By Lea Pachta

A new investigation into working from home adverts in newspapers and online found that few of them appear to offer proper job vacancies and could cost people over £7,000, says consumer champion Which? Money Quarterly.

Experts from the money-saving magazine looked at 13 adverts in national newspapers and 10 adverts online and found that:

- Many adverts required an upfront fee for more information or training which the researchers failed to receive
- Not one advert found in a national newspaper offered a recognisable ‘job' or regular salary
- It was difficult, or even impossible, to earn the amount of money claimed in some adverts
- The job opportunity often failed to match what was promised in the advert

Some of the claims found in the newspapers were sensational. One read: "Discover how one Midlands man banked over £7m finding unique information and making it available to particular groups of people", and requested £70 for DVDs and how to set up a website - yet it was unclear how this can be turned into £7m.

Another claimed people could "make £27,013 monthly" and required £17 for a guide on creating iPhone apps. Not only is making this amount unlikely, but there are similar books available on Amazon for just £9.

And the online job adverts were no less astounding - one offered the chance to set up your own local magazine from home and demanded almost £7,000 to get started, and then a further £146.88 every month.

James Daley, editor-in-chief, Which? Money Quarterly says:

"When times are tough, it's tempting to look for ways to make extra money on the side, and working from home seems an easy way to make lots of money without needing any particular qualifications, skills or expertise.

"However, our research shows that you need to be very careful when looking at working from home ads in newspapers and online. Hundreds of thousands of people could be wasting money looking for work in these difficult times. If a job offer sounds too good to be true, then it probably is."

Which? Money Quarterly offers people who are interested in working from home the following advice:

1. Don't send off money to companies who are advertising ‘work from home' opportunities. You may find it difficult to get your money back if you aren't satisfied. Genuine working opportunities won't normally ask you to pay for information.

2. Find out as much as you can about the opportunity before signing up or sending money. At the very least, find out exactly what the job is. The companies will often not tell you what work you will be doing in any kind of detail - they'll keep it vague.

3. Be very careful who you send your personal details to. Search for the company online and via Companies House (www.companieshouse. and ask to speak to existing workers before giving any details.

4. If an advert sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, why would you be able to make money filling envelopes when this can be done by a machine more cheaply? And would you really be able to become a millionaire selling products door-to-door?

5. Check if you will be paid a salary or commission and when and how you will be paid.

6. Report any working from home ads that you think are misleading to Consumer Direct or the Advertising Standards Authority.

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