Two of the oldest scams around appear to be as popular as ever. I'm referring to stuffing envelopes and home assembly programs. Let's talk about stuffing envelopes first.

Ads for envelope stuffing "opportunities" seem to be everywhere--from your mailbox to your newspaper to your e-mail box. Promoters usually advertise that, for a "small" fee, they will set you up to earn big money by stuffing envelopes at home. And they claim that they will pay you a dollar or more for each envelope stuffed, resulting in hundreds or thousands of dollars for you each week.

Now I want you to think about something very carefully. Why would any legitimate company, pay you a dollar or more for each envelope you stuff, when they can use high-tech mailing equipment that can stuff thousands of envelopes at a time for only pennies apiece?

The answer is, THEY DON'T PAY YOU! Here's how the scam works: After you send in your money, you will receive a letter telling you to place the same "envelope-stuffing ad that you originally responded to, in newspapers or magazines, or to send the ad to friends and relatives. The only way you'll ever earn any money is if other people fall for the scam like you did, respond to your ad and pay the fee.

Home assembly scams work pretty much the same way as envelope stuffing scams. This scam requires you to invest money in instructions and materials and many hours of your time to produce items such as baby booties, toy clowns, and plastic signs for a company that has promised to buy them.

Once you have purchased the supplies and have done the work, the company often decides not to pay you because your work does not meet certain "standards." You are then left with merchandise that is difficult or impossible to sell.

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 can't resolve the dispute with the company, file a complaint with the following organizations:

The Federal Trade Commission works for the consumer to prevent fraud and deception. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP
(1-877-382-4357) or log on to:


Also contact:

* Your state's Attorney General's Office.

* Your local consumer protection offices.

* Your local Better Business Bureau.

* Your local postmaster. The U.S. Postal Service investigates fraudulent mail practices.

* The advertising manager of the publication that ran the ad. The manager may be interested to learn about the problems you've had with the company.
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