Gina Kaysen Fernandes: You've probably seen a slew of cyber solicitations these days popping up everywhere in emails, web links and scrolling online advertisements. The intriguing at-home business opportunities promise a steady stream of income with flexible hours from the comfort of your home. The messages draw you in with enticing advertisements offering thousands of dollars a month to post links online. Or they provide testimonials from a jobless mom who claims she went from rags to riches working from home. But don't be fooled by these work-at-home schemes.
As the unemployment rate soars so does the number of people who fall into the traps of these bogus businesses. "The legitimate sites are the exception, most are crooks," said Randy Duermyer a home base entrepreneur who warns, "there's no pot of gold out there where you get something for nothing." Randy has worked more than a decade as a full-time telecommuter who runs his own home business and helps other small business get off the ground. He also writes a blog for About.com about home-based businesses and has recently seen a surge in the number of complaints from his readers who are getting duped by con artists.
In a recent blog post, Randy discussed the prolific Google work from home scheme that promises full-time income for part-time work. The ads offer to send you a "how-to" start up kit for free, except for the small shipping and handling fee. That's how you get hooked. Once you provide a credit card number the thieves will keep charging you, sometimes as much as $100 a month. "If you don't read the fine print you're going to get yourself in trouble," says Randy. Most people don't read the terms and conditions where the devil is in the details. Some of Randy's readers learned that the hard way.
"I should have known better! I was supposed to receive a CD or Kit that had detailed info in it," wrote Heidi. After waiting a week for a CD that never arrived, Heidi called the contact number and realized she was being charged $84.95 a month for nothing. "Scammers! I have filed a report against them," wrote Heidi. Another reader, Jettie wrote: "My kids say I'm the smartest mom around. Can't believe I got sucked in. Way too late for me to realize it was a scam." Jettie was lured by the idea of finding part-time work for her teenage kids. Now she's feeling stressed out about canceling the charge to her credit card. "Still can't believe I got so stupid this morning," Jettie wrote.
These get rich quick schemes have been around for years but they've taken on a more sinister spin by appearing affiliated with reputable companies such as Twitter and Google. That's all part of the ruse. "I needed a job and it sounded fine especially because the Google name is there. I can't believe Google would be this deceitful," wrote Terry.
In reality, Google has nothing to do with these hoaxes except that these ads are being served through Google AdSense, which is a tool that allows website owners to display advertisements on their website. In their defense, the company issued the following statement to momlogic: "As Google is not affiliated with these sites, we can't comment on individual claims. However, we recommend that users exercise the same amount of caution they would when evaluating other types of get rich quick claims. If there are trademark concerns regarding sites that misuse Google Trademarks, our Legal team reviews them and takes appropriate action if necessary."
"Google needs to do a better job at screening," said Alison Southwick, a spokeswoman with the Council of Better Business Bureaus. She adds, "but it would be very hard to keep up." Alison says these crooks are hard to catch because many of the sites operate overseas and shut down one day and reemerge the next under a new name. The BBB processes thousands of complaints every year from people who were sucked in by these phony operations. Alison says the biggest red flag is what she calls "the trouble trifecta: the offer of tons of money, little work and no experience needed." She warns, "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." Alison advises job seekers to do their homework by researching the company online. Millions of people access the BBB's reliability reports that allow prospective applicants to properly vet these companies. Not surprisingly, the 'Easy Google Profit' gig has a D+ rating. Another warning sign is you should never have to pay for employment. "If you can't get any information without giving a credit card number, you should go else where," says Randy.
Sadly, most victims will never recoup their financial losses. Alison urges victims to file a report with the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission and their State Attorney General's office. The complaints will help put these fraudulent companies on law enforcement's radar. The FTC recently filed a complaint in Nevada US District Court against "The Google Money Tree" and four of its company officers.
If you want to work from home, the secret to success is starting your own business. But that requires a lot of time, dedication and hard work. "These things are not going to fall in your lap. That's never going to happen," said Randy who suggests if you want to be your own boss you should start out as a freelancer. You need to figure out what you're good at doing, if there's a market for your service or product and then size up the competition. Volunteering is a great way to get experience and references. Another option is to open a franchise but you can expect to spend thousands of dollars in start-up costs. The best candidate for this line of work is "anybody who's self-motivated and has confidence in what they have to offer," said Randy. There's no quick or easy road to starting an at-home business so steer clear of any Internet money making opportunities that could leave you holding the bag.
|Gina Kaysen Fernandes is an award winning documentary producer and a former TV news producer/writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.|