Millions of people work from home today so, when you hear that you can do the same, it isn’t too far of a stretch to believe the ad as legitimate. And, who doesn’t want to make a little extra easy money from the comfort of your home? Though we might have a nice little retirement nest egg, a bit more spending money is always nice. The popularity of the idea means that we really do need to talk about work-from-home scams that target seniors.
Unfortunately, easy money opportunities often come at a cost, offering zero return on investment. What is worse is that some of these scams not only leave you out hundreds if not thousands of dollars but sometimes they impact your loved ones too.
Work-from-home scams don’t just cost people money either, sometimes these scams are focused on identity theft or installing malware into your computer to steal user names, passwords, or other sensitive information.
This article will cover red flags, the top work-from-home scams, how they work, and finally who to contact if you feel you are a victim of one of these scams.
First, the red flags to keep an eye out for:
- You Have to Spend Money to Make Money: There are two primary ventures where you are told you need to spend money to make money, gambling, and scams. Okay, there are legitimate cases where you need to invest money to earn money, but a request to pay upfront is a serious red flag. If nothing else, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting involved with before you spend any money.
- No Contact with a Live Person: If the only contact you have is via email and there is no person you can meet with or talk to over the phone, that is another red indication that you need more information before proceeding.
- Check The Address: Many scams are run by people with fake or generic email addresses they can obtain quickly and for free, such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo accounts. A legitimate company will have email addresses that include their company name like JaneDoe@LegitimateCompany.com as well as add a person’s name or title, instead of a random series of numbers and letters followed by a generic address like 123ABC456@Yahoo.com.
- Pie in the Sky Promises: When ads or marketing emails make big promises like making $50,000 your first year by just stuffing envelopes, that’s a red flag that may indicate that they might not be what they seem.
- Lacks Information about the Company: If the ad or email talks all about what you can earn for just a couple of hours of work a week, or other big promises, but says little about their company, then its time to do some digging. Legitimate companies like to tell people about themselves and their history.
- Insurance Billing
- Envelope Stuffing
- Arts and Crafts
- Mystery Shopping
- Internet Business
Medical billing is a common scam targeted at seniors. We have all been to the doctor’s office and know how long the process is to get insurance billed, and doctors paid in a timely fashion. Plus, medical billing is a legitimate job, making this scam all the more believable.
How the Scam Works: A senior sees an ad for a medical billing position working from home to make easy and fast money. Since we all know that medical billing is real, it isn’t a real stretch to think that its a valid job.
When we contact the owner of the ad, they request money for providing the tools, training, and lists of doctors to contact in your area. After receiving your payment, you may receive a list of doctors, though often, it is outdated. Additionally, the training material you have been promised never arrives or is inadequate.
Individuals don’t do medical billing from home; instead, it is performed inhouse at that the clinic or hospital or outsourced to a company that specializes in medical billing.
Envelope stuffing is a scam that has been around for years, but one that is still practiced. It seems like an easy and legitimate way to make a few easy dollars from home, and best of all, no experience is needed. ou may see ads via email, popups, as a mailer, or even from unsuspecting friends and family.
How the Scam Works: After you contact the company advertising the envelope stuffing job, they will explain that you need to pay them for supplies to get started.
They will tell you that you are paid for all those that respond to the solicitation you send out. Also, the company may say that the more people you get signed up for the same program, the more money you make. So, you contact friends and family telling them about how they too can make money.
Besides, in practice, companies don’t pay individuals to stuff envelopes. That would be an incredibly inefficient practice.
Arts and Crafts
Many seniors find arts and crafts enjoyable, and why not make some money doing something you enjoy? These companies advertise work-at-home jobs making specific crafts or home assembly projects.
How the Scam Works: After contacting the company, they request you purchase their craft or product kits. They say that they will then pay you for the finished project.
Once you complete the crafts and send in your completed work in, the company fails to pay you using the excuse the finished project is subpar and not something they can sell.
We have all heard of mystery shoppers, and that is a job most people would love, because who doesn’t want to get paid for shopping? Many seniors who are retired especially find this appealing, since its a fun way to make money for something you are already doing.
How it Works: Ads for mystery shopping can come through email, popups, or even in mailers. Once you respond to the ad, you may be ushered to a website that looks legitimate. You will then be requested to sign up and pay for a required certification program before you can get started.
The truth is, mystery shoppers are not getting rich quick. Instead, most receive a free product or discount towards a product in return for your review. There is no certification required, nor will a certificate make you more appealing than other applicants without said certification.
The internet has endless benefits, yet, it has also opened a whole new world for those looking to scam others. For example, back in 2018, a company by the name of Internet Teaching and Training Specialists (ITT) was charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for scamming people into spending money for a coaching program.
ITT claimed that the coaching program would help people start their own internet business, one that would only require them to post ads for other people’s businesses. The program cost $15,800, but people could make over $58,000 a year afterward.
How the Scam Works: ITT isn’t the only company out scamming seniors into buying their internet business training program. It is a common scam, offering training for a high price, promising the client they will be able to thousands every year with just a few hours of work a day.
Once you sign up, you will be given access to online self-paced training, much of which is outdated or ineffective for starting your online business. When you tell the company you aren’t making the promised amount of money, they put the responsibility back on you, saying something to the effect of you are not applying the skills correctly. Now you are out thousands and lack the skills to start a business to recoup the funds.
However, selling bogus online training isn’t the only scam out there. Another common internet business scam is one that recruits people to do online searches.
Then one of two things happen. The company requests you purchase their starter kit for a low price, only really wanting to steal your credit card information.Or, the other scam asks your bank account information so the company can pay you via direct deposit, again just wanting your personal information.
Not everything is a scam, and there may be times you are still interested in pursuing an opportunity. If you are tempted and think that the ad you found is legitimate, you can request additional information to find out if it is the real deal.
The Federal Trade Commission suggests asking things like:
- Where is the company based?
- How long has your company been doing business?
- How and when can I expect my first paycheck?
- Is the position based on salary or commission?
- What are my expected job duties?
- How much will this program cost to get started?
- Who pays for supplies and postage?
Additionally, you can research the company name on the internet to see what others are saying about them as well as check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any significant complaints.
How to Report Work-at-Home Scams
There wouldn’t be scams if they didn’t work. Thousands of people are scammed every year in a multitude of ways, stealing millions of dollars from unsuspecting victims.
And one of the main reasons scams work as well as they do, especially with seniors, is because many are too embarrassed to report the incident. But there is no reason any victim should ever feel ashamed, you are far from alone, and you did nothing wrong.
If in the event you think you have been scammed or simply suspect a scam, you must report it immediately. You can contact your state’s attorney general and report it to the FTC online or at 1-877-382-4357. This is true if you’re a victim to another type of scam too, like a dating scam or a Social Security scam.