Work-at-home scams have been around for decades, but the economic downturn has given them a new urgency for both businesses and the unemployed, reports USA Today. While some work-at-home offers, such as home-based customer service agents, can be legitimate, the Federal Trade Commission and consumer advocates say most that promise generous profits from the comfort of home are not. Complaints to the FTC about work-at-home scams are increasing faster than fraud complaints overall, up from 4,004 in 2006 to 7,955 last year.
Implausible offers are flourishing. There have also been big changes in how they’re advertised, largely online. Scam artists know that many people are aware that work-at-home opportunities are often questionable, so the most egregious frauds “advertise that they are 100% scam-free,” says Lois Greisman, the FTC’s associate director of marketing practices. “With unemployment hovering around 10%, more people are susceptible,” says Greisman, noting that the FTC is going after those “targeting people in dire need.” The Internet has allowed scam artists to move beyond more mundane envelope-stuffing and home assembly scams. “What we see now is people paying for information to learn how to make money on the Internet,” says Better Business Bureau spokeswoman Alison Southwick.