It is a sad truth that there are scammers everywhere – in brick and mortar businesses and online. Anyone looking for an Online Business Opportunity needs to be discerning and equipped in ways to Avoid the Scams Online. This article will assist you. The Scammers are on the look-out for people seeking legitimate online business opportunities, this means we have to be vigilant and protect ourselves at every turn.
This is not going to be an extensive article about all the different scams online, but it will give you an idea of what the commons signs are to look out for and how you can avoid losing your hard-earned cash, and possibly precious time too.
Table of Contents
What Constitutes a Scam?
Let’s start out by what constitutes a scam
Here is a definition found in the Cambridge Dictionary :
That is a simple enough definition. So we know that it is :
- To make money
- Involves tricking people
Keep it mind, this is not about value for money. We cannot say that it is a scam if you don’t receive value for your money.
Provided you were given legal, complete and honest information, and you have purchased a legal product as a result of what you were given, it won’t be considered a scam.
Online Scams – They Can Happen Anywhere
Unfortunately, Scams are everywhere – social media (yes, your favourite Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it – no platform is respected by these scam artists!), then there are emails which seemingly present amazing offers but in fact are spam, and last but not least the fake websites
If you’re feeling brave and want to test the waters, go online and join one of the “Work From Home”, “Make Money Online” or “Fire Your Boss: groups on Facebook. Go ahead, ask for recommendations and see what happens. Hundreds of offers will crowd your post and inbox!
Of course, there will be those which are genuine opportunities to start a business – an internet marketing company, or an opportunity to distribute some luxury perfumes or the like. It is challenging to distinguish between the offers which are worth your time and could be a real opportunity and those which are absolute down-right scams. Keep in mind, the scam artists are sophisticated in the way they present themselves, they are not called con-artists for no reason!
From The Desperate to the Dreamers
Being desperate to earn an income really places people in a vulnerable position. These scammers have no qualms about taking advantage of those who are desperate for help. They will seize any opportunity to make money. Keep in mind, they have no conscience and that fact that someone recently lost their job and is down to the last of their money, makes not an iota of difference to the scammers.
Then we have the optimists with their heads in the clouds, the dreamers. Another vulnerable group of people who will fall prey to the notion of getting rich quick and with minimal effort.
You don’t need to look far to find examples of typical scam posts on platforms like Facebook.
Greed will set you up to be scammed
Scammers know the human weak spots and one for certain is that of greed.
Think about it, buying a lottery ticket must be one of the lowest opportunities to win the big prize. According to Forbes, the odds are 1 in 292.2 Million!
By flashing images of wads of money or seeming success, people prone to greed can be misled with relative ease. The sight of the cash causes them to lose the ability to be discerning and they miss the most obvious warning signs of fraud.
You will notice that many posts advertising these so-called opportunities have images and videos of people flashing wads of cash. They also make use of payment statements reflecting deposit after deposit after deposit. This is just not realistic folks, keep your wits about you – don’t let your common sense be blinded by the flashes of cash!
Advertising this way is called “payment proof”, but in fact, there is no way to check if this is real cash and where it came from. Images of cash like this can make greedy people reach out to total strangers for more information. You will see streams of comments under these posts, “Count me in”, “Info”, “Yes” and sometimes even contact details – in a public space!
FOMO is real folks!
So many of us joke around about FOMO – or Fear Of Missing Out. This is real and is taken advantage of by scamsters. They advertiser “once in a lifetime” opportunities and pressurize you into making a quick decision. Anyone that asks you to commit far too fast must set off alarm bells in your head. What they are doing is reducing the opportunity for you to have a good look at the offer, to properly assess whether this is legitimate or not.
Now that you have read this article you will probably be more observant of these methods used by the scam artists. You will see messages along the lines of “Only the first 5 people to join will receive $500 today”. Alongside this pressure tactic, you may even find a timer which creates even more pressure, the purpose of the timer is tp countdown the time you have available to commit. Some of them have a pop-up saying “Melanie from Oklahoma signed up, ONLY 4 spaces left”
This creates the illusion of loss and fear of loss is real. The fear of missing out can create a situation where you are so focused on what the scammer is saying that you lose sight of the fact that you have a right to all the facts and time to make your decision. If not, fore you know it, you have signed up and are a victim to that clever con artist!
