7 Common Work From Home Scams To Avoid

7 Common Work From Home Scams To Avoid

With the current state of the world economy, it’s no wonder that many people are looking for ways to supplement their income. The problem is that taking on another full-time or even part-time job usually involves added expenses for child care, gas to and from work, and even less quality time with loved ones. Because of this, many people look to find ways to make money with a home-based business.

Working from the convenience of your home is a popular notion. So popular, in fact, that there are reportedly 300 new ones started every hour, and there are an estimated 38 million home-based businesses in the US. Part of what makes them attractive (besides the extra money) is the idea of setting your own hours, creating a better work/life balance, and the fact that many home-based businesses have a very low start-up cost.

But as with anything, there are risks involved, and in this case, the risk goes beyond not being able to pull in enough cash to make ends meet. Identity theft, lost money, compromised personally identifiable information, and more are all on the table when you invite the wrong company or people into your life.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a home based business, here are 7 of the most common work at home scams to avoid:

  1. Mystery Shopping:
    It’s the easiest job in the world: Visit a series of stores in your area and give the mystery shopper company a review of your purchases and experience. All you have to do is pay out a registration fee to get your training materials, your list of stores to visit, and some may even require you to become “certified”, which of course the scammers can do for another fee.
  2. Assembly Work:
    You’ve probably seen this in your local paper: Earn money in your spare time by putting together crafts, small pieces of equipment, or similar things. Of course you need to pay a nominal amount to get the boxes. Or maybe it’s the training materials. Regardless, you’re required to pay a little up front to make so much more later one.
  3. Data Entry:
    If you can type, you can make money online. At least that’s what the ad says. Not surprisingly, you have to pay to play based on some cockamamie requirement: training, materials, a list of sites, whatever. The end result is that you’re left in the cold and out of cash.
  4. Survey Scam:
    Many of these scams involve you setting up a profile on a site, and then you can get to work. Your profile may include things like your name (first and last, naturally), home address, some likes or preferences (favorite color, favorite food, TV shows, etc.), and possibly your social security number. You know, for tax purposes. Then you’re directed to a number of sites where you can get a cash reward for filling out more information. All the while the scammers are scraping your valuable info to sell to someone else, and at the end of the day you find out that there are so many restrictions on getting paid (sometimes including you being required to purchase something) that you’re never going to see that money.
  5. Envelope Stuffing:
    This one has been around forever, but people seem to keep falling for it. For a small fee (this is a common trend for home-based business scams) you’re supposed to receive regularly scheduled boxes of papers and their associated envelopes and, well, you get to stuffing envelopes. Simple, right? The problem is that those boxes never come, and you’re out the “small fee.”
  6. Pre-screened Job Lists:
    This one is often a scam within a scam, making it particularly nasty. Pay to join a site that has compiled a list of pre-screened work-at-home jobs so you don’t have to get fleeced by those other bad scammers. Right. These are probably the same crooks on the other sites, they just found a way to get you to pay twice. You may even get access to a large list of sites with work-at-home jobs listed, but all kinds of things can happen: You could lose your account for some made-up violation of site policies, the jobs on those other sites are bogus, or there are so many restrictions or requirements to the jobs that you’re never going to be qualified for a decent job.
  7. Rebate Processing:
    Process other people’s rebates for companies that are overwhelmed and you can earn a boatload of cash. Here’s another scam involving training kits to become certified or registered with their service.

Those most likely to be exploited by these work at home opportunities are those who may have more trouble finding a job: The elderly, people drowning in debt, the disabled, single parents, high school and college students, and the unemployed… but anyone can be fooled by the right con artist. If you want to avoid the majority of work-at-home scams out there, just remember the following:

  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If they make you pay to play, it’s probably a scam.
  • Check the BBB to make sure that the company is on the up-and-up.

