In the late 1990s, the Internet really captured the collective imagination as a way to make a ton of money. There was the classic depiction of a “Dot-Com Startup,” a company made up entirely of hip, cynical recent college grads (or even precocious dropouts) who made instant millions by apparently wearing cargo shorts to work and spending the entire day playing foosball in open-design offices with weird artwork all over the place.
I’m still not sure how their business model worked (and ultimately, it didn’t), but that was the popular image. The ones who were smart enough to sell before anyone noticed they were just playing hackey-sack all day made a lot of cash.
You’ve also got stories like Google and Facebook and Twitter—sites that were started by small groups of people, that became massive online juggernauts.
Yep. The Internet has definitely made quite a few millionaires. We all know it, and that’s why so many people are getting ripped off: online moneymaking schemes.
First off, the people who have truly made lasting fortunes on the Internet did so by offering something unique that lots of people wanted. They created something. They didn’t go to a website and sign up for an “affiliate program” that required them to give their credit card numbers.
That’s why I’m doing a little series this week on the world of online scams. Today’s topic: words that are a pretty good sign you’re looking at a scam.
If the URL (address line) of the site, or if the name of the site have any of the following words in it, you are very likely going to lose money very quickly if you hand over your credit card information:
Just…don’t trust these sites. I don’t care what they’re called. FunInternetProfits, InstantOnlineMillions, FastInternetCash, whatever. I’m just making those names up, but I can almost guarantee they’re real sites (do NOT visit them, though. You’ve been warned).
For one thing, what website has the word “Internet” or “online” in its name anymore? Do you really need to specify that in 2009?
For another, why is it that “fast cash, no work!” sounds like a complete rip off when it’s an ad in the back of Rolling Stone, but when it’s on a website, people fall for it? Anyone can put up a website, folks. Terrorist groups that operate in complete secrecy have websites. There is no vetting process for having a website.
There is also a special case: scams that try to latch onto Google. There’s one called Google Works that I know of specifically. They start by charging you $1.97 for…well, they don’t really tell you. Then they take $69.97 from you every month. See, they’re taking money from you. That’s the opposite of profit.
There are many more of these Google scams. Google Cash is one I’ve heard of, but I’m sure Google Profit, Google Millions and Google Wealth are out there somewhere. They’re all scams. Don’t even try.
Now, Google does run an affiliate program called AdSense that’s legitimate. A lot of bloggers use this on their sites. It generates little ads that are probably related to the content of your blog. In this case, you’re hoping visitors to your site will click on these ads, which will generate a few cents for you. However, unless you’re running a site that gets a few hundred thousand visits per month or more, you’re not going to make a whole lot from it.
The other problem with AdSense is that sometimes ads for scams using Google’s name show up. That means ads for Google Works and other scams are using Google’s legit advertising affiliate program to lure people. I think Google needs to pay more attention to the people they allow to advertise through their program, don’t you?
Also an exception: there is a site called Get Rich Slowly, a blog that provides excellent financial advice from a guy who’s gone from a heavy debt burden to debt free over the course of a few years. He’s not selling anything (unless he has a book out that I don’t know about), and he’s not offering a way for you to make money. You go to the site to read articles and learn. Make sure you’re at getrichslowly.ORG, not COM. The COM is somebody trying to sell website addresses (a very 1995-style business venture). Avoid.