Detect the Scams Online
WARNING SIGNS – RED ALERT!
Hypothetically, you are in conversation online and have been offered a really attractive job or opportunity, here’s what to look out for, these are alarm bells:
Request For Your Private Information
As a “part of the process,” you will need to provide information such as your financial details (bank account or credit card), your ID number, full name, marital status, telephone numbers, home address etc.
Be very wary of anyone who asks for your private information, particularly bank details, ID numbers and your full name. This information is gold to the con artists.
Before you have had a chance to ask any questions to truly understanding what the offer is about, you are asked for your email address. They even appeal to your ego and make “Platinum”, “Diamond”, “Gold” and “Silver” offers to you, without explaining what this actually means. They just treat you like a VIP and let you believe that you are getting something really special from them.
Unfamiliar Company Name
You may even be given a company name, which, given time to research, will reveal that it is not listed in Google or any of the directories and sites you may know and trust.
They make big promises, for example, $1000 per week for sending out emails. You have to get savvy at this point and realized that $1000 for someone who is essentially an entry-level employee is way too high. There is no business in the world that could run successfully this way. We don’t need to be college or university graduates to figure this one out.
This is My Personal Favourite – Name Dropping
A Facebook advert placed by an unknown user, which contains a well-known company name saying that they are hiring – surely is a hoax or con. I’ve seen these frequently for job ads in South Africa, they will give a big company name and say they are looking to recruit 1000 new managers. You have to question that. What kind of managers? Where will they be stationed? Why does this big company suddenly need so many managers? Why is the company recruiting through an unknown entity or person via Facebook? Why are they not recruiting for themselves? Remember, big companies generally recruit for their own staff. They certainly do not make use of unknown user on Facebook.
These con artists do this because they know they have a captive market, too many South Africans are out of work, and we are talking about educated and experienced people! So, the scam artists will do their best to prey on your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It is also not unique to South Africa, scam artists know they have an international market. Keep your wits about you and question everything.
They also offer unrealistic salaries – do not allow your vulnerability, greed or fear of missing out to dictate your response.
You are directed to redirected to an online video which is a presenter making promises about how all will be revealed, you only need to watch until the end of the video. You have no idea how long the video is going to be, this is not mentioned by the presenter. You are subjected to success-story after success-story for the next hour. At the end of the video, you discover that you need to “invest” a lot of money and then you will have access to whatever it was that made all the people in the success stories wealthy. This is often a training course – how to trade online seems to be a popular one. Actually, a young person I know well was recruited for a “sales job” like this – only there was no salary, no car allowance, no company cell phone – there was intensive training but you were on your own from there. Plus the expectation was for you to go into the homes of people you don’t know, door to door sales, to sell their training program for a very large amount of money. Total scam!
Money Laundering and other Illegal activities
You will see words like payments processing and hacker. There is a possibility that you will not be directly scammed here, but you will be involved in something illegal. Are you willing to spend time in prison because you assisted others in tax evasion or money laundering? What a great online business opportunity that is – NOT!
Someone unknown to you makes contact via social media, and in the contact starts making offers of a job or business opportunity. Steer clear! They ask questions like “Do you want to earn money online?” This is a question from someone you do not know. Chances are extremely high that they are not who they are representing themselves to be. A pretty, fresh-faced, young, blond-haired, blue-eyed lass is, in fact, a completely different person out to con you. As an online marketer, I am frequently approached via LinkedIn. Caution is crucial!
At the time of writing this article, I received a notification of a new blog post in an online community I belong to, and what do you know, the scam artists are at it again, and in this case, caught a widowed lady who is also a Mum. Here is an excerpt of her story:
Being a widow and a mom, I am always looking for a way to make extra money, at the holidays this is extra important. I came across an ad for a vehicle wrap for Fresh Haze IPA, I looked them up, they are very legit.
So I respond to this ad, a few days go by and I receive an email informing me that I was chosen for the promotion campaign and would get another email informing me of what I needed to do.
I get the email, all they asked for was to confirm my name, and mailing address for the check to be sent. I did, and then received a confirmation number for the check. This all sounded legit so far.
