Warner says companies often do pay the wage they promise for this work. However, there's a catch.
"The problem is, the electronics you're shipping were purchased from Dell or Best Buy using stolen credit card numbers," he says. "They're using your home to avoid getting caught by border patrol looking for packages coming from Dell."
In some cases, companies ask workers to wire money rather than repackage goods. That's known as laundering in law enforcement circles.
To prosecute, the law needs to prove intent. As a result, many folks who agree to work for these companies believe they are protected from prosecution.
However, instructions to workers are often so blatant that prosecutors nail workers on those reasonable knowledge clauses.
For example, Warner has seen messenger instructions that ask workers to perform three wire transfers at separate Western Union counters, change clothes between visits, wear dark glasses and pull baseball caps over their faces.
"And then there are those cases where the bank notifies someone that it suspects their account is being used as a money mule," he says. "But the messenger thinks 'Dang, this is the best job I've ever had, so I'll keep it.' He now has no case to pledge he was ignorant."
Avoiding scamsSpotting work-at-home scams can be difficult. In some cases, these rip-offs even pop up on legitimate Internet job boards like Monster and HotJobs. However, there are a few red flags that should warn you that a scam may be lurking.
For starters, you should be suspicious of any job offer that claims you need no skills. Every paying job requires a skill, Johnson says.
You should also be leery of any job that offers huge money for little work. Remember that if a job were that easy, everyone would be doing it.
"Real jobs offer reasonable money for hard work," Johnson says.
Finally, the majority of legitimate work-at-home opportunities don't do much advertising. Most workers find them via media coverage or are referred by current employees.
“Real jobs offer reasonable money for hard work.”
The best way to land a legitimate work-from-home job is to send your resume to businesses within a 100-mile radius of your location, Magedson says.
Sell yourself by detailing your work experience and suggest services you can offer from your home. Emphasize how the arrangement could save the company money.
"I promise you, send out 200 (resumes) and someone will be willing to arrange work for you to do at home," he says.
Lesley Pyle, founder and president of Home-Based Working Moms in Spring, Texas, suggests work-at-home seekers start their search on freelance Web sites like her hiremymom.com and allfreelance.com. Or, type in your profession and the word "freelance" at Google.
Even with those leads, however, exercise caution, says Pyle, whose organization provides a place for home-based entrepreneurs to meet and share information online.
"When someone posts a job through us, we check them out through the Better Business Bureau," she says.
However, Pyle also cautions that even checking with the BBB is not foolproof.
"There is always someone who will slip through," she says.
As a result, it's important that you do your own investigative work -- including Internet searches -- to make sure organizations are legitimate.
"Sometimes, you will find message boards overloaded with warnings," Pyle adds.