What Work-at-Home Scams Look Like

Job scams are gaining ground in this recession.

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It's a nearly perfect recipe for job scams: an 8.5 percent unemployment rate, uncertain economic future, and a growing population of part-time workers who need more money to pay bills.

Some work-at-home job scams are relatively easy to eyeball, but the level of sophistication is growing. Here, the FBI offers some guidance on what they may look like:

  • Advance-fee: Starting a home-based business is easy! Just invest a few hundred dollars in inventory, set-up, and training materials, they say. Of course, if and when the materials do come, they are totally worthless…and you’re stuck with the bill.
  • Counterfeit check-facilitated "mystery shopper:" You’re sent a hefty check and asked to deposit it into your bank account, then withdraw funds to shop and check out the service of local stores and wire transfer companies. You keep a small amount of the money for your “work,” but then, as instructed, mail or wire the rest to your “employer.” Sound good? One problem: the initial check was phony, and by the time your bank notifies you, your money is long gone and you’re on the hook for the counterfeit check.
  • Pyramid schemes: You’re hired as a “distributor” and shell out big bucks for promotional materials and product inventories with little value (like get-rich quick pamphlets). You’re promised money for recruiting more distributors, so you talk friends and family into participating. The scheme grows exponentially but then falls apart—the only ones who make a profit are the criminals who started it.
  • Unknowing involvement in criminal activity: Criminals—often located overseas—sometimes use unwitting victims to advance their operations, steal and launder money, and maintain anonymity. For example, they may “hire" you as a U.S.-based agent to receive and re-ship checks, merchandise, and solicitations to other potential victims…without you realizing it’s all a ruse that leaves no trail back to the crooks.

Dateline NBC also offered a pretty good look at one operation that was based in Nigera.


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