Filtering out work at home opportunities with those 3 tips will save you endless headaches, keep your cash in your pocket, and maybe even find a few gems to choose from because work at home jobs do exist! But they tend to be hard to come by and are very competitive. Do you have any experience with home-based businesses, good or bad? Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of nikcname

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Senior Citizen Guide To Avoiding Internet Scams

Senior Citizen Guide To Avoiding Internet Scams

Senior citizens are a vital community in modern society, but unfortunately they’re often targeted by Internet scam artists looking to make a quick buck. In fact, the Attorney General of Washington state did some research on senior fraud and discovered the following statistic from AARP:

Consumers lose billions of dollars each year to fraud. People over age 50 are especially vulnerable and account for over half of all victims…

That’s a staggering number, and a clarion call for seniors to be proactive in their own defense against fraudsters who would scam them out of their hard earned money.

With a few simple precautions, computing seniors can defend themselves against scams and fraud. And while there’s no end to how many different ways there are to try to bilk someone out of their hard-earned money, these tips can help knock out some of the most common scams.

  • Be Sure To Be Secure Senior citizens are an ever-growing segment of online shoppers, and with many Internet retailers offering discounted or free shipping, it’s no wonder. But fake websites and non-secure shopping can put a damper on anyone’s day. Learn how to tell if you’re shopping on a legitimate website to avoid trouble online. It’s not just shoddy workmanship we have to watch out for when we buy things sight-unseen online, it’s convincing websites that look like the real deal but are secretly swiping your credit card numbers and personal information.
  • Learn How To Avoid Credit Card Scams Keeping a low balance on your credit cards is a great idea, but it’s also a dream come true for fraudsters. Be wise with how you use them and use these tips on avoiding credit card scams. Check your balances monthly, question purchases that you don’t remember, and always be sure to only shop on sites you can trust, like Amazon.com.
  • Your Password Is Your Armor A strong password is your first line of defense against anyone looking to hack into your accounts. And while no password is 100% fool-proof, it’s better to err on the side of caution and use a password that’s much harder to break than using the old standbys like “password”, “iloveyou”, or “asdf1234”. (If you use any of those, change them now) Passwords don’t have to be a big pain in the rear. In fact, with only a few modifications you can make a better, stronger password in minutes.
  • If it sounds too good to be true… We’ve all heard this since we were little, but it’s easy to forget. And somehow, online scammers seem to know how to word things just right to make their scheme seem legitimate. If you do think a good deal has dropped into your lap, do a little research on the company first and make sure that there aren’t any complaints from the BBB, your state Attorney General’s office, or on review sites like Yelp and Consumer Reports.

We could go on and on about fraud prevention and online security, but the tips noted above are a great start for any senior citizen looking to protect themselves from Internet scams. Do you have any additional tips that we may have missed? Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts with the rest of us.

Additional resources for seniors:

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What is Vishing?

What is Vishing?

You’ve probably heard about Phishing, but what about Vishing? If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t heard of it, but it’s a growing method used for fraud, and you should learn more about it before it becomes an issue for you.

Simply put, vishing is like phishing (fraud perpatrated via email), but it’s usually done on the phone, and in particular over a Voice Over IP, or VoIP connection. (Think Skype and other VoIP services) A visher will call a victim and attempt to get sensitive and/or confidential information from them, like a credit card number, Social Security number, bank account information… anything they can use to get access to your money or important info.

Often times the vishing attempt will start out familiar. Here are some examples of how a vishing attempt could be set up:

  • An automated call from your bank claiming there’s a problem with your ATM card. They’ll probably ask you to “confirm” your bank account number.
  • A person on the line claiming to be from a government agency (think: the IRS) with a tax problem they’ve found. A verification of your Social Security number will surely be involved in this case.
  • A department store attempting to clarify a purchase on a credit card. They’re likely to ask you to verify your credit card number, expiration date, and the “3 numbers on the back of the card”. Do that, and you may as well fill up their holiday wishlist for them yourself.

The list could literally go on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Anywhere you have, or could have, used your SSN, your credit card, bank account, etc. is a potential front for a fraudster.

