Learn to avoid envelope–stuffing schemes

Published 1:06 pm Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ads for envelope-stuffing opportunities seem to be everywhere — from your mailbox to your e-mail inbox. The ads make offers such as “$550 to $3,000 weekly. Ten dollars for each circular you mail … free postage … free circulars … paychecks mailed to you every week! Advance paycheck forms included in your package!”

Promoters tell you how to earn big money stuffing envelopes at home. They claim they will pay you a certain amount of money for each envelope stuffed.

These ads may seem appealing, but, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), ads like these do not tell the whole story.

Instead, after sending them money, you are likely to get a letter telling you to place the same envelope-stuffing ad in newspapers or magazines, or to send the ad to friends and relatives. The only way you will earn money is if people respond. In fact, the government says, the promoters themselves rarely pay anyone. Here are some questions to ask the promoters before you send any money or sign up:

Who will pay me?

When will I get my first paycheck?

Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission? What tasks will I have to perform?

What is the total cost of the envelope-stuffing program, including supplies, equipment, and membership fees? What will I get for my money?

The answers to these questions may help you determine whether an opportunity is appropriate or legitimate. It also may help to check out the company with your local consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau. Be aware that the absence of complaints does not necessarily mean the promotion is legitimate. Unscrupulous promoters may settle complaints, change their names, or move to avoid detection.

If you have spent money and time on a work-at-home program and now believe the program may not be legitimate, contact the company and ask for a refund. Let company representatives know that you plan to notify officials about your experience. If you cannot resolve the dispute, file a complaint with the following organizations:

The Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or by logging on to www.ftc.gov.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service at www.usps.com/postalinspectors for mail fraud.

The Attorney General’s office will be able to tell you whether any state law protects you.

Your local consumer protection offices can offer assistance.

Your local Better Business Bureau can tell you if there are complaints.

Contact the advertising manager of the publication that ran the ad the manager may be interested to learn about the problems you have had with the company.