For many of our forebears, home wasn't just a place to live — it was a center of commerce. Whether by running a cottage industry or a family farm, our ancestors earned a living not far from where they ate and slept. Work began moving away from home during the industrial revolution. Now, in the information age, work-at-home jobs are gaining new ground. In this article, we examine several work-at-home options — and alert you to common work-at-home scams.

Every morning, I roll out of bed about 6:30, take a shower, eat breakfast, read from the Word, and head to work. In my case, work is about five steps from the kitchen. I am among the estimated 20-30 million of Americans who work from home.

Some of us work at home full-time. Others do it part-time to supplement the family income. Some work for specific employers. Others work as freelancers. Still others operate their own home-based business.

Working from home isn't new, of course. Family farms have been around as long as the human race has existed. More recently, European merchants of the Middle Ages often had their shops on the first floor of their houses, and their living quarters upstairs. In the 18th and 19th centuries, women often were engaged in cottage industries involving sewing and spinning.

But most of us grew up in situations in which "work" was some place other than at home. Work was at the office across town or at the factory several miles away.

Even so, work-at-home businesses have never gone away completely, and with the advent of inexpensive computers and high-speed Internet connections, many tasks that used to be done in "traditional office" space can now be done in "virtual" space. The Web also has simplified the product-ordering process for people involved in home-based direct sales, and has lowered the "cost of entry" for budding entrepreneurs who can now create businesses with a worldwide reach on a shoestring budget.

While working from home is enjoying a new heyday, don't get the idea that home-based work is for everybody. Frankly, some people simply aren't cut out for it. Working from home, especially on a full-time basis, demands that one be an organized, self-starting, goal-oriented perfectionist with limited need for social contact! Knowing your way around a computer helps too.

But the big catch is the job itself. What can you do from home and earn a living? "Aye, there's the rub," as writer Will Shakespeare once penned. In this article, we'll offer an overview of some popular work-at-home opportunities, as well as a few you would be wise to stay away from.

Work a Little, Earn a Lot?

A Google search on "work at home" yields about 1.8 million results, some touting intriguing pitch lines such as "Earn $500-$1000 per day" and "Mom Makes $5K/Month at Home." Guess what? Most such ads are simply scams dressed up in work-at-home clothing. Christine Durst, cofounder of Staffcentrix, a virtual-careers training company, estimates that more than 98% of advertised work-at-home ideas are either "outright scams or downright suspicious." (Durst's company screens online job offers and rates them at RatRaceRebellion.com. Another site that investigates work-at-home ideas is IveTriedThat.com — their slogan: "We lose money so you don't have to.")

Durst recently told ABC News that the number of scam offers has spiked over the past year. "We're definitely seeing an escalation, and the escalation, of course, is coming because there's demand," she said. "People are looking for extra income." And scammers are looking for new victims.

As the old saying goes, "Forewarned is forearmed," so here is a rundown of just a few of the work-at-home scams you're likely to run across if you're searching for a way to make money from home: