CONSUMER ALERT: That work-at-home offer could be a scam

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

BATON ROUGE — Cash is tight, and the holidays will be here before you know it.  Maybe the work-at-home opportunity you've heard about sounds like a winner, but Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell warns consumers to proceed with extreme caution before pursuing any work-at-home job or business offer. 

     “No matter how great a work-at-home opportunity seems, it’s important that consumers first do their homework to make sure the business is legitimate,” Attorney General Caldwell said.  “Unfortunately, many of these so-called jobs are nothing more than scams.”  

     Attorney General Caldwell said consumers looking to work at home often end up paying for starter kits, supplies, certificates, and other useless materials.   

Caldwell said to keep an eye out for these common work-at-home scams:

Internet businesses

You’re promised earnings of thousands of dollars a month starting your own Internet business. Once you pay for the opportunity, the company says you won’t succeed unless you pay for more pricey services. Many people who pay for these “businesses” are left with a lot of debt and not much else.

Envelope stuffing

For a small fee, the ad says, you’ll make lots of money stuffing envelopes. But after you pay, you find out there is no work. Instead, you get a letter telling you to get other people to buy the same envelope-stuffing opportunity. You earn money only if those people respond the same way you did.

Assembly or craft work

You see an ad that says you can make money assembling crafts or other products at home for a company that has promised to buy them. You may have to invest hundreds of dollars for equipment or supplies — like a sewing or sign-making machine from the company, or materials to make items like aprons, baby shoes, or plastic signs. The company doesn’t pay you — supposedly because your work isn’t “up to standard.” Unfortunately, no work ever is, and you’re left with equipment, supplies, and product, but no income.

Medical billing

The ads promise a substantial income for processing medical claims electronically — no experience needed. In exchange for your investment of hundreds — or thousands — of dollars, the rep says, you’ll get everything you need to launch your own medical billing business, including the software to process the claims, a list of potential clients, and technical support. The lists they give you are often out-of-date, and the software they send might not even work.

Multi-level marketing

In multi-level or network marketing, you’re supposed to sell products to the public — often by word of mouth and direct sales. In legitimate opportunities, you’ll earn commissions for the products you sell, and for sales made by people you recruit. But not all multi-level marketing plans are legitimate. Some companies tout huge incomes. But are their claims for real? Be wary and ask for written information about how much money most people make (after deducting their expenses). 

     Attorney General Caldwell said these promises of a big income working from home, especially when the opportunity involves an up-front fee or giving your credit card information, should make you very suspicious. It doesn’t matter if the ad shows up in a trusted newspaper or website, or if the people you talk to on the phone sound legitimate. It still could be a scam.

If you have spent money and time on a work-at-home program and now believe it might not be legitimate, contact the company and ask for a refund. Let company representatives know that you plan to notify law enforcement officials about your experience. If you can’t resolve the dispute with the company, file a dispute with Attorney General Caldwell’s Consumer Protection Section at (800) 351-4889 or online at www.AGBuddyCaldwell.com.