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Starting a work-at-home business can give you the flexibility to set your own hours and be your own boss. But when you search online or get ads by email, you’ll often find scammers instead of a real opportunity.

Take, for example, Effen Ads. The FTC says this company tricked more than 50,000 people into paying for fake work-at-home opportunities. According to the FTC’s complaint, the company ran ads with made-up news stories and fake celebrity endorsements. Those ads promised people they could make easy money by posting advertising links on websites. The catch? First, people had to pay $97 in upfront fees. Then, Effen gave people basic online training materials — but no money-making links, the FTC says.

Even worse, some people lost tens of thousands of dollars after Effen Ads allegedly sold their information to telemarketing companies. Which then convinced people to buy bogus business coaching and other services, according to the FTC’s complaint.

The FTC settled its case against Effen Ads and certain individuals involved in the scheme. The settlements impose strong restrictions on their future activity and require the defendants to pay nearly $1.5 million, which will go back to people who lost money.

If you want to start a business from home, first research the company’s name online with the words “complaint,” “scam,” or “review.” Here are tips for spotting and stopping potential investment scams: