Be part of one of America's Fastest Growing Industries!
Earn thousand of dollars a month - from your home - Processing Medical Billing Claims.
You can find ads like this everywhere - from the street light and telephone pole on your corner to your newspaper and PC. While you may find these ads appealing, especially if you can't work outside your home, proceed with caution. Not all work-at-home opportunities deliver on their promises.
Many ads omit the fact that you may have to work many hours without pay. Or they don't disclose all the costs you will have to pay. Countless work-at-home schemes require you to spend your own money to place newspaper ads; make photocopies; or buy the envelopes, paper, stamps, and other supplies or equipment you need to do the job. The companies sponsoring the ads also may demand that you pay for instructions or "tutorial" software. Consumers deceived by these ads have lost thousands of dollars, in addition to their time and energy.
Classic Work-at-Home Schemes
Several types of offers are classic work-at-home schemes.
Medical billing. Ads for pre-packaged businesses - known as billing centers - are in newspapers, on television and on the Internet. If you respond, you'll get a sales pitch that may sound something like this: There's "a crisis" in the health care system, due partly to the overwhelming task of processing paper claims. The solution is electronic claim processing. Because only a small percentage of claims are transmitted electronically, the market for billing centers is wide open.
The promoter also may tell you that many doctors who process claims electronically want to "outsource" or contract out their billing services to save money. Promoters will promise that you can earn a substantial income working full or part time, providing services like billing, accounts receivable, electronic insurance claim processing and practice management to doctors and dentists. They also may assure you that no experience is required, that they will provide clients eager to buy your services or that their qualified salespeople will find clients for you.
The reality: you will have to sell. These promoters rarely provide experienced sales staff or contacts within the medical community.
The promoter will follow up by sending you materials that typically include a brochure, application, sample diskettes, a contract (licensing agreement), disclosure document, and in some cases, testimonial letters, videocassettes and reference lists. For your investment of $2,000 to $8,000, a promoter will promise software, training and technical support. And the company will encourage you to call its references. Make sure you get many names from which to chose. If only one or two names are given, they may be "shills" - people hired to give favorable testimonials. It's best to interview people in person, preferably where the business operates, to reduce your risk of being mislead by shills and also to get a better sense of how the business works.
Few consumers who purchase a medical billing business opportunity are able to find clients, start a business and generate revenues - let alone recover their investment and earn a substantial income. Competition in the medical billing market is fierce and revolves around a number of large and well-established firms.
Envelope stuffing. Promoters usually advertise that, for a "small" fee, they will tell you how to earn money stuffing envelopes at home. Later - when it's too late - you find out that the promoter never had any employment to offer. Instead, for your fee, you're likely to get a letter telling you to place the same "envelope-stuffing" ad in newspapers or magazines, or to send the ad to friends and relatives. The only way you'll earn money is if people respond to your work-at-home ad.
Assembly or craft work. These programs often require you to invest hundreds of dollars in equipment or supplies. Or they require you to spend many hours producing goods for a company that has promised to buy them. For example, you might have to buy a sewing or sign-making machine from the company, or materials to make items like aprons, baby shoes or plastic signs. However, after you've purchased the supplies or equipment and performed the work, fraudulent operators don't pay you. In fact, many consumers have had companies refuse to pay for their work because it didn't meet "quality standards."
Unfortunately, no work is ever "up to standard," leaving workers with relatively expensive equipment and supplies - and no income. To sell their goods, these workers must find their own customers.
Questions to Ask
Legitimate work-at-home program sponsors should tell you - in writing - what's involved in the program they are selling. Here are some questions you might ask a promoter:
- What tasks will I have to perform? (Ask the program sponsor to list every step of the job.)
- Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission?
- Who will pay me?
- When will I get my first paycheck?
- What is the total cost of the work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? What will I get for my money?
The answers to these questions may help you determine whether a work-at-home program is appropriate for your circumstances, and whether it is legitimate.
You also might want to check out the company with your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau, not only where the company is located, but also where you live. These organizations can tell you whether they have received complaints about the work-at-home program that interests you. But be wary: the absence of complaints doesn't necessarily mean the company is legitimate. Unscrupulous companies may settle complaints, change their names or move to avoid detection.
