Beware: Work-at-home job scams

The Consumer Protection Division of the Maryland Office of the Attorney General offers the following information to help Marylanders protect themselves from becoming a victim of work-at-home job scams.

Offers that promise a way to make money working at home can be very appealing. You should be careful, however, that you don’t fall victim to a work-at home scam. Over the years, many consumers have lost money to companies that said they would pay people to stuff envelopes, do craft work, or review manuscripts. Those scams are still around, but today they are joined by new ones that promise people can earn lots of money using their home computer or sending out mailings. Whatever the angle, usually the consumer ends up losing money instead of making it.

Typical Scams

Work-at-home scams advertise in newspaper classified ads, on flyers, on cable television, or over the Internet. What they all have in common is that the company will ask for an upfront fee before you can start working. The company may claim the fee is a registration fee, a deposit on materials, or payment for instructional books or computer disks.

Three common work-at-home scams include: medical billing work, envelope stuffing, and sewing/craft/assembly work.

Here’s how to avoid work-at-home rip-offs

  • Never pay any money for information about a work-at-home offer, or for any kind of start-up kit, instructional booklets, or other items. Under Maryland law, a company that advertises a work-at-home opportunity cannot require advance payments or deposits on any instructional booklets, brochures, kits, programs, mailing lists, directories, memberships in cooperative associations, or any other items or services.
  • Be skeptical of earnings claims that sound too good to be true, or promises of a regular market or steady salary that are not substantiated.
  • Use common sense. In these days of automation and high-speed printing and mailing equipment, it is unlikely a company would pay several dollars for each envelope you stuff and mail.
  • Keep in mind that just because an ad appears in a reputable newspaper or magazine, it does not mean that the information it contains is accurate or legitimate.
  • Ask detailed questions about what exactly you will have to do to earn money with the program. Who will pay you? Will you be paid on commission? Will you be asked to buy supplies or pay for postage?
  • Before entering into any work-at-home agreement, call the Consumer Protection Division to see if complaints have been filed against the company you are considering doing business with. Keep in mind, however, that illegitimate companies often advertise heavily for a few months, collect their fees and then close up shop and move on before anyone has a chance to file complaints, or they change their names.

Check out companies that offer to help you start your own business and that require you to pay more than $300 or more within the first six months. Many such “business opportunities” must be registered with the Maryland Securities Division. Companies offering business opportunities are required to give prospective buyers an approved form of disclosure document at least 10 business days before the buyer pays any money or signs any contract. Check to see if a company offering a business opportunity is registered by calling the Maryland Securities Division at (410) 576-7786.


For more information on work-at-home job scams, call the Eastern Shore Office, Consumer Protection Division, at 410-713-3620. The office is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.