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By Carol Church

The possibility of working from home is appealing to many people, for many reasons. Those who live in isolated areas without much commerce, people with disabilities, parents of young children, people with irregular schedules, and many others all are drawn to this convenient work situation.

Military spouses, in particular, may be interested in work-at-home situations because they are portable and relatively easy to manage with the military lifestyle.

However, one concern about working at home is that, unfortunately, many unscrupulous people have made a business of their own out of running “work-at-home” scams.

How can workers, and especially military families, protect themselves?

What Scammers Want

Tom Baker/Photospin

Typically, those operating these types of scams are looking for two things: your money and/or your personal information. It may be obvious to most of us that some people are trying to get our money, but we may forget that others may be seeking to obtain our personal details for profit. (For instance, you might be told you need to hand over your bank account info or Social Security number in order to be paid.)

After information or money has been sent off, it can be difficult to obtain a refund or repair the identity theft. This is why it’s so important to check out these opportunities before committing to anything.

Warning Signs

The following should be considered warning signs that a job or “opportunity” is a potential scam.

Being asked to pay for materials

Common scams of this type include envelope stuffing and “home assembly” of products. Almost no one makes money at these tasks.

Being asked to pay to begin a job

Common scams of this type include:

  • mystery shopping (while there is such a thing as legitimate mystery shopping, people rarely earn much, and you should not have to pay)
  • check cashing/wire transfer schemes
  • medical transcription business training
  • rebate processing
  • “stock trading systems”

In the vast majority of cases, legitimate employment opportunities will not require paying any money upfront. (One exception is some businesses where consultants sell physical products.)

Hearing that you can easily earn thousands per month, that no experience is needed, etc.

Anyone looking for this type of work should be skeptical of claims that one can earn a lot of money easily with no experience. If it’s so easy to make so much money, why isn’t everyone doing it?

The job is appearing in many paid ads with overblown claims

Consumers should also ask themselves, why is the company paying to advertise so much? If the opportunity is good, why do they need to spend so much money on ads?

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll talk about the questions to ask when pursuing a work-at-home opportunity, what to do if someone has been a victim, and multilevel marketing companies vs. pyramid schemes.


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Federal Trade Commission. (2016). Multilevel marketing. Retrieved from

Wang, J. (2013). 5 Signs that MLM “Opportunity” Might Be a Scam. Retrieved from

Ward, S. (2017). Learn to Distinguish Between MLM and Pyramid Schemes. Retrieved from