WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ The government has filed criminal and civil charges against several individuals and companies accused of ripping off unemployed and other vulnerable people with work-at-home and other business scams. The Justice Department announced the cases Thursday. The government has been cracking down in recent years on con artists who prey on jobless people and seniors with promises of big profits in return for a fee. The rise in unemployment since the recession began has led to an increase in such scams, officials say. The latest cases involve criminal charges against 14 individuals and civil allegations against three companies, Justice said. The schemes include so-called business opportunities working at home, selling jewelry or energy candy, and operating vending machines. The three companies named are Zaken Corp., Christopher Andrew Sterling and Smart Tools.