As work from home jobs gain in popularity, federal regulators have new plans to battle scams and pyramid schemes.
Former firefighter Heidi Johnson went from putting fires out to preventing them.
She started selling Scentsy flameless candles out of her home so she could spend more time with her two children.
"The thing that kept resonating in my mind was be the most influential person in your children's lives," said Heidi.
Amie Kelly had the same goal.
"For me the important thing was to earn enough money in my Mary Kay business, so that I could quit teaching, and so we could fulfill our dream for me to be a stay at home mom," said Amie.
While both companies have A-plus ratings with the Better Business Bureau, BBB Regional Director Richard Kitterman says countless others prey on mothers like Amie and Heidi as well as the unemployed.
"There are so many things that it's just a scam, it's just an attempt, and many times a successful attempt to steal your money," said Kitterman.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports 2.4 million Americans were victimized by those "work from home" schemes in 2005.
"There's been a lot of concern for a long time," said Kitterman.
So to avoid getting burned, Heidi did some online research up front
"If a business is legit, they're going to be part of the Direct Sales Association (DSA), and there's a rigorous review for them they have to go through," Heidi said.
Both Scentsy and Mary Kay are top rated companies with the DSA, but before you jump on board with just any company, there are some things you need to know, so you don't get taken for a ride.
Watch out for job offers that don't list a clear product or service, promise lots of money for little work, hire you without an application process, and especially if they require up front investments.
"They'll ask you to wire the money, because they know that once you've wired the money, it's gone forever, you're not getting it back," Kitterman said.
To keep companies from doing that, new FTC rules take affect March 1.
"If they make claims about how much money you can make, they have to fill out a form that substantiates those claims," said Kitterman.
They'll also have to disclose names of anyone connected to the business who's been convicted of fraud.
"That will weed out some of the bad guys," said Kitterman.
When it come to finding the good guys, Heidi has her own line of questions.
"Are they involved in helping charities, what do they do within their community? Then you can kind of get a feel for what their moral standards are," said Heidi.
Facts for Consumers from the FTC: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/invest/inv14.shtm
Reporter: Sophia Stamas firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer: Chris Buford
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