Typically, work-at-home offers try to convince you that thousands of people are taking advantage of exciting job opportunities without leaving the comfort of their own home. These offers play up the idea that the “internet revolution”, the growth in market research, or the expansion of telecommuting and the fluid workforce has businesses clamoring to hire you. They make you feel that you are in demand, and that you can take part in new, flexible, and untapped work opportunities.

Exciting New Job Opportunities That Will Leave You Hanging...
Despite exciting promises, work at home offers are notorious for leaving potential workers high and dry. They promise large sums of money for various enterprises like filling out online surveys, home craft assembly, internet consulting, and home typing offers. Many of these offers even claim that you can earn a sustainable regular income, often exceeding the salaries of average full time workers. Advertisements can be found everywhere from newspaper ads to telephone poles.

With increasing popularity, the Internet has made it much easier for scam artists advertising work-at-home offers to get their message across. They usually make themselves known through web sites and by sending emails to various individuals. It is important to keep in mind that although a web site may look professional, if it offers a quick and easy way to make money, it is most likely a scam. Since the Internet is largely unregulated, it is easy for the average person to make their own professional web site in a matter of days while claiming to be a legitimate company. These sites are usually put up long enough to lure unsuspecting consumers and then vanish once they rip people off of their money.

Below you will find a list of general things to keep in mind if you are considering a work at home offer. In addition, we have provided some examples of the most popular work at home scams.

Some things you should consider first

  • Check out the company. Learn how long it has been in business and if it has received any complaints. Contact the Attorney General, local consumer protection agencies, the Better Business Bureau, and the Secretary of State in the state where the company is headquartered.

  • Get all earnings claims in writing. Be sure it includes the number and percentage of others who have earned as much as the promoter claims. If the promoter hesitates or refuses, walk away from the deal.

  • Be skeptical of past success stories. Ask the promoter to give you the names of previous consumers so you can pick and choose whom to call. When speaking to references, ask them for the names of their clients and details of their operations. You may also consider meeting references in person. Again, at any sign of hesitation on the part of the promoter or references, walk away.

  • Check out the refund and cancellation policies. A company will often offer to refund your money only if you have operated according to their instructions or if your products meet their standards, which are usually very high. Ask to get their refund and cancellation policies in writing.

  • Consult an attorney, accountant, or other business advisor before you sign any agreement or make any payments. If the company requires a deposit, you may want your attorney to establish an escrow account where the money will be maintained by a neutral third party.

  • Legitimate employers do not require fees or investments as a condition of employment. Most work-at-home schemes do. DO NOT pay any fees or investments as a condition of employment. If you are asked to do so, you are probably being scammed.
  • To date the Better Business Bureau has not encountered a legitimate work-at-home opportunity.

Legitimate job opportunities require a contract - in writing – outlining what's involved in the work you are providing or the program they are selling to you. Here are some questions you might ask a potential work-at-home employer:

  • What tasks will I have to perform? (The employer should give you a step by step training about the process)

  • Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission?

  • Who will pay me?

  • When will I get my first paycheck?

  • What is the total cost of the work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? What will I get for my money?


The online survey scheme

This scheme offers you money for signing up and filling out surveys online. The promoters sell you on the idea that marketers are desperate to hear your opinion and that millions of people have already taken advantage of this opportunity. Then, they charge you a fee to get access to the marketing companies. The fees are often scaled so that, supposedly, the more you pay, the more surveys you will receive. Often different survey sites will use “testimonials” with or without accompanying pictures from consumers who have used their service. However, many of these testimonials are fake. For example, part or all of the following testimonial appeared on six different survey websites.

“I am a first timer to your wonderful website. I must admit that it had kickstarted my interest in earning a second income stream once I saw it. You have definitely opened up a whole new world for me.”

Be skeptical. The better it sounds, the more likely it is a scam. Some marketers do offer to pay for online surveys, but often you have to fit into a very specific demographic, making it unlikely that you could fill out enough surveys in a week, or even a month, to provide even a small amount of money. Also, if marketers are so desperate for your opinion, why would you have to pay them before filling out a survey? The answer: you don’t. Legitimate marketers do not charge a fee for you to use their service.

