Think Working From the Comfort of Your Couch Sounds Nice? Better Think Twice
~ By Gerald Rome, Colorado Securities Commissioner ~
We’ve all seen the corny advertisements on daytime television: “I make over ten grand a month working from the comfort of my couch!” Work-from-home options are often very attractive to older adults, and it’s easy to see why; these options sound great for someone who is close to retirement, or perhaps is looking for an additional source of income. Unfortunately, navigating the work-from-home arena is fraught with scams that can sometimes be difficult to spot. The following is a quick review of two of the most common tactics, and some advice on how to spot them before you become a victim.
Starter Fee Scams
Whether it’s a job assembling craft furniture, stuffing envelopes, or selling home goods by driving traffic to a website, any job that requires an up-front fee or the purchase of starter materials is most likely run by a scammer. With these offers, new hires are expected to send in a check or wire money ranging from $100 to thousands of dollars in order to register, receive training materials, software, or the necessary materials to do the job. The problem is that once the check for this fee is cashed, the promised materials never arrive and the victim is left with no job and with less money than they began.
Pyramid schemes are described as a form of investment in which each paying participant recruits further participants, with returns being given to early members using money contributed by later ones. For example, if you receive a chain letter that asks you to send $1 to the top person on the list, and then send the letter to 5 additional people, you were just solicited for an illegal pyramid scheme. These illegal schemes are often presented as legitimate businesses that provide mentorship, education, or training to members. However, if you are asked to recruit new participants and offered compensation for doing so, and you note that no real product is being offered, you’ve likely found a scam.
Identifying the Scams
With all the scams circulating out there, how does someone who is looking for a work-from-home job navigate the options? The number one rule is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any job or opportunity that touts a “get rich quick” method is simply not real. The only people who profit from such endeavors are the criminals. Here are few other tips:
- Consider the source. If you’ve seen a posting for a job on the side of the road, in a spam email, or in an ad on the margins of a search engine, be highly skeptical of its legitimacy. Anyone can post a job, but until you’ve researched an opportunity thoroughly, don’t sign up.
- Don’t pay fees or dues up front. Unfortunately, while this may limit the number of opportunities you consider, it’s a good idea to cross these jobs off your list early. Having to pay money to another employee or member, or even pay a “starter fee” is highly indicative that you may be looking at a pyramid scheme, or at the very least, a scam where the so-called employer will simply take your money and run.
- Verify the business. Before you sign on with any work-from-home opportunity, it pays to do your homework and verify that the business is registered or licensed with the proper authority. You can check with the Secretary of State’s Office or the Attorney General’s Office. Once you’ve verified the legitimacy, it’s also wise to run the company name by the Better Business Bureau to ensure there haven’t been any serious complaints or issues.
Working from home can be a great option for older adult, but one where you need to be on guard and watchful to ensure that you will truly benefit.