Bottom-Dollar Scam

DEFINITION of 'Bottom-Dollar Scam'

Fraudulent claims by swindlers or con artists who prey on job seekers and vulnerable people. Bottom-dollar scams involve false promises about making substantial deals of money through avenues such as working from home, mortgage modification, debt reduction, and so on. Also known as “last dollar” scams, bottom-dollar scams are so called by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – the consumer protection watchdog in the U.S. – because they claim that their outlandish claims are solid schemes on which one can bet one’s last dollar. Such scams are particularly egregious because they target people who may be going through a financially difficult time due to job loss or illness, and being victimized by such scams in many cases worsens a desperate situation.

BREAKING DOWN 'Bottom-Dollar Scam'

The FTC’s “Operation Bottom Dollar” specifically focuses on scam artists who target job seekers. The FTC identifies two big red flags in identifying a bottom-dollar scam – a requirement to pay money upfront, and the promise of a guaranteed job.

The FTC notes that bottom-dollar scams can take various forms, some of which include –

  • Job ads that are run in the classified sections of publications: These tend to give the scam an air of legitimacy, and purport to offer an actual job opportunity.
  • Work from home schemes: The most popular of these are schemes that involve stuffing envelopes, or assembling crafts.
  • Employment listing services: Some scams offer to give job seekers access to exclusive employment listings in exchange for an upfront fee.
  • Government jobs: Some bottom-dollar scams offer access to government jobs upon a substantial payment. The FTC warns consumers to stay clear of such scams, since applying for U.S. government jobs does not require an upfront payment.  

To avoid getting taken in by a bottom-dollar scam, the FTC advises that a prospective job seeker ask plenty of questions and check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints about the entity offering the job. Above all, pay attention to red flags such as the requirement for an upfront payment, which is generally a warning sign that a bottom-dollar scam is in the works.