The so-called refund recovery business was big in 2003, says Atkins. The scammers offer to sell you software to track late and lost UPS and FedEx packages and assist the shippers' customers in obtaining refunds. The shippers say these refund recovery schemes are bogus.
In general, beware of work-at-home employers who ask for your money up front. "Legitimate employers pay you, not the other way around," says Demas.
Time to Sleuth
If you think you might have identified a legitimate work-at-home job, it's time to do some detective work. Here are three trusted stops for your gumshoe route:
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) maintains a national database of companies and complaints received about them. If BBB rates your prospective employer "unsatisfactory" or says the company has declined to answer requests for information, find another opportunity.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) goes after individual work-at-home scammers. Search the site for press releases or other information on any employer you're considering.
- Fraud.org should be able to inform you of civil and criminal complaints with respect to your prospective employer.
Questions to Ask
Legitimate work-at-home employers should be willing and able to answer a variety of questions about their programs. Here are some questions the FTC suggests you ask:
- What tasks will I have to perform? (Ask the program sponsor to list every step of the job.)
- Will I be paid a salary, or will my pay be based on commission?
- Who will pay me?
- When will I get my first paycheck?
Finally, if the work-at-home employer passes all these tests but you still feel a bit queasy about the offer, trust your gut and run the other way.