ARTICLES / General /
Protecting Seniors From Work-at-home Schemes /
Share This Article
Protecting Seniors From Work-at-home
by Janet Crozier
“Work minutes a day at home and earn
enough to pay all of your bills.”
“Work part-time in your own home and make $500 to $1,000
your first month! It couldn’t be any easier!”
Con artists pitching work-at-home schemes rake in over
$400 billion dollars a year by exploiting people,
especially seniors on fixed incomes. They use appealing
but unrealistic come-ons to lure unsuspecting seniors
into parting with their hard-earned retirement money in
the hopes of hitting it big financially. Work-at-home
schemes rarely include information such as what the
business is, what its product might be, how new owners
would contact possible customers, or what the total
costs might be.
You’ve seen the promotions pasted on telephone poles,
supermarket bulletin boards, newspaper classified
sections, magazines and on television. They’re on
Internet chat rooms, bulletin boards and message boards.
Since anyone can post to a message board, the promotions
can even show up online at the message boards run by
honest organizations that seniors trust, such as AARP.
Work-at-home schemes come in many forms. Some of the
most common scams include:
Medical Billing Centers: Seniors send money for software
to run a bill collection service from their home. The
scam artists promise that the “market is wide open” and
they have “lined up” clients for investors. In reality,
seniors stand to lose thousands of dollars in their
investment. The software is only an assortment of forms
and collection letters that anyone could easily create.
The names of companies they send seniors are often
randomly selected from the phone book.
Envelope Stuffing: This is the most common work-at-home
scam according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Seniors send money and the “business” will send them
information about earning money by stuffing envelopes at
home. What they actually get are instructions to sell
this scheme to others by placing ads in newspapers to
illegally entice new victims. They make nothing unless
they recruit others to work for them. Called multi-level
marketing, this scam is much like an illegal Ponzi
Assembly or Craft Work: This is promoted as an easy
work-at-home job for seniors on a fixed income. All they
have to do is send money for supplies to assemble into
products such as aprons, baby clothes, jewelry and
Christmas decorations. They are told that there is a
ready market for the products or that the company will
buy the products from them. However, the assembled items
rarely meet non-existent quality standards or the
seniors are told that they are responsible for selling
the items themselves.
But seniors can defend themselves against work-at-home
scams. Start by staying alert and using common sense. If
a promotion seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Fraudulent promoters of work-at-home schemes leave many
unanswered questions. Caution seniors you know not to
send any money until they get clear and complete answers
– in writing – to all these questions:
What exactly do I need to do to earn money?
What will I receive for my money?
Do I have to purchase anything?
What are the total costs to get in on the deal?
What quality standards must I meet for the products I
Will I receive a salary? Or, do I work on commission?
Who pays me?
Do I have to sell anything or market the product or
Do I need to recruit others to the program?
How do I get my money back if I am not satisfied?
If the answers they receive don’t satisfy all their
concerns, encourage them to walk away from the
promotion. Chances are good that the promotion is really
If you know any seniors that have been taken in by a
work-at-home scam, file a written complaint with the
company in question and make sure to keep a dated copy.
Some companies may refund their money.
For more information on work-at-home scams, contact:
U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The Postal Service advises that you report work-at-home
scams to your local postmaster or nearest postal
National Fraud Information Center
The NFIC shares complaints with law enforcement offices
across the country to help identify patterns of criminal
activity leading to criminal prosecutions.
Federal Trade Commission
While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer
problems, your complaint helps the FTC investigate
fraud. The FTC enters fraud-related complaints into
Consumer Sentinel®, a secure, online database available
to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement
Better Business Bureau
The BBB explains how work-at-home schemes can waste your
time and money and ruin your reputation.