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Lessons and stories from the front lines of fighting identity theft.


Thinking about Making Some Extra Money this Season?

Sep 25

Well think about this: Beware of offers that promise a large amount of money for a minimum amount of effort. Here are some of the most common work-at-home scams encountered by the FBI.

Home-based businesses: There are legitimate home-based businesses, but many of the ads on the Internet or those that solicit you through e-mail, are scams. Don’t invest in inventory, starter kits or training materials without doing thorough research. Otherwise, when and if these materials arrive, they may be worthless.

Mystery shoppers: After you’re “hired” by one of these scams, you’re sent a large check supposedly from the retail establishment or its parent company and asked to deposit it into your bank account. You’re told to immediately withdraw funds to shop and report on the stores. Then, since the check is so large, you’re instructed to keep a small amount and send the rest to your “employer.” The problem, however, is that the check from the retailer is fake and by the time the bank notifies you, your money is gone and you’re responsible for the counterfeit check.

Pyramid schemes: In this scheme, you’re “hired” as a distributor and asked to buy promotional materials and inventory for products with little-to-no value. You are then offered commission to recruit family and friends to be distributors too. The business may grow at first, but eventually falls apart, because there’s no real product. The only ones who make money are the criminals who started it.

Laundering money: Sometimes foreign criminals will use U.S. citizens to help them steal, launder money and stay anonymous. Here, you may get “hired” to receive and re-ship checks, merchandise and solicitations to other potential victims. Before you know it, you’re involved in criminal activity and cannot find the con artists who hired you.

Any scam in which you’re “hired,” can also lead to identity theft. If you’re asked to fill out an application and provide your Social Security Number, birth date or bank information, you may get victimized twice. Not only could you lose money in the scam, but the thief could also steal from your bank account or open a credit card in your name.

Although law enforcement tries to crack down on these scams, it’s best not to become a victim in the first place. Before you invest or apply for a job, contact the Better Business Bureau to see if the company is legitimate. Do an online search of the company; don’t invest money upfront; and ask questions to see if the company is being forthright.

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