Using deployed soldiers to prey on people's emotions, Help4Troops could be involved in an elaborate scheme to sell consumer contact information, perpetrate identity theft or drain bank accounts.
Help4troops.com offers a work-at-home program, which promises to pay "Volunteer Shippers" $20 to assemble and mail care packages for soldiers overseas. The company says it is free to participate; they even claim to cover costs for shipping and supplies.
Better Business Bureau identifies the following red flags:
- The website says it's a tax-exempt "non-profit" in Wisconsin and provides an Employer ID Number (EIN), BBB is unable to confirm registration with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions or the Internal Revenue Service.
- To volunteer, Help4troops asks participants to fill out a labor contract posted on their website. This form requires personal identifiers, informing volunteer hopefuls: "You will sign it, and send the contract and a photocopy of a government issued id (such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, social security card, etc…) via fax or email."
- Allegedly, some consumers report that the company requests personal bank account information in order to receive payments, or assist in "payroll processing." Though, Help4troops.com says commissions will be paid by Western Union, MoneyGram or PayPal.
- Wisconsin BBB verified that the address Help4Troops is reporting—121 West Jefferson Street, Spring Green, WI—is actually the address of a local barbershop.
- The phone number listed on their website, 1-800-513-4850, is not valid.
"Who wouldn't want to work from home helping the troops? Scammers know they have a huge base of good-hearted prospects to appeal to," said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "This is definitely one of those 'too good to be true' situations."
BBB offers the following tips:
Trust your gut. Don't let meaningful causes get the best of your emotions. Visit www.bbb.org for a BBB Reliability Report® or Charity Review Report on the business or organization.
Inspect the marketing materials. Be wary if the website is newly registered, contact information is invalid, or company's correspondence contains grammatical errors.
Use caution with potential employers. Although employers may request driver's licenses or Social Security cards to verify employees' identities, consumers should never give out this information to unverified or unknown sources—especially for the promise of anonymous Internet-only jobs.
Pay attention to payroll problems. There is no need to provide financial account information to an employer, unless you're initiating direct deposit. Don't trust companies that use money orders or wire transfers to pay commissions or reimburse expenses.
Support military causes. Check with the Department of Defense, www.defense.gov, and the National Resource Directory, www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov. A list of resources is available at www.ourmilitary.mil.
Utilize BBB's Military Line®. BBB Foundation offers BBB's Military Line to help military members, veterans and their families make educated financial decisions and defend themselves against common scams. Free resources are available at www.akorww.bbb.org/military.
For more information about Military Line and Charity Review, contact BBB Foundation at BBBFoundation@thebbb.org
About BBB Foundation:
BBB Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to educating consumers on a variety of marketplace issues. BBB Foundation is an affiliate of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon & Western Washington.