REGION – Work from home and make $5,000, $8,000, $11,000 every week with little effort? Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is. Emails, text messages, phone calls, and social media pump these “opportunities” non-stop. Respond to any and expect to see the volume of offers multiply and be prepared for possible identity theft and financial loss. For many, even the specter of riches is enough to get hooked.
Often, the income is simply a phantom that never materializes. Know the “red flag” promises to a possible scam:
1. “Make money selling in your community!” If you live in a town such as Hardwick, Vt., Newport, N.H., New Lebanon, N.Y., or Adams, Mass., you may want to think hard about this.
2. “Learn how to make a guaranteed income from the experts!” Really? Guaranteed income? Experts? Who are these pros? What are their credentials – and does their guaranteed income stream develop from your money?
3. “You got the job! Deposit our check and send gift cards.” The likelihood that the check bounces, and you lose the money on gift cards is very high.
4. “Work from home and make money with little effort!” Sounds great! So why doesn’t everyone do this?
5. “If you recruit others you can make Really Big Money earning a percentage of what they make!” This is a classic pyramid scheme and will never result in profit unless you are the person creating this illegal scam.
The Federal Trade Commission suggests four steps to take before accepting business offers. First, as I regularly suggest, don’t rush into any proposition, particularly when it is coupled with a high-pressure pitch. Back off and distance yourself the spell of the “Too Good To Be True” gremlin. Approach any potential “opportunity” with a cool temperament. Second, be skeptical of stellar endorsements. Many scams are promoted with extensive lists of individuals praising the opportunity with fictitious testimonials.
Beware of prepayments for job-related services or expenses. Scammers overpay the amount and request return the excess funds by gift card or credit card. The overpayment check bounces, and the victim has lost the gift card money. Not long ago I was the intended victim of a variant of this scam. An email requested my services as a Justice of the Peace. The “smitten” groom sent me a check for $1,850 for my services – my fee is $50. He acknowledged his “error,” noting the money was to pay for the photographer and asked me to return the overpayment but keep an extra $100 for my troubles. The official-looking check was written on a compromised account that had been closed a year earlier. Always beware of overpayments and requests for gift cards. There is almost a 100% surety that this is a scam.
Conduct some very basic research. Initially, enter the company name in your computer browser search line with the word fraud, scam, rating, review, or complaint. Also, contact the Better Business Bureau and your state financial regulation agency or Attorney General’s office to find out if there are complaints on file.
Finally, don’t sit back or walk away until you have reported the fraud. Single reports may seem unimportant but when combined with other complaints they demand action. The crime needs to be reported at both the federal and state level: Federal Trade Commission; New Hampshire 888-468-4454; and Vermont 800-649-2424.
Power Company Scam Alert: Service suspension calls, allegedly from local power companies, are demanding immediate payment of delinquent bills by gift card. These calls are scams. Hang up if you receive one and report it to your state consumer protection agency.
AARP Vermont Fraud Watch offers bi-weekly series of online seminars free to everyone. Request registration information by email to email@example.com.
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and coordinator of the AARP Vermont Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, Vt.