You've seen the advertisements everywhere: stapled to telephone poles, grocery-store bulletin boards, your e-mail inbox and even in the newspaper. "Work at home, part-time, and make $500 a week to start," they proclaim. "Unlimited earning potential," others say. Sound too good to be true, you ask? Chances are, it is.
Work-at-home scams have been around for a long time. In fact, not long ago I saw an episode of the 1950's television classic "Leave it to Beaver" in which Beaver and his brother Wally were duped into selling bottles of foul-smelling perfume so they could buy a coveted movie projector. Unbeknownst to the boys, their mother "arranged" for her friends to buy enough perfume for her sons to earn the projector. But alas, when the projector finally arrived, it did not come close to meeting Wally and the Beaver's expectations.
Fortunately, the technological abilities of the Internet have allowed us to move on to more pleasant (aromatic and otherwise) ways to make a living while working at home. Unfortunately, these very same technological advances have made it even easier for unscrupulous people to scam the would-be home worker.
How many types of scams are out there, you ask? To give yourself an idea, go to the search engine of your choice and type 'work at home' in the search box. My search engine returned over 5.7 million hits. Now, that's not to say that each listing returned should be regarded as suspect, but suffice it to say, extreme caution should be exercised.
Mornin Stevens, Vice President of Workaholaholics4hire.com, Inc., a company that helps promote telecommuting, suggests there are two types of people particularly vulnerable to falling prey to work-at-home scams: those who have had a significant life change, such as illness or injury, which has required them to leave the traditional workplace; and those who are already home, perhaps caring for young children, looking to make extra money. Clever scammers target their advertisement to these people with offers that are, according to Stevens, "cleverly written to sound legitimate, feasible and very appealing."
In her article Don't Blame the Scammers, Rosalind Mays further makes this point by noting that savvy scammers monitor Internet message boards and discussion lists to identify and target potential victims. By looking for key words or phrases such as "desperate," "I want to work at home," and "telecommute," scammers can easily identify people looking for work-at-home opportunities and flood their e-mail inboxes with "offers and telecommuting opportunities that require some type of fee or payment to get started."
Stevens notes the most common work-at-home scams are "those that advertise a position such as 'clerk/typist,' 'process email,' 'stuff envelopes.' These are deceptive, giving the impression that a specific position exists. The candidate finds that 'job' entails doing something quite different, such as placing ads or selling something."
Let's take a closer look at some of these and other common work-at-home scams.
- Clerk/Typist – Respond to one of these advertisements and expect to be asked to either pay an "agency fee" of anywhere between $25 and several hundred dollars, or purchase expensive "how-to" books or software (directly from the recruiter, of course}. In return, you will likely receive a list of companies who might be interested in your typing services. It's up to you to contact them to see if they will offer employment.
- E-Mail Processing and Envelope Stuffing – Most of these advertisements claim that "for a small fee" you can learn how to make money in your spare time by stuffing envelopes or sending e-mail. It is only after the fee is paid that you will learn that there are no envelopes to be stuffed and no e-mail to be sent, at least legitimately. Rather, you will be given instructions on how and where to place advertisements to recruit even more people who ultimately will not stuff envelopes or send e-mail.
- Assemble Crafts – Now, this sounds like fun, doesn't it? Imagine sitting down with your glue gun and a bunch of little pieces of fabric, felt or whatever and being paid to put them together according to the instructions provided. It doesn't get any better than this, does it? Never mind you had to pay for a kit, which includes instructions, and all the materials needed to assemble the final product; you'll be reimbursed once the products are assembled. Or will you? In the Craft Assembly scenario, home-workers are required to pay for all materials up front and are assured they will be reimbursed once the job is completed and the finished product is delivered to the company. In reality, the finished product will never meet the company's quality standards (probably because there aren't any) and they will refuse delivery of the product. As a result, you will assume the cost of materials and be stuck with the product.
- Work-at-home Job Lists – There are many people out there willing to sell you lists of what they describe to be "hard to find" work-at-home jobs. Purchase one of these lists, and you will likely find that this information is exactly the same as that which is available for free all over the Internet.