The reality of the situation is that any information that you have to pay for is obtainable for free on the internet. You might feel that it is worth a small investment of money not to have to do the research. However, you will probably end up with outdated information that is virtually useless.
Treat working at home as if you would treat working for an employer at their place of business. Imagine if an interviewer asked you for money before they could consider you for the job. Would they ask for a "good faith" payment to be sure you were interested? Nope.
Some home-based business might require money for start-up costs or to cover the costs of materials. If that's the case, know exactly what you are getting, how much the total costs will be, and their refund policy.
Use my checklist to ensure you have covered everything in detail.
Have a low limit credit card available for online purchases. Even better is a prepaid credit card. Never send cash, wire money, or give out your bank information. That way, if you don't receive the items, or if things go wrong, you can dispute the charges with your credit card company. It is wise to speak to your credit card company before you make the purchase to find out their refund policies.
What they don't say is just as important as what they do say. Companies that don't state their names, costs, or other important information in their ads usually have a good reason. They don't want you to know why they are or what they are really offering. If they can't be honest with you up front, what makes you think they will be honest with you later?
If you were an honest employer, think about whether you would make the same kind of offer you're being pitched. Think about why they are saying what they are saying. What is their motivation? It's generally not to earn you thousands of dollars a day or get you out of debt. Why would an employer pay someone a dollar per piece to stuff envelopes when it would be cheaper to use mailing equipment that can stuff thousands of envelopes in an hour?
For example, you've read an ad where you can earn $1-2 per piece stuffing envelopes. But companies nowadays have access to sophisticated mailing equipment that can stuff thousands of envelopes an hour -- why would they pay you so much more?
Most unsolicited emails are fraudulent. The better it sounds, the less likely that it's legitimate. There is a reason that spam rhymes with scam. Be wise; delete spam without reading it--no matter how good the claim sounds.
If you get an unsolicited email telling you that a company you have never heard of wants to hire you for a job where you don't need experience or skills and can make a lot of money, trash it. There's lots of out there, some of which are personalized and sound quite legitimate.
If you're looking to start a home-based business, or looking for telecommuting work you can do at home, you may have a considerable search ahead of you. Don't let scammers use high-pressure tactics to sucker you in. If you're given a time-limited offer, there's usually a reason why -- scammers know that pressure brings in people!
Always invest in a quality virus protection and spyware protection. Never open attachments to emails unless you are sure what it is. Never download files for the same reason. Spyware can be attached to word documents and .pdf files. Never give out your social security number. It is also a good idea to use a secondary email account when answering offers, rather than having it all come into your primary account. Sure, they may claim they don't sell their lists, but play it safe.
Why would they need to protect the information if it's free? Why do they want your name, address, email and phone number so badly? That's right. They probably have another purpose for it.
Remember how I said don't trust me. Well, don't trust them either. You don't know them. Would you give a stranger on the street $30 and expect something in return? So why would you trust a stranger on the internet?
Now recommend you read Evaluating a Website. It will give you in-depth information about how to evaluate a website and online work from home claims. Read it to help you decide if an offer is legitimate or fraudulent.