Work From Home: Worker Beware
Rolando Galvez-Garcia and Kostadin Osvaldo Marte Tavarez had a pretty good little business going. They offered folks "BIG PAYCHECKS Within TWO WEEKS...If you Act NOW!"
The job involved couldn't have been easier: stuffing envelopes at home.
Galvez and Marte, working as Sun Ray Trading Inc. and SR & Associates Inc., claimed on Web sites and in spam to pay $10 plus postage cost for each envelope that was stuffed and mailed, and promised about $550 to $3,000 of income a week.
What their victims quickly discovered, however, was that they were sending out solicitations for more of Galvez and Marte's "business opportunities." They didn't make the money they were promised and weren't even reimbursed for the cost of postage.
By the time the Federal Trade Commission froze Galvez and Marte's assets last year, they had scammed $2.06 million out of their victims. The FTC ordered them to pay the same amount.
Envelope stuffing is a staple of work-at-home scams, whose victims are often those who can least afford to lose any amount of money--senior citizens, women who want to stay home with their children, and the disabled.
Other common varieties include:
* Light assembly work: The finished product, however, is never good enough and victims, in addition to putting up hundreds of dollars for instructions and materials, are never paid for their work.
* Processing medical insurance claims: After buying expensive software and paying for training, victims of this scam find their work is not being processed because of "mistakes" in it.
* E-mail processing: The latest twist on envelope stuffing. According to scambusters.org, victims get instructions on how to spam the same ad they responded to in newsgroups and Web forums.
You can find legitimate work you can do from home but before you sign up with a prospective employer, do your research.
The FTC suggests asking the following:
* What tasks will I have to perform? (Ask the program sponsor to list every step of the job.)
* Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission?
* Who will pay me?
* When will I get my first paycheck?
* What is the total cost of the work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? What will I get for my money?
You should also check whether anyone has filed a complaint against your prospective employer with the Better Business Bureau and your state attorney general's office.
If you think you've been scammed, you can file a complaint with the FTC, the BBB, the AG's office and the U.S. Postal Service, which investigates mail fraud.
Learn more about home-based businesses in washingtonpost.com's new special package: Inside Jobs.
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