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Work-at-home Scams

Written by Clint Turpen. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on October 27, 2010 with No Comments

By Clint Turpen

Q: I keep seeing advertisements for jobs that pay a lot of money just for stuffing envelopes or secret shopping. Are these offers legitimate?

A: How could there be a recession and such high unemployment when there are apparently a ton of companies in need of people to stuff envelopes, often for as much as $10 per unit? The answer, of course, is that this is an example of a work-at-home scam. There is no job, just a quick way to lose money.

The first envelope stuffing scams actually appeared during the Great Depression. Today, they appear in newspapers, all over the Internet and even on signs posted to telephone poles. But what actually happens if you try to apply for this non-existent job?

First, you pay. The company asks you for money to cover the cost of training materials. This is the absolute, number one, easiest way to spot a work-at-home scam. If they are asking you to pay them, it is a scam, every time.

But what happens if you pay for these materials? Thousands of envelopes show up for you to stuff at $10 a pop and you start planning your early retirement, right?

Wrong.

Sometimes the scam just ends there – they take your money and run. If not, what you will receive is information on how to start your own business by perpetuating the envelope stuffing scam. You get to put up posters and run ads in the newspaper in an attempt to trick other people into falling for the scam.

In the meantime, since you were applying for what you thought was a job, you probably revealed all your personal information to the company you thought you would be working for. That opens you up to identity theft. If they are crooked enough to run an envelope-stuffing scheme, I would not put anything past them.

The fact is, the Internet has been brimming with work-at-home scams for years, and during our recent economic troubles, it seems they have only become more prevalent. There are numerous other examples of fake work-at-home offers. One of the most damaging is the Secret Shopper Scam.

It starts when you get an e-mail offering work as a secret shopper. The message promises big money for easy work – another common feature of this type of fraud. If you respond to the message, you will be instantly “hired” to perform mystery shopper duties at area retailers.

Soon, a letter arrives, along with a cashier’s check for around $3,000, along with instructions to cash the check, keeping around $150 as payment. They tell you to wire the remaining funds back to them. You are usually led to believe you are checking out the customer service at Western Union or Moneygram, and if anyone asks you are supposed to tell them it is for a relative in Canada.

A few days later, you find out that the cashier’s check was a counterfeit, and that you are on the hook for the money you took out. Since you already wired the money out of the country, there is no way to get it back.

It is a commonly held misconception that someone else will cover it if you cash a fake check. However, the financial institution whose name and routing number are on the counterfeit did not issue it. Would you feel obligated to cover a fake check someone else wrote against your account?

Your financial institution will not cover it, either. They do not know who created that fake check – you are the only person they saw with the check, and there remains a possibility that you printed it yourself and did not wire it to anyone.

If banks and credit unions start covering fraudulent checks brought in by their customers, they open themselves up to disaster.

The same rule that applies to Lottery Scams applies here – if someone is sending you a check, asking you to cash it and wire money back to them, you are looking at a scam.

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About Clint Turpen

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Clint Turpen, marketing specialist at Regional Federal Credit Union, is a certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist. He is an author at Regional Federal Credit Union’s Fraud Prevention Unit Web site. For more information, visit www.fraudpreventionunit.org.

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