Some people are so eager to work at home that they become easy prey for scammers who hawk so-called business opportunities that simply take the investor’s money and run. Envelope stuffing and coupon clipping are two of the most notorious schemes that virtually never pay off, according to Michael F. Butler, deputy attorney general of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection. But there are countless others.
Typically, scams promise consumers that they can make thousands of dollars working from their home; all a budding entrepreneur needs to do is send the company some money up front for more information or a starter kit. What arrives in the mail usually is far less than promised—often simply a worthless piece of literature that talks in generalities but gives no real, tangible way to get started.
Butler says disappointed investors usually have a tough time getting their money back, sometimes because the company selling the opportunity closes up shop and skips town. In other cases, consumers fall for verbal promises made by a fast-talking salesperson that were never put down in writing. Sometimes, consumers just don’t listen to the company’s caution that there are no guarantees, that there is financial risk involved in the venture, and they have no legal ground to stand on when they petition for a refund.
Lesley Spencer, founder and director of Home-Based Working Moms in Austin, Texas, offers this advice for people to follow before investing in a home-based business opportunity:
- Check out the company offering the opportunity with the Better Business Bureau in that company’s town.
- Ask the company for three references.
- Get the company’s actual street address. Many scammers use only a post office box number so they can flee town at a moment’s notice.
- Have the company put in writing how long it will take you to get paid and any restrictions that may be involved.
- Be very cautious of any company asking for money up front.
- Back away from anyone who promises that you can make a lot of money in a very short time.
If you have a complaint about an at-home business opportunity, contact the Bureau of Consumer Affairs and the Better Business Bureau.