If money is your only hope for independence,
you will never have it.
~ Henry Ford

There was no shortage of candidates for the Most Annoying Person Award that I was mentally planning to bestow. At the top of the short list was Billy Mays, the guy who screams at us in tv ads to buy wrenches, foot powder and cleaning products. But he had stiff competition from Stephanie, a young woman who had shattered the silence on the airport bus one recent Friday evening, by dialing up a series of friends to plan her weekend.  Oblivious to the weary travelers around her, she babbled on and on. When the calls finally ended, it was all I could do to keep from yelling, “Thank goodness Stephanie’s run out of friends!” She certainly had not  made any new ones on the bus, but she had become  a strong contender for my award.

Both Billy and Stephanie dropped lower on the list when I rushed to answer the telephone only to be greeted by a disembodied voice which said, “Hello, we are canvassing  your neighborhood to find people who want to work at home.” I hung up before the recording finished, but a few hours later I knew who the winner of my award would be and it’s not a single person at all.  I call them the Work at Home Opportunistas and they are on the prowl. In fact, these folks seemed to be causing an inescapable epidemic.

When I go to check my e-mail, a flashing banner screams, “Earn $10,000/month working from home!” My  junk e-mailbox is full of moneymaking offers every day. Driving around town, I see posters stapled to utility poles with similar come hither  messages.

My personal favorite Work at Home promoter was the woman (I can only assume) who plastered the toilet stalls at the Mall of America with Work at Home cards promising  $1500/month PT, $5000/month FT.

After weeks of avoiding this avalanche of opportunity, I happened to see travel guru Peter Greenberg talking about going on a “free” cruise—another popular offer. The cruise ended up costing $1400 and was dreadful from beginning to end. Maybe I should follow his lead and check out the home business offers, I decided.

Posing as an eager opportunity seeker, I began responding to every ad that crossed my path. I did a Google search for Work at Home and was astonished to see pages of offers. It would have taken me days to check out every listing on Google, so I only went for the most intriguing. What I discovered was a pattern or system to all these offers that was soon familiar. Maybe there’s a Scam School where they teach this stuff, I mused. Answer an ad and here’s what you’ll find:

  • The emphasis is on the big money you can earn. Very often the actual business is just alluded to. Breathing seems to be the only required skill. The focus is on opportunity with a capital O. Request the free information offered and you probably will get a brochure offering to sell you the real scoop.
  • Especially popular right now are offers you can pass along over the Internet. From the comfort of your own home, you can reach millions around the world and rake it in.
  • Another familiar offer is listings (either a booklet  you can purchase or on a website you must pay to enter) of Work at Home opportunities. These are particularly terrific for anyone interested in earning pennies for tediously stuffing envelopes. You are not told that you have to acquire the names and addresses that will go on the envelopes.
  • The offer that most amused me is the one that trains you to track down deadbeat parents and collect unpaid child support. Now doesn’t that sound like something anyone could do?
  • And what’s this repeated promise of  a monthly income? Jobs have predictable incomes; businesses fluctuate.

With all the possibilities for creative self-employment, these plans do little more than give working at home a shady reputation. Sadly, as long as people lack self-confidence, there will always be shysters eager to take advantage of them. Hook up with one of these Opportunistas and you’ll spend both cash and confidence—with nothing but a sad, hard lesson in return.