When it comes to work-at-home jobs, home-based businesses and telecommuting positions, can you distinguish a legitimate opportunity from a fraudulent one? As you probably already know, scams, hoaxes, gimmicks and time wasters abound in these industries. The internet is packed with deceptive claims, fly-by-night companies, incredulous success stories, fabricated reviews and hyped up web sites.
When it comes to generating an income through a job or business operated from your home, the well-worn adages, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” and “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” surely ring true. I have developed the following checklist to help you determine when you have found a legitimate business opportunity. If the job, business or position you are considering holds up under the scrutiny of these guidelines, you are in good shape. If not, let it be a warning for you to proceed with caution…
1. If you are considering a home-based job/business in any of these areas, it should trigger a red flag for you to research your prospect with a fine-toothed comb. Here is a list of the most common frauds found on and off the internet:
Envelope stuffing or mailings; medical billing or coding; transcription or typing; data entry; kit or craft assembly; rebate or refund processing; starting an online store or auction site; survey-taking or opinion polling; making money through e-mails or online affiliate programs; and taking or processing customer orders.
Let me point out that there are legitimate work-at-home opportunities in these fields. Although some of them do not pay well, they are nonetheless legitimate. For instance, I gave a detailed review of a well-known and respected data entry company and transcription company in my previous article, A Review of 5 of the Foremost Work-At-Home Companies. I am not saying you should immediately rule out a prospect solely because it is in the list above. What I am saying is that those fields are the most publicized and frequent sources of scams-so please use common sense.
2. There are certain catchphrases that scammers often use to grab your attention and rouse your interest. If you find any of these hackneyed phrases on the web site or in the literature of the company/employer you are considering, tread carefully and investigate their claims thoroughly:
“Make money from your home fast and easy”
“Turn your computer into a money-maker overnight”
“Make $1000.00 or more your first week with this turnkey home-based business”
“Our company is looking for home workers who want to make money now”
“Start today and get paid tomorrow”
“A guaranteed home-based business opportunity”
“Read how these everyday people made their financial dreams come true by using our…”
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is going fast”
“Let us send you this no-obligation information kit on how you can get started. All you pay is shipping and handling”
“100% money-back guarantee. If for any reason you are not satisfied, return it within 30-days for a full refund”
“Sign up now for our free, no-strings attached program and start making money today”
3. Bear in mind that testimonials mean very little when it comes to work-at-home companies because they are so easily fabricated. Pay attention to them only if you can substantially verify the claims being made.
4. Go online to your local or regional chamber of commerce to see if the company or employer you are considering is a member or if there have been any adverse actions/complaints against them. Every major metropolitan area or region has a chamber of commerce. A few examples would be the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, the DC Chamber of Commerce (Washington D.C.), the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Most states and many counties also have their own chamber of commerce, such as the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Schenectady County.
5. Be sure to visit the US National Better Business Bureau. Type in the name of the business or company, their telephone number or web address. Check to see if they are accredited by the BBB and/or what information is listed in their file report. Most regions in the United States also have their own Better Business Bureau. You can use the web link above to locate the Better Business Bureau for a particular region. The BBB issues file reports on all businesses-even if they are not accredited by the BBB. The file report contains background information on the company or business. It also lists complaint activity for the business/company for the past three years along with any known government actions, advertising issues, licensing information and a BBB reliability rating.
6. Fraudulent company and product review sites are all over the internet. If you find a seemingly objective and authoritative site singing the praises of a home-based company or its products, take it with a grain of salt and obtain your research data on the company from more reliable sources.
7. Does the company or business ask for money up-front for any reason? There are legitimate reasons a company may ask you for money, such as for a background check, credit check or driving record check. There are also many illegitimate reasons that companies ask prospective agents, employees or franchisees for money. Before you pay any company a dime of your money, make sure you understand exactly what the money is for.
8. Does the company or business list adequate contact information-a business telephone number, e-mail address and the physical location where they are headquartered? Call them, write to them and e-mail them to inquire about their services and/or products. A legitimate company will respond to you with the information you requested in a timely manner.
9. Are the job description, application process and hiring requirements for the job or business that you are considering clearly stated? Here is an example of a clearly stated job description, application process and hiring requirements:
“Our home-based agents receive incoming calls from customers of our client companies. Our agents provide technical support to these customers and answer questions regarding the products and services of our client companies. We never charge a fee for applying to work for us and we provide all of our agents with mandatory paid training that can be completed online. The training usually takes two to seven days to complete.”
