During National Consumer Protection Week, Postal Inspectors and the Postal Service's Consumer Advocate are joining other federal, state, and local consumer-protection agencies to educate the public about ways to avoid becoming victims of fraud. This year's postal message is "Work-at-Home Scams: They Just Don't Pay."
Chief Postal Inspector Lee R. Heath says, "With so many Americans interested in working at home, it should come as no surprise that job scams have grown in popularity -- but too many offers not only don't pay, they cost victims thousands of dollars."
According to the Postal Service's Consumer Advocate Mike Spates, job seekers should do some homework before accepting a work-at-home offer. "Our goal is to educate consumers so we can reduce their chances of falling victim to work-at-home scams," says Spates.
Postal Inspectors report the most common work-at-home scam is envelope stuffing. The ads promise you money in return for stuffing envelopes at home. But Postal Inspectors say that none of the promotions they've seen pay off as promised.
The newest scam is reshipping fraud. Work-at-home shippers are promised substantial amounts of money -- all they have to do is receive, repackage, and then mail merchandise to a foreign address. What the shipper doesn't know is that the merchandise was paid for with stolen credit cards. In effect, the work-at-home shipper becomes part of a fencing operation by receiving and mailing stolen goods. Reports to date indicate the scam has cost victims thousands of dollars, but as long as the ads appear, people unaware of the fraud continue to respond.
Other work-at-home jobs may involve product assembly, craft work, and multi-level marketing. Some ask victims to front money for products or more detailed instructions. Others require that you recruit other people to do the work -- which continues the fraud.
Postal Inspectors encourage consumers to closely examine offers before responding. They offer these protection tips:
"Be smart," says Chief Inspector Heath. "There is no easy way to wealth. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is."