“Work minutes a day at home and earn enough to pay all of your
“Work part-time in your own home and make $500 to $1,000 your first
month! It couldn’t be any easier!”
Con artists pitching work-at-home schemes rake in over $400 billion
dollars a year by exploiting people, especially seniors on fixed
incomes. They use appealing but unrealistic come-ons to lure
unsuspecting seniors into parting with their hard-earned retirement
money in the hopes of hitting it big financially. Work-at-home
schemes rarely include information such as what the business is,
what its product might be, how new owners would contact possible
customers, or what the total costs might be.
You’ve seen the promotions pasted on telephone poles, supermarket
bulletin boards, newspaper classified sections, magazines and on
television. They’re on Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and
message boards. Since anyone can post to a message board, the
promotions can even show up online at the message boards run by
honest organizations that seniors trust, such as AARP.
Work-at-home schemes come in many forms. Some of the most common
Medical Billing Centers: Seniors send money for software to run a
bill collection service from their home. The scam artists promise
that the “market is wide open” and they have “lined up” clients for
investors. In reality, seniors stand to lose thousands of dollars in
their investment. The software is only an assortment of forms and
collection letters that anyone could easily create. The names of
companies they send seniors are often randomly selected from the
Envelope Stuffing: This is the most common work-at-home scam
according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Seniors send money
and the “business” will send them information about earning money by
stuffing envelopes at home. What they actually get are instructions
to sell this scheme to others by placing ads in newspapers to
illegally entice new victims. They make nothing unless they recruit
others to work for them. Called multi-level marketing, this scam is
much like an illegal Ponzi pyramid scheme.
Assembly or Craft Work: This is promoted as an easy work-at-home job
for seniors on a fixed income. All they have to do is send money for
supplies to assemble into products such as aprons, baby clothes,
jewelry and Christmas decorations. They are told that there is a
ready market for the products or that the company will buy the
products from them. However, the assembled items rarely meet
non-existent quality standards or the seniors are told that they are
responsible for selling the items themselves.
But seniors can defend themselves against work-at-home scams. Start
by staying alert and using common sense. If a promotion seems too
good to be true, it probably is!
Fraudulent promoters of work-at-home schemes leave many unanswered
questions. Caution seniors you know not to send any money until they
get clear and complete answers – in writing – to all these
What exactly do I need to do to earn money?
What will I receive for my money?
Do I have to purchase anything?
What are the total costs to get in on the deal?
What quality standards must I meet for the products I produce?
Will I receive a salary? Or, do I work on commission?
Who pays me?
Do I have to sell anything or market the product or information?
Do I need to recruit others to the program?
How do I get my money back
if I am not satisfied?
If the answers they receive
don’t satisfy all their concerns, encourage them to walk away from
the promotion. Chances are good that the promotion is really a scam.
If you know any seniors that have been taken in by a work-at-home
scam, file a written complaint with the company in question and make
sure to keep a dated copy. Some companies may refund
For more information on work-at-home scams, contact:
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The Postal Service advises that you report work-at-home scams to
your local postmaster or nearest postal inspector.
National Fraud Information Center
The NFIC shares complaints with law enforcement offices across the
country to help identify patterns of criminal activity leading to
Federal Trade Commission
While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, your
complaint helps the FTC investigate fraud. The FTC enters
fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel®, a secure, online
database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement
Better Business Bureau
The BBB explains how work-at-home schemes can waste your time and
money and ruin your reputation.
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