The flexibility that working from home offers appeals to many of us. We like the idea of setting our own hours and saving on commuting costs. However, many unscrupulous companies prey on our desire to work from home with scams.
In 2010, that latest year for which statistics are available, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 8,192 complaints from consumers regarding fraudulent work-from-home jobs. These companied use email lists, telemarketing and classified job ads to trick people into schemes that include paying for so-called “starter kits” and working many hours without pay.
In general, common sense dictates that if an opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t legitimate. Another general rule to follow is to be wary of anyone that asks for your money up front.
It sounds easy, but it isn’t. These so-called employers lure us with enticing offers that seem perfect to help supplement an existing income or to help us make ends meet until we can get a new venture off the ground.
Some work-from-home schemes are new variations of fraudulent jobs that have been around for years. Others are newer scams that are Internet based. Here are 10 work-at-home scams you should avoid.
The ads boast that no experience is needed for a job that has the potential of earning your earn thousands of dollars each month. You are asked to help a prominent search engine with research by filling out simple forms.
All you need to provide is a small shipping and handling fee. When you do, you learn that the company, which has nothing to do with the well-known search engine company, has hit your credit or debit card for additional charges.
This one has been around for decades. While the old-school envelope stuffing scam still exists, you are more likely to encounter its modern cousin – the email forwarding scam.
In both cases, you are asked to pay a small fee up front for materials or software. If you even get the materials, you soon will realize that they are worthless, and the “company” has your money and your bankcard information.
In this swindle, you are asked to send packages for an overstocked business or for an executive who is traveling. You are asked to send the packages – with your own money – with the promise of being paid handsomely for your trouble at a later date.
The packages are usually stolen goods, and victims usually are out whatever they have spent on the shipping costs.
These ads promise good pay for work assembling products or making crafts. The catch is that you have to purchase materials and equipment (from them, of course) up front as well as spend the time making the items before being paid anything.
When you submit your work, the company usually refuses to pay you anything, claiming the work is not up to its standards. Another possibility is that you hear nothing at all from these scammers after you have sent them the work. They simply close up shop and move to a new phone number and/or a new email and web address.
There are some legitimate medical billing jobs out there, but it is wise to be cautious of fraudulent schemes.
Scammers ask you to pay for the software and other materials you will need to perform the medical billing tasks. They also claim to have lists of clients in the medical community that turn out to be full of practitioners who do their own billing and know nothing about this service.
These scammers offer to sell you software you can use to help shipping companies, such as UPS and FedEx, track lost packages. They will tell you that your job assists customers in obtaining refunds for packages they never received. The problem is that the whole job is bogus.
I get several of these so-called job offers each week in my inbox. These scammers offer money in exchange for shopping and dining reports on stores and restaurants near you.
Some of these scammers ask you to pay for fake lists or directories. Others ask you to deposit their bogus checks in the bank and then send them some of the money back.
Multilevel Sales and Marketing
Some of these jobs are on the level, but many are not. If the job relies upon you recruiting new participants rather than selling the product, that is a huge red flag. It means the job is could be an illegal pyramid scheme. Ask for written information on how much money contractors make.
How to Protect Yourself
Under an FTC guideline, called the Business Opportunity Rule, sellers must provide a one-page disclosure document that provides key information about the job opportunity. Here are some other questions to ask to protect yourself from a possible scam:
- What tasks must I perform?
- Will I be paid with a salary or on commission?
- When will I be paid?
- Who will pay me?
- What is the basis for your claims about my potential earnings?
- What documents can you provide to back up your claims?
- What is the total cost of this work-at-home program?
Even though many scammers use the internet to cheat people, you can turn the tables on them. Use internet research to check out their reputation. Search the company name along with the words “complaint,” “scam” or “reviews” to learn about others’ experiences with the firm.
You also can check with your local consumer protection agency, your state Attorney General, or the Better Business Bureau to find out if they have received complaints about the company.
If you believe you are a victim of a work-from-home scam, your first step is to contact the company to ask for your money back. Indicate that you will notify law enforcement if you are not paid.
The next step is to file a report with one or more of the following agencies:
- The FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1 or 1-877-FTC-HELP
- The attorney general’s office in your state and or the state where the company is located. Visit http://naag.org/
- The advertising manager of the publication or website that ran the ad for the job.
- The Business Bureau, which maintains a national database of companies and complaints received about them. Visit https://www.bbb.org/.
- The National Consumers League, which maintains a Fraud Alert System, at http://www.fraud.org/.
As someone who works primarily at home, I value the freedom it offers me. However, I like to stress to the people who ask me about my work that it took me time to build a successful home business and that it takes time and effort to maintain it. Often, that information is exactly what they do not want to hear.
There are many legitimate ways to earn a living by working at home, but I do not know of any that will earn you thousands of dollars a week at the get go. And even if they do exist, they certainly require some experience!
Con artists are able to find victims by appealing to their very human tendency to earn something for nothing – or almost nothing. We all are inherently interested in opportunities to “get rich quick.”
Therefore, as you seek to become your own boss with a home-based business, be skeptical of any job advertisement that sounds too good to be true. Remember it probably is.
For more information, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0175-work-home-businesses.