Consumer Protection

How to Protect Yourself: Work-at-Home Schemes

Source: Florida Attorney General's Office


Magazines, newspapers and websites often advertise work-at-home jobs, promising hundreds of dollars each week for simple work. Many of these jobs are actually work-at-home schemes that require you to spend money to make money; typically, these jobs are too good to be true.

Watch out for common work-at-home-schemes.

Common work-at-home schemes include envelope stuffing, product assembly or craft work, rebate processing and medical billing.

Under the envelope scheme, victims responding to an ad are told to pay a small fee to learn how to earn money stuffing envelopes. After paying the fee however, victims may never receive any instructional programs or information. Or victims may be told the way to earn money is to place a similar ad defrauding others with get-rich-quick schemes.

The product assembly or craft work scheme will ask for victims to purchase a company’s supplies and equipment and invest their time to complete an order for something like aprons, signs, etc. Once the victim sends the products off to the company, the products are rejected and the victim is not compensated because the work supposedly isn’t “up to standard.” The victim is then left with equipment and supplies with no income to show for it.

Under rebate processing schemes, victims respond to an ad that says they can earn extra money by helping large firms process rebates. In order to qualify, the victims must pay a fee for training, certification and registration. After paying the fee, victims may never receive anything or receive useless training manuals and no opportunities to process rebates.

Medical billing schemes often promise full-time work processing medical claims electronically with no experience needed. When you respond to the ad, victims are told that in exchange for hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to get the software they will need as well as a list of potential clients and technical support when necessary. However, the software sent may not work. The client lists may be out of date or simply a list of doctors that have never requested such a service. Many doctors process their claims in-office or outsource to large, established firms, not someone with no experience working from home.

Know what questions to ask before following up on a work-from-home offer.

Should you be considering a work-from-home offer, ask the following questions:

  • What tasks will I need to perform?
  • Will I be paid a salary or on commission?
  • Who will pay me?
  • When will I get my first paycheck?
  • What is the total cost for this program – including supplies, equipment, fees, etc.? What will I receive for my money?
  • What is the basis for the statements on my earnings? Do you survey those who have purchased the programs?
  • Are there references I may call regarding the program?

Before signing up for any work-from-home program, look up the company online to see what others are saying. Try typing the name of the firm along with “complaints” or “fraud” in your search engine.

File a complaint.

You may file a complaint against a business directory firm with the Attorney General’s Office online at www.myfloridalegal.comor by phone toll-free at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Additionally, you may want to file a complaint against the firm with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint as well as the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org.