October 22nd, 2012

Don’t Fall For the Detective Shopper Scam

I’ve written in the past about secret/mystery shopper scams. They aren’t as uncommon as I would like, not by a long shot. I received an email the other day, calling it a detective shopper position. A small change in name, but the same old scam.

You have been selected for assignment as a Detective Shopper in your area,
and You will get $200 being a Detective Shopper.Your employment packet
will include funds for the shopping. We want you to participate because
it’s fun & rewarding.
You will have access to training materials.

Provide the following details if you interested:

– Name (first/last):
– A d d r e s s:
– State, City, Zipcode:
– Num. Phone/cell:
– A g e:
– S e x:
– O c c u p a t i o n:
– Alt. E-mail:

As a Detective Shopper You work and shop together for pleasure,
and You only work 2-3 hours twice in a week.

We wait your good response, Thank You !

Regards,
Hiring Manage

Now, I haven’t contacted them personally, but I think I know where this one is going. The usual routine on these is to offer a high rate of pay, then have the supposed detective shopper cash what appears to be a perfectly valid cashiers check or money order at their local Walmart. It isn’t, however, although these are generally well enough faked to fool the employee at the bank cashing it. You might even be told to make a few purchases at the store while you’re at it.

You’re supposed to keep your pay and send the excess back (a few thousand dollars, usually) to the person claiming to be your employer for this job. They’re probably in another country, of course, as that makes them really hard to prosecute when the scam is revealed.

Here’s the big problem for anyone who falls for this. You end up responsible for the money when the check or money order turns out fraudulent. There’s no way to get the money back, but the bank expects you to pay it back.

There are plenty of clues in the email alone. First and foremost, I never applied for such a position. Employers don’t just tell you that you have an assignment when you never applied with them for one of these jobs. They don’t even know my name yet, never mind the most basic of contact information any place you’ve applied with would already know.  That goes on most applications, after all. Second, the rate of pay is WAY too high. Legitimate mystery shopping jobs don’t pay that much for so little work. Most don’t pay all that well, and they’re absolutely picky about where and when you do your shop.

If you’re interested in mystery shopping, there are places to find legitimate employers. My list of mystery shopping companies is one place to start.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

September 21st, 2012

Beware Amazon “Package Shipped” Email Scams

Just thought I would quickly share one of the scam emails I got today. It claims to be from Amazon.com, about a purchase being shipped. They even include a shipping address in the email, so that you can see that it’s not going to your address. It’s not too hard to spot as a scam, however. Just take a look:

Click to enlarge

This one didn’t bother to disguise their email address, for one. It’s very clearly not from Amazon. Their URL also isn’t particularly sneaky. Some do a much better job of making the URL look like something that comes from the company they claim to be from.

I blurred out the supposed shipping address on the off chance it’s someone’s real address, but I couldn’t resist leaving the “Appartments 4C” typo visible. It’s not the only typo on the page, which is another hint for the scam.

The most important thing to remember when you get an email you have any doubt of, whether the source is Amazon, your bank or any other site you deal with, is that you can type in the domain name or use your bookmarks. Don’t use links to visit a website when you doubt the source. Go to the domain in your usual way and check your account on your own, or even contact the company. It’s much safer than clicking on a phishing email.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

September 30th, 2011

Where Are the Legitimate Envelope Stuffing Jobs?

For one reason or another, envelope stuffing is one of those jobs that a lot of people look for when they want to work at home. Usually, they become quite discouraged by the lack of such jobs available. Aren’t there any legitimate envelope stuffing jobs out there?

Sorry to say, not really, at least not when you see them advertised. The usual “envelope stuffing job” you see out there is a scam. You put up ads around town, in the newspaper or online, then mail people instructions on how to do the same for a fee. It’s not a legitimate job and it can get you into trouble. Just take a look at this article on the FTC’s website about a promoter of an envelope stuffing opportunity and the legal trouble he got himself into.

Why Are Envelope Stuffing Opportunities Always Scams?

The reason why these opportunities are always scams is because machines stuff envelopes faster and cheaper than humans can. It’s simply not cost effective for businesses to regularly hire people to stuff envelopes for them.

