How Seniors Can Spot Work-at-Home Scams

According to the Better Business Bureau, most offers to work from home are actually fraudulent schemes that will cause you to lose money, not make it.

Many people want to bring in a little extra money in retirement. Working from home seems like an ideal way to do that. You can earn some income, without having to dress in uncomfortable clothes or fight traffic jams to commute to the office. Scammers know how appealing this scenario sounds, so they develop ways to rip off hard-working older Americans. Here are some tips on how seniors can spot work-at-home scams.

According to the Better Business Bureau, most offers to work from home are actually fraudulent schemes that will cause you to lose money, not make it. The typical victim of these scams will lose about $800. Offers involving these activities are usually from con artists:

  • Assembling crafts
  • Typing
  • Data entry
  • Completing online surveys
  • Stuffing envelopes
  • Doing billing for medical offices

The scams will ask you to spend money upfront on things like:

  • Materials
  • Supplies
  • Training
  • Coaching
  • Leads to get clients

Red Flags That the Opportunity Is a Rip-off

Legitimate job offers do not require you to recruit more people into the scheme. However, many fraudulent set-ups do. If the advertisement sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, the ad promises that your upfront investment will pay itself off quickly with high income that requires very little effort by you. Con games also often claim that you do not need any job skills or experience to make lots of money.

How to Protect Yourself from Fraudulent Work-at-Home Schemes

It can be difficult to identify which job opportunities are legitimate and which are scams. Here are some steps you can take to keep from becoming a victim of a con:

  • Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau, both in the city where the company is located and in your town. Of course, if the advertisement does not provide an office address you can easily verify, that is not a good sign.
  • Contact your state’s consumer protection agency and Attorney General’s office to find out if people have filed complaints against the organization or if they are under investigation.
  • If the company does not yet have complaints against it, that could be because it is a new scheme. Con artists tend to change their business names frequently, just as telemarketers use many different phone numbers.
  • Be skeptical of testimonials in the advertisement or on the company’s website. There is an entire industry of fake testimonials.
  • Never pay any money or sign an agreement, without first doing a thorough investigation of the company.
  • Do not trust a job offer, just because it appeared in a reputable magazine, newspaper, or online job board.
  • Insist that the company put in writing when and how you will get compensation, and all costs you might have to incur. Make sure that you understand whether your payment will be salary or commission.
  • Instead of answering ads, which are almost always scams, list with a legitimate jobs board. Realize, however, that con artists can and do contact people on those sites.

If you become the victim of a scam, a lawyer might be able to help you get some of your money back from the con artists.


AARP. “Work-at-Home Scams.” (accessed February 14, 2019)

Suggested Key Terms: how to spot fraudulent work-at-home schemes, avoid getting ripped off when working from home

About the author

Bob Brumfield

Attorney Bob Brumfield has been practicing law since 1984 and regularly receives the “Top Lawyers in California” award as well as the “Client Distinction” and “Client Champion” awards from Martindale-Hubbell.

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