Like it or not, most of us have been or will be scammed by some online con artist at some point. Even though I always do tons of research and move forward cautiously, I have fallen victim to these folks more times than I care to remember!
But after building a successful online business, I have come to realize what is legit and what isn't. I've learned the hard way over many years of being taken advantage of how to avoid online scams and I have come up with a list of sure-fire warning signs to watch out for.
It is my hope that if you are considering becoming an online entrepreneur that you read this post and learn from my past mistakes. If I can help even one person learn the warning signs of online scams and help them avoid making these scam artists rich, I will rest much easier at night!
I have broken this down into three different categories:
You see, not all scams are created equal and not all make money online programs are scams. There are many legitimate ways to make money online - if you know what you are doing.
But I will tell you something right now. Nothing is foolproof and nothing is guaranteed! I will go into much deeper detail on this later but I wanted to state this upfront. Because if you EVER come across anything that says otherwise, run away as fast as you can!
The real focus of this discussion will focus on the second category I mentioned above, The Almost Legit Scam, because these ones can be very difficult to identify. And unfortunately, this is category where most hardworking, honest people fall victim to.
So let's knock the first category out now.
This one is usually pretty easy to recognize as they tend to be extremely salesy and full of hype. So I will illustrate this one by citing a typical example.
This type of scam usually has a simple web page with a sales video only. The video typically does not offer any navigation nor will it let you fast forward to the end. It holds you captive and forces you to listen to the entire thing. It is only at the very end of the video where you will be presented with a button to click that takes you directly to a Sign-Up or Purchase Now page.
These sales videos are quite long, usually 30 to 40 minutes. It will spend the majority of that 30 or 40 minutes telling you a story about how they were totally broke just a few short months ago but because of this super duper magical program they found, they are now living the life of their dreams on an island in the Caribbean that their private jet flew them to.
But wait it gets better...
If you act today and today only, you will have the opportunity to live this lifestyle as well. But this offer is only valid today and if you leave this web page anytime before this video (or voice recording) ends, you will forfeit your chance to join the elite members of this group and you will walk away from millions!
As silly as this sounds, let me assure you that number one, it's real. And number two, many people believe this garbage and fall for this crap!
In most cases the video sales pitch is done professionally and has lots of things to keep your attention. And they always have a very believable sales person doing the voice over that promises they understand your situation and how badly you want a better life.
Blah, blah, blah.
How these types of online companies are able to operate is beyond me. All they are doing is playing on your emotions and promising you the world so you will pull out your credit card and not miss out on this amazing opportunity. And in return, you typically receive something of little to no value that you could have found online for free.
And if you're lucky enough to actually have a support email to complain to, they will simply tell you that you purchased the starter program and in order to get the 'real' keys to the kingdom, you need to purchase the Elite Program, or whatever name they have for it.
Even though you contacted them to complain and/or cancel whatever you bought in the first place, you end up spending even more money chasing after that promise. This cycle continues over and over until finally you say, 'I'm done'! But by this time you are out hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars and your chances of getting any type of refund are long gone now.
Again, sounds almost silly, doesn't it? But this is the exact online scam that tens of thousands of people fall for every year. So if you ever come across anything that sounds remotely similar to this, please keep your wallet in your pocket!
As I mentioned earlier, these types of scams are the most difficult to identify. Why? Because in most cases they do provide you with something, it's just that the something is usually of no value or is used as bait to get you to buy more stuff from them.
In the make money online industry, a very common practice is to only sell you the first piece of the puzzle. Of course you do not realize this when you fork over your money. This only becomes evident after you've made the purchase and then realize there is much more to be done to reach the promised land.
Again, has the seller scammed you? Maybe, maybe not. But they certainly were not 100% upfront with setting the expectations. Did they tell you there were actually 10 separate modules to buy? Of course not. This is why I call this The Almost Legit Scam. You get something but not what you expected.
And then there are the programs that are on the borderline of false advertising. For example, I bought a program a few years ago that promised SEO rankings on the first page of Google. I didn't know that much about SEO back then so I bought the program only to find that the author changed his tone and indicated that his system probably wouldn't work for most websites. But it was possible to rank on page one if you followed his system.
