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CONSUMER ALERT: WORK-AT-HOME OFFERS CARRY RISKS

LITTLE ROCK - During a difficult economic downturn, it's natural for consumers to look for ways to supplement their incomes by working from home.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a consumer alert today urging Arkansans to be skeptical of
"work-from-home" advertisements commonly found in newspapers and on the internet.

"Even ads in trusted newspapers, websites or radio stations should be approached with caution," McDaniel said. "Deals that seem too good to be true usually are."

Here are some examples of work-at-home schemes to avoid:
Internet Home Business. The most prevalent work-at-home scam is the "online store" model. Scammers promise that you can make money by setting up an online store and selling items through your website. Some of these scams begin with invitations to local seminars. Once they have you hooked by testimonials of grossly-inflated claims of success, they ask you to pay up-front fees to utilize their business model. Scammers market educational or coaching packages to assist in setting up your online store presence, to market your online store, to process payroll, handle tax preparation, and generate business leads. These products are a drain on your financial resources and won't assist you in creating a successful home-run small business.
Envelope Stuffing. For a "small" fee, the ad says, you'll learn how to earn lots of money stuffing envelopes at home. But once you pay, you find out the promoter never had any work to offer. Instead, after you send in your money, you get a letter telling you to get other people, even your friends and relatives, to buy the same envelope-stuffing "opportunity" or some other product. The only way you can earn any money is if people respond the same way you did.
Assembly or Craft Work. According to the ad, you can make money assembling crafts or other products at home. You may have to invest hundreds of dollars for equipment or supplies - for example, a sewing or sign-making machine from the company, or materials to make items like aprons, baby shoes or plastic signs - or spend lots of hours producing goods for a company that has promised to buy them. But after you've paid money and done the work, the company doesn't pay you - supposedly because your work isn't "up to standard." Unfortunately, no work ever is, and you're left with equipment and supplies - but without any income to show for it.
Rebate Processing. The ad in your email says you can earn money by helping to process rebates. And the fee for training, certification or registration is nothing compared to what you'll earn processing rebates from home, according to the promises in the ad. It says the #1 certified work-at-home consultant behind the program will show you how to succeed like she did. What you get are poorly written and useless training materials. There are no rebates to process, and few people ever see a refund.
Online Searches. The ad on the website piques your curiosity - earn $500 to $1000 a week, or even $7,000 a month, running Internet searches on prominent search engines and filling out forms. Even better, you can be your own boss and do the work right from home. What have you got to lose, except a small shipping and handling fee? Unfortunately, you have a lot to lose. The company isn't really connected with a well-known search engine - scammers are just lying to trick you into handing over your credit or debit card information. If you pay them even a tiny fee online, they can use your financial information to charge you recurring fees.
Medical Billing. The ads lure you with promises of a substantial income for full- or part-time work processing medical claims electronically - no experience needed. When you call the toll-free number, a sales rep tells you doctors are eager for help, and in exchange for your investment of hundreds - or thousands - of dollars, you'll get everything you need to launch your own medical billing business, including the software to process the claims, a list of potential clients and technical support. The reality is not nearly so rosy. Most participants end up losing money.
If you have spent money and time on a work-at-home program and now believe the program may not be legitimate, first contact the company and ask for a refund. If you can't resolve the dispute with the company, please contact the Attorney General's office for assistance and file a complaint.

For more information about consumer-related issues, or to file a complaint, visit GotYourBackArkansas.org or call the Consumer Protection Division's hotline at (800) 482-8982.

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