A work-at-home scheme is a get-rich-quick scam in which a victim is lured by an offer to be employed at home, very often doing some simple task in a minimal amount of time with a large amount of income that far exceeds the market rate for the type of work. The true purpose of such an offer is for the perpetrator to extort money from the victim, either by charging a fee to join the scheme, or requiring the victim to invest in products whose resale value is misrepresented.
Remote work schemes have been recorded since the early 20th century; the earliest studied “envelope stuffing” scam originated in the United States during the Great Depression in the 1920s and 1930s. In this scam, the worker is offered entry to a scheme where they can earn $2 for every envelope they fill. After paying a small $2 fee to join the scheme, the victim is sent a flyer template for the self-same work-from-home scheme, and instructed to post these advertisements around their local area – the victim is simply “stuffing envelopes” with flyer templates that perpetuate the scheme. Originally found as printed adverts in newspapers and magazines, variants of this scam have expanded into more modern media, such as television and radio adverts, and forum posts on the Internet.
In some countries, law enforcement agencies work to fight work-at-home schemes. In 2006, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established Project False Hopes, a federal and state law enforcement sweep that targets bogus business opportunities and work-at-home scams. The crackdown involved more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the Department of Justice, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies in eleven states.
Although home-based businesses and remote employment are respectable options for employment, anyone looking for one of these opportunities risks falling victim to fraud by accepting offers of work from home from unreliable sources. According to a 2007 American investigation, 97 percent of work-at-home job offers were frauds. Many respectable occupations can be done from home, but they often involve some kind of post-high school education, such a college degree or certificate, or trade school, as well as work experience in a supervised environment like an office. Additionally, many legal at-home professions are not what they are portrayed to be in schemes since they frequently involve working at least occasionally in the office of the employer, demand greater self-discipline than regular jobs, and carry a larger risk of termination.