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Work at Home: Avoid Scams with Common Sense

Guest Article (featured column)
by JoAnna Gilford

My friend perked up. "At least, I get to start working at home." she said. Difficult times did what she had been unable to do; convince her boss how telecommuting could be beneficial to companies and employees alike.

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More and more companies are checking into telecommuting options for their employees. Sadly, the workplace is becoming frightening. While this can be seen as a boost to telecommuting, nothing brings out the scammers like a crisis.

There's a new twist in work at home schemes, fear of the workplace. Work at home scams have been the top rated fraud for the past several years and I imagine it will be a long time before they are knocked out of first place. Specifically, the bulk of the scams reported included envelope stuffing kits, craft making kits and medical billing software.

Here's what you need to do if you suspect that you have been scammed.

Document everything! Information such as the name of the company, physical and mailing address, the names of the people you spoke with or wrote to. The method you used to pay, i.e.: credit card, money order, check and the amount of the money you paid. You'll need copies (keep the originals) of any supporting documentation you have such as, e-mails, letters the company's phone number and website URLS. How you received the merchandise and a copy of the original envelope it was sent in is also helpful when you are filing a complaint.

You'll also need a description of the services or goods that was offered and the date of first contact with the company. You'll need to describe the goods and services you actually received and copies of all correspondence with the company if you have contacted them after shipment or requested a refund.

The United States Postal Service has a department that specifically investigates mail order fraud. US Postal Inspectors are licensed law enforcement officers empowered by Congress to make arrests, serve federal search warrants and subpoenas. They enforce over 200 federal laws covering investigations that affect or fraudulently use the US Mail and postal service.

Don't perpetuate the scam! Report it instead. You can report a scam even if the company is based outside of your state. To sue the company to get your money back, you must file the suit in the state where the business is located.

It's a real blow to your own self-confidence when you have been cheated not to mention the monetary loss. Protect yourself! Write to the company before you buy any services, if they are unwilling or unable to answer your questions, they probably won't help you after you pay them. There's no shame in being a victim, we must all pull together and force these scammers out of business! Remember, knowledge is power!

I'm certainly not opposed to a telecommuting friendly country but legitimate work at home jobs are hard to obtain in the best of circumstances. Even big companies like AT&T, well known for their progressive telecommuting policies, don't hire people to type at home. You must be skilled, sometimes highly skilled to qualify for a work at home job. Employee competition has always been fierce and our present situation isn't helping. Layoffs and unofficial hiring freezes mean there are fewer jobs at a time when more people are actively searching for a work at home job. The longer they search, the more desperate they become and easier prey for the scams. Common sense and a firm grip on your wallet is still the best approach.

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Copyright © 2001 by JoAnna Gilford. All rights reserved.

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