work-at-home scheme is a get-rich-quick scheme in which a victim is lured by an offer to be employed at home, very often doing some simple task in a minimal amount of time with a large amount of income that far exceeds the market rate for the type of work. The true purpose of such an offer is for the perpetrator to extort money from the victim, either by charging a fee to join the scheme, or requiring the victim to invest in products whose resale value is misrepresented.
Work-at-home schemes have been around for decades, with the classic "envelope stuffing" scam originating in the United States during the Depression in the 1920s and 1930s. In this scam, the worker is offered entry to a scheme where they can earn $2 for every envelope they fill. After paying a small $2 fee to join the scheme, the victim is sent a flyer template for the self-same work-from-home scheme, and told to post these advertisements around their local area – the victim is simply "stuffing envelopes" with flyer templates that perpetuate the scheme. Originally found as ads in newspapers or magazines, equivalents of "envelope stuffing" have expanded into more modern media, such as television and radio ads, and on the Internet.
In some countries, law enforcement agencies work to fight work-at-home schemes. In 2006, the United States Federal Trade Commission established Project False Hopes, a federal and state law enforcement sweep that targets bogus business opportunity and work at home scams. The crackdown involved more than 100 law enforcement actions by the FTC, the Department of Justice, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and law enforcement agencies in eleven states.
Legitimate work-at-home opportunities do exist, and many people do their jobs in the comfort of their own homes. But anyone seeking such an employment opportunity must be wary of accepting a home employment offer, as only about one in 42 such ads have been determined to be legitimate. Many legitimate jobs at home require some form of post-high-school education, such as a college degree or certificate, or trade school, and some experience in the field in an office or other supervised setting. Additionally, many legitimate at-home jobs are not like those in schemes are portrayed to be, as they are often performed at least some of the time in the company's office, require more self discipline than a traditional job, and have a higher risk of firing.