Angel con? FTC cracks down on work-at-home deals promising good pay but do not deliver
Can you make these little angel pins? If so, you can earn as much as $500 a week, say recent ads from a Tampa business. Too bad it's apparently too good to be true, and now in the hands of the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC on Wednesday unveiled a new crackdown on "con artists" who, the agency says, are preying on unemployed Americans with job-placement and work-at-home scams. These predators are promoting empty promises that they can help people make money from their homes assembling ornaments -- as in the case of Tampa's Darling Angel Pin Creations -- or even get jobs in the federal government as movie extras or as mystery shoppers. Here is the FTC press release with more details.
This crackdown would not typically be noted on this Venture blog except the unemployment rate is so high (over 12 percent) in the Tampa Bay area that more and more people are trying these work-at-home offers with unfortunate results.
As part of the FTC's Operation Bottom Dollar, the agency has filed seven cases against the operators of deceptive and illegal job and money-making scams and announced developments in four previously filed job scam cases. The FTC got a court order temporarily barring these operators from continuing their "deceptive, illegal tactics" and freezing their assets. The FTC also asked the courts for permanent orders that would allow the agency to try to get money back to reimburse victims.
In the matter of Darling Angel Pin Creations, the FTC says two principals claimed on the Internet and in newspaper ads that by purchasing a starter kit, consumers could earn up to $500 per week assembling angel pins, and that no experience, special tools, or sewing skills were required. Here's what the typical ad looked like:
Earn up to $500 weekly
assembling our angel pins in the
comfort of your home.
No experience required.
Call 813-699-4038 or 813-425-
4361 or visit www.angelpin.net
On Wednesday afternoon, those phone numbers (for leaving voice mails) were full and not accepting additional messages. The Web site also had this message:
"We regret we have been dealing with some issues, that were unavoidable. We hope to have some answers for you by the end of the week."
Consumers paid between $22 and $45 to get started, and sometimes paid hundreds more for the supplies they would need to make the pins, according to the FTC. But consumers were required to have one of their assembled angel pins approved by the company before they could make any money – even though the FTC says the company rejected nearly all the angel pins submitted, no matter how well-made.
The FTC charged that the defendants made false and baseless claims that consumers could earn substantial income from angel pin assembly, when in fact they could not. This case was filed, naming Darling Angel Pins and corporate officer Shelly Olson, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division. Here is that court filing.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist