Spotting Scams

Spotting scams among home-based work ads
by Chris Durst & Michael Haaren

There is a 60-to-1 scam ratio among “work from home” ads on the Internet, and that is not counting the ones that arrive as spam in your inbox. In other words, for every 61 you find on the Internet, 60 will be either outright scams or downright suspicious – one will be legitimate.

The following information is provided to help you sort through the ads you find on the Internet, and avoid scams.

Tips for Spotting Scams

“Work at Home” appears in the ad header: “Work from home” is not a job title. If it appears in the ad header there’s a good chance it’s a come on – scammers can rarely resist including it in the header – it’s the bait of their “hook” as they fish for desperate people to reel in.

Claims that no experience is necessary and no resume is requested: In the “real world” all jobs require you do something so it stands to reason that a legitimate ad will tell you what it is you need to be able to do. In the world of scams, a person’s gullibility is far more important than their experience or skills.

You’re required to pay a fee for additional information: Legitimate jobs do not charge you for an inquiry about the position.

Unbelievable pay!: “Make $5,000 a week working part time!” Exaggerated claims of income are a sure sign of a scam!

The ad arrives as spam in your email: As if by a miracle, an ad for home-based work just landed in your email inbox. How could this man from Romania have known you were looking for home-based work? Miracles do happen, but not via SPAM. If you receive unsolicited job offers in your email it’s probably the result of a scammer having “harvested” your email address from another location frequented by people who are seeking work. Move it to your trash file without using the “remove me from this list” link you’re likely to find at the bottom of the page. These links are often used to confirm that your email address is active and using them can result in even more SPAM.

No Job Description: What exactly is the ad for? Most scams will give little or no description of the type of work you are supposed to be performing – not even an allusion to such. Real job listings will always tell you what they expect you to do for them.

Palm Trees, Mansions, Beaches & Bikinis:  If the ad you’re looking at features palm trees, a mansion, and a Ferrari, it’s probably a scam. Successful scammers often bag their prey by dangling enticing things in front of them – much like kidnappers do. “If you get into my car I’ll give you this candy bar.”

The “Classic” Scams Still Reeling in Unsuspecting Job Seekers

Stuffing Envelopes:
The bottom line is this – there are machines that stuff envelopes and no legitimate company is going to pay a human being to do something a machine can do in a fraction of the time.

What usually happens with the stuffing scam is, a person reads the ad, sends some $ to get started, and receives in return, a letter instructing them to place the same ad they replied to so they can scam others as they have been scammed.

Typing and Data Entry:
While there is legitimate data entry work out there, you’ll have to wade through cyber-acres of scams to find it.

Scam ads typically claim you’ll earn a certain amount for every “application” you process.

As with the envelope stuffing scam, you pay a fee and are instructed to place the same ad you responded to and collect checks from those you scam. The “applications” you process come with a check and – if you decide to join the ranks of scammers – you keep the check. Hence, a payment for “processing” the application.

Another common “data entry” scam involves having the applicant pay a fee for software they will “need” to complete data entry jobs. Once you purchase the software, it becomes clear that you will be fully responsible for finding the data entry jobs yourself – work will not come from the company.

Craft Assembly:
“Send money for a start-up kit with all the materials you’ll need, and earn money for every item you complete to our satisfaction.”

Sounds great for those who are crafty but, with very few exceptions, these arrangements result in the individual receiving the kit, doing the work, and having it rejected time after time. Nothing they do to improve the “quality” of their work will make a difference because the scammer does not want the finished product back, they want the money for the kits… period.

There are some legitimate opportunities for crafters, visit our list here.

Postal Forwarding:
Postal forwarding has become a huge problem – we’ve met several people who have not only lost their savings, but have also had brushes with the law after falling for this type of scam. In some cases, the scam involves the transport of stolen goods, in other cases, it has to do with cashing checks and forwarding money in exchange for a commission.

As an example of the first type of scam, we met a men who was looking for home-based work because he had a physical disability that made it difficult to manage a “traditional” job. He saw an ad for a job that required him to receive packages of electronics (MP3 players, video recorders, DVD players, etc.), repackage them, and ship them to a designated destination in Romania. In exchange, the “hiring company” would reimburse him for shipping expenses and pay him a fee for his services.

It sounded perfect to him and he figured that since there was no fee required up front, he thought it was a safe bet.

Once on board, he received packages in a rush! He repacked them according to the instructions he’d received and forwarded them to the address provided with an invoice for his expenses.

He received a check drawn on a non-US bank and deposited it in his account – proof that he was onto a good thing he thought.

Several weeks later, he learned from his bank that the checks were drawn on a non-existent account and had no value whatsoever. Further, when he reported the culprits to the authorities, he learned that he had unwittingly been instrumental in aiding thieves in their illegal transactions.

As it turned out, the “customer” had purchased the electronics with a stolen credit card and “laundered” them through this man. To add insult to injury, the instructions for shipping involved having him unwittingly lie to the US Customs Service by entering false information on their shipping forms.

Fortunately, this man had a good lawyer who was able to get him off the hook, but by then he had lost a large chunk of his savings and most of his dignity.

Check and Funds Processing:
In this scam, the individual agrees to process funds for someone who claims to live in a country where the government makes it nearly impossible for them to do so themselves. They agree to send you a check or checks, you deposit them into your bank account, and send them a personal check for 80% of the amount – keeping 20% as a commission.

The problem – once you’ve cashed the check and sent a personal check back, you’re notified that the checks were forged, stolen, or counterfeit. Your bank will hold you personally responsible for any money they have lost as a result of the scam. This means that individual now owes the bank the amount that they have wired to Nigeria (or Senegal, or any number of places from which these scams originate) – usually thousands of dollars.

Some banks have been known to prosecute the US-based account holder for fraud, others have had their computers confiscated by federal agencies.

Sites & Sources to Help You Stay Ahead of the Scammers

Self-Description: “Victim of a consumer Rip-off? Want justice? Rip-off Report™ is a worldwide consumer reporting Website & Publication, by consumers, for consumers, to file & document complaints about companies or individuals who ripoff consumers.

Unlike the Better Business Bureau, badbusinessbureau.com / Rip-off Report™ does not hide reports of “satisfied” complaints. ALL complaints remain public in order to create a working history on the company or individual in question; unedited.”

Click on their “Work From Home” category to see what others have to say about various home-based work opportunities.

National Fraud Information Center/Internet Fraud Watch – Fraud.org
Self-Description:  “Our mission is to give consumers the information they need to avoid becoming victims of telemarketing and Internet fraud and to help them get their complaints to law enforcement agencies quickly and easily.”

Federal Trade Commission
Self-Description:  “The FTC deals with issues that touch the economic lives of most Americans. In fact, the agency has a long tradition of maintaining a competitive marketplace for both consumers and businesses. When the FTC was created in 1914, its purpose was to prevent unfair methods of competition in commerce as part of the battle to “bust the trusts.” Over the years, Congress passed additional laws giving the agency greater authority to police anti-competitive practices.”