Ask Stacy: Is There Legitimate Work From Home?

It’s a question I get all the time: Is it possible to earn a few bucks from home? Because it sure seems like every “opportunity” turns out to be a scam.


The Internet can help you shop and keep abreast of the news. But there’s one thing it’s not good for: finding a way to earn a little extra money from home. Here’s an email I got last week:

I really enjoy reading your info and advice. I am a 62-year-old female and have been researching home based on line businesses (surveys, click per pay, you name it, I’ve looked at it) using my computer. Unfortunately, most of these seem to be scams. Do you know of any of these type of businesses that are legitimate and I am actually able to make money? You hear and read about people who making a living or supplement their income. I don’t know where to look anymore, very confused with all that is out there.

Thank you for your time, and I would really appreciate an answer.
– Mary

One of the first scams I ever reported on – I think it was in the early 1990s – was envelope stuffing. In pre-Internet days, you’d see ads in the backs of magazines or newspapers with headlines like, “Make $$$$ in your spare time by stuffing envelopes at home!”

These ads suggested that in exchange for a small fee, you’d get a list of companies that would pay you simply to put flyers or other sales material into envelopes for them. What you actually got when you sent in your money: a one-page “instruction” sheet suggesting that to make money, place ads similar to the one you answered in publications similar to the one you read it in.

The Internet hasn’t changed things much. There’s still a plethora of con artists trying to separate you from your money by promising something they have no intention of delivering: an honest living from home.

I’ve written about this topic before. So rather than repeating what I’ve already written, here’s a partial cut-and-paste from How Can I Work From Home Without Getting Worked Over?

Rule No. 1 when it comes to finding a job: Avoid any potential employer, work-at-home or otherwise, that asks you to pay them before they pay you. 

Also be leery if a website suggests you can make big bucks for unskilled labor that usually warrants minimum wage. As the Federal Trade Commission’s OnGuard Online program puts it, “The FTC has yet to find anyone who has gotten rich stuffing envelopes or assembling magnets at home.”

Your best bet is to find online employers that have been mentioned as legitimate in the media. For example, this story from Good Morning America cites 10 companies that offer work from home.

But just because GMA says a company is legitimate doesn’t make it so. Check it out yourself.

At random, I picked one from their report – liveops.com, which provides call center help – and searched the Better Business Bureau for complaints. The San Jose BBB gives liveops.com a “B,” meaning, “The company would generally have demonstrated good business-consumer relations, and we would expect any consumer complaints not to be of a serious nature and to be satisfactorily handled by the company.”

Then I typed “liveops reviews” into Google and found lots of pros

“I avg. $15-20.00 per hour and work when I want to. Some may complain that do not get enough calls, but calls are routed to the agents with the best statistics first. This is a sales job folks … so if sales is not your thing … do not expect a ton of calls.”

… and lots of cons…

“Wrongly punished for lack of sales in some upsells which are ridiculously priced and deceiving to the customer. Scripting needs serious review by competent reviewers and re-written.”

As you can see, if you want to work from home part-time, it’s going to take some part-time work just to figure out where to apply. And when you find a reputable site, check out the FTC’s “To Do” list, which includes all the questions you’ll need to ask your potential part-time employer – like, “Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission?” and “What is this going to cost me, including supplies, equipment and membership fees?”

Another tough part about legitimate work-from-home jobs: Because of their desirability and the number of people looking for them, the competition for them is fierce, especially among the jobs that require little or no experience.

That being said, here are some additional articles with other leads:

You might also try to find a work-at-home job from employers who don’t advertise working from home. One of my editor’s relatives works from home doing medical billing. She got the idea from the web, but she got the job by approaching her employer and negotiating a work-from-home deal. She took a tad less money but makes up for it saving on the commute and clothing and lunches, and he gets to free up some cramped office space and save a little payroll.

That may not work in your case, but the principle is the same. You may want to ask around – friends and family – about part-time work that’s available locally and see if you can do that from home in your spare time. It may take more leg-work than looking online, but you’re a lot less likely to get scammed.

Another idea: If you’re a decent writer, be a blogger. I make my living working from home, as do our other writers. How about starting a blog called “Adventures in Working From Home”?

If other Money Talks News readers have had good or bad experiences working from home, put them on the Money Talks Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

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