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Work-at-home opportunities: separating a scam from a sure thing

Most are fake. Some are real. I’ll help you tell the difference.

First and foremost, remember this: if the work-at-home opportunity solicited you first, it’s a scam. I mean it. If it came looking for you, you better look the other way.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently sued three individuals and nine businesses who, according to federal agents, conspired to create MOBE (My Online Business Education). Using unsolicited web ads, direct mail, social media and live events, MOBE would aggressively target consumers, claiming its program could help them start their own online businesses. Using a 21-step plan (?), MOBE claimed the program would have “average people with no prior experience online depositing $1,250, $3,300, and even $5,500 commissions…on auto-pilot.” That’s an actual claim the FTC quoted from MOBE’s sales pitch. According to the FTC, one of MOBE’s websites boasted consumers could “…make $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more every single month.”

According to the FTC’s lawsuit against MOBE, the program amounted to a pyramid scheme. Consumers would be encouraged to pay funds up front, then get others to sign up with promises of even more income for those referrals. “Despite the promises, most people who paid for the online business program made little or no money,” said FTC Consumer Education Specialist Alvaro Puig in this FTC release. “But you know who did make a lot of money? The people running the bogus business opportunity. The FTC alleges they collected more than $125 million from the customers they ripped off.”

The most common work-at-home scam is the “mystery shopper” check scam. You get an unsolicited package in the mail. It includes what appears to be a check or money order. The “company” offers you the chance to work out of your home, shopping major retailers and restaurants to “test” their customer service and product quality, then reporting back to the company about your experiences. The sender says that check is the money to help get you started, but you’re supposed to wire-transfer a portion of it back as a good faith gesture — your acknowledgment that you’re taking the “position.”

You do that, and here’s what happens…

The check is not a check or money order at all. It’s counterfeit. It will bounce, and you will be criminally liable for passing a bad check — but not before you have transferred real money out of your account and wired it to your new “boss.” Since you wire-transferred the funds, the scammer can easily scrub the paper trail. You’ve lost that money, and you’ll never hear from that person again.

So before I share REAL work-at-home opportunities, here are the signs of a work-at-home scam:

  • Unsolicited contact (they contact you FIRST, typically with an aggressive, hyped-up sales pitch)
  • Upfront fees
  • Unsolicited check or money order with a request to cash or deposit it
  • Unrealistic guarantees of income or benefits

Now for the REAL stuff…

Michael Haaren is the CEO of RatRaceRebellion, a legitimate and wonderful work-at-home resource. In this story I wrote for WMC Action News 5, Haaren said these websites are the most reliable for searching real work-at-home jobs:

Haaren said these are the kind of opportunities you can expect:

* Customer Service Agent. This involves taking calls for companies, not telemarketing.

* Internet ad assessor. The job involves making sure search engines make accurate searches.

* Website Testers

* Online moderators of web communities, Facebook groups and online games

* Virtual task freelancers. This may require a little travel and mileage reimbursement for picking up clients’ stuff, but it also includes online research.

* Transcriptionists

* Freelance posters paid to originate and post content on blogs

Remember that mystery shopper scam? The unfortunate aspect of that scam is there are actually legitimate mystery-shopper opportunities out there. They just don’t conduct unsolicited marketing or recruiting. Instead, they have their own trade association: the Mystery Shopping Providers Association of North America (MSPA Americas). If you want to explore real mystery shopping jobs, that’s where you should start.

Copyright 2018 Wise Choices TM. All rights reserved.

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