Internet scams and their business impact

While on the job hunt, I’ve been targeted by 3 check-cashing scams. For those of you who don’t know how those work, here’s a quick synopsis:

First, they ask you for a good time to do an interview. Then, they ask to do the interview via Google Hangouts and chat. They usually have some excuse for using chat. Then, they make some wild offer after a few standard interview questions, and want to send you a check to purchase items from a vendor for your job (computer, printer, etc). They use real job postings, but fake accounts.

That’s just one of many common internet scams. Today, however, I’m going to talk about a different one that affected a consulting client many years ago. A scam that targets businesses, or potential business startups.

A couple came to me asking for help with their eCommerce website. They invested their savings in this, trying to get a foothold on the dot-com eCommerce business that they were told was booming.

I agreed to meet up with them for a free initial consultation, in order to determine if I could help them, and what the costs would be to reach their goals.

What they told me broke my heart, and, after I finished chatting with them, theirs.

They attended a seminar not entirely unlike the multi-level marketing scams that are still prevalent to this day. Promises of being able to become rich off a booming industry echo in your mind. They give you just enough information to make you think you can succeed; like Trump’s University, Amway, and more, you think.. I can do this. I can succeed here!

So, when they say they need a large sum of money to get you started, you barely hesitate.

That’s what these folks did.

This husband and wife team bought in on a series of classes that are supposed to teach you how to start a turn-key, hands-free online store that will rake in the profits while you do practically nothing.

The details of the scam involve something Amazon used to offer; a service where you can launch your own website and sell Amazon’s inventory. Amazon didn’t run it, of course. This was all the brainchild of some less than scrupulous “teacher” who’s goal was to siphon your money.

Of course, if you didn’t succeed initially, you could pay more money to get one-on-one consulting from the instructor with all the specific advice you needed to finally succeed.

This couple had no money left, so they couldn’t afford the one-on-one consultation from them. They could, however, afford a free initial consultation from me to determine where to go next.

I looked at their site. It was, to put things simply, a mess, and barely functional. It served Amazon inventory, and you could purchase, but why would you? It literally offered NOTHING over Amazon itself.

You couldn’t even find it in search. It had no unique content. It was poorly optimized. It was inaccessible.

All that, and it cost them their savings.

When I told them that there was nothing to be done because they got scammed, they were heartbroken. I told them I’d help outline a basic plan for an eCommerce site for free, just because I felt bad for them, but they were done.

I can’t recall whether it was the husband or the wife, but one of them went back to work for Taco Bell. The other went back to their mindless job, and tried to figure out a way to get enough money back in savings so they could afford to retire at some point.

I myself get targeted by all sorts of scams. SEO boosters that guarantee the #1 slot on Google (not going to happen). Web designers that offer the latest greatest work for a pittance. Brand consultants that can maximize my visibility and turn me into a household name.

I’m savvy enough to know to ignore them when they come around. Are your friends? Family? Coworkers?

These churn and burn solutions come in countless forms, but they always fail to deliver. Hell, even big names that offer great solutions can, and frequently do, fail to deliver, because their business model isn’t to help you succeed. Its to get enough people to sign up for their services so they don’t have to worry about customer retention.

Don’t buy the hype with big promises, do your research, and make sure you have enough set aside to ensure that, should you fail, you won’t be completely lost.