Once they have your information, the sky’s the limit. So how can you prevent yourself from being a victim? Well first off, most companies won’t ask for sensitive information over the phone, especially if they initiated the call. In fact, many services and companies have that fact listed on their website and in their documentation. Secondly, if you have a feeling the call may be real, but you’ve got a funny feeling about it, hang up, go through your paperwork to find the right number to call back, and verify things that way. If it was a scam, you’ll know right away, and if it was a legitimate call, you can take care of the problem right there. That extra few minutes double checking could mean the difference between being scammed or not.

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Reporting Online Fraud and Cybercrime

Reporting Online Fraud and Cybercrime

If you or someone you know is becomes the victim of online fraud or any other type of cybercrime (or even just an attempt at it), you need to contact the authorities as soon as possible. Keeping it to yourself can lead to repeated attacks, as well as continued spread of Internet fraud, crime, and even increased distribution of viruses and spyware through crime networks that try to set up shop on your computer.

Depending on what level of fraud and/or cybercrime you’re dealing with, you may have to notify multiple agencies. But regardless of how many places you have to contact, doing so will be the first step to stopping the crooks in their tracks. Please use the list below as a starting point to report any incident:

  • An Important First Step:

    If the fraud you’re reporting reporting is, or becomes, aggressive or threatening in any manner, contact your local authorities. The police in your community should be made aware of any potential threats to you, your family, your home, etc.

  • Get Into The System:

    Head to IC3.gov, the “Internet Crime Complaint Center”. This site is a partnership between several government agencies, including the FBI. The IC3 has an online complaint submission form that you can use to report online fraud and other Internet-related scams.

  • If It’s International…:

    If you feel you’re the victim of an international scam operation, contact econsumer.gov, a coalition of about 2 dozen countries who want to help stop cross-border cybercrime. You may also want to contact a US Secret Service field office to let them know, too.

  • Contact Credit Reporting Companies:

    If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact any one of the big 3 credit reporting companies. They’ll get your information disseminated to all three. Their contact info is as follows:

Don’t just be a victim of online fraud and cybercrime. Contact the appropriate authorities and government agencies and stop Internet-related crime before it stops you.

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Avoiding Nigerian Scam Emails

Avoiding Nigerian Scam Emails

“There’s a sucker born every minute.”

– P.T. Barnum (Attributed)

What is the Nigerian Email Scam?

I’m sure that by now you’ve heard of the Nigerian email scams that are still being emailed out to millions of people every year and claiming new victims. These scams continue to bilk innocent people out of their money and more, even though the basic scam itself has been around for hundreds of years.

These emails are a typical example of how fraud and various scams are easily disseminated among a large group of people. The Internet is a great distribution method for crooks who want to attempt this scam since emails are cheap and getting millions of email addresses to send their letters to is relatively easy.

What Are the Basics of This Scam?

The Nigerian scam emails are a variation on the old “Spanish Prisoner” con and they’re sometimes referred to as “Advanced Fee Fraud” or a “419 scam” (based on the article in the Nigerian Criminal Code dealing with fraud). No matter what name is used, the modern variant of these scams go roughly like this:

  • A Wealthy Foreign Patron

    A rich person from another country, or possibly a representative for said person, contacts you, generally via email (though fax and snail mail aren’t unheard of). Regardless of who contacts you, it’s actually a con artist and not a rich person or their rep.

    • NOTE Although are normally referred to as “Nigerian scam emails”, these emails can technically come from any foreign country.
  • A Large Sum of Money (Trapped)

    The rich person/con artist claims they’re trying to invest their money, or maybe just trying to get it out of the country (often due to political upheaval or pressure), but needs an external bank account to transfer it all to safely. That’s where you come into the equation.

  • The Deal

    In exchange for transferring a large sum of money and “helping” the con artist, you are guaranteed a percentage of the transaction. This is normally a large enough percentage that it’d be like winning the Lottery.

  • A Problem Arises

    If you should be so… unfortunate… as to accept the offer, you’ll no doubt be contacted and told that there is some kind of problem: Some official needs to be bribed, perhaps a transfer fee is needed, new or underestimated attorney fees, or something along those lines. The con will ask you to front a certain amount of money to take care of the problem and will assure you that you’ll either be compensated at the end of the transaction or that the amount you’re getting in exchange for the deal once it all goes down will overshadow the “small” amount of money you’re asked to put up.

