The employment picture is improving slowly. But many of us are still stuck at home, looking for work. Scam artists know this and continue to pitch sketchy, get-rich-quick, work-at-home schemes.
The basic come-on involves a one-time or recurring consultancy fee. You may also be required or pressured to buy other services and goods from the consultant. The bottom line is the service and materials are basically worthless.
Before you bite on such an offer, have a look at these two advisories from the Federal Trade Commission. Phony business opportunities were recently subject of a massive government crackdown. Internet businesses are especially ripe for fraud.
Working from home or being a home-based employee is more common than ever, and it might have you looking for a way to work from home. If you're in the job market for a full- or part-time job, the ads for "work-at-home" opportunities catch your attention. High unemployment rates and a poor economy can mean even more people go for these jobs. However, there are all too many consumer scams with empty "work-at-home" promises. Know the common scams and how to avoid them.
When you're looking into a work-at-home situation, there are several resources you can use to learn about these jobs and companies offering them. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers resources on employment scams. Also check with your state's Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for investigations or complaints.
Familiar Scams and Schemes
Be familiar with the common work-at-home schemes, and steer clear. Knowledge of common scams will help you investigate any work-from-home opportunity, legitimate or not. Several scam types require you to buy equipment, supplies or training materials. After you've paid and you're set up for work, the income never materializes. The common scams often involve:
Envelope stuffing. Scam promoters promise you can make money by stuffing envelopes at home. You pay a fee, supposedly for training or materials, but there's no real job. In exchange for your fee, you may be instructed on how to place ads for envelope stuffing or sell the opportunity to others.
Assembly, piecework or crafts. The offer is to make money producing items at home, such as novelties or crafts. You're asked to invest in supplies or special equipment, but once you begin to submit your product you're not paid. Your work is rejected for reasons such as quality control.
Medical billing services. Processing medical billing from home is offered with lures that medical providers have great need for your services. Billing program promoters sell you training materials and software to set up your billing business, with tech support and sales leads. The software may not function, and sales leads lists are commonly out of date and not useful.
The billing business isn't so simple. Quality training for billing services can take substantial effort. Doctors and other medical providers typically use well-established and reputable billing services, or have in-house staff to do the work. Check out references for these offers, and talk directly to doctors who have used such home-based workers.
Rebate processors. You'll commonly see this as an offer via e-mail, offering cash for your rebate processing services from home. You pay a sizeable fee for to register or for training; you receive training guides that are poorly written and are useless.
Online research and searches. Web site ads offer you the chance to make thousands per month for internet searches on major search engines and completing forms for your searches. Scammers use the required shipping and handling fee to obtain your financial information. Later, you'll see recurring fees charged to your credit card or bank account.
Checking Out Legitimate Jobs
There are legitimate work-from-home opportunities, such as customer service for accounts or help desk lines for products or services, for example. There are also countless employers and professions allowing home offices, and they should provide written answers to your queries. Questions to ask of an employer or company you'd like to work with include:
- Will I be an employee or an independent contractor? What's the nature of the business relationship? A scam operation likely won't hire you as an employee
- How will I be compensated? An hourly wage, salary or commission? What are the specifics for my work and pay?
- If you need to purchase supplies, training or equipment, what's the basis for estimated earnings or returns on my investment?
- Once I start work, how and when will I be paid, and where are your offices located?
- Ask for references of current employees or contractors, and customers. Beware of planted references, who will give only positive feedback, or feedback that's too good to be true. Use internet sources and try to find any negative feedback, giving you a well-rounded view
Do your part and report scams, whether you're concerned an offer is a scam, or you think a company you're doing business with isn't legitimate, especially if it doesn't respond to your complaints. Let companies know you'll follow through with complaints. Sources to help are:
- The FTC - use online complaint forms
- Contact your state's Attorney General
- File a complaint with the US Postal Service if fraudulent mail was involved
- File a BBB complaint
Questions for Your Attorney
- I bought a package from a work-at-home outfit; it turned out to be a scam. Can I recover anything from my credit card issuer, which accepted repeated fraudulent charges from the scammer after I gave notice I was a fraud victim?
- Can you review the contract for my work-at-home venture? What are the issues if I'm not an employee, but an independent contractor?
- How can I check out a company or employer if I'm going to work at home, and they're located in another state? Which state's labor and wage laws apply?