Beware of 'work-at-home' offers

"Work at home" plans that are advertised in newspaper or magazines sometimes claim, "You can earn $3,000 a month in your own home" or "Money! Beyond your wildest dreams." Many gullible consumers believe these offers are legitimate because they appear in reputable publications. But that is simply not so.

Numerous consumer complaints about work-at-home promotions that take money from those who can least afford it have prompted the US Postal Service to assign 18 postal inspectors to spend all their time investigating that kind of fraud. although reluctant to label allm such promotions fraudulent, the Postal Inspection Service says it has yet to find a legitimate envelope-addrssing offer. (envelope addressing is by far the most common type of operation that has come to the postal authorities' attention).

Here are some general rules to follow:

* If you are interested in a specific program that you saw advertised, see if the company will send you any free literature. If you are required to put down money before you can even learn about the program, it is probably wise to stay away from the company.

* Be suspicious of claims of guaranteed markets and great demand.

* Be wary of personal testimonials which do not identify the person who "made hundreds of dollars in no time."

* Remember that work-at-home schemes will not guarantee you regular salaried employment or a market.

If you have any information about questionable work-at-home operations or if you believe you have been the victim of one of the schemes, write to the chief Postal Inspector, Consumer Protection Program, Washington, D.C. 20260. You may pick up a brochure on this subject at your local post office.

The Council of Better Business bureaus offers "Tips on Work-at-Home Schemes." You may send for a free copy of this brochure to Better Business Bureau, 1334 G Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.

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