The holidays can be expensive, and people do not want to lose their money trying to make money. During this time of year, there are many get-rich-quick schemes that individuals should be ware of.
Side hustle or second job scams sometimes capitalize on individual’s willingness to work.
“Don’t pay money to make money,” The Federal Burea of Investigations said in a recent social media post. “Any employer that requires you to pay for your application, training, or a proven program could be trying to scam you.”
Here are five things to know about work-at-home opportunities and how to prevent falling victim to potential scams.
The scale of the side hustle
According to Bankrate.com, 45 percent of working Americans — roughly 70 million people — have a second job in some form or fashion. Survey results released by the finance-focused website in June indicate that 43 percent of full-time workers also work on the side and that 30 percent of Americans who work two jobs do so just to make ends meet.
“Working Americans spend an average of 12 hours per week completing tasks related to their side hustle and earn an average of $1,122 per month,” Bankrate.com said. “That means there’s an opportunity to make over $13,000 over a year. For households in need of additional income, that amount of money can be significant.”
There are a host of work-from-home and be-your-own-boss scams but the FTC has identified seven common types workers are likely encounter.
Legitimate multilevel or network marketing opportunities offer workers the chance to earn commissions on the products they sell and on the sales made by people they recruit, but not all programs are legitimate. Some companies tout luxurious lifestyles and tell workers that they can earn enough money to quit their other jobs and supplement their income — promises that are often too good to be true. MLMs that focus on recruiting new participants rather than retail sales are illegal pyramid schemes and the vast majority of participants lose money.
Internet businesses are another frequent front for scams. Companies may say that no experience is required to start one’s own online business, but participants quickly find themselves under pressure to pay for unfruitful coaching lessons and services from so-called experts. Other web-based scams tell workers they can make money by doing tasks like internet searches and filling out forms, but there may be a small fee that requires online payment. These scams often target workers’ financial information and may put additional charges on their credit or debit cards.
Mystery shopping scams target those who are willing to shop at specific stores or dine at certain restaurants, and then report on their experience in exchange for money.
“Scammers might tell you that you need to pay for worthless certifications, directories, or job guarantees,” the FTC said. “Others are running fake check scams — they ask you to deposit checks and wire some of the money back, before you and the bank find out the check is fake, and you’re responsible for paying it back. You should never have to pay to get into the mystery shopping business.”
Envelope stuffing sounds simple enough, but after paying a small start-up fee, workers often find out there is no work at all. Instead, they may get a letter telling them to get others to buy into the same opportunity or some other product and find that money is earned only if those people respond in the same way.
Ads for at-home, electronic medical billing work, promise a substantial income and in exchange for an investment of hundreds or thousands of dollars, a sales representative will get workers everything they need to launch their own billing business. But those who buy in might find themselves set-up for failure.
“The companies rarely provide experienced sales staff or contacts in the medical community,” the FTC said. “The lists they give you often are out-of-date and include doctors who haven’t asked for billing services. The software they send might not even work. Competition in the medical billing market is fierce, and few people who make the investment are able to find clients or generate any income — let alone get back their investment.”
Assembly or craft-making scams rip off workers by getting them to pay upfront for materials and then build and ship the products back to the company. Participants may be expecting payment for their time and labor, but instead get a letter from the company saying the work “isn’t up to standard” and thus no money will received.
And lastly there are the rebate processing scams. Such programs require a fee for training, certifications and registrations, but promise workers that the amount they pay is nothing compared to what they’ll earn. Unfortunately participants usually end up with useless training materials, few rebates to process and rarely get a refund.
Do your research
Those looking to earn some extra cash or pick up a side hustle and encouraged to research potential employers and see what experiences others have had. The FTC recommends searching the company or promoter’s name along with the words “complaint,” “reviews,” or “scam,” as well.
Workers can also check out a company’s track record through their their local consumer protection agency, their state Attorney General’s office, or the Better Business Bureau.
“These organizations can tell you whether they’ve gotten complaints about a particular work-at-home program,” the FTC said. “But remember: just because there aren’t complaints doesn’t mean the company is legitimate. Dishonest companies sometimes settle complaints and change their names or move to avoid detection.”
The FTC’s Business Opportunity Rule has safeguards in place to make sure workers get the information they need to tell whether a work-at-home opportunity is legitimate. Under the rule, sellers must provide a one-page disclosure document that offers key pieces of information about the work. The information included in the disclosure document can be used to fact-check what the seller promises. And if a seller makes a claim about how much money a person can earn, that seller must also provide an earnings claim statement with more specifics.
Questions to ask
Workers interested in a specific company or work opportunity are advised by the FTC, to ask the following questions to better determine the legitimacy of a program and whether the opportunity is a good fit for them.What tasks will I have to perform? Are any other steps involved?Will I be paid a salary, or will I be paid on commission?What is the basis for your claims about my likely earnings? Do you survey everyone who purchased the program? What documents can you show me to prove your claims are true before I give you any money? Note: If a seller makes a claim about how much money a person can earn, the seller also has to give you an earnings claim statement with more specifics.Who will pay me?When will I get my first paycheck?What is the total cost of this work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment, and membership fees? What will I get for my money?
How to report a scam
Workers who have who have spent time and money on programs they later believe to be illegitimate are encouraged to first contact the company in question and ask for a refund. Let company representatives know that law enforcement officials may be contacted if an agreement can’t be reached.
Those unable to resolve disputes with a company or program are advised reach out to their local Attorney General’s office, file a complaint at http://www.ftc.gov/complaint and contact the the publication which ran the ad, as it may be interested in learning about the issues associated with that company.