With the nation’s unemployment rate expected to hit a 25-year high in early 2009, work-at-home Web sites which promise big money for little or no experience are extremely tempting in the best of times. But now, with so many cash strapped families, they’re especially appealing. In 2008 alone, more than one million people checked with their BBB about the legitimacy of companies that offer work-at-home jobs. Unfortunately, BBB warns that most work-at-home opportunities, such as supposed “rebate processing” jobs, are ultimately scams.
“With the nation’s unemployment rate hitting double digits in some states, more families are desperately searching for ways to bring in income and these rebate processing scams lure them in with promises of big money for little work or no experience,” said Robert Shomphe, BBB NH CEO. “No one ever wants to lose money, but in these hard times, job hunters are getting scammed when they can least afford it.”
According to complaints on file and research conducted by the Los Angeles Better Business Bureau and the BBB serving Central, Coastal and Southwest Texas, the larger offenders — which have racked up hundreds of complaints from consumers nationwide — operate under such names as Angel Stevens and Cindy Dalton with Web addresses including www.processathome.com and www.rebateprocessorjobs.com. While the names might be different, the scam remains the same.
Victims stated that they paid an upfront fee anywhere from $40 to over $500 for a trial program earning money by processing rebates from home. By representing that the opportunity is affiliated with 11,000 companies including some household names like Hewlett Packard and Home Depot, complainants are deceived into thinking that the offer is legitimate.
Instead of guidance and a starter kit on processing rebates, victims report that they actually received instructions on how to make money by sending e-mails, posting blogs and paying for ads on the Internet in order to sell various products. The products being sold are marketed with a rebate and the victim allegedly makes money by receiving a percentage of sales for any products sold as a result of the ads they placed.
“Adding insult to injury, recent complainants state that after paying the initial fee of $359, they find that their credit card or checking account is charged each month thereafter for $59. The charges continue even though the victims cancel and demand refunds,” said Gary Almond, Vice President of the Los Angeles BBB.
Complainants allege that they are victims of misleading advertising and demand their money back. A few complainants who decided to try placing Internet ads to earn money became dissatisfied after spending even more money on ads and additional training, but still failed to make the amount advertised.
The marketing language on “rebate processing” Web sites makes the offer sound risk-free and usually advertises a "90 day money back guarantee" or “100% Satisfaction Guarantee,” but complainants state that the companies failed to honor the guarantee. If they respond to requests for refunds at all, it’s usually with an excuse for not making the refund.
BBB offers the following advice to help job hunters avoid being taken by a work-at-home scam:
• Beware of offers that sound too good to be true including the promise of big bucks for little work or no experience.
• Always check out the company’s BBB Reliability Report for free at www.bbb.org to see if the company has received a passing grade from BBB.
• Never give your credit card or checking account information to an individual or business that promises employment. Legitimate employers never charge fees to prospective employees. Period.