Fargo - ‘Earn up to $1,000 a week without leaving your home. No experience or skills required.”

Sound too good to be true? In most cases, it is. Only one out of every 61 work-from-home ads is legitimate, according to employment website www.ratracerebellion.com.

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Co-founder Michael Haaren said while the website does not guarantee the jobs posted, all potential employers have been vetted.

“Our screening includes checking to see who is behind the website, the nature of any complaints that might have been made regarding the company, and whether the job is actually a pyramid marketing ‘pitch’ in disguise,” Haaren said.

Ads for stuffing envelopes, data entry, craft assembly and postal forwarding are the most common pyramid schemes, Haaren’s site says.

Most ask applicants to pay upfront for materials necessary to get started. Instead of getting those materials, applicants will receive a letter instructing them to place an ad like the one they answered, asking people to send them money for more information.

Haaren said some of the best work-from-home opportunities today are for customer service agents, online chat agents, virtual assistants and at-home advisers for companies like Apple. The site also features jobs for telephone interpreters, bloggers, transcriptionists, survey takers and mystery shoppers.

Get it in writing Fargo author Heather Ewert occasionally uses staffing website www.elance.com to pick up freelance blogging and S.E.O. (search engine optimization) work to supplement sales of her flash fiction short stories and books, including “The Magnum Opus.”

Elance.com requires users to fill out tax forms and provide proof of identity, safeguards Ewert appreciates after getting burned by a Craig’s List ad.

She had answered a post from an engineer and flying-car enthusiast who wanted help writing a book about the future of automobiles. After she submitted a few drafts, the man stopped all communication and she was never paid for her time.

“You’ve got to have something in place like half up front, half later or something,” Ewert said. “Get everything in writing because going on good faith is not wise.”

She said some employers she’s worked for through Elance pay by the word. Others pay when writers reach certain milestones. The point is, they are held accountable through the site, and can be reported for fraud if they do not pay.

Tips for spotting scams The benefits of working from home are abundant: no dress code, no commute, flexible work schedule, little supervision. But if all of the promises out there of making big money from the comfort of home were actually true, surely more people would be doing it.

While opportunities do exist, job seekers would be wise to do their research. Ratracerebellion.com offers the following tips for spotting scams:

  • “Work at Home” appears in the ad headline. “Work from home” is not a job title. If it appears in the headline there is a good chance it’s a scam. It’s the bait of a scammer’s hook as they fish for desperate people to reel in.
  • Claims that no experience is necessary and no resume is requested. All jobs require employees do something. It stands to reason a legitimate ad will require applicants share their experience and skills.
  • Applicants are required to pay a fee for additional information. Legitimate jobs do not charge for inquiries.
  • The job ad arrives as spam via email. If someone receives an unsolicited job offer via email, it is likely a scammer has obtained his or her email address from another website frequented by people seeking work.
  • Unbelievable pay. Exaggerated claims of income are a sure sign of a scam.
  • No job description. Most scams will give little or no description of the type of work performed. Real job listings will tell applicants what is expected.

Job seekers can get further information about scams by contacting the Federal Trade Commission at (877) 382-4351 or visiting its website at www.ftc.gov.