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The Work-at-Home Trap
You're looking for a job, reading the classified ads every day, and certain listings keep catching your eye. You know the ads I mean: the ones promising outrageous riches or the ability to work at home in exchange for performing some simple task. The more desperate for a job you become, the more tempting these offers seem.
Don't fall for them. While there are legitimate telecommuting jobs available, they are rare. The work-at-home jobs listed in the classifieds are usually not the real thing. Some common swindles include:
Work At Home Training
The type of work advertised will vary by ad. You'll see "rebate processing," "medical billing," "envelope stuffing," "posting ads for Google" or a hundred other variations. The response to your inquiries is always the same. You will be asked to buy an information kit, training, or some sort of software before you can begin working. After you send the money, the promised job never materializes.
How to avoid: Never send potential employers money or give them your credit card or bank account information. Real jobs don't require upfront payments.
Donations Handling and Check Cashing Schemes
You answer an ad and are mailed a cashier's check. You are asked to cash the check and then send back some small portion of the money. Later, it will turn out the original check was counterfeit and the bank will expect you to return the full amount.
How to avoid: Never cash a check unless you are sure it is from a legitimate source. If you have doubts about the legitimacy of an employer, check with the Better Business Bureau.
Goods, generally electronics, are mailed to you with instructions on how to repackage and reship the items, possibly along with shipping supplies and labels. Even if you are paid for taking part in this fraud, the goods sent have often been bought with stolen credit cards, and you are unknowingly taking part in a crime.
How to avoid: It is extremely unlikely that a real company would need to pay someone for this kind of service. Ask yourself why they would need the goods reshipped. Be suspicious if you are being paid for your work by cashier's check instead of a normal bank account check. Be especially careful of companies you've never heard of or companies based in foreign countries.
This one is tricky because there are actual "mystery shopping" jobs available from reputable companies. However, these companies don't typically need to buy classified ads to recruit new employees. If you answer one of these ads, you will generally be asked to pay a fee to receive an "information kit," which contains company listings available for free elsewhere. Alternately, you may be asked to call a pay-per-minute phone number. Don't bother. For a real list of mystery shopping companies, try www.volition.com.
How to avoid: Free mystery shopping information is available online. It is easy to sign up for the many programs at no charge.
Government Job and Grant Scams
The ad will claim to offer information on lucrative government positions or juicy grant programs, generally obtained by calling the number of a pre-recorded phone message. You may be charged a hefty fee for the phone call, which will probably not contain any useful data, or you may be asked to send money or a credit card number to receive the information by mail.
How to avoid: Everything you need to know about real federal jobs and grants is available from the government at no cost. Don't pay anyone a fee to "process a grant application" or similar. Honestly, you probably don't qualify for any grants, but you can check at www.grants.gov to make sure. You can search for government jobs at www.usajobs.gov.
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