Consumers are constantly enticed with opportunities to make fast cash with flashy television commercials, radio and print adds, and from slick sales presentations offering people a chance to get rich quick. Much of the allure of these sales pitches is that all of this wealth building can simply be completed from the comfort of one’s home.
Typical work-at-home schemes promises of large earning potential for very little effort and expenditure of your time, taking advantage of an individual’s willingness to earn a living for themselves and their families.
Examples of some common work-at-home scams include:
- Home Assembly and Crafting – This one has been around for a long time. Certainly there are some legitimate opportunities to turn real craft skills into a home-based business, but be wary of any “opportunity” that promises what may seem to be unrealistic earnings projections and requires YOU to pay the promoter for all materials and kits to be assembled
- Envelope Stuffing – Another of the classic ways people are promised a profitable way to earn money at home. After you purchase all of the supplies (envelopes, stamps or stamp meter, etc.) you may have to stuff thousands of envelopes just to break even
- Mystery Shopping – Workers are recruited to shop on-line or at local stores and to prepare reviews. Often the first thing they are asked to “shop” is Western Union or MoneyGram. You are sent a check that you deposit in your personal bank account and then wire-transfer most of that money (keeping a fee for yourself). Unfortunately, the check you received is bogus causing you to overdraw your account leaving you responsible to your bank for the deficiency
- Reshipping – So-called large multi-national companies recruit people to re-ship products all over the world. You have to ask yourself: “why would any legitimate company need to rely on individual shipping clerks working out of their homes?” The answer is simple – a legitimate company would never operate in this fashion. You are likely participating in an illegal theft or counterfeit enterprise, allowing the truly bad guys to hide behind your address and identity as you ship stolen or counterfeit goods around the globe for them
- Payment Processing – Similar to the reshipping scams, these payment processing or payment transfer scams have one of two objectives (and sometimes both): get you to participate in a theft/money laundering scheme or gain access to your personal bank account and other information for identity theft
Like other work-at-home scams, payment-processing scams prey on the unemployed or consumers looking to make some quick money. The scammers advertise online or via e-mail that they are looking for a part-time payment processor or an accounts payable manager based in the United States. Victims are required to have a personal bank account to “process” the company’s money, which arrive in the mail in the form of money orders or checks, and then wire a portion of the money to the foreign company.
There are many other dubious work-at-home offers out there. The best thing you can do is be highly skeptical of any offer that:
- Is conducted entirely long-distance via mailings, e-mail or phone calls
- Asks you to use your personal bank account or home address for processing shipments or payments
- Promises large earnings with little up-front investment and minimal hours, or (4) requires that you provide personal identifying or financial information
Victims could find themselves out thousands of dollars when the money order or check bounces and they have already wired the money to their “employer.” If the check or money order does not bounce, victims could find themselves an unwitting participant in a money-laundering operation.
If you believe you have been a victim of a check scam or wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here.