Which is it? I bought the program because I wanted to be ranked on page one of Google! But after reading the fine print I learned that it probably wasn't likely. Scam? Yes and no. But I definitely felt like I was taken advantage of and I certainly did not get what I thought I was buying.
In other words, the course did provide some value. But in the end, it failed to deliver on its initial promise and what it was advertised to deliver.
This is why these are difficult to identify. You might get lucky and actually get what you think you should be getting. But on the other hand, there is a high likelihood of being taken to the cleaners as well.
I'm going to provide the 9 common warning signs that will help you identify each category of scams that I am reviewing here in just a minute.
But if you want to learn first hand about avoiding online scams all together and how to start a real, online business check out Wealthy Affiliate. They are totally legit and offer the best training and online business strategies in the world! And by the way, it's 100% free to join.
Have you ever been so frustrated with something that you find yourself bad mouthing it and tearing it to pieces when in fact, it really isn't as bad as you are making it out to be?
I know I am guilty of this so this is why I call this category The Frustrated Consumer Scam. It really isn't a scam at all, but just someone who has become frustrated with an outcome that did not meet their expectations.
I see this all the time, especially on social media posts. There is always going to be a small group of people that have nothing better to do but take the opposite side of everyone else. They go out of their way to find the negative in every situation, usually because they are seeking attention.
I'm not saying that negative consumer comments aren't valid; in some cases they are. But when you peel the curtain back a bit a dig a little deeper into why they are frustrated it usually comes down to things like user error, not understanding how to use the product or not following the directions.
Amazon is full of these types of negative consumer comments and reviews. But I have found that in many cases it is unfounded.
Those that offer any type of real explanation as to why they are giving a product just one star when 98% of the other reviewers are giving the same product a 5 star review can be attributed to their lack of knowledge or lack of understanding about the product.
For example, I recently read a review about a particular brand of tablet. There were over 8,500 reviews with the majority of them being 5 stars. The folks that were giving 1 star reviews were complaining about things like, the tablet wasn't fully charged when I received it, or I have to press the power button for 2 seconds in order to turn it on.
I guess if I based my purchasing decisions on comments like that I would never buy anything! But like I said, some people will not be happy no matter what.
So when these types of people are reviewing make money online programs I always take it with a grain of salt when I see an imbalance of positive comments against just a few negatives. This is something I recommend you do as well since you may pass up something that is actually good and legit if you give into the comments and unfounded opinions of the few naysayers.
It's very easy to fall into the 'promise of a better life' trap that so many online con artists hit us with every day. Most of us should know better, but many times we don't. Our emotions and the hope of something that might actually work gets the better of us every time.
So even though the following warning signs are a very good indication that something fishy might be going on, always do your own due diligence and research. These are a set of guidelines only and sometimes even the legit programs can have some of these characteristics.
This was discussed earlier but because of its importance, it makes the number one spot on my list of warning signs! If you land on a simple web page with no navigation and a video only sales pitch, run away!
If you are forced to sit through a lengthy sales pitch and have no way to navigate through the website, this is a pretty solid indication that you are looking at an online scam.
The only people that do this are product owners that lack actual substance and helpful information for you to review. They want to keep you in the dark and essentially brainwash you for 30 or 40 minutes.
Since I've already discussed this type of scam in detail earlier in this post, I'll move on to the next warning sign. If you want to review this again, click on the Sales Video Only Scam to take you back to this discussion.
One of the biggest red flags you will come across is the promise that you'll make a ton of money right away. This falls into the 'get rich quick' scam that so many people become victim of.
Listen... if it sounds too good to be true then it most definitely is! They will try to convince you that this 'one simple trick' that no one has ever heard of is the secret to your success. They promise that their method or program is really easy to follow and will make you bunches of money quickly and easily.
Ok, then tell me this... if it was so simple and easy then why isn't everyone doing it? Or better yet... if they really have the secret to riches formula, why in the heck would they want to share it with you or me?
