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Consumer Archive

Consumer

Unemployed targeted for work-at-home scams

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WASHINGTON (4/27/09)--With the national unemployment rate at 8.5%--a level not seen since 1983--scam artists capitalize on the vulnerability of job-seekers using new and improved work-at-home scams (U.S. News & World Report Apr. 20). Be on the lookout for some of these more common themes:
* Mystery shopper scams. While legitimate secret shopper services do exist, know the signs of a fraud. First, the scammer sends you a fake check, often thousands of dollars, with instructions to deposit the check in your account. You’re then told to use some of it to make purchases during your mystery shopping, deduct a commission, and send some funds back to cover fees. If you do, you’ll wind up draining money from your own account. Real mystery shopper employers don’t send checks before the work is completed, and you’re never asked to wire money back for fees to the employer. * Advance fee for small business start-up. Con artists convince you to invest a few thousand dollars and promise to provide you with inventory and materials. The materials rarely arrive, and, if they do, they’re completely useless and you’re left thousands in the hole. * Pyramid schemes. In these schemes, you’re hired as a distributor and you invest in promotional materials and product inventories. They offer you more money for recruiting friends and family as distributors. These are get-rich-quick scams that seem profitable as the pyramid builds, but once it crumbles the only people getting rich are the crooks who crafted it.
To protect yourself from these and other scams, the National Consumers League’s Internet Fraud Watch offers these guidelines:
* Know the company you’re dealing with and what it is really offering; * Don’t believe promises of easy and big profits; * Be cautious about any unsolicited e-mail you receive with offers to work at home; * Get references from others about the business and the work; and * Be wary of any “advance payment” checks. Most legitimate businesses pay you after you do the work.
Always check with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org to determine if the business is legitimate. And remember, if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. For more information, read, “If It Looks Too Good to Be True … Recognizing and Preventing Mail Fraud,” in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.