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THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Work-at-home job scams

If the offer to work at home looks too good to be true, it just may be. And if you're asked for money upfront, be wary.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- With the nation's unemployment rate at 7.6% and expectations for it to go even higher in this year, work-at-home Web sites which promise big money for little or no experience are extremely tempting in the best of times, but now more than ever, people are falling victims to work-at-home scams.

1. Get the lowdown

Work-at-home scams promise that you can make thousands of dollars right in your own home with little effort. These scams seem to offer you employment stuffing envelopes or working remotely for a medical billing center. In both cases you pay money upfront in exchange for the opportunity to work from home.

What really happens is that the scam artists take your money - and your ID -and leave you flat.

New work-at-home scams are on the rise according to the FBI, including "transfer funds or "reship product" job offers. In these schemes, you're being used as a tool to get cash from legitimate banks without your knowledge, or to send stolen goods to criminals.

Mystery Shopping scams are also becoming more prevalent. In this case, victims sign up to be a mystery shopper, and they receive fake checks and are told to cash the check and wire the funds to the company in order to get a portion of the money. But in reality, you're just cashing bad checks.

2. Beware of rebate processing

The Better Business Bureau is warning about a rebate processing scam. In this scam, victims paid hundreds of dollars in upfront fees so they could get a job processing rebates from well-known companies.

Instead of getting a starter kit on processing rebates, people who signed up, only received instructions on how to make money by sending e-mails and posting blogs on the Internet. Not only did people complain about losing out on the hundreds of dollars in upfront fees, but in addition, their credit cards were charged money each month.

3. Know the drill

First, know what kind of scams are circulating.

Go to the FBI Web site at FBI.gov and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. You can also go to a Web site funded by the FBI at lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.

Never give away your personal information or send any money to a work from a home job site unless you've vetted the company thoroughly. That means minimally doing a search at the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org and googling the company name along with the word scam to see what comes up. To top of page

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send an e-mail,we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com.
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