Money Online: A Guide To Separating Scams From Legit Opportunities

Online scam? Or money-making opportunity?

Make money online. Work only a few hours a week. Put in a small investment, and you’re guaranteed to start earning *more* than enough to support your family . . . with only a 2 hours of work a day.

Sound familiar?

At some point or other, we’ve all seen these sites — or ads — and drooled a bit, wondering if it’s real, or too good to be true.

Some of us have actually managed to make money doing one of these programs. Others have been badly burned. Still others are sitting on the fence, wondering if being chicken is ruining their life.

So what’s the truth?

Are these real, or scams?

A quick Google search will probably give you the same results it gave me:

Types A, B, and C of online work are legit. Types D, E, and F are probably legit, but you want to check them out a bit more. Types G, H, and I are not legit. Don’t even touch them.

The problem is, it’s always types G, H, and I that make the most money. Types A, B, and C usually require some kind of degree, and even you have that degree, you’re not about to make thousands in a single day.

I’ve been in your shoes. I know how you feel.

But more than that? I know how to tell which ones are legit and which aren’t.

That’s what I’m going to teach you today.

The Basics

First of all, take a look at the site itself. Is it just a landing page, or does it have some general information?

How’s the language? Is the text riddled with bad grammar and spelling mistakes? Does the site seem to have been written by a semi-intelligent, somewhat educated bipedal being?

Secondly, try to figure out how the setup works. Often, these sites have an opt-in form, along with a video meant to convince you that they’re G-d’s gift to humankind.

They might be G-d’s gift to us all. But it’s not smart, by any means, to start a job with no idea of what’s expected of you.

Let’s take a few typical make-money-fast setups:

1.Set up your site, and get people to buy from you.

Alternately, you may also be paid to get people to buy *into* your business, becoming affiliates. As each affiliate earns money — either selling or bringing in more affiliates — you receive a percentage of the profits. This is often called passive income.

2. Give us your money, and we’ll invest it for you.

This isn’t bad per se. But it’s important to read the fine print — because you’re still investing money. This means that you’re liable to *lose* money if the investment falls through.

If you’ve got the guts for this, but lack the know-how, you might see this as a perfect opportunity. Just make sure you know what you’re liable for, and what you’re not.

3. We scammed you!

Uh-oh. You put in money, got nothing back, and don’t know who to sue. This isn’t bad luck, sorry. It’s just bad judgement.

4. Advertise for us, and we’ll pay you per click.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with us — if it works. Problem is, it often *doesn’t* work, because your site just isn’t popular enough.

Be wary of those who look for free advertising while promising you a fortune. You may need to take them to court one day, for more than just false promises.

5. We didn’t scam you. We ruined your ____________ (fill in the blanks).

We took your info and: used your credit card to pay for our stuff; stole your identity; stole your money; hack your account. Uh-oh. Gotta be careful!

6. We promise that you’ll succeed. Just buy our magic kit (or e-book).

Maybe you’re being promised charisma, or maybe powers of persuasion. Maybe you’re being promised instant marketing success.

Or maybe you’re eyeing a conceive-naturally-within-two-months-at-age-41 guide and detox kit. . . and you’re a 40 year old newlywed who’s just *dying* for a couple of kids.

Maybe you’re like me, more than a few kilo overweight (I kid you not; I hide it well). You’re eyeing an e-book on how to do a two-week miracle diet that will keep the weight off, and still allow you to eat whatever you want.

Listen. G-d is great (but He is *not* akhbar — a mouse). G-d can do miracles.

In fact, He just did a miracle for our bank account. And He’s done several miracles for us over the past year. (May He do many more miracles for us, including and especially, that we always manage to avoid being involved in terror attacks.)

But anything that promises to *give* you a miracle, without speaking to G-d first, is a scam. And if they claim to have spoken to G-d first, I’d be even more wary.

Money takes time to earn. And it takes effort.

Fertility treatments, whether IVF and ICSI, or natural diet treatments, can promise nothing. Certainly, if you’re buying a book and not seeing any kind of doctor personally, don’t expect too much.

And weight loss . . . well, it takes time, and effort, just like everything else.

There are just no short cuts. Sorry.

And then there’s that alluring 100% money back guarantee.

How do you know it’s real? The simple answer: You don’t.

Unless you know someone else who *did* get their money back — and is no longer affiliated with the company.

The Fine Print

Okay. You get it. Let’s get cracking. How can you tell what’s real and what’s a scam?

Simple. It’s like this:

Read the fine print.

Yeah. It’s that simple. But it’s not that simple. I’ll give you an example. Actually, two examples:

Example #1: Before my husband and I got married, I got a “student plan” for my cell phone. 400 minutes, 1000 texts, for about 50 shekels (I think). It sounded great. I went for it.

I’d heard about the plan — read about it, more like — and I walked up to the stand and told them what I wanted. I asked them if they were sure I wouldn’t go over my limit. They asked about my habits, and told me they were pretty sure I wouldn’t.

