With so many people out of work, questionable-sounding work-at-home jobs that would have once been looked at with a wary eye are now the last resort for many cash-strapped Americans. But as more people are finding out, many work-at-home jobs are not the income generators they promise, and some are downright scams.
In 2006, the FTC received 4,004 complaints about possible work-at-home scams. Last year, that number had ballooned up to 7,955.
“With unemployment hovering around 10%, more people are susceptible,” says the FTC’s associate director of marketing practices.
Also, recent years have seen a move away from old-school envelope-stuffing and craft-assembling gigs toward “fast profit” work-at-home schemes that claim you can get rich from the Internet.
Says a rep for the Better Business Bureau:
What we see now is people paying for information to learn how to make money on the Internet… The downturn in the economy provides a lot of great opportunities for scammers to take advantage of a lot of people who are vulnerable.
To help those who might be considering a work-at-home gig, the FTC has put together a list of red flags that should indicate you could be staring a scam in the face.
Among the FTC’s warning signs:
â€¢The company claims that you can make a lot of money with little effort and no experience.
â€¢The company promises you’ll make a profit.
â€¢There are certain types of work-at-home jobs that consumers should always avoid, including: assembling small crafts or toys, stuffing envelopes, processing rebates, getting paid to run online searches and setting up a home medical billing business.
You should probably avoid any at-home job that involves inspecting and re-shipping. According to the BBB, there’s a chance you’d be re-shipping product purchased using stolen credit cards.
If you do decide to go ahead with a work-at-home job, the FTC recommends contacting the company in writing before signing up. Be sure to ask them “how you will be paid? What exactly does the job entail? And how much will it cost to work with the company?”
You should also check the BBB’s site for the name of the company. And in fact, says the BBB spokesperson, it would behoove you to “just Google a name along with the word ‘scam’ and see if anything pops up.”