FTC Warns of Envelope Stuffing Schemes

Easy income? No experience necessary? No way!

The ads promise easy money for simply stuffing envelopes, but according to Howard Beales, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, "Stuffing is fine for turkeys and stockings, but envelope-stuffing scams deserve a lump of coal."

Targeting the sellers of work-at-home schemes who were taking money out of consumers' pockets with their deceptive pitches, the Federal Trade Commission has announced a law enforcement sweep cracking down on purveyors of fraudulent envelope-stuffing business opportunities. Joining the Commission in announcing its two federal district court complaints in "Operation Pushing the Envelope" were the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which announced five criminal and 22 civil cases; the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which announced two state complaints; and 23 states and four other government agencies that participated in a nationwide consumer education and outreach initiative about the potential costs of such work-at-home opportunities.

"Consumers who have been 'plucked' by a work-at-home program and now believe it may not be legitimate can file a complaint with the Commission," said Beales.

"Internet-savvy consumers still rely on the traditional backbone of commerce, the U.S. mail, to communicate and conduct business. Our job as Postal Inspectors is to prevent those customers from becoming victims of mail fraud, including work-at-home schemes," said Postal Inspector Molly McMinn.

"Envelope-stuffing promotions are perennial and pervasive scams. For as long as the BBB system has compiled national statistics, work-at-home schemes have dominated the attention of consumers seeking information from the Better Business Bureau. Educating potential victims is key to curbing the outreach of con artists who perpetrate these ‘easy-income, no-experience-necessary’ frauds," said Ron Berry, Senior Vice President, Council of Better Business Bureaus.

How to Avoid the Stuffing Sting
To help people avoid becoming victims, the FTC issued a new consumer alert entitled "Take This Scheme and Stuff It: Avoiding Envelope-Stuffing Rip-Offs." The alert provides tips for consumers who are interested in working at home, but wary of potential scams. According to the alert, if you’re tempted by an envelope-stuffing "opportunity," there are some questions to ask the promoters before you send any money or sign up to receive more information:

  • Who will pay me?
  • When will I get my first paycheck?
  • Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission?
  • What tasks will I have to perform?
  • What is the total cost of the envelope stuffing program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees?
  • What will I get for my money?The answers to these questions may help you determine whether an envelope-stuffing promotion is appropriate for your circumstances and legitimate. It may also help to check out the company with your local consumer protection agency, state attorney general, and the BBB in the community where the company is located, as well as the community where you live. The alert also provides information on what consumers can do if they have spent time and money on a work-at-home program and they now believe it may not be legitimate.
    File a Complaint With the FTC