The Office of Consumer Protection frequently gets calls about whether a particular Work at Home opportunity is "legitimate". While we cannot tell you whether a particular offer is right for you, we can tell you that in Maryland it is illegal to require a consumer to advance any money in order to earn money at home. 
The law states: A person who places any advertisement that represents that any person can earn money at home by stuffing or addressing envelopes, mailing circulars, clipping newspaper or magazine articles, or performing similar work:
  1. Shall pay compensation to others for performing the represented tasks; and
  2. May not require the person who will perform the represented tasks to advance any monetary payment or deposit to the person who placed the advertisement on any instructional booklets, brochures, kits, programs or similar information materials, mailing lists, directories, memberships in cooperative associations, or other items or services.
Before committing to a work at home company, here are some tips that will help you avoid becoming a victim of a work at home scam:
  • Contact the Securities Division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office to verity that the franchise or business opportunity is registered and to inquire about any complaints filed against the franchisor or seller.
  • Do not send any money; legitimate employers do not charge money to get started.
  • Make sure that you can contact the company, and that they have a physical address not just a post office box.
  • Be wary of ads claiming to make large amounts of money in a short period of time. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Find out what the company's return policy is and get it in writing.
  • Find out, in writing, who and by what method you will be paid (paycheck, direct deposit, pay pal).
  • By what method is the company basing your pay? Is it salary, hourly, or on commission?

For more information see Work-at-Home Schemes by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or With Work-at-Home Scams, You're the One Who Pays by the Maryland Attorney General's Office.

Job Scams

Scammers often use job offers to steal personal information or money. When hunting for any work look for red flags in the job posting or application process:

  • Beware of text scams coming from an unknown number claiming there are job openings
  • Watch out for requests to communicate and even hold online interviews via online chat such as Google Hangout, WhatsApp, or text without the ability to see the person.
  • Never give out personal information like your social security or bank account number over email or phone
  • Never apply for a job that is emailed to you out of the blue
  • Beware of offers to send you money to transfer to another account or purchase something such as equipment to do a job. This is the hallmark of check fraud or money-mule schemes.

The Better Business Bureau published a 2020 Employment Scams Report and How to Avoid Employment Scams tipsheet.

Teleworking Guidance

There are potential issues with teleworking employees – scammers are taking advantage of people temporarily working from home and not in close contact with their co-workers. For example, scammers send fake emails supposedly from the employee’s boss asking them to purchase prepaid cards and then text the numbers on the back of the cards to a specific phone number. Some tips to avoid email phishing scams:

  • If you get a questionable text or email from someone, do not reply
  • Contact the alleged person directly before taking any action
  • Check to see if the message has a generic greeting like “Hi dear”
  • “Mouse” over the email sender’s name to determine the sender’s true email address
  • Set up security software that will update automatically the latest scams

The FTC has more information on this form of phishing scam.  The FTC also has some security tips for those working from home.  Other work from home business concerns:

  • Employees should be trained to uphold cybersecurity practices from home
  • Employees need to ensure home router security
  • Multi-factor authentication (password + one other requirement such as a text message) should be used whenever possible, including when accessing data in cloud applications used for data and document sharing
  • Employees should be reminded that operating system security patches must be accepted and require that they have their operating systems set to automatically update