If you think about it, the claim that you can make a few dollars per envelope stuffed doesn’t even make sense in terms of legitimate advertising. Just think about it. Does it really make sense for a business to pay $3 or so per envelope stuffed? Not even if you include postage for a standard letter. A machine can do it for far cheaper, and the business can probably get bulk rates on their mailings.

Don’t Believe the Testimonials

Just because an opportunity has testimonials from people who say they’ve earned good money through the opportunity doesn’t mean they have. Testimonials are easy to fake. They’re just words. Anyone willing to promote an envelope stuffing scam isn’t going to stress about the laws against using false testimonials.

Aren’t There Any Legitimate Ways to Stuff Envelopes for Pay at Home?

Once in a long while, you can find a business willing to hire an individual to do their mailings for them. The pay rate is naturally far less than what you see in an envelope stuffing scam.

If you want to earn money mailing out advertisements for other businesses, you’ll probably have to make your own opportunity. Contact small, local businesses and see if they’d like help in that area. You might find something. It won’t be as easy as the scams like to make it sound, as that’s a lot of work to just find someone to hire you, but it may not be impossible. Just don’t call it envelope stuffing when it’s really about helping a business advertise.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

June 21st, 2011

Can You Use the BBB to Find Work at Home Scams?

A lot of people think of the Better Business Bureau when they want to learn about a company. That’s why a lot of people go to their site when they aren’t sure if they’re looking at a work at home scam. The BBB has built up a lot of trust through the years as a resource for checking out any sort of business you might deal with. Shouldn’t they be a good choice to help you avoid being scammed when you’re looking for work?

Overall, I’d give them a “meh.”

It’s not that you can’t look up a company and find out they’re a scam there. You can. Sometimes. The problem is that they can’t keep up with all the scams, some scams use the names of legitimate companies, and not all complaints to the BBB mean that they’re a scam.

Scams Come, Scams Go

New work at home scams come all the time. Just as with any other resource you use for finding work at home scams, the BBB won’t know about it until they start getting complaints about it.

This is particularly true of online businesses. It takes very little to set up a website. Scams online can change names very easily with the simple switch of a domain name.

If a business is in a potentially questionable industry, the BBB may have a notation on their listing for that business when they do have a listing there. It doesn’t guarantee that it’s a scam, just that you should use caution.

Complaints Only Mean So Much

A complaint to the BBB about a business only means so much. I just checked a variety of Walmart listings there. A corporate listing had over 200 resolved complaints, while individual stores had anywhere from a few complaints to too little information for the BBB to even rate them. That’s a major company where each location does a lot of business.

You have to look at what the complaints are and see if you can determine their relevance. When it comes to working at home, some people will scream scam at the slightest provocation, such as not having success handed to them on a silver platter. Others will complain with real reason behind it. You have to figure out if there’s something you should be concerned about.

The Internet Offers a Wide Array of Resources to Check for Work at Home Scams

The other problem I have with relying on the BBB to determine if something is a work at home scam is that there’s such a wonderful range of places to check opportunities out. There are sites such as scam.com that are dedicated to discussing all kinds of scams. There are posts people make on their own sites and others when they realize they’ve been scammed, all available through a search. Focusing on one organization just isn’t enough.

Sometimes you can spot a scam just by pasting a part of your correspondence with them or a part of their ad into a search engine. Include the word “scam” and it can be very interesting what turns up. A lot of scams use the same text over and over again, and it’s not too uncommon for frustrated scam victims to post their correspondence online.

I absolutely don’t mean you should avoid checking with the BBB when you’re concerned about an online scam. They’re a resource – use them. Just remember that they aren’t your only resource.

You’re a Resource Too

Finally, remember that you are a great resource for spotting work at home scams yourself. If something feels wrong about an opportunity, think about why it feels wrong. You might just be on to something.

