Is That Work-at-Home Scheme a Scam? How to Tell


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Sound too good to be true?

It probably is.

While there are some legitimate work-at-home opportunities out there, the vast majority of those advertised, according to the Better Business Bureau, are scams.
Typically, these work-at-home “opportunities” try to convince you that businesses all over the world are waiting to hire you, because the internet has revolutionized how people conduct business. The ads say that thousands of people are doing this same thing, and you can do it, too.
They claim that you can make a sustainable income by stuffing envelopes, taking online surveys, or assembling craft items. If you can use a computer, they say, you can make money typing or filling out forms or consulting. Their allegations that you can make thousands easily have conned a goodly number of people into parting with fees or upfront costs that are required to start up your home-based business.
The “companies” that offer these exciting promises draw people in via websites that look legitimate or by emailing individuals. And they always require a fee.

A dead giveaway

Legitimate employers don’t ask for a fee as a condition of employment. You shouldn’t have to invest up front, either, or provide credit card information. If you are asked for money in order to be hired, you’re probably being scammed.

One good scam deserves another

There are a slew of advertisers who offer to hook you up with companies looking to hire. Just send them $29 and your resume is guaranteed to be on the desk of an opportunity suited for you. The website shows you what jobs are available, leaving out the contact information so you have to go through them to apply. Thing is, the jobs you’re perusing aren’t real, either. It’s a double-scam.
The same is true when they offer to send you a list of companies looking to hire someone with your skills, experience, or degree.
Or their professional-looking website won’t tell you what the job actually is, until you pay them. But it sounds exciting!

Misleading claims of authenticity

Just because they say they’ve been featured on TV or The New York Times or CNN doesn’t make it true. If they can’t prove their claims, then chances are highly likely they are false. If they advertise that they are 100% legitimate, they probably aren’t, either. Don’t trust “seals of approval” unless you check them out. Not even the BBB guarantees that every site that shows its seal is actually a Better Business Bureau member.

The train has left the station.

Don’t fall into the trap of paying for training so that you can get the job. With the exception of professional areas where degrees are required, employers will willingly train you without cost if training is an issue. If you are being offered training (for a fee, of course), make sure that there are jobs available or that the certification you get when your training is complete is accepted by others. If not, then it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Location, location, location

Real businesses will give you a way to contact them. In this age of online retailers, some may not have a brick and mortar location, but if there is an address on the website, check it out on Google Maps to see if it exists.

Some of the more common scams

Online survey scheme.

Some companies who claim to have surveys that you get paid to fill out are just plain bogus. They are probably mining your contact information and selling it. So, more spam for you. Some of these schemes are real, but you have to fit a very narrow profile to be able to fill the surveys out, so even if you can find them, they are probably few and far between. The time you spend filling out part of a form, only to be told you “don’t fit the profile,” is wasted time. You might make a few bucks, but nowhere close to what your time is worth.

The product assembly scheme.

You spend a lot of money to engage this one, buying supplies and instructions on how to assemble something that the company says it will buy from you. But then, after you’ve spent time and money doing what they ask, they tell you that the work “isn’t up to standards.” Don’t beat yourself up, though, because neither is anyone else’s work “up to standard.” They don’t actually buy your products; in fact, they may not even send you the supplies and instructions they promised. They’ve already made their money in the fees you paid, so they don’t need you anymore.

The home typist scheme

This scheme requires you to pay an “application fee” to get started. They’ve said you could make money typing at home, but what they don’t tell you is that the businesses on the list they send you (in exchange for your “fee”) don’t actually exist. Or if they do, they don’t hire type-at-home workers. Or you get a non-existent URL or email address. Despite the fact that you’ve paid them money, you still have to do the legwork. Legitimate businesses don’t charge you a fee to apply for a job. And few companies outsource their clerical work.

The 900 phone number scheme

Sign up—for a fee—and get a 900 phone number guaranteed to bring in the big bucks. Beware of this one! The “business” you’re letting yourself in for is probably a “psychic hotline” where you are expected to give “psychic readings.” The startup fees can be hefty—up to $500 or more—to set up a 900 number. Once you do that, you will probably be required to purchase special training books or other materials to help you do your new job. You are expected to keep callers on the line as long as possible, and that’s what you get paid for. You may be required to gather contact or other information, which the company will use to send advertising and junk mail. Psychic hotlines can generate money, but only after aggressively advertising the number to the tune of lots of money.

The envelope-stuffing scheme

This one can get you in trouble with the US Post Office. More often than not, you’ll pay an upfront cost of $20-$45 or more, and then the company is supposed to send you the materials to stuff in envelopes. Many just skip that part and send you information on how to set up your own scam. People who follow through on the scheme are usually too embarrassed to back out, which is exactly what the scammer is hoping will happen.

The medical billing scheme

The promise behind this scam is that you can make big money working as many hours as you want by providing online services, like billing, insurance claim processing, accounts receivable, or office management to doctors and dentists. According to the Federal Trade Commission, most companies offer software, training and technical support for an investment of $2,000 and upwards. Their packet of information is impressive, but few people who buy into these programs are able to find clients. The income you may be able to make will certainly not recoup your investment, not to mention earning enough to replace the real job you have. The company will probably not provide experienced sales staff or even contacts in the medical industry. Most medical practices who use online services almost exclusively use one of a number of large and well-established firms.

Watch out for great references

If the scammer offers references, it’s highly likely they are from “singers” or “shills,” people hired to give a favorable report. Don’t fall for it!

Real work-at-home opportunities

There are real opportunities to work from home and make a living at it. If you’re serious about making money from home, follow these suggestions to be sure you aren’t being scammed.

• Find out how long the company has been in business, and check for complaints. Contact the Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, and the Secretary of State where the company is located.

• Ask to see all earnings claims—in writing.

• Insist on a list of names of previous consumers so you can make the determination on whom you want to call. Listen with a healthy dose of skepticism. Ask the references for references.

• Check for refund and cancellation policies. If you have followed the company’s instructions and aren’t satisfied, a reputable organization will refund your money.

• Ask about the tasks you’ll have to perform, and if there is any training you’ll need to take.

• Be sure you’re clear on when you’ll get paid, and by whom.

• Determine the total cost to get started, including any materials or supplies you’ll need, as well as the cost of training.

Some legitimate work-at-home websites

Although this list is not exhaustive, take a look at these companies as a way to find real, paying, work-at-home opportunities. They offer local jobs, too. (I write regularly from jobs found through this one.)

Do you have any links to work-at-home opportunities? Share them in the comments.