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Scam Alert

Work-at-Home Hoaxes

New ploys that have recently emerged include:

Mentoring programs. “[Scammers] place advertisements in local newspapers to ‘Start Your Own Business,’ offering a $69 startup kit in any of about a dozen different opportunities,” notes Kevin Farrell of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office in southwest Florida. “But once that money is sent, the kit says you need to pay $650 more to have a mentor give you personal instructions over the telephone.” Farrell notes that in his area, with its large retiree population, such work-at-home scams seem to target older people.

Rebate processing. In this ruse, says Preszler-Southwick, victims answer job ads, thinking they will process rebate forms for leading companies. “In reality, these jobs instead involve placing advertisements on the Internet and selling products. Victims pay upfront fees and are promised their money back if not satisfied. What we’re seeing is they don’t get their money back.”

The bottom line: Be suspicious of any job opportunity that requires any upfront fees or pays you with checks that require a Western Union or other wire transfer. According to an October 2007 report by the Federal Trade Commission, about 2.5 million Americans—nearly 1 percent of the entire population—fall for work-at-home scams each year, and many are repeat victims. With today’s bad economy, there’s no indication that’s about to change.

If you’ve already fallen victim, contact your state attorney general’s office and your local consumer protection office. Also, alert the newspaper or online job site where you saw the job advertised.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP Books/Sterling).

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