Beware of “jobs” or “business opportunities” that seem to offer high pay for work you can do at home. Often these programs are bogus.
Common scams involve package forwarding, Internet searches or advertising, envelope stuffing, medical billing, discount or coupon programs, rebate processing, distributorships, sales, or the purchase of special equipment or software to start businesses.
Many people lose large sums of money through work at home scams. Some versions of these scams - like package forwarding – might also involve the victim in crimes such as identity theft and handling of stolen merchandise.
Here are 10 tip-offs that the “opportunity” could be a scam:
1. Big bucks for simple tasks. Watch out if they promise to pay you a lot of money for jobs that don’t seem to require much effort or skill. Sound too good to be true? It might be a scam.
2. Job offers out of nowhere from strangers. If they offer you a job without getting an application from you first, meeting you, or doing an interview, it’s probably a scam. Don’t hand your personal employment information to such folk (especially your Social Security number!). That could lead to identity theft.
3. Requests for up-front payments. If someone wants you to make an advance payment to “get in” on the ground floor of a new business opportunity - especially if it’s a big investment, or you don’t have much information about the deal - this is a big red flag. Don’t do it. “Advance fee scams” are very common and they come in many varieties.
4. They ask you to wire the money. If you wire a payment to somebody, it’s gone forever. Wire transfers of money are a convenient and perfectly legitimate service. But scam artists often ask you to wire payments that they are requesting (especially to destinations in other countries!) because they know you won’t be able to get your money back.
5. High pressure to do it now. Don’t be in a hurry to accept an unsolicited offer of work, or to make a business investment, particularly if the other party is asking you to spend your money on the deal. Take your time. If somebody tries to convince you that this is a “limited time” offer and you have to act now, just tell them to forget it. Ignore anybody who pushes you to agree. High pressure is a big sign that something’s wrong.
6. Refusal to give you full details in writing. Ask for complete information in writing. Request proof of any claims. Look carefully at any documentation they might provide to make sure it answers all your questions. If they won’t give details, or don’t respond to questions, don’t do business with them.
7. References are missing or a bit suspicious. A real business should be able to give you many professional references – not just a few. Be sure to ask for references and check them yourself. Don’t be swayed by a few written testimonials that sound fabulous. Even if the references seem good, don’t make your decision based on references alone. Do a careful background check. For starters: try a web search on the company name and see what comes up.
8. Contact information is missing or doesn’t make sense. Be very cautious if a company is trying to get you to accept a job or do business, but seems to lack any established physical location with a real street address. A cell phone number and website address are not enough contact information. If there’s no street address, look out! (P.O. boxes are not comforting – scammers often rent them, and move on quickly.) If there is an address, it’s worth taking a moment to check it on the Internet. It’s common for phony operations to claim they are at an address that is not their true location. Nowadays we have online tools like Google Street View photos of address locations and “whois” website owner lookups that may be helpful.
9. They want you to buy a bunch of expensive stuff. If they expect you to make a major purchase of equipment, software, inventory, or information in order to get started in business, be very careful. Often these are the most persuasive kinds of scams. It seems like it might be a real business opportunity – but it’s not. Here’s what happens: the buyer makes the purchase and never receives the things needed to set up the business. You can avoid this situation! Check the business out completely before you send a dime.
10. It’s got a bad rating with the BBB! Victims do complain to the BBB about work at home scams. It only takes minutes to check a company’s record with us at www.bbb.org. Do the search. Or call the BBB if you want help figuring out whether you are looking at a scam. It could save you a fortune. If you’ve been victimized, file a complaint with BBB! Other organizations can help too: your city government’s department of consumer affairs; your state attorney general’s office; and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
© 2010 by Education and Research Foundation of the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan New York, Inc.