Scam Alert

Determining if that work-at-home opportunity is legit
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the February 2003 issue of . Subscribe »

QUESTION: I am constantly hearing about work-at-home opportunities that sound promising, but when I check them out with the Better Bureau, they always turn out to be scams. Are there any legitimate work-at-home opportunities out there?

ANSWER: One of the lessons we learned while writing You Can Buy (Tarcher) is that legitimate franchises and are as interested in the kind of representative you would make for their company as they are in selling you on a or business opportunity package. That is because they expect to make from your ongoing efforts, not just from the initial sale.

Despite receiving thousands of pieces of junk mail over the years, we can't remember ever seeing one from a solid, legitimate . We always forward get-rich-quick offers to the 's complaint section ( Because we live in , where spam must always be labeled as an "ADV" (for "advertisement"), we also send them to the site that handles complaints for the California attorney general (, who then takes court action against state-based spammers.

FAST FACT:The Better Business Bureau receives more inquiries about the legitimacy of work-at-home opportunities than about any other type of business, reaching a high of 461,202 such inquiries in 2001.
Source: Better Business Bureau

So yes, legitimate opportunities to work at home do really exist out there, but they'll be advertised according to their type of business, not by the fact that the work can be done at home. In addition, they won't spam you; on the contrary, you'll usually be the one to seek them out. Some advertise in magazines like this one; others can be found in various books and directories describing franchises and business opportunities, and almost all have Web sites.

The work of many franchises and most business opportunities can be done at home, so search for lists of companies online. But then check out their history and the experience of other people participating in the franchise or business opportunity before you actually invest.

Pretty good signs a business opportunity is really a work-at-home scam:
  • It sounds too good to be true ("Earn $2,000 Weekly Stuffing Envelopes at Home!").
  • You're promised huge earnings ("If you're not earning $1,000 per hour, you're selling yourself short!") for an unbelievably small amount of easy work ("We want 100 lazy people who dream of making lots of money without working!").
  • You feel pressure to decide or make payment immediately.
  • You find unresolved complaints at, the Better Business Bureau's service to help you check out specific companies.
  • You're required to pay for a "job." If payment is required for a work-at-home job, it's either a scam or an illegitimate business opportunity.
  • Your state requires business opportunity vendors to provide lists of previous buyers of the business opportunity, and the company you're interested in doesn't include one.

Paul and Sarah Edwards' most recent book is The Entrepreneurial Parent. Send them your start-up business questions at or in care of Entrepreneur.


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