2009-02-26 / Local & State

Work-at-Home Job Offer Scams

By Edward Johnson

You see them everywhere: Work-at-home offers. In fact, drive through nearly any part of town and you will see the offers posted on telephone poles, stop signs, etc. Open most any newspaper or magazine and there they are. It's the same with the Internet and TV commercials. So, what is the deal with these offers? Is there any truth to them? Can a person really make thousands of dollars a week working at home. The answer: Not really. Those who succeed by working at home usually have a unique skill or trade which derives from extensive experience and training. These people generally work for a salary or by contract. Still others run their own business and spend time and money developing the markets for their work. The point is: They have not stumbled onto a magic formula for getting rich quick or supplementing income. If, however, you are relying on claims made through work-at-home offers, you will realize upon careful exam that your chances of making any money are slim to none.

A Better Business Bureau (BBB) investigation of 112 workat home companies showed that such offers fall far short of the earnings potential they claim. The study, formally called Operation Job Fraud, was a task force comprised of BBBs throughout the United States in cooperation with the United States Postal Inspection Service. While the various offers in the study claim high earnings and minimal hours with little to no experience required, the task force found conclusively that there was no evidence of people actually making the promised money. Rather, after paying advance "registration" fees or "good-faith" deposits, the consumer received either nothing, or information that encourages them to perpetuate the scheme. The two most prevalent types of work-at-home ads in the study were for product assembly and envelope-stuffing jobs. More recently the BBB has seen a rise in schemes related to processing rebates.

With the nation's unemployment rate expected to hit a 25- year high in early 2009, work-athome Web sites that 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 more than 1 million people checked with their local BBB about the legitimacy of companies that offer work-at-home jobs. Unfortunately, the BBB warns that most offers are ultimately scams.

Victims of rebate processing offers stated that they paid an upfront fee anywhere from $40 to more than $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. Further, 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 percent Satisfaction Guarantee," but complainants state that the companies failed to honor the guarantee. The 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 dc-easternpa.bbb.org to see if the company has received a failing grade.

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.

Edward Johnson is president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Northeastern and Eastern Pennsylvania region.

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