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Beware work-at-home scams


Consumer business by Denisha Maxey

WE RECEIVE a variety of complaints at Houston Better Business Bureau but topping the list is work-from-home scams. We receive hundreds of complaints related to scam businesses taking advantage of job seekers looking for employment.
Many years ago, work-at-home jobs consisted of mundane chores such as stuffing envelopes but now they have evolved into many different occupations. There are customer-service, research, marketing and secret-shopper positions that provide the flexibility of working remotely.
The bad news is that, while there are several reputable businesses offering such positions, there are also scammers waiting for an opportunity to steal your money or personal information. So how do work-at-home scams work and how do you avoid being a victim of one? Here are some examples.
A business mails you a check for a large amount and asks that you return a portion of the proceeds. This is huge red flag! A reputable business would not ask you do to this. The scam business sends potential victims a fake check; once it is cashed, you are left with a financial responsibility to the bank. Often, victims are left owing thousands of dollars.
As the old saying “anything that sounds too good to be true probably is!” goes, if a business advertises that you can make $5,000 a month working five hours a week from home, be wary! If it were actually true, the company would not need to advertise for employees. It would have applicants knocking down the door to work for it.
Pay close attention to job descriptions. If the offered job is a position in which you “recruit” others to invest in the business, it could possibly be “pyramid” scheme.
Reputable businesses will not ask you to pay out of pocket for startup or supplies. If it is a legitimate business, it will be able to provide materials to get you started.
Take into consideration where you discover the job lead. If it is in an unsolicited e-mail that you find in your spam folder, be leery! Most scammers send out hundreds of e-mails at a time, looking for that one potential victim to take the bait.  
If the business is located overseas, watch out. If you fall victim to a scam from abroad, it will be harder to pursue the fraudsters. Many other countries have relaxed regulations, often limiting your options to recoup money or have a scammer prosecuted.
Make sure you are able to find a physical address for the business, not a PO box. Be on high alert if you are only provided a telephone number or e-mail address with which to contact the business.
The scammers will often lure you by stating their business is overseas but will be opening a location in your area soon. They will ask to interview you via Skype and ask you to provide personal information, such as your social-security number, date of birth, address and bank-account information – supposedly to enable them to pay you by direct deposit.
If you run into any work-at-home scam, please report them to the scam tracker on the Houston BBB website,
Denisha Maxey is director of dispute resolution at Houston Better Business Bureau.

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