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How to Recognize and Avoid Work-at-Home Scams

The web is full of too-good-to-be-true jobs that target moms and others who want to work from home. Here's how to steer clear of them.

by Dory Devlin  |  3764 views  |  2 comments  |        Rate this now! 

Sure as the desire to work from home while earning a good living hits new workers every year, scam artists will find all kinds of clever ways to trick people out of their money and time with unrealistic work-from-home job promises.

As the Better Business Bureau notes, the Internet may be changing how scammers get ads and messages before a wide audience fast, but their targets have not changed. "Work-at-home con artists have always preyed most heavily upon senior citizens, the disabled, mothers who want to stay at home with their children, people with low income and few job skills, and people who just want to get rich quick," the BBB warns.

The too-good-to-be-true offers seem to be everywhere, even in the comments on Shine. So to separate true work-from-home opportunities from scams, follow your instincts and this advice:

Know the signs of a scam. This is where your instincts come in. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That said, there are some distinct signs of a work-at-home scam, starting with overstated claims of what you'll be able to earn, of a product's effectiveness.

You may be asked to send money before for training, instructions, or a product, particularly before you are fully informed of the opportunity and definitely before the chance to earn money, according to the Better Business Bureau. A safe rule of thumb to follow is if you're asked to pay money up front, forget about it. There's a good chance you'll lose money and never earn what you expected. Claims of "no experience necessary" are another red flag.

Know common work-at-home scams. Some of the more prevalent scams include at-home assembly jobs, such as craft kits. I interviewed a woman years ago who shelled out $40 for "glamour hair bows" and found the assembly tedious and the return on her investment and time very disappointing. Next, she answered an ad for cleaning "natural fibers," which turned out to be horse hair, which made her house smell and for which she paid $30 to have delivered to her home. Think about it: Have you ever had to pay an out-of-the-home employer money before you are paid a salary or commission? (Excluding franchises, that is.)

Other common scams involve envelope-stuffing jobs, chain letters and "online business" opportunities that, again, ask you to send money for a disk, which often turn out to be poor business leads that you have to pursue on your own. The Federal Trade Commission warns that these offers rarely involve stuffing envelopes but typically do involve fraud. Multi-level marketing, also known as pyramid schemes, are another work-at-home scam to avoid. Multi-level marketing can work when real products are sold through at-home parties, for example. But many just rely on people recruiting other people to pay into the scheme with few or no products sold. Stay away. The FTC has several good articles on at work-at-home schemes on its site worth a read.

About the Author

Dory Devlin is the Work+Money editor on Yahoo! Shine. Check out Shine Work+Money here.

Read more by Dory Devlin

2 comments so far...

  • I was so sick of online scammers trying to contact me that I write an article titled "Mom Scams" and posted it on my blog. Here is the link to the article.

    Here is a good tip that I use from time to time. If an online scammer happens to get you on the phone, try this. Say, "Hold on just a minute while I turn on my recorder for my protection."

    An online scammer will hang up on you immediately and a nonscammer will not.


    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Catherine on 31st July 2012

  • I am glad and thankful for your article, because it enlightened me a lot. I could already have processed my registration fee, but I had second thoughts. Reading your article was timely for me. Thanks!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Ate Shai on 26th July 2008