Much as it would be nice to think otherwise, there are a lot of ethical considerations to working at home. There are quite simply a ton of work at home scams out there, and many people have no problem with promoting them, in the hopes that they will profit. What happens to others doesn’t matter to them.

A discussion on my forum got me thinking about this, with the result that on Saturday I made some new rules for the forum. Some are simply for courtesy, but others are about trying to keep the scams away.

Cash Gifting – Scam or Legitimate?

The problem had to do with the promotion of cash gifting. If you research it, you’ll find that the FTC advises against it. Cash gifting is a form of a pyramid scheme, and is illegal. You can be arrested for participating in one.

The only reason they stick around is because it takes so long for them to get reported by those who have lost money. It’s also very, very easy for new ones to pop up.

And yes, you can make good money from them if you’re one of the “lucky” ones. But in the end there will be far more “unlucky” people who will lose money. The process is quite simply unsustainable. It doesn’t matter if it’s a “1-up” program or not. They’re both illegal.

It really saddens me to see the common attitude of people promoting these opportunities. They really don’t care what happens to others so long as they get their money. Yet that should matter tremendously, or at least it does to me.

Many will justify themselves saying that it’s a gift because they aren’t expecting anything in return. Therefore they must be in compliance with IRS regulations. Promoters will often quote rules from the IRS on gifts to make their claim that what they’re doing is legitimate. You can give gifts, after all. It’s just that what the promoters are calling gifts don’t qualify.

Not that they’ll admit it. I say they’re lying to us or to themselves. People can be generous, but you aren’t going to put money into that kind of thing without the hope of a huge return on what you put in. That means it is NOT a gift.

A good read is this speech on pyramid schemes vs. legitimate marketing made by Debra A. Valentine in 1998. Yes, it’s a few years old, but the rules for spotting these haven’t changed so much as that. The biggest difference is perhaps how commonly you find pyramid schemes of one sort or another online.

Another is this post from early November by Kelly McCausey on someone she knows who fell for a cash gifting scam. It really can happen to anyone.

Work at Home Ethics May Not Be Simple

Such blatant scams aren’t the only area where you can hit ethical gray areas when you work at home. Allowing ads on your site can cause ethical questions. You wouldn’t believe how many flat out scams I’ve blocked on this site from Google AdSense, and they keep coming. It’s gotten to where I’m looking at better alternatives because it’s impossible to block all of them.

I don’t expect to have it solved soon. I am about 7 months pregnant, which means I have to start planning for when I have this baby, not to mention the amount of time a site revamp of that level will take. It’s in the planning stages, for my few free moments. A bit more control would be nice.

There’s also making sure the ads you place are accurate and that you aren’t involved in companies making false claims. This can be a particular problem when you’re in any sort of network marketing that involves any sort of health claims. If the claims aren’t proven, you may be asking for trouble. Personal experience doesn’t count for proof without scientific backing.

Add in treating those you deal with fairly. That means paying bills promptly, providing fair value for your services, and understanding that your fellow work at home parents are also just trying to earn a living from home.

Can You Be Proud of What You’re Doing?

Sometimes it comes simply down to whether or not you’re proud of what you’re doing and how you treat people. If you’re proud of taking advantage of people, you may have to look at your own ethics.

But if you find yourself embarrassed about what you’re doing or the claims you’re making, maybe there’s something wrong. It might be time to take a better look and find something you can be proud of.

If you start out in an opportunity and come to realize that it’s illegal, get out immediately. Reporting it can be an awkward but good thing to do. Just keep in mind that if you knowingly participate in something illegal, you can get in even more trouble than if you were unaware.

That does not mean ignorance is bliss. As they say, ignorance of the law is no excuse. But with many work at home scams the greatest legal trouble is for those actively participating in it.

An unethical opportunity can ruin your reputation online, get you into legal trouble and lose you all the benefits you thought you had gained. It’s much better to start off with something sustainable and legitimate.