The check arrived, $1700, I was to deposit the check and wait for further instructions. So I waited and the check cleared according to my bank, I asked. I was to then send money to a specialist to come and wrap my vehicle with the said advertising.
I sent the money, stupid me yes! A whole week went by and the check bounced, as it was a fake check. And I am left holding the bag of course, even though my bank cleared the check, they are not responsible for one single thing. I think that is crap, but anyway, moral to the story, do not do what I did! Period end of story! Just Don’t!
What fascinates me most about this story is that her bank had cleared the check and then bounced it! Just goes to show, you can never be too careful. So sad for this lady. Take it as a fair caution.
WARNING SIGNS – AMBER ALERTS
Here we have signs that the offer is not an outright scam, but it is really hard to earn decent money with it in the long term.
Referrals Only – No products
This is an interesting and sometimes complicated business strategy. There are no actual physical products, the company is promoting itself only. To earn, you have to refer new members to the company. Also known as a Pyramid or Ponzi scheme, there are possibilities to earn money, but you need to be in at the very beginning of the business. The day will, of course, come when no more new people sign up and those last in the door, will not earn anything. To me, this is pretty unethical, and I would not recommend getting involved in a pyramid type opportunity.
Generally, only the folk at the top of the pyramid make the money.
You will also find pyramid companies who sell some real products, the likelihood though is the products will be hard-sell, they could be unknown or heavily priced.
Convoluted and complicated commission or compensation plan
The commission plan is structured in such a way that it is very complicated and difficult to understand.
Typically, it would include many levels – a convoluted hierarchy of sorts. It makes sense that a reputable company who are good at what they do would keep it simple. “Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing”. It if is not transparent, the risk is high that something or things are being hidden. Never a good idea.
Up-Sell after Up-Sell after Up-Sell
This is particularly frustrating – I have experienced this personally. You join on a basic membership or product level, assured that this is the route to take and you will be able to earn a good income at this level. What they don’t tell you is that they are only offering part of the package to you at the basic level and you will need to uplevel to enjoy the benefits of all the training or product offerings. As you upgrade you find more and more upsells on offer, again, the higher you go, the better the product or membership or training, which enables you to earn more – allegedly.
The only way to know for sure is to uplevel, spend more money, and then find out. Another clever aspect here is that you are compelled to buy at each level, so you cannot go from Beginner to Diamond or Emerald (whichever is their highest offer), you have to buy your way up the hierarchy. A clever way for the organization to milk you dry, and when you get to the top level, you discover that it is going to take years to recoup what you have spent – if you ever do.
Simply put, the risk is all yours and the profits are unlikely.
Bitcoin, Forex and Binary options
Here you may have an offer promising high profits but there is no mention of the risk involved. Thin about this logically though, any money one person makes, has to mean that another person loses. Otherwise, where is the money coming from? Often times the trading platforms are not legitimate. Professional traders are obliged to explain the risks involved. If there is no explanation, it means it is a scam.
New Scams Enter The Market Every Single Day
As mentioned earlier, the scam artists are sophisticated in their methodologies what this means is that there are scams which are difficult to pinpoint. The alerts mentioned previously will help, but are not guaranteed to pin down all of the scams. I read about a company that asks you to create an account and provide an account – PayPal for example – for future payments. Your role is to bring in referrals in return for a lovely payout. Your earnings start to accumulate and naturally, you are happy to recommend this as an option to others. We are talking about earnings on the screen. When it comes to getting your hands on the cash, nothing lands in your PayPal Account.
There is another way around too, the money was in your PayPal account, but the company, with their ways and means to match your password with them to your PayPal password, the money is withdrawn.
You will be astounded at how many people use the same password over and over from social media to their bank account. This is an extremely dangerous thing to do. If that is you, I urge you to change it immediately!
Green For “Go For It!”
Let’s look at something happier – how about those which are not Scam alerts?
A Startup fee is an initial cost to join a company or could be a membership fee. These are not classic signs of a scam. We must consider and accept that the online business world is just that – businesses – and not everything can be expected to be for free. A legitimate company offering an opportunity needs to create revenue, this may not be cash, it may be your time and work promoting their products. In this situation, you need to evaluate if there is enough value to you, that you will be rewarded for your efforts.
I encourage you to do your due diligence and research, ensure that you understand what is on offer and even compare with competitor offers and opportunities.
