Q&A: Work From Home Scams

Q: I'm a stay at home mom but can use some extra cash. Every so often, I see an ad promising $1,400 a month or more for part-time work from home. It seems too good to be true. What am I missing?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any claim that you can rake it in without any experience or any sales calls is a scam. And there are lots of scams out there. According to government statistics, more than 2 million Americans are scammed each year by work-at-home companies. Even those websites or full-color brochures that look legitimate are probably scams. A company that wants money from you up front before you can start making money, for 'training' or 'supplies' is never going to pay you anything. The most common scams are envelope stuffing, medical claims processing, and product assembly. Watch out for shipping and payment processing scams, both of which usually involve illegal activity and can get you in trouble.

Having said that, there are legitimate ways to make money from home. You won't make lots of cash for very little work, but they won't leave you with less than you've started with either. For example, you can be a customer service representative from home, as almost 700,000 Americans are. Try www.alpineaccess.com or www.liveops.com, two companies that offer that type of opportunity.

A reputable mystery shopping firm such as www.iccds.com or www.mysteryshops.com will pay between $5 and $100 for each store you evaluate after posing as a customer. You can get paid a little for filling out surveys at www.surveysavvy.com or www.mysurvey.com.

Another great way to earn money from home is by freelancing. Legitimate freelance websites such as www.guru.com give you a chance to bid on jobs that companies want to outsource, such as writing, web design, graphic design, and data entry. This might be your best bet for working from home.

Whatever you do, make sure you're working for legitimate people . . . and good luck!