Cheap website of your own that earns lots of money with little or no work? Dream on.

ID-100128578Your BBB often warns consumers about the risks of work-at-home opportunities. One of the schemes that gets consumers in trouble these days is the promise of a website that  lets you collect ad revenue with a small payout and little technical knowledge–hidden expenses and hard technical work to be discovered later.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just announced a settlement it obtained against such a work-at-home scheme that the FTC charged with defrauding consumers.

The Online Entrepreneur sold a work-at-home program that claimed to set consumers up with their own websites that would let them earn money by affiliate marketing with websites of well-known brands.

The settlement is part of a federal and state crackdown on work-at-home scams that take advantage of the unemployed and underemployed.

Under the settlement, The Online Entrepreneur will be banned from selling business and work-at-home opportunities.

According to the FTC, the defendants sold the “Six Figure Program” to consumers as a supposedly no-risk, money-back guaranteed chance to make money with their own website, falsely claiming that they could affiliate with well-known companies’ websites and earn commissions for a $27 fee. Consumers who purchased the program discovered they had to pay $100 or more in additional costs just to set up their websites.

The court halted the allegedly deceptive practices, froze the defendants’ assets, and put the companies into receivership pending a court hearing.

The settlement order permanently prohibits The Online Entrepreneur Inc., Ben and Dave’s Consulting Associates, Inc., and David Clabeaux from selling business and work-at-home opportunities. They are forbidden from misrepresenting that consumers will likely earn money and misrepresenting any material fact.

There was a judgment of more than $2.9 million, which will be suspended when Clabeaux has surrendered real estate, personal property, and bank and investment accounts. The defendants must pay the full judgment immediately if they are found to have misrepresented their financial condition.

Before signing up for any work-at-home opportunity, BBB advises job hunters to:

  • Start with trust. Check out any company at bbb.org to view their BBB Business Review free of charge. There you will find the company’s history of complaints and contact information. For a list of accredited businesses, go to checkbbb.org.
  • Be skeptical. Beware of any offer that guarantees a lot of money for little effort and no experience. Thoroughly read the website’s terms and conditions, keeping in mind that a free trial could cost you in the end.
  • Don’t be fooled by affiliation claims. Be wary of work-at-home offers that use logos from Google, Twitter or other popular online sites. Just because Google is in the name doesn’t mean the business is affiliated with Google.
  • Check the domain. Research the website with Whois.net or a similar site for determining domain name ownership. Be cautious if the site is anonymous or individually registered.
  • Beware of unexpected offers. If you receive a job offer without filling out an application, meeting with the business or being interviewed, it is probably a scam.
  • Don’t pay up front. Being asked to make an advance payment to get on the ground floor of a big opportunity is a red flag, especially if it is a large payment or the company doesn’t provide much information about the deal. Handing your Social Security number or other personal information to suspicious sources could lead to identity theft.
  • Don’t wire money. Being asked to wire money is a red flag. Scam artists often ask you to wire payments because they know you won’t be able to get the money back.