it can be tempting to turn on the TV, not get dinner on time, and basically ignore my parenting responsibilities while I get my work done.  In some ways, balancing work and parenting can be easier with a job outside the home.  It can be more clear cut when is work time and when is family time.

To handle this, I try to be very strict with what time I spend working and when.  There are times when I need to get some work done when the kids are around, but I try to limit this.  I do most work in the evenings and some on the weekend while my husband spends quality time with the kids. Another good idea is to get some help.

I find I do need to log on first thing in the morning and catch up on email, social media, check my sites are all running etc.  I do what I can before the kids get up, but often I do this while they are eating breakfast.

Another thing you’ll want to do is save time in any way possible. I recommend investing in some appliances which make your life easier. I’ve recently purchased an air fryer after reading about the benefits. It has drastically reduced my cooking time meaning I have more time for both kids and work. Plus using the best air fryer is healthier! You can read more about them on Air Fryer Kitchen.

When my youngest is napping in the middle of the day, I also log in again and do some work online for about an hour.  During this time, my older kids have some chill time with the television.  They need this down time anyway, so this approach works well for all of us.

It takes discipline to keep to this schedule, and I do work during the day when the kids are playing sometimes.  I enjoy my work, and it can be hard to stop at times, but it is also important to remember why I started to be a work at home mom in the first place – to be at home with the kids, so I try to keep the disruptions to my parenting as minimal as possible.

Here are some more tips and you can also read my article about parenting on the move.

Getting home based help while working online

hoem based help cleaning

It can be easy to think that because you are at home all day, that you should get all the same household tasks completed as a stay at home mom would.  It is important to remember that you still have a job, even though it is a work at home job, and to prioritize your time.

What do I mean by prioritize your time?

Where is your time better spent?  Cleaning dishes?  Working on a new online job that earns you money?  Or playing with your kids?  I know that for me the second two options are not just better ways to spend my time from a parenting and income perspective, but far more enjoyable than cleaning the dishes. If you are able to afford it, I highly recommend getting some home based help.  Don’t feel bad about it.  You are just prioritizing your time more effectively.

What home based help is there?

Anything you want!  I love our cleaner.  A few hours a week is enough to have the house sparkling clean.  In my dream world, I would also have someone come every evening for an hour or two for a general floor clean and dishes.

You can also have a cleaner do your washing, but we outsource this.  It is so nice to get our washing back all nicely cleaned and folded with my husband’s shirts ironed.  A family of five has a lot of washing, so this saves a lot of time.

Depending on how much work you are doing online, there is always the option of a nanny.  Someone to watch the kids for the part of the day while you get work done can be invaluable.  I know a mom who has an au pair to simply help with the kids when her workload is extra heavy and to help with general housework.

Another time saver can be someone to cook your family meals.  If this is out of your price range, there are also meal services which will drop off healthy, home cooked meals that you just need to pop in the oven.


The idea of getting home based help can be a strange one initially, but if you are interesting in successfully working online while still parenting young children, sometimes home based help can be the best way to achieve both of these goals.

In addition to home based help, a virtual assistant can be a fabulous way to reclaim more time.