Elderly vulnerable to work-at-home scams

One woman thought she had the chance to make big money in a short time, but wound up losing it instead. After 7 On Your Side's investigation, the U.S. Postal Service is opening its own probe into the business that made these promises.

Eighty-five-year-old Lila Leigh-Mudd barely gets by on a fixed income, so she couldn't resist the offer in the mail: A chance to make good money working at home. "They said that in two to three weeks I would have well over $1,500 to $1,800," she said.

It sounded great. Lila didn't have to do much. Just send in some money. The company would sell coupon booklets. Lila would get a share of the profits. "And, it seemed at the time, it made sense," she said.

Lila sent $149 to the company called Profit Printing, and then she sent another $190, then three more checks after that, $1,700 in all. She was told that the more she sent, the more she could earn. "It was as if I was almost hooked on it. They convince you that you're going to be a millionaire by next year this time," she said.

The only problem was she never did receive any money. No coupons. No paperwork. So she called to ask about her earnings. "They said, 'We're so excited. You're going to be excited too because we're moving to Beverly Hills,'" Lila recalled. A representative said the company was now called Donation Bids and it was moving to Beverly Hills. She could invest and earn 10 times her money.

Now, Lila was fed up. "What about the money that's paid in already which is over $1,000? 'No, you can't get that money back.' I said, 'I can't get it back?'" she said.

Jeff Fitch says, "There's a number of indicators here that don't look that good." Fitch is an inspector with the U.S. Postal Service. After 7 On Your Side brought this case to his attention, he said his agency would investigate the operation. "To say you don't have to do anything, just send us money and we'll make you boatloads of money, there's something that's not quite right," he said.

Lila had all but given up hope of getting her money back. That's when she called 7 On Your Side. We did some digging. It turns out the company's address on Santa Monica Boulevard is just a mailbox rental store. The Better Business Bureau gives Donation Bids an "F" rating with three complaints similar to Lila's.

However, when 7 On Your Side called Donation Bids demanding a full refund, the company did give Lila $2,500 back. "7 On Your Side got my money back," she said. No one at Donation Bids would discuss the business, but an attorney for the company, Clair Burrill, contacted 7 On Your Side and said, "As soon as we got the request, she got her money back." He would not comment further.

Lila says cases like this make the elderly feel targeted. "It's not that you're stupid. You're trying and you want to believe that people are honest," she said. "Thank God for Michael [Finney] and 7 On Your Side."

It should raise a big red flag if a job offer requires you to pay money. Another sign of trouble is when an offer promises quick cash for very little work.

Resources from the United States Postal Inspection Service:

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