As an accounting specialist holding a FINRA Series 27 license, I know that there are a fair number of schemers and scammers out there who will do or say just about anything to get your money. The get-rich-quick scheme is a particularly nasty version of an urban legend, and many websites cite examples to caution readers. Although schemes have been around since one monkey stole a coconut from another monkey, the Internet has been especially fertile ground for schemers to prey upon some people’s gullibility or desperation.
A common Internet scheme involves the use of the phrase “affiliate marketing” to lure in suckers. Now, affiliate marketing is a perfectly legitimate activity, unlike these get-rich-schemes. The schemes promise a good income in return for little knowledge or work on your part. These schemes usually share the following lies:
- Signing up to the scheme is a virtual guarantee of a quick fortune.
- The scheme provider has a secret formula or knowledge that is indispensible to make the scheme work.
- They claim to be legitimate and to be featured on Yahoo or Facebook. This has the effect of implying an
- They affect an air of urgency to hustle you into signing up quickly, before the opportunity disappears.
- Phony testimonials abound.
- When you try to leave the website, the program either won’t let you or pops up with a special discount.
- The scheme is presented as a success story that has changed the lives of “people like you”.
One variant is the Google affiliate scam, in which you are promised a sizable income by performing affiliate advertising on Google. They often illegally display the Google logo in an attempt to hoodwink unsuspecting individuals. Another scheme involves sales leads. In this one, you are told you can sell leads for various purposes by simply sending out emails to a prepared list of “potential customers”. The lists are bogus and so are the claims, which infuriates legitimate lead sellers.
Beware of emails from a foreign country telling you that you’re in line to receive a substantial inheritance from a long-lost relative. All you have to do is send in some money to handle the paperwork. Of course, there is no inheritance and any money you send in is lost forever. Another variant is to be a “business agent” for a foreign company in which you are supposed to deposit checks into your bank account, and then write new checks against the “deposits”. Inevitably, the deposits bounce and you are out the amount of the checks you’ve written. Your money has been laundered and you’ve been suckered.
Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it is.