WORK-AT-HOME SCAMS: BIG PROMISES, BIG CON

Times are tough. The unemployment rolls continue to swell. Businesses are cutting back hours and salaries. New jobs just aren’t there. Those unlucky enough to find their lives affected by the economic crisis are looking for new avenues of income. Unfortunately, the current situation is a boon for those looking to exploit the folks who are often in the most desperate of situations. One of the most popular methods for separating the susceptible from what little money they have left – the work-at-home scam.

The FTC recently stated that over 2.4 million individuals fell victim to these schemes in the period studied. This does not include the unreported incidents. Although many of these scams have been around for years, the internet has once again proven to be an expansive new horizon for criminals. The Technology Chronicles noted that between February and March of 2009 spam emails trying to take advantage of those looking for work increased by at least 500%. Yes, five-hundred percent. And there are no signs of this current trend slowing.

While there are legitimate businesses out there offering work-at-home opportunities, they are few and far between. If you find yourself in any of the following situations, realize you are most likely falling victim to some of the most popular work-at-home scams:

Stuffing Envelopes – This one has been around since before the Great Depression, and is currently making a strong comeback. You’ve probably seen the ads online, gotten spam emails, or seen flyers posted around your community. They proclaim something along the lines of, “Earn $500 weekly stuffing envelopes – work only 2 hours a day from home!” When you answer these ads, you will often be asked to pay for instructions that ask you to shell out further money for advertising, materials such as the envelopes you’ll soon be stuffing, and postage. In the end you will find that all you are selling, these envelopes you are stuffing, are simply the very same ad and instructions on the chain scam you answered. The only way to make money is by fleecing others, just as you have been fooled.

Advanced Fee Assembly Business – Another scam that has been around for years. This promises high wages for assembling crafts at home. Of course, before you get started you will need to send the company a lump sum, normally $50 – $100, for a starter kit. You get the kit, assemble the provided materials and send them back to the company and wait for payment. Unfortunately, whatever you send back will not meet the company’s “standards.” They keep the money you sent for the starter kit and move on to the next victim.

Processing Medical Bills – These ads promise large weekly earnings for what sounds like a legitimate business practice, handling the billing for doctors, dentists, and other medical care providers in your area. The start-up fee required is much higher than envelope stuffing or craft assembly, as you are pushed to buy computer software, training sessions and a list of potential local offices in need of your services. Sounds almost like starting a legitimate business, right? Wrong. The list provided is bogus, the information out-of-date or fabricated. In fact, most medical offices do their billing in-house or outsource to large, dedicated processing centers. You are out several hundred dollars.

Make Money With Your Computer – The ads read, “Turn your computer into a money-making machine.” This is just another, up-to-date, variation on the envelope stuffing scam. You pay upfront fees for an information disk that suggests you advertise online and then make of copy of the disk you are currently reading and mail it off to those poor suckers who are duped into answering your ad. You’re out the costs of materials, advertising and postage. The only way to recoup any of your investment is if there are others out there equally gullible.

MLM vs. Pyramid Schemes – When practiced by reputable companies, like AMWAY or Mary Kay, multi-level marketing can be a legitimate way to engage in direct selling from your home. Often times though, there are shady businesses presenting themselves as legit MLMs which are actually plain pyramid schemes. You’ll know the difference because there won’t be any products to sell, or the products for sale will be mentioned in passing, but they will strongly push recruitment. If you are being asked to pay a fee and then expected to recruit more folks who will then pay you, well, that’s a pyramid scheme. After you’ve paid your fee (or bought all of your “promotional” materials) and recruited your friends and family members you quickly find the pyramid falls apart. The only folks who have made any money are the criminals who started the whole illegal endeavor.

Mystery Shopper – The ad recruits you as a “mystery shopper.” The victim is provided with a local store or wire transfer company and then given a task, often a list of items to be purchased and then mailed back to the “employer”. A hefty check is included with the list. The check is supposed to be cashed immediately and then used to cover payment of the requested items, postage and a small fee for the shopper as payment. Of course, after cashing the check and completing the “shopping”, the victim discovers the check was counterfeit. You owe the bank the entire amount plus fees, while the criminal walks with a box of freshly bought items that he can re-sell.

Working for the Criminals – Many criminals are taking advantage of folks looking for work-at-home and will attempt to recruit them as unwitting launderers. Told they are a US-based agent, they are then asked to receive and reship checks, merchandise and even solicit potential victims…never clueing in that its simply a front which leaves little trail back to the actual crooks.

Paying for Lists – Less involved, but still costly, some companies offer lists of potential work-at-home jobs, or offer advice via their telephone hotline. Of course, it’s a 1-900 phone number playing a worthless recording or the list you pay good money for simply directs you to any number of the exact same schemes you just read about above. Save your money and your time.

These are just a few of the scams out there taking money from those who are looking to work-at-home.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following signs of a work-at-home scammer:

They will never offer regular salaried employment.

Promises of huge profits and big part-time earnings.

The use of personal testimonials by unnamed, untraceable sources.
Payment for instructions/merchandise before telling you how the plan operates.

Guaranteed markets and promises of huge demand for your work.

Tell you no experience is necessary.

Be smart. Practice diligence, even if you feel desperate. Times are tough, it’s true. But there is no such thing as quick and easy money, especially when it comes from a spam email or a flyer on a telephone post. Remember, if the promises sound too good to be true, someone’s probably trying to con you.

Helpful Links:

To check on a company with the Better Business Bureau:
http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/

To file a complaint in English or Spanish with the Federal Trade Commission:

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

or call 1-877-382-4357

Speak Your Mind