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Spotting Home-Based Business Scams

Many work-at-home scam sites are highly sophisticated.
Many work-at-home scam sites are highly sophisticated.Photograph by Jochen Tack

The website selling home-based business opportunities looks like a professional news outlet, with a stock market ticker, video footage, and a list of reader comments—complete with typos. But it’s really baloney. That ticker? An animation. The news footage? An unrelated, pirated television clip. And the testimonials? Internet-fraud expert Christine Durst calls them “testiphony-als”—all posted under fake names within a few days’ time, by crooks aiming to snare prospective entrepreneurs.

As the recovery plods along, many people who have lost jobs or are looking to supplement downsized income are likely to come across such websites offering big money for little work and no particular expertise. No one knows exactly how many will be duped, but given the explosion of faux news sites during the past year, the returns must be good, says Durst, chief executive officer of Staffcentrix, a Woodstock, (Conn.)-based company that has been designing career training programs for government and nonprofit agencies since 2001. She estimates hundreds of such sites, many pirating content from each other, exist online at any one time.