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Retired work from home


That’s what Jackie Booley did. In 2007, she retired from her job as an AT&T call center manager. Her husband had recently died of chronic kidney failure and Booley, then 61, was exhausted from being his primary carer while maintaining a full-time job.

But the retreat proved to be short-lived. Two years later, with renewed energy and her savings exhausted, she found a part-time job that allowed her to work from home. Now, when you dial Office Depot’s toll-free number, you may be speaking with Booley in the guest bedroom of his Ocala, Florida home.

However, she does not work for the office supply retailer. On the contrary, Booley is employed by Home Sykes, a call center service headquartered in Tampa. Incoming calls to Office Depot are routed to his home office. Sykes has 7,500 customer service agents working from home in 2,000 cities.

Booley goes online about 24 hours a week for $9 an hour, answering questions and processing orders. In addition, she contributes 5% of her earnings to Sykes’ 401(k) employee retirement plan, to which her employer matches 100%. “Thanks to the plan, I am now rebuilding my nest egg,” says Booley.

“I love it,” she says of working from home. “It gives me flexibility. I feel like my own boss, and I can roll out of bed and go to work in seconds.”

Beware of scams

Working from home sounds good – sometimes, too good. Work from home scams have been around for decades, but in recent years, Federal Trade Commission saw the number of complaints almost double.

Two glaring red flags: jobs advertised via email that promise to pay more than you ever dreamed of, and companies that charge you a fee to get more information about a job. “Paying for the privilege of working is rarely acceptable, in our view,” says Christine Durst, internet fraud and security expert and co-founder of RatRaceRebellion.coma website that filters job postings on work-at-home jobs.

That said, there are legitimate jobs from home in customer service and other fields, but you’ll need to do some legwork to avoid scams. Here are five jobs to consider:

1. Customer Service Representative

The essential : You should have an up-to-date computer, a high-speed internet connection, a dedicated landline phone during business hours, a headset, and a quiet workplace.

Typically, you will answer incoming calls, take new orders and follow up on existing orders. In some cases, you will troubleshoot and help with technical support. Online chat sessions and emails can be part of the job. You will need to seamlessly switch between multiple computer screen windows at once. Employers often offer paid training.

Solitary work requires a good deal of “get up and walk” and the discipline not to be distracted. And don’t skimp on buying a comfortable, ergonomic chair and headset. Remember it’s tax deductible if you’re an independent contractor.

Potential employers, including Hilton Hotels, American Airlines and 1-800-Flowers.com, could hire directly. Others use third-party companies who then hire home-based workers. In addition to Sykes, other virtual call center operators include Convergys, LiveOps, Arise and Working solutions.

Hours: Full-time, part-time and split shifts are available. Employers may require at least 20 hours per week, plus weekend slots.

Median salary: According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2015, the most recent data available, customer service representatives earn a median hourly rate of $15.25. Some companies offer health, vision and dental benefits, or access to group plan rates. Paid time off and corresponding 401(k) plans can be a benefit, but you’ll need to count enough hours to qualify.

Qualifications: Job descriptions generally require customer service or technical support experience. Think broadly. Experience in a retail store, as a bank teller or in sales may suffice. Typically, an online test and a phone interview are required. Background, drug and credit checks are standard. Some companies charge between $30 and $45 for such screens.