    This is the part where they try to part you from your money.

  • Goodbye Money

    After you’ve fronted the money for the problems that arise, you’ll very likely be told of more problems that require additional money to be transferred until you’re either tapped out of money or the con artists decide to move on. Either way, you end up the loser in this con game.

Who Are Typical Victims of This Scam?

Unfortunately confidence scam victims come from all walks of life. Rich, poor, old, young… who you are and where you come from doesn’t matter to a Nigerian email scam artist. Out of the millions of emails they’ll send, they only need a handful of marks (e.g. victims) to make their email scam a success; the FBI estimates that millions of dollars are lost every year to these Nigerian/419 scams. They’ll take whomever they can get.

How Can I Protect Myself?

The first rule of Don’t Get Scammed Club is… use common sense. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Secondly, always be wary of any email, IM, or other communication from a stranger that involves money or personally identifiable information. If you think that you, or someone else you know, is currently being targeted by a Nigerian scam email proposition here in the US, contact the FBI or the Secret Service.

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6 Must-Do Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Scams

6 Must-Do Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Scams

When times get tough, the crooks start coming out of the woodwork. The last thing you need is to be hit by a Visa, Mastercard, etc. credit card scam when you’re already having a hard time making ends meet. With the current world economy, scammers are stepping up their game so you’ve got to be aware of what they’re up to and keep your credit, your money, and your identity safe.

There are probably a million ways to keep from being the victim of a credit card scam or fraud attempt, but the following six habits (and these are good habits to have) will go a long way in protecting you from Visa scams, Mastercard maliciousness, and Amex anomalies.

  1. Trust but Verify:

    If you receive a phone call from your credit card company, make sure you’re actually talking to your credit card company. Cardholders are increasingly reporting calls from “representatives” who sound official (even going so far as to present “badge numbers” and other official-sounding information) but end up being scam artists. If someone calls your home claiming to be from your card company, politely hang up and call the number on the back of the card itself and verify. At that point you’ve made sure you’re talking to a real credit card company rep and can address any issue they called about in the first place.

  2. Review Your Credit Card Statements:

    This is a no-brainer, right? I don’t even know why I mentioned this because you keep monthly tabs on your credit card activity, looking for odd charges, inconsistencies, and anything else unfamiliar. Reviewing your credit card statement may be the only indication you have that something’s wrong, so do it every time.

  3. Keep Your Card Hidden:

    At restaurants, the grocery store, or anywhere that a stranger might see your card, be sure to keep it under wraps. Visa debit card scammers (and other cards, too) have been known to sneak into legitimate businesses and install cameras to pick up either your card number or your PIN number. Keep them covered as much as possible. And don’t forget to be sure that, at a restaurant, your server actually picks up the “Merchant Copy” of your bill. Many places, but restaurants especially, print out the card number on the signed receipt.

  4. Use a Secure Site (https):

    We’ve already discussed how to spot a fake website, but now you’ve also got to tie that into the first item in our post “5 Simple Tips to Staying Secure Online“. The basic gist is this: When you’re submitting sensitive information, be sure to look in the address bar to make sure you’re on a secure, or “https” site.

  5. Keep One Card for Online Purchases:

    Using one credit card for online purchases will not only help keep your transactions easy to account for (“Honey, why did you put that flat screen TV on the Visa at Amazon?”), but it will also help reduce the hassle you’ll have if/when your card info gets stolen.

  6. Shred Old Credit Cards & Statements:

    It’s not enough to just toss out old cards and to put your old card statements in the recycling bin. Invest in a shredder, preferably a cross-cut shredder. They’re relatively inexpensive, safe, and easy to operate. And as an added bonus, they make it darn near impossible for crooks to get/read your credit card statements.

Keeping yourself free from the headache of identity theft, stolen credit cards, and unwanted purchases is your job. Sure, your card company may have monitoring in place, but only you truly care about the security of your account, so get proactive and learn to protect yourself from credit card scams.

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