Ask Stacy: How Do I Work from Home without Getting Worked Over?

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Here’s a really good question I got this week … and I’ve gotten others like it many times.

I would like to know if there are any legitimate, recommendable, and trustworthy Internet-type work-from-home websites – preferably ones that won’t require me to pay them to have me work for them to pay me. That concept doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

I am presently employed but would like to supplement my income. I don’t have any plans on quitting my job – the benefits are pretty good. I really can’t have anything but a part-time job as I don’t have much time to work with it. I’m really not interested in “owning my own business.” Just want to earn a few extra nickles working for a reputable company from home. Then again, it might be that the best recommendation you can provide is to just steer clear and be happy that I have a job …

– Tony in Michigan

You’re right to be skeptical, Tony. You know something’s a scam when the FBI and Secret Service join forces to fight it – and they have. It’s called the Internet Crime Complaint Center, and it’s issued a “fraud advisory” [PDF] of work-at-home scams that operate like this …

  • As a new employee, the individual is asked to provide his/her bank account information to his/her employer or to establish a new account using information provided by the employer.
  • Funds are deposited into the account that the employee is instructed to wire to a third (often international) account.
  • The employee is instructed to deduct a percentage of the wired amount as his/her commission.
  • However, rather than processing rebates or processing payments, the individual is actually participating in a criminal activity by laundering stolen funds through his/her own account or a newly established account.

While this is an extreme example, it does highlight some extremely important advice: 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 –, which provides call center help – and searched the Better Business Bureau for complaints. The San Jose BBB gives 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 into Google, “liveops reviews” 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, Tony, 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, Tony, 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 in the comments under this post or send them to me and we’ll get the information out there.

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.