The independent review scam

A related scam involves independent review sites for online surveys and other work-at-home opportunities. In response to the abundance of scams in the work-at-home industries, they offer “independent” research on which survey sites or other work-at-home opportunities are legitimate. Based on their research, these organizations recommend opportunities they have found to be legitimate. However, often the reviewers operate the sites they are supposedly reviewing. The sites they recommend are basically advertisements for their scams.

The envelope stuffing scheme

One of the older work-at-home schemes involves envelope stuffing or mailing. Usually, the company charges a fee, from $15 to $40, to send you instructions. Unfortunately, what most people get is either nothing at all, or information on how they can place their own work-at-home advertisements. Thus, if you place one of these ads, not only would you mislead others about legitimate employment, you may also be breaking the law. Many people who run these schemes are eventually put out of business by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The product assembly scheme

In these schemes, you spend hundreds of dollars for instructions and materials, as well as many hours of your time, to produce items for a company that has promised to buy them. However, once you have purchased the supplies and have done the work, the company may decide not to pay you because the work you send back is not “up to standard.” In fact, no matter how well you have assembled the products, your work will never be “up to standard.” As a result you are left with useless supplies, and the unwanted items you have already made, while the company profits on the fees you paid. Some companies may never send you supplies, even though you had paid for them.

The medical billing scheme

The promoters of these scams promise that you can earn a substantial income working full or part-time, providing services such as billing, accounts receivable, electronic insurance claim processing, and practice management to doctors and dentists. They will send you promotional materials that typically include a brochure, application, sample diskettes, a contract (licensing agreement), disclosure document, and in some cases, testimonial letters, video cassettes, and reference lists. According to the Federal Trade Commission, for your investment of $2,000 to $8,000, most companies promise software, training, and technical support.

Few consumers who purchase these programs are able to find clients and generate revenue, let alone earn enough income to recover their investment. Promoters rarely provide experienced sales staff or contacts within the medical community. This is important because competition in the medical billing market is very strong among a number of large and well-established firms. The glowing references that a company provides may have been bought from “singers” or “shills” – people hired by the promoter to give a favorable report on the business.

The psychic hotline/900 number scheme

Another work-at-home “opportunity” claims that simply by setting up a 900 number from your home you can earn good money as a psychic or tarot reader. Startup fees range from about $50 to $500 to setup a 900 number, after which you get paid every time you receive a call. Employers in the psychic reader business often require that you purchase special cards, training books, and other materials. Employers pressure you to keep callers on the phone for as long as possible, sometimes imposing requirements on the length of calls, even though most calls only last 5 minutes. And, you only get paid for the time you spend on the phone, not for the time you spend waiting for callers. In addition, some employers pressure you into getting the clients’ name, address or other personal information so that they can send clients advertising and junk mail.

Some psychic hotlines do generate a lot of money, however, many of them do so by aggressive advertising which can cost thousands of dollars a month, hardly something an individual work-at-home operator can manage. While a select few make good money in the psychic reader business, if you fall for a psychic hotline scam requiring investments and personal advertising, you are likely to lose out.

The home typing scheme

In this scheme, a company claims to need home-based workers to help with clerical tasks, such as typing or data entry. Some claim that you can make over $500 a week. The company requires you to pay processing fees either as an application fee or for special software, ranging from $25 to $250, often in the form of cash or money orders. Often you are not employed by these companies, but instead, they send you a booklet of information about how to start your career as a typist, where you do all the legwork. Others send you lists of companies that outsource typing or data entry work. After you call the companies on the list, they will tell you they have never heard of the list and do not hire work-at-home typists. Legitimate clerical outsourcing firms do not require application fees and do not require that you pay for special software. Do not be fooled into thinking that you need to pay a fee to get a job. Also, very few companies outsource clerical work.


Visit BBB to view a business profile or to search for Accredited Businesses and Charities

You can also file a complaint with the following agencies:

US Postal Inspection Service
P.O. Box 555 New York, NY 10116-0555
(800) 372-8347

Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20580
NYC Consumer Line: (212) 264-1207

Bureau of Consumer Frauds & Protection
New York State Attorney General’s Office
120 Broadway
New York, NY 10271
(212) 416-8345