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Protecting Seniors from Work-at-Home Schemes

By Janet Crozier

(Page 1 of 3)

“Work minutes a day at home and earn enough to pay all of your bills.”
“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 scams include:

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 phone book.
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.


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