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Too Good to be True? It Probably Is. MLMs and YOU.

Multi-level marketing (MLM) positions lurk on many job boards among the many legitimate postings. These job opportunities may also come your way via email from a friend, family member, or acquaintance.  These kinds of jobs can appear to have elements of sales, customer service, or marketing. They purport to offer a lot of income for part-time work performed on your own schedule, though they may be vague on what exactly the work entails.

The problem? You may be expected to pay upfront costs for training or inventory, with no guarantee of getting your investment back. Your ability to earn may depend on your ability to recruit other people who are willing to pay those same upfront costs. You will probably be expected turn your friends and family into customers for the product you’re selling.

If you suspect the opportunity you’re drawn to may be an MLM, here are some tip-offs that you are right:

  • The first conversation starts with a pitch, including inflated claims about what you stand to gain.

  • The business model is unclear.

  • There are no qualifications to join, and no interview process.

  • The training and compensation are minimal.

  • You need to buy your own inventory, or you are expected to pay for training.

  • You get love bombed — multiple contacts with a lot of praise for your talents.

  • Moving up the ranks requires recruiting.

If you choose to speak to a recruiter, ask the same questions you would of any employer: what day-to-day work entrails, how to be successful within the organization, or why/how the recruiter does for the company.  Be sure that you understand what the refund policy is for unsold inventory that you purchase. Ask for names and contact information for other people whom you can speak to about their experiences working for the company.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information about MLMs on their website.

Other helpful sources:

Nine Signs That Exciting New Job Opportunity Is Really a MLM Scam  (Huffington Post)

What Is Multi-Level Marketing? (The Balance)

The Internet Is Starting to Turn on MLMs (The Atlantic)

If you’re drawn to these kinds of opportunities because you think you’d be good at sales, and commission-based salary structures appeal to your competitive nature, there’s good news. Many career paths in business begin with a job in sales. Legitimate companies offering benefits and job security recruit college students for jobs and internships. Make an appointment with the HPRC to talk about how to connect with these employers.