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Look out for scams

By Stephanie Foster
Posted Monday, December 20, 2004

Scams are the bane of the work at home parent's existence. They abound on the Internet and in the world in general. Fortunately, there are some warning signs you should always look out for that will keep you from falling for most of them.

WAH Job Scams

Probably the most common scam is to ask a potential "employee" to pay a fee for the job. This may be disguised as an application fee, software fee, processing fee, maintenance fee, etc. If you are to be an employee, the employer should be paying YOU, not the other way around. They may try to justify it as a way to weed out the applicants who are not serious about the job, but don't believe it. You wouldn't pay to apply for a traditional, outside the home job, so don't pay to apply for an at home job.

Some legitimate companies may offer equipment that you will need to rent. This can be legitimate, but in general, you should be able to buy such equipment on your own. Check into this option, as it can save you a lot of money.

Home Business Scams

Another popular work at home scam is to offer a kit to start a business, such as medical billing. This kit may contain outdated or irrelevant contact information and useless software. Medical billing is one of the popular areas for this particular scam. It is very difficult to start a home based medical billing service without prior experience,

MLM Scams

There are a lot of legitimate MLMs out there, but there are a tremendous number of scams too. If you decide to start your own business as a part of an MLM, you need to make sure they are legitimate. Familiar names such as Tupperware, Avon and Mary Kay are easily seen as legitimate, but what about the more mysterious ones?

Some will refer you to a site that tells you all about their wonderful opportunity, but not give you any details about what you will be selling, or even claim you don't have to sell anything. Be wary in these cases. Rather than a legitimate MLM, you may have stumbled across a pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes earn money primarily through recruiting, not through sales to customers. They may also require you to purchase a certain amount every month or not earn your commissions. This is known as inventory loading and is illegal. See this very useful article on the FTC website for more information.

The FTC also offers some excellent advice on selecting a franchise or business opportunity, which applies to both online and offline opportunities.

In General

Watch out if the ad promises hundreds or thousands of dollars with little effort, "guaranteed!" No one can guarantee that any business will succeed, and all businesses require effort and time to make money.

Also beware if no experience is required. While there may be legitimate opportunities out there that do not require experience, it is more likely that they are trying to prey on the inexperienced.

LOOK OUT FOR CAPITALIZATION!!! AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!! Got your attention there, didn't I? That's their goal too. A scam wants you to get so excited about their opportunity that you don't think. Be too smart to fall for that.

Vague ads where you have no idea what the product or service you will be selling are also trouble. Legitimate companies want you to know what you'll be selling, so you'll be excited about the business and the product. Scams just want you to be excited about the business.

If you feel pressured to make an immediate decision, tell them the answer is 'no.' Once again, a legitimate company wants you to be enthusiastic and happy with your decision. If you're buying a franchise opportunity, make sure they have a money back guarantee.

Check the company out on the Ripoff Report. Businesses can reply to reports here, so you get both sides of the story. See also the BBB's report on work at home scams.

If You Get Scammed

First try to clear it up with the company. If they are uncooperative, let them know that you will be contacting officials about the matter. Then do it.

* If you found out about the company on a website, let the site know so that they can take it off their site.
* Post your story on the Ripoff Report, so that others can see your story.
* Contact the Attorney General in your state or the state the company is in.
* Contact the BBB, both your local office and in the company's state.
* Contact the National Fraud Information Center if this was a "get rich quick" or "easy money" scheme.
* Your local Consumer Protection Offices.
* The Postmaster if you recieved the offer in the mail.
* The Federal Trade Commission. Although the FTC does not handle individual complaints, they are on the lookout for patterns of deception and unfair practices. To register a complaint, write to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.

About the Author
Stephanie Foster is the owner of Home with the Kids, a resource for parents who want to stay home with their families, save money, or work from home. You can visit the site at (http://www.homewiththekids.com).