Work at Home and Make Big Money?
Let the Wise Be Wary. Work at home scams 2012
By ALINA TUGEND
Published: June 5, 2009
MOST of us think we’re far too savvy to be taken in by some advertisement promoting a work-at-home opportunity that promises great income with minimal work. That’s for those rubes who also fall prey to Nigerian e-mail messages promising untold riches or who believe that a pill a day will melt fat away.
The Better Business Bureau says that Web sites, especially social networking ones, are fertile ground for ads promising to show customers how to make thousands of dollars working from home, with little training or investment.
Uh, well, no. A friend (and yes, it is really a friend, not me) who considered herself a sophisticated consumer recently signed up for one of those work-at-home offers.
Like many of us, my friend (who, understandably, doesn’t want to be named because she is somewhat embarrassed about this), is worried about finances and was, therefore, receptive when she came across an article online in The “Miami Gazette” about opportunities to work at home. She doesn’t even remember how it popped up on her computer.
When I checked out the Web site, I have to admit, it looked legitimate — except that The Miami Gazette does not exist. It apparently was a paper in the 19th century. The article begins with general thoughts about the economic situation and how online jobs from home may be the next big thing. Then it zeroes in on, and praises “Easy Google Profit,” which offers people work from home posting links on Web sites using text advertising applications.
The “Reader Response” also seemed genuine, complete with misspellings: “Mikey” says, “Thanks for the info, just started 3 weeks ago. I’ve gotten 2 checks for a total of $1900, pretty cool.” Other readers chimed in with their success stories.
But you need to be wary. Every link in the story sends you to “Easy Google Profit.” And in tiny type right below the newspaper logo, there’s this line: “This publication is an article advertisement for Easy Google Profit.” Oh, and you want to send in a reader comment? Comments are “closed due to abusive spam (back soon).”
My friend didn’t notice the warning signs. Once you know they are there, they appear obvious, but otherwise your eye just bounces over them. She signed up with her debit card, but quickly realized when she had trouble linking back to the original site that something was awry. So she figured at worst, she was out the $2 that she spent for a kit telling her how to start up this business at home.
But it turns out that according to the fine print in the terms and conditions, which she never saw, she had unknowingly authorized this company to charge $72 to her debit card every month until she called to cancel.
Fortunately, her bank picked up that something was not right and alerted her to a possible fraud. Of course, the phone number she was given for the company did not answer. In the end, to avoid any possible charges, she did what some consumer experts advise when you’re caught in a similar scheme — cancel your credit or debit card and get a new one.
I e-mailed the company through its contact information, but never received a response. There is no phone number on the Web site.
“I can’t believe I fell for this,” my friend said. And she is not alone. The Better Business Bureau received 3,539 complains last year about work-at-home companies, and that number was actually down from 3,662 in 2007. But Allison Southwick, a spokeswoman for the bureau, says that her agency is “very concerned about seeing a rise in instances of fraud targeting job hunters this year in light of the increase in the unemployment rate.
“Scammers,” she added, “read the headlines and anytime people are vulnerable, they’ll take advantage.”
Social networking sites like Facebook are fertile ground for these types of ads, according to the Better Business Bureau. The ads link to blogs that were supposedly created by real people who breathlessly tell you how they’re making thousands a month through this or that company — and then conveniently link you to the great offer.
The Federal Trade Commission, which gives tips to consumers about spotting and avoiding work-at-home schemes on its Web site, notes that such schemes generally fall into these three categories:
Setting up a medical billing business: The claim is that there is a great need for billing services in the health care system, and that you can earn substantial money doing billing, accounts receivable and electronic insurance claim processing at home. No experience is necessary, the ads promise, and the initial investment is a mere $2,000 to $8,000 for software training and technical support.
The reality, however, is that it’s very difficult to find clients, start a business and generate revenue, let alone cover the initial investment.
¶Envelope stuffing: The pitch usually states that for a small fee, you will get information on how to earn money at home stuffing envelopes. Later, it often turns out that the promoter never had any employment opportunities and that the only way you’ll make any money is to place similar ads in a newspaper advertising envelope stuffing. So you’ll earn money scamming other people.
Assembly or craft work: The ads assure you that you can do piecework at home for specific companies. All you have to do is invest in a sewing or sign-making machine or something similar. All too often, the company then isn’t around to buy the finished products or tells you that they aren’t up to “quality standards.” So you have to find your own customers for those aprons or plastic signs.
“If it says there’s an opportunity you can make a lot of money for very little work and no experience, that’s the trifecta,” Ms. Southwick said. “It is too good to be true.”
There are different kinds of work-at-home jobs — some are out-and-out frauds that ask you to send in money for an illusory product or service. Some do provide what they say they will, although it may be of far lower quality than you expect and generate far less income than promised.
“Legitimate work-at-home program sponsors should tell you — in writing — what’s involved in the program they are selling,” the Federal Trade Commission says on its Web site, adding that you should know if you will receive a paycheck or will be paid on commission and who will pay you.
My niece, Talia, for instance, has been pleased with her new job selling Avon products from home. For a $10 fee, she received a start-up kit and took some free training courses online — and is happily earning small amounts of money to help her through college.
One way of finding out whether a business is legitimate or not is go to the Better Business Bureau’s national Web site and click where it says, “Check out a business or charity.” The agency keeps about four million “reliability” reports about companies on file and, hopefully, you can find the business you’re searching for. If not, contact your local bureau and see if it has any information.
Every year, Ms. Southwick said, about a million reliability reports about work-at-home jobs are reviewed by people searching for more information.
But even if no complaints are listed, don’t assume the company is a legitimate business. Unscrupulous businesses “may settle complaints, change their names or move to avoid the detection,” according to the Federal Trade Commission.
It seems that the best thing, especially in these economic times, is to try to hold on to your skepticism. Believe me, if there were jobs out there that were both easy and profitable, I wouldn’t be writing about them — I’d be doing them.
If you would like to leave a comment about this post, I would really like to read it. You are more than welcomed to share this article with your friends. We all have to be careful these days, because not everyone is honest on the Internet.
For more information about scams, see Home Scams Exposed.