By Erin Levine
“Earn thousands of dollars from home, by being part of one of America’s fastest growing industries!”
Sounds promising, right? Be your own boss, no experience necessary, and the ad even says “no risk”. All you have to do is send $100 to get started!
If it sounds too good to be true…
Guess what? It probably is. Work-at-home schemes are one of the oldest types of consumer fraud, originating during the Great Depression in the 1920’s with “envelope stuffing”. However, there are legitimate work-at-home opportunities out there, and the Federal Trade Commission has some great tips on how to avoid being scammed.
Common work-at-home schemes
1. Envelope Stuffing. This scheme causes a continuous cycle of fraud because it usually requires you to pay a small fee to get started, and requires you to solicit the opportunity to other people.
2. Product Assembly. This scheme requires you to pay for your own materials, and to follow very strict instructions. Once you have completed the work, you do not receive payment because it is never “up to standard”.
3. Medical Billing. This scheme usually offers a high wage for full or part – time work processing medical claims. You are required to invest in the software used to process these claims and are promised leads and technical support. Once the investment has been made, the leads given are out of date or not actual leads.
4. Package Forwarding and Reshipping. This scheme entails having packages sent to you (at no cost) and you are provided with instructions to reship the package to another address, generally a P.O. Box. You are then to report back to the company to receive a check. The check could be phony, or since you have no idea what is in the package, you could be sending stolen merchandise, endangering yourself of being an accessory to a crime.
How can you protect yourself?
According to the FTC, the best way to protect yourself from work-at-home schemes is to ask the employer everything that is involved, and request a written response. A legitimate work-at-home program sponsor should be willing to tell you, in writing, the specific tasks involved with the job, whether the pay is salary or commission, when and how you will get payment, and the total cost of the investment. They should also be able to show you documentation that supports their earnings claims.
Before you consider answering an ad for a work-at-home business, make sure to check out the company with your Better Business Bureau, as well as the BBB where the company is located. Because of the high scam risk associated with them, the BBB will not accredit work from home businesses. However, that doesn’t mean that there are not companies that offer this type of work and are reputable. The BBB urges anyone considering entering into a contract with a work-at-home business to exercise extreme caution. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before dropping money on a “too good to be true” work-at-home opportunity.