In observance of National Consumer Protection Week (March 6-12), the Postal Inspection Service is focusing on an age-old scam with a pandemic-era twist: the work-at-home scheme.
Many reputable companies allow employees to work from home, of course, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. But the adage “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is” applies.
The Inspection Service website has several videos and articles exploring the many ways scammers catch the unwitting, who may be more vulnerable to work-from-home pitches during the pandemic.
A video with actors portraying real inspectors dramatizes one such scheme — the “reshipping” service, where dupes are asked to reship items that were fraudulently purchased.
Other scams include envelope stuffing (modern mailing techniques have virtually eliminated this need); mystery shopping (you pay for false certifications); and medical billing, a job that can be a legitimate work-from-home position but that is almost certainly a fraud if you must pay for expensive equipment upfront.
Watch out for phrases such as “be your own boss” and “guaranteed jobs,” and be wary if you see “no experience needed” for a high-income position or are offered a job on the spot without an interview.
The Inspection Service offers these tips to protect yourself:
• Research potential employers. Sometimes a simple internet search can reveal a scam.
• Don’t be pressured. Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics.
• Trust your gut. Be suspicious of overly attractive job offers that are so good, they don’t seem possible.
• Check directly with a company to verify its legitimacy.
• Get any job offer in writing.
• Verify a potential employer by checking the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general’s office and your state consumer affairs office.
• Verify any unexpected compensation to determine whether a check or money order is valid.
In short, when it comes to working at home, do your homework.
If you are a victim of a scam or suspect fraud, submit an online report to the Inspection Service or call 877-876-2455.