find out if there’s a market for your work, or a market for the product or services offered by a certain type of business,” says Grant. “Check with your state and local consumer protection agencies, too. Before you make an investment in a business, have an attorney or CPA look it over.”
Federal agencies can offer critical assistance. Take Cummings. The FTC helped him find a legitimate locator company, which is placing his candy vending machines.
Unlike Cummings, however, most victims aren’t fortunate enough to realize a happy ending. If you don’t heed the telltale signs of scams, your dreams of financial security can easily turn into bank-account-draining nightmares.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE RIPPED OFF
If you think you’ve been scammed by a business opportunity or work-at-home offer, it’s possible to get your money back. If a company refuses to refund your investment, contact the following agencies:
- Your local Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org/library/ workathome.asp)
- Your local or state consumer affairs agency
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (www.usps.com/postal inspectors)
- Your state’s attorney general’s office or the attorney general’s office in the state where the company is located.
SOURCE: COUNCIL OF BETTER BUSINESS BUREAUS
Avoiding Scam Artists
Making the distinction between a business opportunity and a con game may come down to asking the right questions. The Federal Trade Commission suggests asking the following questions of work-at-home promoters; many apply to anyone offering a business opportunity. Make sure you get the answers in writing:
- What tasks will I have to perform? (Ask the program sponsor to list every step of the job.)
- Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commissions?
- Who will pay me?
- When will I get my first paycheck?
- What is the total cost of the program, including supplies, equipment, and membership fees? What will I get for my money?
After you get a response, decide whether it makes sense to proceed. If the answers are elusive or not forthcoming, find yourself another way to make some money. If you get satisfactory answers, go to the next level of due diligence — references and government agency filings. As you go through the process, make sure you have a topflight attorney, accountant, and financial advisor.