Victims of Employment Scams Speak Out

Judson performed her duty, but a week after she wired the money to Universal Research, her bank said the $3,990 check she deposited had bounced. Now, Judson must pay the bank back the full amount -- money she doesn't have.

"They're threatening to sue me. They've sent me letters. They put me on 'checkmate' where I cannot get another checking account. And they've also put it on my credit report."

Consumers need to be incredibly careful when researching mystery shopping sites and offers, says Durst. Her Web site lists companies that have been vetted, and she also advises people to "look for companies that are members of the mystery shopping association."

Experts also advise anyone looking at a work-at-home offer to search for contact information for the company, and refuse to sign up for anything without it. It's important in case you need a refund down the road or have questions. In reporting this story, ABC News ultimately enlisted a private investigator -- Benn & Associates, a subsidiary of Iversen & Biondo -- to help us locate some of the owners.

There are, of course, legitimate work-at-home jobs, but no one should expect to make more than you would at a brick and mortar job. And if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Tips to avoid becoming a victim of work-at-home scams:

There are machines that stuff envelopes. Avoid all envelope-stuffing offers.

You shouldn't have to pay to work. Avoid offers that charge a fee up front.

Avoid jobs that boast high wages and require no experience.

Always consult the Better Business Bureau if you have any questions or concerns.

Resources:

To file a formal complaint about about a business, visit the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission Web sites.

The consumer Web site ivetriedthat.com provides critiques of various work-at-home opportunities and a public forum for information exchange.

National White Collar Crime Center: A national support network for state and local law enforcement agencies involved in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of financial and Internet-based crime.

Ratracerebellion.com: Christine Durbst's Web site, where she screens and rates up to 5,000 online job offers every week.

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