Here's why you should beware the "work at home" ads

Like I suspect just about anyone, I've always known that the "work at home" ads that you see on the Internet and through unsolicited emails looked shady, and that was enough for me.

But with the economy the way it is, work-at-home scams are expected to go way up, which is why recently the New York State Consumer Protection Board put out a warning explaining exactly why these ads are dangerous. It's chilling how things might play out for an innocent, desperate person who only wants to make some extra, honest cash.

And I'll just say right up front that not every employer who wants to hire you to work from home is dishonest. Obviously. So if you want to apply for an ad or an employer that promises money for working at home, keep your guard up, do any research you can on the company, and particularly if you get an ad through email, I'd just hit delete and not look back.

According to the CPB, many of these envelope stuffing operations are genuine in one respect. You may wind up doing real work, in which you're stuffing envelopes or compiling information. But then once your "paycheck" is deposited, your banking information is suddenly available to your "employer," who can then empty out your account.

Even worse, many of the checks that these employers deposit are fake, and so consumers end up owning the bank for the full amount of the money deposited.

The CPB says that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) estimates that con artists pitching work-at-home ads bring in more than $400 billion dollars a year. So make sure you aren't an unwitting employee of that $400 billion industry.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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