As it turned out, I went over — big time. One month, I got charged 1000 shekels. Much of it was not my fault, but the company wouldn’t give it back. Plus, they gave me a headache and a half when I wanted to switch.

When we got our next phone plan, my husband did the reading, and spent two hours analyzing every little detail of the contract with the rep.

We stayed with them, happily, until two things happened:

a. Rami Levy turned the cell phone market upside down, and our plan became not worth it,

b. because of Rami Levy, they changed the terms, and charged us more after 18 months, AND required us to get a new phone. Oh, well.

Example #2: One of the first online businesses to catch my eye — and heart — was Online Income Anonymous. I wasn’t stupid enough to sign onto anything without my husband’s okay, though. Especially after the cell phone incident.

So I had him look the site over. He told me not to do it. I insisted it was fine.

In the end, we compromised: We contacted the rep, and I asked my questions. Then my husband asked his. The rep answered my questions easily. He had *no idea* what to answer half of my husband’s questions.

The rep is a great guy. I like him. Still do. But he had no idea what the nitty-gritty legalistic issues were. And in the end, we weren’t willing to take chances.

(Since then, I’ve learned to figure out, own my own, what the risks of each online venture are. And I’m sure proud of myself.)

That’s when I realized what my husband’s secret was. And I’m sharing it with you now.

Ready?

The Really Fine Print

Scroll down to the bottom of the company’s page. It doesn’t matter which company you’re dealing with. You’ll see all the standard links: Income Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions, Compliance, Refund Policy, Privacy, Support, Contact.

If you don’t see these links, that’s your first warning sign. Just click the “X” and leave the page.

If the page insists that you stay, saying “You haven’t finished whatever, are you sure you want to leave this page?” that’s warning number two.

There *are* legit sites with this message. But if you haven’t done *anything* except for read, now’s the time to start praying that the site won’t hurt your computer just because you’ve opened it.

Okay.

Now we’re looking at a site with its disclaimers. This is where the real work begins.

I’m going to ask several questions. Try to find the answers on the site you’re investigating.

  1. Do they tell you where they will conduct any legal proceedings? Are you comfortable with that location? Will it cost you a lot of extra money? (Think about: foreign lawyer, travel time, lost work days, hotel stays, foreign language, etc.)
  2. What does it take to violate their policy? Will one slip-up make you liable? Will an affiliate’s or client’s slip-up make you liable?
  3. Who carries the bulk of the liability — you, or the company? Are you basically on your own, but carrying a company name? Or are you part of a global team, with good backing no matter where you are?
  4. Does the site give you someone’s name, address, phone number, and email? Can you look that person up, and find him in the White Pages?
  5. Is the company accredited by the Better Business Bureau? This may not be a make-or-break for you, but an accredited company means you can breathe easier, both now and later.
  6. What does the Income Disclosure say? Do they *guarantee* a certain amount? If so, how?
  7. Does the Income Disclosure have any particular warnings or disclaimers in it? What are they?
  8. If they have a refund policy, what is it? How many days do you *really* have, before they’ll refuse to refund you? Is their policy too vague? Is it too narrow?
  9. Do they give you training — and do they pay you for that training? Will you have a coach?
  10. What personal data do they collect from you? How do they use that data?

There are more questions. But I could go on and on for pages, and each site is different. I’m trusting that you’re starting to get the idea. (And of course, if you have questions about a specific site — you can always email me and ask. Free of charge. :-))

The Decision

Open a new tab in your browser. We’re going to Google the company.

First, Google the company name.

What are you finding? Is it positive or negative?

If the feedback is positive — is any of it from non-affiliates or regular, satisfied, customers? Or does everyone praising that site have a personal interest in it?

If the feedback is negative: Why? Is it from customers? People who have been “burned”? Competitors?

Look through the first five to ten pages. Then go to the *last* page of results, and work backward for ten pages. What are you finding now?

Google “X company cheated me,” (or some such thing). Are you finding any results? What are they?

At this point, you should have a *very* good idea of the following:
1. What this company is;
2. what they want you to do;
3. what the risks are;
4. what they are offering you, and what they expect in return;
5. *why* they are offering whatever it is;
6. *who* their customer base is, if they have one;
7. who you can turn to if you get stuck.

If you can’t answer one or more of these questions, get in touch with a rep.

Can’t find one? That’s a problem. Is there an affiliate you can contact instead?
Try emailing customer support.

Whatever kind of support you get right now is the kind of support you’ll get later on.

To sum up: Dig. Find out anything and everything you can, before you get involved in an online business venture.

I would say that this advice applies to *every* venture — buying a house, choosing a spouse, etc. But with the internet free-for-all, it’s especially important to be smart, and wary, online.

Money don’t come easy. But with a bit of smarts, and a lot of effort, you’ll make it. And remember — there are people out there, lots of them, who are ready and willing to help.

Don’t get stuck in a bad deal, on your own.

Do you have questions? Comments? Get in touch. I’ll be glad to help.

Chana Roberts is a mompreneur, teacher, and freelance writer and editor. She lives in beautiful Israel with her family.