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.