Before jumping in head first, make sure you don’t fall prey to the scoundrels who only want to make a grab for your pocketbook.
Are you looking to make this your year to finally make that move to home-based employment? Whether you know it or not, someone’s got their eye on you – also waiting for you to make that move.
Before you even started romanticizing about answering emails in your pj’s or phoning in to the boss while scratching your behind, there was a con man waiting with a slick line and a sticky palm poised for your back pocket.
Aspiring entrepreneurs and job seekers need to be especially cautious while navigating toward the goal of a home-based lifestyle. Spit and fire tends to run high in this group, and it’s hard to see the dangers when your eyes are pointed at the stars. Therein lies the problem: all that optimism and not enough good old-fashioned skepticism.
Here are a few of the hustles to watch out for:
“It’s Fun and It’s Easy”
The translation for “fun and easy” is usually: “Frustrating and fraudulent.” Watch out for those home-based appeals promising lots of fun, lots of money, and very little work.
One such home-based scheme is envelope stuffing. You don’t find out the real workings of this scam until after sending in your money for a starter package. As it turns out, your job is to spoof others with the same sales copy that convinced you to send in your money. No real product or service is involved. Just a deception. There are variations to this scam to make it appear on the up and up, but the principle is the same.
Another example is craft assembly jobs. These jobs sound very appealing to those good with their hands. Yet that bird house kit you receive for assembly, if you receive it at all, will usually not get built in a timely enough fashion. Thus, no pay. If you do build it in time it will not meet their quality standards. Which is not surprising given the shoddy quality of the materials you are required to use. Essentially, you were fired before they cashed your check.
“I’ve Got a Job For YOU!”
Many scams target people looking for low-skilled work. Work that requires no special skills are hard to find and go quickly when they do appear. Yet the pool of people looking for these jobs is vast. Hence, scams surface to catch the unending flow of easy targets.
Medical billing, typing jobs, envelope stuffing, and craft work are all examples of scams targeting unsuspecting job seekers with limited skills. For the most part, these con artists are looking to bilk victims for the cost of the initial sign up fee.
A particularly insidious ruse in this genre is the “export agent” job.
It begins when you are contacted by a seemingly well-connected and established overseas company. You are told they need an agent to act on their behalf in the states, and your online resume indicates you are a perfect candidate. Your job is to simply receive shipments of purchased merchandise, then forward it to their overseas headquarters. With bank account information they can engage in currency transfers and payment activities.
What you’re not told is the items are purchased by virtue of identity theft and stolen credit cards. By the time this plays out your account is drained and you become a suspect in charges of money laundering and mail fraud.
Yet another ploy in this category is the anonymous shopper scam. In this scenario you are “employed” to shop local businesses and provide feedback on your shopping experience. The trickster obtains your bank details under the guise of money transfers for shopping expenses and compensation. However, the real intention here is a withdrawal.
Remember, a company offering a legitimate job will not need your bank account or credit card information. Never assume a company is legitimate. Never pay for a job. A job pays you. Always research and investigate any job offer.
“It’s Free… for a small handling fee”
You’ve probably seen the ads for this kind of hustle. Free stuff with just a small shipping and handling fee. Of course, this is an acceptable marketing approach if you’re a legitimate business. But for the con artist, this tactic can hook some pretty big fish.
Do you need a listing of over 100 places to get free government grant money to start your business? It’s free. You just pay postage. Call the toll free number and have your credit card handy.
How about a job resource manual? Get access to good paying home jobs not found in the classifieds or on job boards, and a free resume makeover to boot. It’s free for a small processing fee. All credit cards accepted.
If you’re a stickler for language like me, then free doesn’t equal $5.95. And it certainly doesn’t mean that my credit card information is to be used to purchase a flat screen television that’s not hanging on my wall.
Stick to well-known and verifiable avenues when searching for jobs or planning a business. Network at established job sites and forums, and draw upon business funding information available from entities such as SBA.gov and SCORE.org.
“If I Can Do It, So Can You”
This is a common call to action that attracts many would-be entrepreneurs. There are vast numbers of single page, scroll-down-a-mile-to-read-it-all websites that tout the next big opportunity to cash in big.
That’s not to say it isn’t the next big thing, or that the promoter behind the opportunity isn’t making good money on a sound business model.
Well-written sales copy is not a crime. It’s not a hustle when well-meaning entrepreneurs promote their wares.
It only becomes a hustle when you shell out money for an opportunity as if you’re buying a pizza. You don’t create a future for yourself without doing some legwork, research, and planning.
Consider this, in many cases the promoter of a business opportunity is not just cashing in on the opportunity he developed, but through the merchandising of that business model to hundreds of people. It likely took him weeks or months to develop and establish a Unique Selling Proposition.
But how have you positioned yourself for success if you buy into an opportunity in the same amount of time it takes to order and deliver a pizza?
Who are your customers? Where do they gather? How will you reach them? Many business opportunities offer no guarantee of protected territory, so where does that leave you positioned? What will be your edge; your niche?
It’s important to recognize how you will carve out your own unique niche before investing in any venture or opportunity. How will you uniquely position yourself in a sea of competing offers, especially if the competition and you look exactly the same? If you are competing with a thousand other people for the same pie, the slices get mighty slim if you aren’t differentiated in some way.
What’s true for one person is not always true for another. Certainly it is possible to do what another does and produce income, but what comparable skills do you bring to the table? Behind every successful entrepreneur you will find a trail of training and experience unique to that individual. No matter how much hand-holding you receive in the starting of a venture, there is no substitute for self-assessment, research, planning, and hard work. If someone says you can do what they do, ask yourself why and how.
Don’t get scammed with this self-hustle. There are enough sharks out there without you being your own worst enemy. It’s easy to be seduced by slick web copy time and time again. Dollars evaporate quickly in this manner. Slow down and take a cautious approach.
All the above are just a few of the ways you can get swindled on your way to home-based job heaven. New scams are constantly being invented and old ones revamped in attempts to catch the unwary off guard. So always be cautious, patient, and never trust in the legitimacy of a job offer or business proposal without adequate research.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brett Krkosska provides how-to advice on small business and home-based work issues. He is the founder of HomeBizTools and the publisher of Straight Talk, a syndicated column that offers a unique perspective on today’s business issues.