Work-at-home scams are becoming more commonplace than ever thanks to the downturn in the economy. That’s not to say that there aren’t a whole host of legitimate and potentially very rewarding home-based or other small business opportunities and franchises out there for you to choose from. There most certainly are.
However, as a smart and informed consumer, it’s incumbent upon you to take the initiative and educate yourself on what makes for a worthwhile risk when it comes to choosing the small business opportunity, distributorship, licensee opportunity or franchise that’s just right for you. The last thing you want to do―especially if you’re at all struggling financially―is to waste your money, not to mention your valuable time, on something that could very well complicate your life even further and that you will soon regret.
Having said that, here are some quick tips on how you can avoid work-at-home schemes and scammers who sell them:
- Do your homework before you spend a penny. Review these tips and proactively seek out information on how to spot a scam from such reliable sources as the Better Business Bureau, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Small Business Administration BEFORE you jump into anything!
- Don’t be drawn in by exaggerated claims about earning potential. Now here this! There is no such thing as overnight profitability. If someone is telling you that you can get rich quick without much effort, they are lying to you―plain and simple! That’s not to say that with a tremendous amount of effort and initiative over a reasonable amount of time you can’t become a millionaire. It happens, but only with a lot of hard work and effort.
- Only deal with reputable companies with references. Companies with no track record of success and who are unwilling to refer you to other happy customers are risky. Of course, every company has to start somewhere, so going with a start-up operation is not always a horrible idea. In fact, that’s when and where some real money can be made. However, that’s also a time to do your homework on the major players who are involved. What companies have they started and/or worked for in the past? What’s their track record of success? Whatever you do, Do NOT take anyone at his/her own word. Ask a lot of questions. Dig around about both a company’s background and the background of the individuals at the helm BEFORE you give anyone a dime!
- Unsolicited emails and other communications about work-at-home opportunities should be suspect. It’s all too easy for scammers to blanket the world with bogus offers of big money to be made from home. If you didn’t ask for information about a particular opportunity, chances are it’s fraudulent.
- Assess demand. Is there a need and desire among the consuming public for what it is you’ll be selling? Even something as legitimate as medical billing can very quickly become a waste of your time and money if none of the doctors in your area use those kinds of services.
- Know what if any legal issues could get in your way. Are you allowed to operate a business of the kind you’re interested in starting in your community? Do you require any special licensure or certification? What about zoning laws in your area? Are you allowed to park a work truck in your neighborhood? Can you operate heavy equipment out of your shed? It may sound silly, but yours would not be the first business to be shut down for not adhering to local, state and federal laws or local covenants, and it most certainly won’t be the last. So ask the hard legal questions before you launch.
- NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY can be tricky. While it’s true that many home-based businesses don’t require a high level of training or provide all the training you could ever want or need, it’s also true that people who have the requisite sales and marketing skills may be more likely to thrive than is someone who doesn’t have those abilities. Just because anyone can do a job doesn’t mean that they should. Be honest with yourself. Do you really have the skill set that it will take to make the business you’re interested in buying and/or starting successful? If not, are you willing and able to surround yourself with people who have what you don’t, if necessary?
- No one pays in advance. Any business opportunity or franchise that promises you you’ll make money before you even do anything is more than likely a scam…period.
Companies that lure you with promises of easy money prey on people who are vulnerable, including seniors, people with disabilities, stay-at-home moms and people who are low-income and have few job prospects. If you fall into any one of these categories, then you need to be especially wary. However, it’s very important to recognize that we all can fall victim to a good scammer. These predators are real pros who can see their next victim coming a mile away, so please be leery because it’s not just your money, time and reputation that are at stake, it’s also your safety.