Working from home is something that many people are interested in doing these days, and it's not limited to those who are out of work. The U.S. Labor Bureau reports that in 2010, "multiple jobholders were nearly twice as likely to work at home as were single jobholders." With almost everyone looking for a way to cash in at home, it's important to be able to identify common job scam scenarios and learn to protect yourself from unscrupulous individuals offering work-at-home riches.

Types of Scams
While there is almost an unlimited number of ways that scammers chose to lure in unsuspecting consumers, there are some common job categories that are more likely to be illegitimate. Leslie Truex, author of "The Work-At-Home Success Bible" says that these usually include:

  • Envelope Stuffing (mailing programs)

  • Assembly Work

  • Gifting Programs

  • Email Processing

  • Rebate Processing

  • Repackaging Jobs

  • Payment Processing

  • Jobs that ask for money to hire you

  • Business opportunities that don't have a product or service

Do Your Research
Regardless of the type of work you are curious about, however, there are some ways to be certain that you don't fall prey to shady practices. The most obvious way is to become as informed about a new opportunity as possible, either by researching through sites like the Better Business Bureau or through interviews done with those who are listed as successful participants in the program. Due diligence is almost always the most effective way to stay out of trouble.

Avoid Pressured Pitches
Leslie also recommends that job seekers beware of any business that seems overly aggressive with their sales pitch and requires an immediate decision for enrollment. "Anytime you want to sign up to work at home today, you're at risk for being scammed," she admits. Some of the most common scams occur when websites insist that the opportunity is only available to a few select job seekers and consumers jump at a position without studying it carefully. Anything that features a countdown timer or promises a "last chance" sale on start-up kits, for example, are likely to be fakes.

Keep Your Cash
Perhaps the best way to tell if an opportunity is a lie is by how much money they require up front. Leslie agrees with most experts that cash exchanged for more information on a job, a success kit of any kind or for lists of those that are hiring, will most likely never be used for a legitimate business. In addition to inflated fees for things such as envelopes, CDs and access to databases, consumers should steer clear of offering their own financial instruments or cash to engage in check cashing practices. "Never use your personal bank account to help a company do business," urges Leslie.

Pursuing the Job of Your Dreams
So what should job seekers look for in a work-at-home opportunity? Keeping your skills and interests in perspective is one way to keep your options reasonable. If a job is for shipping and receiving, but you have no logistics training, for example, it's likely not going to be a good (or reputable) match. Start by doing an assessment of what you're already good at, and see if you can sell a good or service that is in high demand. Check reputable websites that offer work-at-home jobs from reputable companies on a regular basis. For example regularly highlights openings for home-based customer service reps, auditors and designers with no money required to apply.

The Bottom Line
Being informed is still the best defense against fraud. Don't rush into any job without evidence that it's a good fit, and never jump on board with a promise of fast cash or unrealistic earnings in exchange for little time or skill investment. The good jobs are out there, but like any other employment opportunity, they require talent and effort to obtain.

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