Once in a Lifetime

Historical Perspective

Of course, business opportunity scams are nothing new. Prior to the dawn of the Internet Age, ads for envelope stuffing, home electronics assembly, multilevel vitamin sales and other dubious opportunities could be found in the classified sections of newspapers and grocery store "throw-away" magazines. The difference is that, by advertising with spam and banner ads on Web sites accessible from anywhere in the world, scammers are now able to get their message out to a far larger segment of the population than ever before.

Frauds involving homebased business opportunity schemes are among the most common consumer complaints made to the National Consumers League's Internet Fraud Watch, which offers victims advice and transmits complaints to law enforcement agencies. According to Susan Grant, director of the Internet Fraud Watch, many recent scams involve medical billing opportunities that promise people they can set up a lucrative home business providing billing services for doctors and insurance companies. This sort of opportunity is appealing because it seems plausible that companies would contract out this type of work, but Grant says it just isn't so.

And unlike older schemes such as envelope stuffing, which can set victims back $50 to $100, some fraudulent medical billing setups can cost the unwary thousands of dollars in outdated software and inadequate training materials.

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