There are legitimate work-at-home jobs. But are you likely to find one in a job search now? • Odds are slim. One industry observer put the scam-to-legit ratio at more than 50 to 1.
Most people earning money in viable work-at-home jobs do so because they are self-employed, telecommuting or in a field office for the organization where they already were employed.
There are some real paycheck opportunities in such business models as remote call centers or transcription work. But these are not nearly as plentiful as frustrated job hunters would like them to be.
Unfortunately, every time the job market tanks, more unscrupulous work-at-home pitches emerge. Be ready to do research before you spend a dime or even a half hour pursuing a work-at-home ad.
Here's some advice to avoid scams:
• The Better Business Bureau warns never to send your bank account numbers, Social Security number, check or cash when you apply for such a job.
• The CanMyBossDoThat.com Web site of the Interfaith Worker Justice group says to be wary of any come-on that fails to give you an address, phone number and possibly even a name of the business or person.
• About.com's Work-at-Home Scam site warns not to believe get-rich-quick promises.
All experts agree:
• Work-at-home scams often are pyramid schemes in which you'll make money only by selling the concept or startup supplies to someone as gullible as you were.
• If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Ask for references and dig deeply to make sure you're not talking to a shill.
Business models the experts say are particularly likely to be scams include envelope stuffing, assembly jobs, craftmaking, data entry, mystery shopping, coupon marketing and online ad posting.
Finally, if you do sign up for a work-at-home deal and aren't paid when promised, stop working and file complaints with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (affiliated with the FBI), the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.