I wrote yesterday about an online “own-your-own” website scam that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has closed down.  As promised, I want to provide more information to help you know which online “work at home” offers are legitimate and which are scams.  This way, you can protect yourself, and even family members, from unintentionally revealing private personal contact and financial information to scammers.

Here are 5 top tips to look for:

  1. Poorly designed website ;
  2. Vague description of what the business is that you’d be buying or how the business will work;
  3. A very inexpensive introductory product or service is offered and is purchased using a credit or debit card;
  4. Outrageous claims about making “easy money” or “get rich quick” off the Internet (e.g., “You can make $5000.00 your 1st week!”); and
  5. Business opportunity is offered as a “no risk” or for “no money down.”

How do the scams work?  Here’s an example.

  1.  You buy the very inexpensive product, let’s say a book, that tells you “how to make easy and fast money from the Internet.”
  2. That inexpensive product is the “loss leader”.  Now your personal information is on the scammer’s list — they’ve got what they really want which is your contact and financial information.
  3. This personal information then leads to a bombardment of “cold calls” — either from the scammer’s own company (or companies) or from other companies to which your contact and financial information has been sold.
  4. The callers want to get more personal information from you allegedly to help you get your business started.  Sometimes it’s to get you to buy more products or services some of which you thought were supposed to be free.
  5. Your credit or debit card gets charged for products or services that you didn’t order — either because of the “fine print” on the website about the original offer or because this information’s been sold to other scammers.

Do your own research before buying an online business opportunity.  Find out if there are any prior or pending complaints about the company and/or any of the people named on the website.  You can do this research using the Internet, by contacting the State Attorney General’s Office, the local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau in the state in which the business opportunity promoter is located.

The FTC website (www.ftc.gov) has excellent resources to use before considering buying an online “work at home” or other business opportunity.  Look for the links on that site to the following articles: “Looking to Earn Extra Income? Rule Helps You Avoid Bogus Business Opportunity Offers” and “Starting an Internet Business: Dream Job or Pipe Dream?”

Be careful before buying an online business opportunity — let’s avoid helping the scammers be the ones making easy money off of the Internet.