Is there an easy way to spot money-making scams?

Detecting Money-Making Scams

The offer may be tempting. Make loads of money for easy work. Land your dream job for the price of a few training materials. Work from home.

The problem is, these money-makers may not be real opportunities at all. The key is to know when you might end up on the losing end of the proposition. And keeping up your guard is a good place to start.

Spot an ad you like in the newspaper classified section or an online bulletin board? Make sure the company really exists. Visit the company's Web site, search for it in industry directories (at the library or online) and call them directly. Don't be afraid to ask questions, especially about job opportunities the company may be offering. Find out what the application process entails. If you're asked for a credit card number or a bank account number (under the guise of running a credit check or setting up direct deposit), these are red flags. Be also careful of giving out your social security number unless you're absolutely sure the business is legit.

Keep in mind that as you research money-making opportunities, you'll want to think like a detective. Phrases such as "immediate job openings" and "no experience necessary," paired with non-specific job titles (like "customer service") or a promise to work from home can be warning signs. So are unrealistic salary promises ("You can make $10,000 a month!")

Beware also the poorly composed job posting. If the offer is written by someone not familiar with the native language of the country in which you are asked to work, then it may not be the real deal. A company that really wants to attract help would usually hire a translator for a professional-sounding pitch. Watch out for misspelled words and casual phrasing. And by all means, if you receive an unsolicited e-mail with an amazing money-making opportunity, delete it [source: Maranjian].

If you're still considering a reply, visit the Better Business Bureau for up-to-date information about popular scams. You can also Google the name of the business along with the word "scam" or "review" and see what others have to say about the scheme.

The easiest way to spot a money-making scam? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.