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Feds ban work-from-home scam seller

FTC case highlights how work-at-home opportunities often sound too good to be true - because they are.

By Mitch Lipka Jul 22, 2013 6:36PM
Money falling in a manhole © LdF, Vetta, Getty ImagesFor those having a hard time in the often-tough job market or for folks just looking to pick up a few extra bucks, the opportunity to work from home can be awfully alluring. And when it's presented as a way to bring home, say, up to $1,000 a day, it can become even more enticing.

Federal authorities say that's the way Christopher Andrew Sterling pitched his business opportunities, sold through the sites,, and The fat earnings would come from data-entry as well as processing credit card and rebate applications.

But, as is typically the case with these sorts of programs, the lofty $1,000 a day pitch was far grander than what those who bought in got, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which just resolved its case against Sterling. Sterling was banned by a federal judge from selling such opportunities again.

Here's how it worked: Sterling pitched the idea that processing applications at $15 apiece could add up. His websites, the FTC said, featured scenarios that showed how supposedly real people were raking in big bucks. So, for a minimum fee of about $50, you could get a piece of the action.

For those who paid, what they received was information about affiliate marketing. The FTC, in its complaint against Sterling, said purchasers weren't even told about credit card or rebate application processing. Some of those who paid in received nothing at all, the FTC alleged.

These work from home or business opportunity scams are common. Why? Because so many people fall for them. Successful scams take advantage of desperation and greed. Some fall victim because they think they can get big returns on a small investment while others are grasping for a way to make money and these opportunities are presented in a way that makes it seem plausible.

They take many different forms, from envelope stuffing to medical billing to online search, and each offers a promise of income for a price. But once you pay the price, for the most part, the game is already over. You've lost.

To protect consumers from these sorts of scams, federal law requires those selling business opportunities to make available certain information so that someone considering them can make a reasoned decision about whether to pursue it. The seller must provide a disclosure document that should include relevant lawsuits and the cancellation policy as well as another statement backing up the earnings claims. You should request and read those documents.

In addition, if you are still inclined to pursue one of these opportunities -- understanding that you'll be paying your money to them before you see whether this will be any kind of business you can profit from -- you need to do your homework.

That means checking out the company with the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general and an internet search. Finding nothing doesn't mean that the opportunity is OK, since so many of these are fly-by-night operations.
There are ways to make money working from home -- both with your own business and using someone else's model -- just remember that most "systems" to make money are being sold because that's the way the person selling them profits.

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Tags: fraud
Aug 2, 2013 12:05PM

I've read about scams where the at  home job was to negotiate foreign certified checks and send the money back less a "cashing fee".  Of course no one told the "at home" person that the foreign certified checks were fraudulent, and after a few weeks, when the person's bank realized this, they recovered the funds from that person's bank account(s).  By that time, the scam was over - the worker, who thought they had made all this money by cashing these checks, found out it was a scam, and was themselves out thousands of dollars. 


As PT Barnum once said - "There's a Sucker born every minute." 


And someone else said - "If it looks too good to be true, it isn't."

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