The old adage that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is certainly applies to many of the make-easy-money-working-from-home deals that are widely advertised, experts say.
Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen reported Wednesday that many such setups are actually scams, and dupe millions of consumers every year.
The victims are usually stay-at-home moms and the elderly, who are told they can make a lot of money with little effort.
The ads usually try to entice victims by suggesting the work can be done from the comfort of your own home as you provide for your family, earning hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
But, Koeppen observers, people all across the country falling for these scams are losing hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
Steve Cox of the Better Business Bureau told Koeppen work-at-home scams are one of its top complaints -- beating out restaurants, home improvements, and airlines.
"Very, very rarely is anybody going to make any money out of one of these work-at-home schemes," Cox says.
When Koeppen searched the Internet for work-at-home deals, she found a Web site offering a host of opportunities. So, she paid $50 dollars for books on how to get started. But she never got a thing. And the company never responded to her e-mails.
Asked by Koeppen what happens to people when they try to get their money back from these companies if they think they have been scammed, Cox replied, "The vast majority of individuals, once they've been sucked in, written the check, given their credit card number, sent the cash -- they're never going to see that money again."
That is, Koeppen says, just what happened to Amy Clark, who was looking for a work-at-home opportunity so she could be with her family and make money at the same time.
"I was trying to figure out a way that I could stay home and maybe do a little bit of work -- not anything substantial, but just something that I could still feel like I was contributing toward our family income," Clark says.
She found an ad that sounded great. Data entry -- all she had to do was send in a $10 dollar processing fee.
After receiving Clark's application, the company responded, "Congratulations, you got the job."
But when her training materials came in the mail, Clark says, "The packet was just the same advertisement that I had responded to. I was supposed to take that advertisement and post it somewhere else and request the $10."
And Clark not only got scammed once -- but twice: Another work-at-home arrangement she signed up for -- this time paying $70 dollars -- turned out to be a bust.
"I got suckered," she admits flatly.
But then, Clark started her own at-home business. She runs a Website, momadvice.com, that's a forum for mothers. One of her first projects on the site was to warn other moms about the work-at-home tricks she fell victim to.
"I was smart enough that I shouldn't have fallen for it, but I think these people prey on people who are trying to do the right thing," Clark says. "They know that you're gullible and they prey on that."
Koeppen notes that red flags to look for that could alert you to a potential work-at-home include having to pay a fee to get started, no experience being necessary, and claims that you can make thousands of dollars quickly.
So, Koeppen adds, make sure you do your research before you sign up for anything, and ask questions such as, "Who's going to pay me and when do I get my first paycheck?"
While some work-at-home deals are legit, such as Mary Kay Cosmetic and Pampered Chef, they require lots of work, Koeppen points out.
"You don't just sit back and watch the money roll in," she concluded.
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