The truth is, they wouldn't share it with anyone! Why would they invite outside competition to the party and diminish the amount of money they could make by having to share it with the rest of the world? It just doesn't make good business sense to do this.
The only reason they are pitching this to you is because there is no simple and easy way to make tons of money with any online program! It simply doesn't exist. It takes hard work and commitment.
So if you come across this sales pitch, just keep your money in your pocket and move on.
Money back guarantees are a good thing, but be careful about any offer that provides an extended time period for this. Chances are they are just lulling you into a false sense of security by trying to make you feel your money is not at risk. But chances are, it is!
Most legitimate programs will typically offer a 15 or 30-day money back guarantee. This is good because it gives you an opportunity to check out the goods and then get your money back if you decide it is not for you. But you will know this in a matter of days, not a couple of months.
Legitimate companies are not interested processing refunds. They don't want to waste their time or yours with exchanging money. If they have something good to offer they want you to be satisfied with your purchase and become a happy customer or they want you to move on.
Plus if the refund period is for an extended length of time, you may have troubles if and when you do request your money back. If the product is legit why would they offer it to you for 60 or 90 days and then 'happily' give your money back? More times than not you will be met with major headaches and frustration when you ask for your purchase to be refunded.
Testimonials are a good thing. In fact when you and I search the internet before purchasing a product, seeing some good customers testimonials and positive products reviews is the reason why we buy.
But the scam artists know this and take full advantage of our attempts to be diligent in our research. The problem is they use fake testimonials by people who offer their services for a fee.
There are plenty of websites that provide these types of 'fake' testimonial services (Fivver) but the good news is, they are usually pretty easy to spot.
Fake testimonials tend to be full of outrageous claims about the product and are typically accompanied by verbiage that is over the top. If it sounds like the customer is going overboard on hype and you notice a lot of repetitive words, this is your warning sign.
Furthermore, fake testimonials are usually written by the same one or two people. So if you notice similar claims and the use of the same words across different clients, chances are these are fake.
Another thing to look out for is if the client is sitting in a big mansion showcasing a bunch of Italian sports cars in their driveway, I would recommend that you run away, now! This is a solid indication that this seller is a complete scam artist!
Companies that feel the need to showboat like this are most likely lacking in credibility and feel the need to resort to emotional tactics to get you to believe that what they are offering is for real. My recommendation is to avoid at all costs!
Just like fake testimonials, fake comments are another major red flag that the site you're visiting is a scam! The most common types of fake comments are the ones that look like Facebook comment threads at the bottom of a web page. They look real and they appear to have a valid string of comments all the way through.
But when you try to add your own comments you're taken to a totally different web page. Or at the very least, you click to add your own comments but nothing happens.
This is a dead give away that this site is a scam. The comments are fake and have been falsely added by the seller. So be on the lookout the next time you see site comments. Make sure they are real!
One thing you should always look for is a way to contact the seller and the ability to have support after you make your purchase. If you notice that there is no Contact form or email address, I would be extremely cautious as this is a huge red flag for a scam.
Furthermore, if you're actually able to ask a question through a contact form or email address but you do not receive a response within a 24-hour period or so, this should be an indication that your inquiry has fallen on unresponsive ears and that the only thing that really matters to this company is your money, not your questions.
Legitimate companies with good products will do everything in their power to have an open line of communication with you. They want you to feel good about your purchase and your overall satisfaction matters to them.
So keep this in mind the next time you find something that interests you. Make sure you can contact the company and that your receive a reply to your questions in a timely manner.
As intuitive as this may sound, many scam artists have perfected the method of selling you on the promise of their system and their amazing secret will be revealed as soon as you buy. Really? I don't know about you but I don't cough up my credit card for anything unless I'm completely sure about what I'm buying!
But unfortunately, many people get lured into this type of shady selling by these con artists only to find that they've just signed up and purchased something that is total junk.
If you are asked to pay for something upfront without feeling 100% confident about what you are getting, don't do it! This technique provides you with an awesome sales pitch but tells you the actual secret will be revealed immediately after you pay.
Remember, there are no secrets and if anyone is trying to make you believe otherwise, keep your hard earned cash in your pocket!