“Our application process consists of completing our online application and a short test designed to pre-screen you for eligibility. You will be given the results of the test online immediately after you complete it. If you pass the eligibility pre-screening satisfactorily, one of our personnel specialists will contact you by e-mail within two weeks to schedule a telephone interview. We will then contact you with a job offer within five business days of your interview if we feel you are a good match for any of the positions we currently have open.”
“All applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be considered for a call agent position with our company. In addition, all applicants must consent to and pass a national background check, for which there is no charge. Upon being offered a call agent position with our company, applicants must provide proof that they are legally eligible to work in the United States.”
10. Is the pay rate, method and frequency clearly stated? Here is an example of a clearly stated payment policy:
“Our agents are paid a fixed rate, which ranges from $9.00 to $12.00 per hour based on which of our client companies they are providing services for. Our agents can choose to work either part-time or full-time, from 15 to 40 hours per week. Our agents are paid once every two weeks by direct deposit.”
11. How long has the company you are considering been operating from the same address? A minimum of five years at the same location-preferably seven or more-indicates that the company has some long-term stability and longevity.
12. The United States Postal Service has a zip code lookup and company address search available here. Enter the company name, address, city and state-you can type in a partial address if you do not know the full address. Check to see that the company you are researching has a standardized mailing address other than a P.O. Box. Look for any special messages on the screen such as, “This address may be non-deliverable.” A non-deliverable address does not necessarily mean the company is illegitimate-it may simply mean the company only accepts deliveries at another location such as a warehouse. Nonetheless, you should further investigate any special messages that are displayed on your screen.
13. Does the company mention-explicitly or implicitly–that some or all of your pay or profits will come from recruiting new members? If so, the company may be participating in a Ponzi scheme or a similar scam.
14. Be sure to read the message boards at the Work-At-Home Moms web site (Dads are welcome there too). They discuss pros, cons and tips on companies in the following home-based industries: home-based travel agent, romance and home parties, multiple product sales, jewelry, home and kitchen products, health and wellness, greeting cards, gift and gift baskets, food products, crafts, cosmetics and skin care, toys and children’s products, candles and candle-making, books and educational materials/services, bath and body products and other service businesses. The service businesses message board discusses customer service companies, call center representatives, data entry operator positions, typing jobs, transcription work and the like. Read up and see what others are saying about the company or job you are considering.
While you are visiting WAHM’s message boards, you may want to look at their WAHM.com Undercover page that discusses various work-at-home scams, and their job board which has an extensive listing of open work-at-home and telecommuting positions. You can view the job board here. Also, if you see an ad for a work-at-home job or telecommuting position that you would like a second opinion on, WAHM will investigate it and get back to you with their findings.
15. Be sure to check out the Ripoff Report–a web site where consumers file first-person reports on fraudulent companies and inferior or defective products. These reports are free and available to anyone. The Ripoff Report also has a consumer resources page with excellent information on telemarketing fraud, work-at-home scams, advance fee loans, credit service & credit card offers, protecting your identity, government grants, sweepstakes, prizes & lotteries, medicare prescription coverage scams and telephone cramming (companies that charge your telephone bill for services/products you never agreed to buy).
The bottom line is that legitimate companies offer well-paid work to qualified individuals with the work experience, education or skills they are looking for. These are the same qualifications one would need if they were applying for a job in person. If you do not have the work experience for the lucrative job you would like, go out and get it. If you need additional education or licensing, most community colleges offer affordable online classes that will get you the license, certification or degree you need in a minimal amount of time. Higher education and training is a key factor in improving one’s quality of life. Do it for yourself and for your loved ones–go get the work-at-home job or telecommuting position you have been wanting.
Tony Tompkins, A Review of 5 of the Foremost Work-At-Home Companies, Associated Content
Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce – Nashville Business Directory, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
GACC | The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce :: Austin, Texas, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce
DC Chamber of Commerce DC Chamber of Commerce, District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
:: Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce ::, Denver Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, Hawaii Chamber of Commerce
Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Schenectady County – schenectady, schenectady county, Tech Valley, capital district, Delanson, Duanesburg, Glenville, Niskayuna, Rotterdam, Scotia, New York, NY, Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce
US National BBB.org: Check Out a Business or Charity, United States National Better Business Bureau
USPS – ZIP Code Lookup – Search By Company, United States Postal Service
Ponzi scheme – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia
WAHM.com Forum, Work-at-Home Moms message forums
WAHM.com Jobs, Work-at-Home Moms job listings
WAHM.com – WAHM Undercover, Work-at-Home Moms undercover
Rip Off Report: Browse Reports, The Rip-off Report
Ripoff Report: By Consumers, For Consumers, The Rip-off Report Consumer Resources