Medical Billing Opportunities: Worth a Second Opinion
If you're looking for a home-based business that can help you pull in $20,000 to $45,000 a year using your computer, a work-at-home opportunity doing medical billing may sound like the perfect choice. But before you part with your money, consider this: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has brought charges against promoters of medical billing opportunities for misrepresenting the earnings potential of their businesses and for failing to provide key pre-investment information required by law.
Medical Billing Scams
Ads for medical billing business opportunities appear on the Internet and in the classified sections of local newspapers and "giveaway" shopper's guides. In the "Help-Wanted" classified sections, the ads may appear next to legitimate ads for hospital medical claims processors, leading consumers who respond to think they're applying for a job, not buying a business opportunity.
The ads lure consumers with promises of substantial income working from home full- or part-time - "no experience required." They direct consumers to call a toll-free number for more information.
If you call, a sales representative will entice you to sign up by telling you that the processing of medical claims is a lucrative business, that doctors are eager for help with electronic claims processing, and that you - even without any experience - can do this work from the comfort of your home.
Medical billing scammers charge a fee of hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. In exchange, they claim to provide everything you supposedly need to launch your medical billing business: the software program to process the claims and a list of potential clients.
But the reality is that few consumers who pay for medical billing opportunities find clients or make any money, let alone earn the promised substantial income. Competition in the medical billing market is fierce, especially for those who are new to it. Many doctors' offices process their own medical claims. Doctors who contract out their medical billing often use established firms, not individuals working from home.
Promoters of fraudulent medical billing opportunities are not interested in helping consumers, either. They only want their money. Many times, the client lists they provide are based on out-of-date databases of doctors who haven't asked for medical billing services. The software they send may not work or may not have been properly authorized and so is useless. And the money-back "guarantees" often prove worthless. Even after making repeated calls to the promoter or complaining to their credit card companies, government agencies or consumer groups, only a few people actually get refunds.
How to Protect Yourself
To avoid losing your money to a bogus medical billing business opportunity, the FTC advises you to:
- Ask the promoter to give you the names of many previous purchasers so that you can pick and choose who to call for references. Make sure you get many names from which to choose. If the promoter provides only one or two names, be careful: The contacts may be "shills" - people hired to give favorable testimonials. Interview the references, preferably where the business operates, to get a better sense of how the business works. Ask for the names of their clients and a description of their operation.
- Consult with organizations for medical claims processors or medical billing businesses and with doctors in your community. Ask them about the medical billing field: How much of a need is there for this type of work? How much work does medical billing entail? What kind of training is required? Do they know anything about the promotion or promoter you're interested in?
- Check with the state Attorney General's office, consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau in your area and the area where the promoter is based to learn whether there are any unresolved complaints about the business opportunity or the promoter. While complaints may alert you to problems, the absence of complaints does not necessarily mean the company is legitimate. Unscrupulous companies may settle complaints, change their names or move to hide a history of complaints.
- If the medical billing opportunity sells another company's software, check with the software company to find out whether company representatives know of any problems with the medical billing promoter.
- Consult an attorney, accountant or other business advisor before you sign any agreement or make any payments up front. An attorney can review the promoter's contract and advise you on how best to proceed.
Where to Complain
If you think you've been defrauded in a medical billing business opportunity scheme, contact the company and ask for your money back. Let the company representatives know that you plan to notify law enforcement and other officials about your experience. Keep a record of your conversations and correspondence. If you send documents to the company, send copies, not originals. Send correspondence by certified mail - and request a return receipt - to document what the company received.
If you can't resolve the dispute with the company, file a complaint with:
- the Federal Trade Commission. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or log on to www.ftc.gov.
- the Attorney General's office in your state or in the state where the company is located. The office will be able to tell you whether you're protected by any state law to regulate work-at-home programs.
- your local consumer protection offices.
- your local Better Business Bureau.
- your local postmaster. The U.S. Postal Service investigates fraudulent mail practices.
- the advertising manager of the publication that ran the ad. The manager may be interested to learn about the problems you've had.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.