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Avoiding Common Work At Home Scams

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Wendy Betterini photoScammers are getting more creative every day, coming up with new schemes to get your money (or sensitive information). Knowledge is power! By educating yourself on the common scams and keeping aware about new ones, you can stop the scammers in their tracks. Remember, if no one fell for their tactics, they would be out of business! Here are some of the most common scams today:

Stuffing Envelopes - There are no legitimate envelope-stuffing jobs out there. Please don't fool yourself into believing there are. Companies can very easily purchase a beautiful machine for a few thousand dollars that will not only stuff the envelopes, it will also fold, collate and apply postage to the envelopes. Why would a company pay you thousands of dollars a month to stuff their envelopes? They wouldn't. If you send in your fee for this scam, you will receive a copy of the same ad you responded to, and you will now have to scam other people by placing the ad and having them send you their money. This is illegal.

Typing and Data Entry - Similar to the scheme above, if you sign up for this and pay your fee, you will receive a copy of the same ad, and have to place ads to get other people to send you their money. You earn $20 per "application processed" because you are charging people $20 to get the information. Again, illegal. There are some legitimate companies that will hire you to do typing and data entry (such as transcription or coding) - but they won't charge you a fee to work for them. If a fee is being charged, it's a scam.

Craft Assembly - Most of these opportunities are scams because they make their money by the start-up fees you pay. When you receive your kit, you will assemble dozens of earrings, potholders, magnets (or whatever), send them in for payment, and they will not pass inspection. You can try to fix them as many times as you like, they still won't be accepted. The company doesn't want the items you assembled, they want your money for the start-up kit. There are a few legitimate companies out there, however. Disciple's Cross and New England Crafters are two we've found so far. We are researching others.

Medical Billing - There are companies that will train you to become a Medical Biller from home, as long as you purchase the Medical Billing software for your computer from them (usually costs a few hundred dollars at least) What they don't tell you is that YOU will be responsible for finding your own clients (Doctors/Dentists). This can be incredibly difficult to do, since most medical professionals already use a billing service, or do their own billing in the office. With the new Privacy laws, medical professionals need to be extremely careful with patient records, and most will not want to trust someone with no billing experience to handle the office billing at home.

Payment Associate/Specialist - A company wants to hire you to place auctions on eBay and accept customer payments using your own accounts). You get to keep a portion of the money, and send the rest to the company. The company is supposed to ship the product to the customer, but they don't (or they ship stolen goods). You are now in big trouble with eBay and Paypal for fraud. Don't do it! Don't ever use your own accounts for anything other than your own business. Companies should be able to set up their own accounts just as easily as you did for yourself.

Pyramid Schemes - A pyramid scheme is when money changes hands but there is no product or service being sold. "Joe" charges you $200 to join the scheme, and then you in turn need to charge others $200 to join, and they charge others, etc. This is illegal. Remember, there must be a product or service being sold.

Gifting Programs - This is also an illegal pyramid scheme, but they call it a "gifting program" - in other words, you "gift" Joe $200, and then you need to find others who will "gift" you $200, and so on. Illegal.

Chain Letters - These have been around for years! They used to come by postal mail, but now they also arrive via email. There are usually 5 names on the list, you need to move each name up a spot, removing the top name, and place your name at the bottom, and then send $5 to each name on the list and send it out to everyone you know. Highly illegal. There is also a version for online payment services like Paypal, you send $2 or $5 (the amount varies) to the people on the list, and others are supposed to do the same for you. Don't get caught up in something like this, it can ruin your life.

Surveys & Mystery Shopping - While not all survey and mystery shopping companies are scams, there are quite a few that love to charge you a membership fee, claiming you can earn hundreds of dollars a day. When you sign up, you find more companies that want to charge you a fee to join, and companies that will pay you very little for your time and energy. There are some legitimate companies out there, and you don't have to pay to find them. Also be aware that you probably won't get rich from doing surveys and mystery shopping, but it can certainly bring in some decent pocket money.

These next few aren't necessarily work at home schemes, but they bear mentioning because they're so popular:

Bulk email - Usually these offers are sent by email, but you'll see ads like this around the internet also. You can purchase tons of email addresses for a low fee. If you have a home business and you're trying to get customers or subscribers to your mailing list, sounds like a great deal, right? Don't do it. Most (if not all) of those addresses have been harvested by spambots. If you send out a mailing to them, you will likely be reported for spam. You can lose your internet service provider, your business, and even have to pay a huge fine for spamming. Not worth it!

Phishing - You get an urgent email from Paypal, eBay or even your bank stating that your account is in jeopardy and you need to update your account info immediately! You click on the link and go to a page that looks legitimate enough, but it's actually a fake page. If you enter your login and password information, the scammer can now access your accounts. Don't ever click on a link in an email like this. Open a new browser window and type the company website address yourself. Your account should show whether there is a problem or not. (Most companies would have a big notice in there if you need to update something.) These companies usually have a spoof email address you can send these "phishing" emails to. For example, spoof@paypal.com, or spoof@ebay.com. Simply forward the email with full headers to them. They will investigate and stop the scammer if they can.

Free merchandise - Have you gotten the emails claiming you can earn a free computer, phone card or other merchandise? What usually happens is you would have to pay a membership fee, and then get a certain number of other people to join and pay the membership fee also. Unfortunately, there is usually some little clause you weren't aware of, and you never do get your free stuff. It's a waste of time and money.

Nigerian scams - You get a long letter from someone claiming to be the son or daughter of someone important, and they need to have you deposit a huge sum of money into your own bank account, and then wire most of it to them by Western Union. You get to keep a nice chunk of the money for your troubles. The problem is that the check is fake, and takes a few days or even weeks to bounce, and you now owe that money back to the bank. Unfortunately, you don't have it anymore, you wired most of it out to those people! Another Nigerian scam targets business owners. You receive a large order at your website, or they email to ask if they can order a large amount of goods, and they ask if you accept credit cards. Do not fall for this, the credit cards are stolen and if you ship the goods, you will be out the money AND the goods.

In closing, remember that scammers are after only two things: your money, or your sensitive information. If you refuse to give either willingly, you put them right out of business. For more information on common scams, do an internet search on the FTC Dirty Dozen.

Wendy Betterini is a freelance writer, web designer and owner of a resource center for home business owners and telecommuters.

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