Legitimate Referral programs
There are many well-known and legitimate companies who offer referral programs which are not pyramid schemes. The way to evaluate whether this is an alert is when you see that referrals are the ONLY way to make money.
7 Ways You Can Avoid The Scams Online
These are basic do’s and don’ts when communicating with others who may have an opportunity for you to make money online:
#1 – Keep your personal information private
It is vital that you keep your personal and financial information private. Including passwords and primary email addresses. Remember Stranger Danger and KEEP YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION PRIVATE. DO NOT SHARE IT especially not with strangers or websites that are unknown to you.
#2 – Make use of technology and “stalk” the person you are dealing with
Approach any potential business relationships with individuals with caution. Have a look at who they are making use of all the means available to you – Facebook and LinkedIn are both great platforms. If the person has profiles on both platforms, even better, double check for synergy between the two. Are they who they say they are? Even if it is only one platform, ask yourself these questions:
- What does their profile look like?
- Analyse it, when was it created, is there sufficient information on the profile to convince you that it is legit?
- Or is the profile 2 weeks old with no more than 4 photographs and each one is with a cute baby or puppy?
Those are warning bells for certain!
#3 – Conduct research on the organisation
Do not take the easy way out here, make sure you do your research. You can Google the company name, a really good tool is reviews and complaints. You can also look out for scam keywords. Pay attention to things like : “Company Name reviews”, “Company Name Complaints”, “Is Company Name a scam?” You get the idea
#4 – Ask for more information, dig into the details
Ensure you get everything you need to understand exactly what is on offer. If you do not understand, ask more questions. Remember, they are asking for your money, you have every right to understand exactly what you are paying for!
You want to know exactly what is required from you. Then ask yourself “Is this too good to be true?” Is there anything about this that makes me doubt the legalities of it? Use your discernment, ask people you trust for their input or evaluation.
#5 – Request a free trial period
There is nothing wrong with requesting a free trial period. It will give you a great opportunity to truly evaluate and understand the offer. If the company “has nothing to hide …” – yes, you got it, “they will hide nothing”
#6 – Back out if you don’t understand
As human beings, we all want to be seen as intelligent and reasonable. If you are anything like me, you won’t want to keep on saying that you don’t understand and keep asking questions. So here’s the rub, if you don’t understand, just back out. It is important that you understand what you are getting into. If there is any doubt in your mind as to the legalities of the offers, just stay away. One way to measure your understanding is this – can you explain this to a friend? If not, you know my recommendation.
#7 – Request a second opinion
This is a great option too. Have a chat with a friend – and do this before signing up or sending any information. Ask your friend to do a little role play with you and be the skeptic, then explain the offer and why you are choosing it.
Now You’ve Read About How To Avoid The Online Scams – Here is a Real Business Opportunity for you
Like I was, you are no doubt fed up with the scams out there. Considering you have been looking, I expect you would like to get your hands on something where you can put your time and energy into building a real online business.
Here is my Number One recommendation:
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We can make use of our newly learned evaluation tools mentioned above, let’s confirm that Wealthy Affiliate is NOT a scam:
- You can join for free – that’s right – NADA! No credit card information is required, the only information you part with is your email address
- Wealthy Affiliate was founded in 2005 in Canada and is a highly regarded and trusted company. Go ahead, search Google for reviews, you will find loads of them
- The Free Membership option is available to you if you want to remain there. You get to try Premium services for your first 7 days
- The “Getting Started” modules of training explain in depth the affiliate marketing business model – no questions will be left unanswered. If you have any questions, you simply ask within the community. Not only that, you have direct access to the owners of the business should you need.
- Wealthy Affiliate training skills and enables you to promote any products or service. You are not compelled to promote Wealthy Affiliate.
- Premium membership is the only paid membership, this is at a fixed price – no upsells at all.
Okay, you have learned some valuable information today. So, what are you waiting for? Click on the image below and join us at Wealthy Affiliate. Remember, this is a Scam Free opportunity, we just checked all the boxes to make sure!
I look forward to seeing you on the inside!
P.S. One last thing before you go – have you experienced any online scams? If so, please share your experiences in the comments below – “sharing is caring” – we can protect each other this way.