When you’re thinking about applying for or accepting a work at home job or joining a home business opportunity, review what you know about it and look for the signs of a scam. If you don’t get overexcited about the opportunity you can often spot the scams on your own. And when you’re still in doubt, start asking around. People on the internet will often share their opinions on the matter.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

March 10th, 2011

FTC Targets Employment Scams and Online Business Scams

They’ve been promising for a while that they’d be looking harder at online activities, and now the FTC has taken action against a number of scams as a part of “Operation Empty Promises.” These scams were damaging to a number of people who were trying to find work in this challenging economy.

To be specific, they’ve taken 90 actions against companies that falsely promised employment or successful businesses to job seekers. It’s good to see these things go down, as while I’d love for everyone to be able to spot a scam without help, desperate people don’t always think so clearly, and get taken for large amounts of money.

I do mean large. The article notes that with the scam through Ivy Capital, some people paid up to $20,000 for coaching that was supposed to help them start a business. I can scarcely imagine the pain of being desperate for an income and losing that much money. A part of the claim is that coaches weren’t competent, and other offerings were not as they seemed.

They started by getting victims contact information when they responded to work at home ads and online business opportunities. The ads were for companies such as Jennifer Johnson’s Home Job Placement Program and Brent Austin’s Automated Wealth System.

People responded to these ads, and received telemarketing calls that would do a hard sell on them to get them to sign up for services that they said would gain them a lot of money with little effort. You may know my opinion of such things, but if you don’t I think it’s ridiculous. Very few people make any sort of a living based on a few hours of work a week, never mind thousands of dollars.

Fake Sales Jobs

Another company, National Sales Group, is accused of making false claims about available sales jobs, claiming to recruit for Fortune 1000 companies, then charging excessive fees for background checks and adding in recurring fees without informing their victims. I suppose while you’re stealing someone’s money you aren’t going to be too anxious to let them know about it.

These first companies are just in the process of being taken down by the FTC, and there has not yet been an official ruling on them. Nevertheless, they have been court ordered to cease their practices and have had assets frozen.

Other Scams Shut Down

The FTC had a few victories in court cases against some other scams as well. A couple of these are practically classic examples of work at home scams. There was a home crafting scam, an envelope stuffing scam, and some job board scams. Good to see these gone.

How Do You Look Into Opportunities?

Whether you’re looking at a work at home job or a home business opportunity, you need to do your research before you pay anything or give them much information about yourself.

The first thing you need to be aware of is any expenses associated with the opportunity you’re considering. This should be easy to discover. If the offer is vague, that’s not a good sign of a legitimate opportunity. You should know what your upfront expenses are and if you’re likely to continue to have expenses.

If you’re talking about a job, there shouldn’t be any upfront expenses, aside from occasionally a very reasonable cost for a background check. Many employers do not charge applicants for the background check, so be a bit extra wary if they want you to pay for it.

Paying for access to job listings can be legitimate, but only occasionally is. If they’re claiming that you absolutely, positively will get a fantastic, high paying job, step back. They’re probably not honest about what you’ll get. No job board or other job resource can promise you that. It’s up to the employer.

You should also consider how fast they say you’re going to be successful. Scams always make it sound easy to succeed, but the reality of any business is that it takes a lot of work to earn a living. Starting a business online does not mean you’re going to earn massive sums of money. If it were that simple I wouldn’t have to write these kinds of warnings. We’d all be on a nice island vacation or something.

Business opportunities are supposed to disclose what the average results are with their program, not just what their top performers do. Scams usually don’t.

I have to admit, that one is a bit tricky. Given how many people want to start a home business, and buy information to help them do it but never take action, the average almost has to be close to zero. Even of those who take action, I don’t believe there’s any one program that will be right for every person who tries it.

You should also know exactly how you’ll be working on your business and earning money. Hands off is not realistic. A real business requires you to do something.

Even autoblogging, which many online marketers talk up as an easy form of business, takes work. You can’t just throw a bunch of articles on a site and make it work. You need to research to figure out how to get the best information to your site, and you have to build backlinks for it. Not my kind of business at all, as most are easily taken down by search engines for not providing useful information, but also not as easy as proponents claim.

The most important thing is to just be realistic about what you expect you can earn from home and what it will take to get there. It’s not all easy. There’s a lot of hard work involved, and if you think otherwise you’re setting yourself up to fall for someone else’s scam.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.