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Job Seeker Beware: Work-at-Home Scams

September 21, 2012
A woman searches for a job at home.

Working from home has become increasingly popular due to its flexible schedule, low overhead costs, and commuting cost and time savings. But not all work-from-home opportunities offer legitimate employment, and can cause job seekers heartache and regret.

“It’s hard to distinguish legitimate work-at-home programs from people who are just out to get your money,” says Sheila Atkins, associate director of public affairs for the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Virginia.

Below are the top four scams and tips to help avoid the hazards of finding work-at-home employment.

  • Envelope Stuffing: This is a classic example of work-at-home business that may not be genuine. Many employers in this industry have the option of outsourcing this type of labor to mailing houses for pennies an envelope. Question the company and why they are willing to pay higher rates for the same job.
  • At-Home Assembly Work: This is another classic example similar to envelope stuffing. Most legitimate companies either provide local assembly factories or use offshore labor at a fraction of the cost.
  • Medical Bill or Claims Processing: “Very few medical professionals will let just anyone handle private medical information,” says Atkins, “especially with new healthcare privacy rules in effect.” Most doctors will not outsource billing services to individuals, but rather to large, established companies whose employees are trained and work on site.
  • Refund-Recovery Business: In this work-at-home ploy, the scammers offer to sell you software to track late and lost UPS and FedEx packages, in order to assist customers in obtaining refunds. These shippers claim these refund-recovery schemes are scams and do not exist.

Before accepting a work-at-home job offer, make sure to do the necessary research to confirm the company's validity. The Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and Fraud.org are three sites that will help you determine the legitimacy of any business and job offer.

For more information, including legitimate work-at-home jobs and questions to ask, visit the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection.