Making money at home

Know how to spot the scams

Published On: Feb 11 2013 06:48:32 AM EST   Updated On: Feb 11 2013 06:45:00 AM EST

Did you know that 47 percent of people are already either telecommuting or working from home. it's the wave of the future, but when it comes to doing this, you need to know what to watch out for.

At VIPdesk.com, you can become a virtual concierge or customer service representative helping people plan travel, find home improvement contractors or deal with retail returns.  It pays $10 to $12 an hour.  We checked, there are job openings in all 50 states  and your only cost is a headset they want you to have that works with an internet based phone line.  There is quite a list of qualifications for this job, and you have to be able to be in front of your computer for 95 percent of your shift.  But, part-time and full-time positions are available.

Freelance work can be found at Elance.com.  There are thousands of jobs posted and you can submit a proposal for work.  We found everything from writing to marketing to web design, consulting, legal jobs and engineering jobs. But,  the competition is fierce.  As you know already, a lot of people are looking for work and this site appeals to the unemployed as well as those looking for extra income.

And if you're an educator, you can turn your computer into your classroom by becoming a virtual educator. Check out tutor.com and k12.com.

From the Better Business Bureau:

Most Common Scams
To protect yourself, learn to recognize the most common work-at-home scams.

ASSEMBLY WORK AT-HOME: Typical Ad -- "Assembly work at home! Easy money assembling craft items. No experience necessary."

This scheme requires you to invest hundreds of dollars in instructions and materials and many hours of your time to produce items such as baby booties, toy clowns, and plastic signs for a company that has promised to buy them. Once you have purchased the supplies and have done the work, the company often decides not to pay you because your work does not meet certain "standards." You are then left with merchandise that is difficult or impossible to sell.

CHAIN LETTER: Typical Ad -- "Make copies of this letter and send them to people whose names we will provide. All you have to do is send us ten dollars for our mailing list and labels. Look at the chart below and see how you will automatically receive thousands in cash return!!!"

The only people who benefit from chain letters are the mysterious few at the top of the chain who constantly change names, addresses, and post office boxes. They may attempt to intimidate you by threatening bad luck, or try to impress you by describing themselves as successful professionals who know all about non-existent sections of alleged legal codes.

ENVELOPE STUFFING: Typical Ad -- "$350 Weekly Guaran- teed! Work two hours daily at home stuffing envelopes."

When answering such ads, you may not receive the expected envelopes for stuffing, but instead get promotional material asking for cash just for details on money-making plans. The details usually turn out to be instructions on how to go into the business of placing the same kind of ad the advertiser ran in the first place. Pursuing the envelope ad plan may require spending several hundred dollars more for advertising, postage, envelopes, and printing. This system feeds on continuous recruitment of people to offer the same plan. There are several variations on this type of scheme, all of which require the customer to spend money on advertising and materials. According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, "In practically all businesses, envelope stuffing has become a highly mechanized operation using sophisticated mass mailing techniques and equipment which eliminates any profit potential for an individual doing this type of work-at-home. The Inspection Service knows of no work-at-home promotion that ever produces income as alleged."

MULTI-LEVEL MARKETING: Typical Ad -- "Our products make it possible for people like you to earn more than they ever have in their lives! Soon you can let others earn money for you while you and your family relax and enjoy your affluent lifestyle! No experience necessary."

Multi-level marketing, a direct sales system, is a well-established, legitimate form of business. Many people have successfully sold the products of reputable companies to their neighbors and co-workers. These people are independent distributors who sell popular products and also recruit other distributors to join them. On the other hand, illegitimate pyramid schemes can resemble these legitimate direct sales systems. An obvious difference is that the emphasis is on recruiting others to join the program, not on selling the product. For a time, new recruits who make the investment to buy product samples keep money coming into the system, but very few products are sold. Sooner or later the people on the bottom are stuck with a saturated market, and they cannot make money by selling products or recruiting. When the whole system collapses, only a few people at the top have made money—and those at the bottom have lost their investment.

ONLINE BUSINESS: Typical Ad -- "Turn your Home Computer into a Cash Machine! Get computer diskette FREE! Huge Selection of Jobs! No experience needed! Start earning money in days! Many companies want to expand, but don’t want to pay for office space. You save them money by working in the comfort of your home."

This is typical of advertisements showing up uninvited in your e-mail—an old scheme advertised in a new way. You pay for a useless guide to work-at-home jobs—a mixture of computer-related work such as word processing or data entry and the same old envelope-stuffing and home crafts scams. The computer disk is as worthless as the guidebook. It may only list free government web sites and/or business opportunities which require more money.

PROCESSING MEDICAL INSURANCE CLAIMS: Typical Ad -- "You can earn from $800 to $1000 weekly processing insurance claims on your home computer for health care professionals such as doctors, dentists chiropractors, and podiatrists. Over 80% of providers need your services. Learn how in one day!"

Generally, the promoter of this scheme attracts you by advertising on cable television and, perhaps, by inviting you to a business opportunity trade show at a hotel or convention center. You may be:

Most likely, the expensive training sessions are superficial, and the market for your services is very small or nonexistent. The promoter may delay the processing of your job, citing a backlog or mistakes in your work. There may also be no central computer as advertised. You may be left with no way to deliver what you have promised to your clients or customers—if you found any—and with no way to earn any money on you own.

TWITTER WORKERS: Typical Ad-- "Twitter workers needed ASAP; You're Hired! Make Extra Cash with Twitter; As seen on USA Today, CNN and ABC...Apply Now!"\

The e-mail links to EasyTweetProfits.com, a company out of Surrey, England. EasyTweetProfits.com claims you can make $250-$873 a day working at home with Twitter. The Web site offers a seven-day free trial of their instructional CD-ROM for $1.95 to cover shipping. Buried in the lengthy terms and conditions are the details that the trial begins on the day the CD is ordered—not when it is received—and if the consumer doesn’t cancel within seven days of signing up, they’ll be charged $47 every month.

Avoiding Fraud
There is no substitute for closely examining any offer which promises or guarantees income from work-at-home programs. If it sounds too good to be true, chances are it’s a scam.

Consider it a warning sign if a worker must buy something in order to start the program. Those interested also should take into consideration that, by becoming involved in a work-at-home scheme, they might well be perpetrating a fraud by selling the program to others, and risk investigation by postal authorities.

Look out for the following red-flags:

For a reliability report on a specific work-at-home company, check first with the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida.

Signs of a Work-at-Home Scammer
A Work-at-Home Scheme Promoter will:

If You Are Victimized

If you become a victim of a work-at-home scheme, ask the company for a refund. If they refuse or give you an evasive response, tell them you plan to notify law enforcement officials.

Keep careful records of everything you do to recover your money. Document your phone calls, keep copies of all paperwork such as letters and receipts, and record all costs involved, including the time you spend. If the company refuses to refund your investment, contact:

Outside Contacts

The Federal Trade Commission offers tips for consumers interested in work-at-home opportunities.