Dear Rat Race Rebellion: I don't like desk work. I like to be outside meeting people and doing things. Are there any home-based jobs or projects that pay you to be outside the house? -- Janice in Los Angeles
Dear Janice: Lately, we've seen several options. For example, at WeGoLook.com, "Lookers" get paid to do just that -- go look at things. It might be a vacation cottage that someone out of state wants to rent or an expensive item for sale on eBay. According to the site, Lookers get paid $25 and up per completed assignment.
Alternatively, the Hershey Co., along with other companies, recently has been recruiting part-time merchandisers to visit stores and take care of inventory. For more on these and comparable jobs, which typically pay an hourly rate in the $8-$10 range, plus mileage, see the National Association for Retail Marketing Services website, at http://www.narms.com.
Similarly, a company called Coast to Coast Merchandising & Installations periodically hires people to put up small signs at gas stations. According to the company, these assignments pay $14 for a 15- to 20-minute visit. These jobs are also advertised at the NARMS site, or you can apply at http://www.ccmiretailservices.com.
Finally, you might consider mystery-shopping assignments. If you like to go to the movies, for example, Market Force Information recently has been hiring "theater checkers," paying the cost of the ticket, plus a small fee. These jobs might involve recording the trailers before a movie or counting the seats or the customers in the theater. Market Force hires other types of shoppers, too. For more, see its website, at http://www.marketforce.com.
Dear Rat Race Rebellion: A lot of online jobs want me to enter my Social Security number when I apply, but I'm not comfortable giving that out online. I worry about scams. Could I fax or mail my SSN to prospective employers instead? -- Margaret in Omaha, Neb.
Dear Margaret: Unfortunately, many companies don't have an alternate path for receiving Social Security numbers. On the contrary, they increasingly use software to sift through job applications and r?sum?s, looking for keywords and phrases, all of it fed by online forms. "Snail mailing" your application probably would be a waste of time.
However, there are ways to reduce the chances that you're dealing with a work-at-home scam rather than a legitimate job. Red flags include offers of high pay for little effort, claims that "no experience is necessary," vague job descriptions and, the biggest flag of all, instructions to deposit a cashier's check to your account and wire funds.
Other indicators of a scam include prominent displays of the "three B's" -- beaches, bikinis and Benjamins ($100 bills). Also beware of offers that instruct you to receive and reship merchandise. These are often fencing operations fueled by stolen credit card accounts, and you may even be subject to criminal charges yourself.
Christine Durst and Michael Haaren's weekly column, "Rat Race Rebellion," appears at creators.com.