Legitimate companies will provide you with an explanation of their products before you buy and will encourage you to contact them if you have questions or concerns.
Have you ever seen these offers with the countdown timers running in real time as you're trying to read the information? It's annoying, right? I mean all I'm trying to do is figure out if their offer is something I'm interested in or not.
But I haven't even had a chance to read what the heck their offer is yet but here's this pesky countdown clock in my face that makes me feel like I have to hurry up and do something!
This does not indicate a scam per se. In fact, the use of this method is actually a good technique for things like concert tickets or getting your seat on the bus for the local pub crawl. In these instances, it makes sense and the countdown timer would actually expire and your offer will no longer be valid.
But from the digital world perspective, when is the last time you ever heard of a download expire? I mean, how scarce is an online product? Not very! Can you imagine a shortage of digital products? So the use of this technique when offering digital product downloads is not very ethical.
It is just another shady attempt by a company that probably doesn't have a lot of credibility or a good product to offer to pressure you into making the purchase. They want you to believe that time is running out and it's now or never for you to buy.
Don't be fooled by this technique. One does not run out of online products and any attempt to make you believe otherwise is made up and has scam written all over it.
Now that we've covered the warning signs to look for in order to avoid online scams, let's take a quick look at some of things you should look for in order to determine if the product or program is for real.
After all, the end game here is to find legitimate ways to make money online, right?
Companies that offer site memberships that allow you to access their content for free are definitely where you want to be. This is an excellent indication that they are proud of their information and want to encourage visitors to check everything out free of charge. It also says that they care more about you and your satisfaction instead of taking your money.
The best sites will offer the free memberships and give you access to tons of training and information with no time limits or expiration dates. But you should know that you will be limited in regards to how much information you will have access to. In order to get to the highly valuable information you will need to become a paying member at some point.
This is perfectly fine since who in the world would expect something for nothing? But having a zero cost option with no credit card required gives you an opportunity to 'try before you buy' while still being able to take advantage of some wonderful material at the same time.
Having access to support is huge. Having access to all of the other members of the community is home run. Why? Because the best way for you to know if the program is legit or not is to communicate with other members.
If their program was total junk or some type of online scam, the last thing the site owners would encourage is having members talk to each other. So consider this an excellent safeguard that the program you are looking at is totally on the up and up.
Plus being able to chat with other members who have encountered the same problems you are currently having is an awesome way to get the help you need. They know where you're at and where you want to be. They can be your best resource when it comes to resolving the issues you are experiencing because they've already been there and done that!
One way to tell if a program is a scam is if they are adding fresh and new content on a frequent basis and if they've been around for a while.
Many online scam artists don't last very long and tend to disappear very quickly. If you see a company that has been in business for a number or years, it's a very sign that they are legit.
A company that meets all of the criteria mentioned here is Wealthy Affiliate. They've been helping people become successful online entrepreneurs since 2005 and they continue to grow year after year.
It's one of the best training and support communities on the internet. Why not check it out for yourself and see what you think?
Online scams are everywhere, especially in the world of making money online. And they are becoming very sophisticated with the techniques they use to pull your hard earned cash out of your bank account!
You must look at everything with skepticism and doubt until you can be certain the program and the company are for real. Educating yourself about how to identify these shady sites and the crap they offer is crucial if you want to protect yourself and your money.
And sometimes even after doing all of your research and company vetting, you will still end up being taken advantage of. It is an unfortunate fact of life.
That's why programs like Wealthy Affiliate are so incredible.
They care about your success. They care about their reputation and they care about doing thing the right way!
Have you experienced an online scam? Or are you looking at a company that you are concerned about? If so, please leave a comment below and tell me about your experience.
And if you want me to look into a specific company to see if it is a potential scam, just let me know. Let's shut these guys down as fast as we can!
Digital marketing has been a passion of mine for over 12 years. I am a successful online business owner and I have my own digital marketing agency. I love helping people learn just how amazing the world of affiliate marketing can be and I'm committed to helping folks make money online while avoiding the mistakes I made along the way.
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