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Ask About Work-at-Home Scams

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By | May 25, 2012

Dear Toolkit,

I'm going to have to leave my full-time job due to a family member needing a caregiver. I'm trying to find a job I can do from home. Is there any way to determine if a work-at-home ad is legitimate or just some kind of scam?

Looking in Louisville

Dear Looking,

You are very wise to investigate the legitimacy of work-at-home offers as many of them are indeed scams. Rather than trying to sift through the morass of "make $2,000 a day stuffing envelopes" or "lose 40 pounds this weekend and sell your friends this magic elixir" type pitches, it might be more efficient to initiate inquiries yourself.

There are usually a few red flags to warn you off of dubious work-at-home job offers.

  • Don't believe any ad that promises you'll get rich quickly, make $50,000 a year working six hours a week, and so on.
  • Don't get into anything that requires you to pay upfront for training, supplies, leads or the impossible incentive du jour.
  • Check out any outfit you're thinking of associating with and consider it carefully before you leap. Do your due diligence.

Many people need to spend some period of their lives at home due to child or elder care responsibilities. If you happen to be a musician, then it might be a simple matter of conducting trombone or piano lessons in your living room. But if you had a position as a bank officer, it can be difficult to stay on your career track. In a case like that, where skills are not readily transferable to a home setting, alternative solutions do exist thanks to the miracle of the technology we take so much for granted these days.

For example, you might consider becoming a call center agent or employee. If you have a computer, a hard-wired phone and Internet access, and are willing to start at a modest hourly wage, you can try applying to a firm like Alpine Access, which hires employees to do customer service and/or sales call center work . . . and they offer benefits as well. Or, you could choose to be an independent contractor and do the same type of work for a firm like LiveOps which also operates customer service and sales call centers.

Both firms offer flexible hours and provide all the technological magic to make your home into a remote call center. (I mention these two simply as examples, not endorsements.) There are many such large call outsourcing solution firms like these and they are all growing rapidly. Their corporate clients increasingly prefer "on shore" representatives, with good language skills and a professional demeanor, to handle their customers' needs one-on-one.

Of course there are the medical coding/billing "training" programs, the "Google Money Tree" spam, a host of multi-level marketing schemes, and the ever present piecework assembly type come-ons.

Bone up on all the scams lurking out there by reading the FTC consumer site and check everything out with the Better Business Bureau before contacting any potential business or employment opportunity.

One last caution: never give any kind of personal information to anyone, no matter how legitimate the request may appear, unless you've thoroughly investigated them first. Remember, when it comes to work-at-home job searches, skepticism is a virtue!

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