Most work-at-home ads are lying about the work and how much you can make. Many are complete rip-offs. There just aren't any jobs where you can make a lot for little work and no experience. These scams work because there are workers who are desperate to find a way to make money from home.

Rule # 1: Real jobs pay you. If they want you to send them money, it's a scam. Don't send money.

Common work-at-home scams:

  • Online Businesses and Franchises. Ads say that you can start a business on-line or buy a franchise to run out of your house. Usually what you get for your money is information that is available for free. Ask many questions and demand to read all the background documents on any franchise. Do an internet search on the business to see if other people are complaining about getting ripped off.
  • Stuffing Envelopes. There are no real jobs stuffing envelops. There are machines that fold, stuff, seal, label, and sort envelopes. Every one of these ads is a scam. There are no envelopes to stuff - it's a pyramid scheme where you are supposed to sell kits to other people (which can also get you in trouble with the law).
  • Craft-making and assembly jobs. After you spend money for the parts and equipment and time doing the work, the company says that there's something wrong with your work and won't buy them. If you are supposed to sell the product yourself, the company never helps you find customers (even though they promised they would).
  • Medical billing, claims processing, and data entry. You pay for software, training, and customer lists. The equipment and software is out of date and doctors and dentists don't usually hire home-workers.
  • Posting ads. The ads saying you can make money posting ads on computer sites. You don't get paid for posting ads, only when other workers sign up to post ads.
  • Multi-level Marketing (MLM) is a nice word for pyramid schemes. You have to recruit other people to sell what you're selling. A few people make a lot of money, but everyone else works very hard for very little.
  • Mystery shoppers or secret shoppers. There are ads promising high pay to shop and eat out, if you pay for jobs lists or "certifications." These are rip-offs. If you want to be a mystery shopper, you can find occasional work reporting on your experience with assigned businesses. It doesn't cost any money to sign up. The lists of companies that are looking for mystery shoppers are free. You can talk with mystery shoppers on forums, and find opportunities to be a mystery shopper (for free) at links in the Resource Box on this page.
  • Coupon clipping or selling coupon books. The scammer gets you to pay for a route or package so you can sell coupon books which you will redeem for packs of coupons. The only one who makes money is the scammer. Read more in the Resource Box.

Signs of a SCAM:

  • No address and phone number for the person you are supposed to send money to
  • They are ready to hire anyone -- with no interview, resume, or background check
  • No references, or just one or two
  • Promises of high pay and benefits --
  • No experience necessary
  • On your own schedule
  • Work-at-home
Protect yourself
  • Don't work for a long time without getting paid.
  • Directories of work-at-home jobs, customer lists, and start-up kits are never worth the money.
  • Find out if anyone will buy what you're going to sell. If they say that many doctors want this work done, call some doctors in your area. If they say that there are customers waiting, ask for contact information so that you can confirm.
  • Ask for references of other people who are doing the work. They should be willing (and able) to give you names (more than one or two) who you can talk to.
  • Research the company -- internet searches can find postings by people who have already worked for them. There are websites where people talk about work-at-home opportunities and scams.
  • If you are given a check or cashiers check (as pay for work-at-home or part of mystery shopping) and then told you should send money back, STOP. The bank can find out it's a bad check even after it's "cleared" and the money is in your account. Think about it -- if the check were good, would they have sent all that money to you, a stranger?
  • Ask questions:
    • How will I be paid?
    • When will I get my first check?
    • How often will I be paid?
    • What is the name and contact information for the person making the offer?
    • What is the total cost of the program, including equipment, training, materials, customer lists/leads, software, product, or membership fees?
    • What do I get for my money?
    • What is the refund policy?

Job Training Schools. Some job training schools are better at helping students get loans to pay for the training than making sure students graduate the program and end up with jobs. After you drop out, those loans will hurt your credit. Make sure that the school actually graduates most of the students.