You know the feeling. The feeling of betrayal. That horrible sinking feeling in your stomach that confirms what you already suspected. You’ve been scammed by a work-at-home company.
If you have been working at home for any length of time, either you or someone you know has been scammed. While it doesn’t seem to happen as much as it once did–thanks to websites like this one–it still does happen.
What Are the Warning Signs of a Work-at-Home Scam?
While it’s not always bluntly obvious, there are a few questions that you may consider. Ask yourself:
- Was I forced to “buy” something (training materials or a “system”) to work from home?
- Does the company have a website with updated contact information?
- Could I verify (call or email) the company's information in the contact part of their website?
- Are any of the web pages missing or are a 404 error?
- Are there any online reviews about this company?
- Has anyone at any of the work-at-home forums worked there with a positive experience?
- Does it claim that anyone can do it and make a large amount of money quickly?
- Was there a separate website just for applying and collecting your personal information?
- Once hired, were you told that you had been overpaid and need to wire the remainder to a third party?
- Were you offered the job without an application, resume or interview?
- Were the salary or hourly details questionable or unclear?
- Did they initially contact you instead of the other way around?
- Did you receive the job instantly or within a few hours?
As always, there are exceptions. Even legitimate companies might have you pay between $25 to $85 for a background check. Some IBO’s such as Arise will require that you incorporate and buy training or classes. While scammers aren’t limited to any particular type or industry of work-at-home jobs, the biggest culprits seem to be data entry and mystery shopping jobs.
The reason? These are considered easy, stress-free jobs that most people can do and would enjoy doing. So, if a scammer wants to “take out” a large number of potential work-at-homers, these would be the two best industries to target.
Where Can You File Your Complaint?
There are actually six places to file your complaint, and each place will need the information for different reasons.
The first place to start would be the Federal Trade Commission. You may file a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP. The Federal Trade Commission will want to hear about it, so they may put the “employer” out of business and start a potential investigation bringing the scammer to justice.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is probably the next best defense against scammers. How so? Scammers are very good at what they do. Have you ever noticed how scammers use similar phrases and language to appeal to the desperate job seeker? Sometimes the same scammer will have online advertising for the work-at-home opportunity as well as a robo call telling job seekers to go to the website and sign up. The FCC would want to be made aware of all forms of communication affiliated with a particular work-at-home job scam.
In the past before the Internet, telemarketing schemes and mail order schemes were the bulk of the complaints being filed against suspicious work-at-home companies. These two forms of communication are still being used to promote work-at-home scams many times in conjunction with other forms of online advertisement. To file a complaint with the FCC go to http://www.fcc.gov/complaints.
Although large, Google also likes to be made aware of these types of scams, since most of these scams have two goals in mind. First, to rob you of your hard-earned money and second, to phish for or collect your personal information. Google has a brief online form already set up for you to take care of this at https://www.google.com/safebrowsing/report_phish/.
While a lot of people don’t know about this next one, the Internet Crime Complaint Center also needs to be made aware of the incident. The Internet Crime Complaint Center is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. They also have already prepared an online form for you or any eyewitness third party to file at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
Next in line is the Better Business Bureau or BBB with an online form at https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started—you may wish to still follow up with a phone call. Unfortunately, some of the harder-to-detect scams may actually have had BBB accreditation, but the BBB can expel them and give them a bad grade.
Lastly, report the incident to your local police department to see if demographics played a role. Sometimes scammers only target a certain demographic, area code or zip code. Also, once your local police department knows about the scam, they can better advise others calling in with questions.
What Precautions Should You Be Taking While Waiting to Hear Back From the Authorities?
- Cancel all logins, passwords, and accounts associated with the scam.
- Order a credit report and study it carefully for discrepancies.
- Contact the company if possible (many times it isn’t possible).
What Will “They” Do?
Once all of the authorities listed above are notified, they will work independently and with the FTC and your local authorities to bring these culprits to justice. It doesn’t always happen overnight, but over time it can happen.
Can You Recover Your Money and Personal Information?
Not always, but the sooner the scam is reported, the better. Government agencies rarely are able to get your money back; however, there are state agencies that can mediate on your behalf if the business had a business license. If the seller was local, then a small claims court might also offer some much needed relief.
Many times charges can be disputed with your credit card company and certainly warn your creditor about this incident and any potential additional charges.
How Can You Continue to Work at Home After Something Like This Happens?
It is never easy to regain confidence after an ordeal like this. However, there are many great blogs–like this one–that also offer help and opinions about work-at-home companies. So before you sign up for anything, read and do your homework. Just do a Google search on work-at-home job blogs.
Best of luck!
Be sure to read this post for more info on spotting and dealing with work from home scams.