Being part of Generation Y, it seems completely natural and easy to spot a glaringly obvious internet fraud. I’m not talking about the decade old schemes about Nigerian royalty or pills that will make your penis get bigger by making you lose fat; I’m talking about the online shysters, charlatans, and con-men. People that make insane claims and somehow convince everyone that stumbles past to believe they are a legit business.
I worry, though, about my friends, family, and even random strangers that I interact with that seem completely incapable of figuring out that these people just want to steal your wallet, or worse, kill you and eat your flesh. It seems just as obvious to me that you don’t give your personal information to the “Free iPad!” giveaway as it would be not take candy from the van with no windows being driven by a dude with a 70’s pedo-bear mustache. For some reason, though, a lot of people I’ve met can’t seem to make that same connection.
I’m not the best fraud spotter in the world, but I’ve surfed the internet far and wide, and I’ve learned how to spot a few big signs that someone is out to rip you off for all your hard-earned taco money. I figured if I shared the knowledge I’ve gained with you guys, then maybe together we’ll put a giant dent in these annoyances, and maybe I’ll get a little less “Free Offer” spam on my Facebook wall.
No One is Giving You a Free Death Star
Ok, I’m going to throw this out there first since it is the one that I see more often than anything else. I’m constantly bombarded on Facebook and Twitter with offers for a “Free iPad” or a “Free Lamborghini” if all I do is fill out these fifty surveys and then complete three promotional offers from our affiliates. The main reason these scams stick around so much without having their headquarters bombed by the Federal Government is because they do actually give you what they promised you, if you jump through all the hoops in the fine print at the bottom of the screen.
This is usually done by about 1 in 100,000 people, so by the time they’ve gotten you to buy 2 of their affiliate program offers and probably click-through a dozen more (not to mention their pay-per-hit ads), they’ve made about 25,000 bucks for that $100 iPod their sending you for free. That is, of course, if you can get 10 of your friends to do the same thing.
Legitimate Online Writers usually You know… Write Something
It offends me, actually, as a blogger when I see someone use their “blog” as a giant marketing monster. Now, I’m not talking about affiliate sales or advertising, I do both of those. I’m definitely not talking about pitching a new book or service on a blog, that’s part of the business.
I’m talking about the dickwads that ONLY use their blog as a giant commercial, usually by lying through their smile.
This is the internet equivalent of selling snake oil, and there are hundreds of them out there; some of them even have amazing followings. It drives me batty, especially since they are incredibly easy to spot as the robot-automated frauds they are. Why? Because they don’t write anything, ever.
Their blogs are usually filled with one or two posts, or worse, posts stolen from other, legitimate bloggers.
Nothing is a Secret on the Internet
The entire purpose of the internet is the exchange of information. If you spend any real amount of time on Google, you’ll find the answers to all of life’s questions in as much detail as humans have thus far been able to sort them out. That pretty much means that anyone claiming to have the exclusive, secret answer to your question is either:
A) A Genius Madman who has reach a higher state of enlightenment
B) Bold Face Lying to you
Most of the time, it’s B.
There are products out there worth paying for, but you’re not paying for the secret, archaic knowledge hidden deep inside them. You’re buying the writer’s personal style and explanations. You’re paying for convenience and personality.
A Reputation is Easy to Find
Here is a rule of thumb about buying something online:
Google it, if the only places talking about it are the people selling it, then it isn’t worth the money you’re spending on it.
Anyone who has spent any time selling a product on the web will end up with at least one or two reviews about the product. If there are none, then don’t trust it. You should always be able to find a review somewhere.
One Last thing:
If you have come across one of those extra tricky cons that can’t be decided on after the internet rules, then you should just ask other people. In the age of Social Networking and instant tabloids, someone out there will have answers for you, and you’ll probably find them quicker than you think.
Also, twitter is your friend. If you want to know something about a random internet personality, follow them on twitter and try tweeting at them. Real people respond, even famous people like LeVar Burton.
… That’s right, I once got a response from LeVar Burton… eat your hearts out.