Avoiding Online Business Opportunity Scams

Along with high interest in online business opportunities, there’s also been large growth in online scams.

If you have interest in making money online,  there are ways to do so with integrity and professionalism.  Unfortunately the slicksters who rob people with scams are the dark side.  Here you will find some red flags to watch out for and ways to avoid losing money and time with online business opportunity scams.

An online business opportunity is not in itself something you would be wise to buy in the first place.  A credible online business is something you create.   If you do buy into a ready-made business opportunity, then it is not technically your business.  It might be CALLED your business, but if it is already set up inside a tidy package – chances are you that all you have is a replicated (copied) website and/or that you will be making money for someone else much more so than for yourself.

Wise online business investments might include some related tools or services like website hosting, autoresponders or coaching. You might buy software or information products.  These are normal online business expenses, and if you choose wisely they can be quite wise investments, but not necessarily expensive.

Don’t Replicate.  CREATE!

Beware an online business opportunity with a price tag, a supposedly ready made business in a box.  If it truly were YOUR business, then wouldn’t YOU be the one deciding what products are offered?  How a website appears?  It might seem easier to just buy a ready-made site, yet in the long run there’s a lot of red flags inside that business in a box.

Beware of ‘one size fit all’ kind of promises, including an ‘online business blueprint’ or ‘turnkey’ business.  Why?

There’s no one single “system” to build a successful business.  Certainly there IS crucial knowledge and wisdom that applies, however the turning point isn’t within the knowledge itself per se.  The trick is in applying the knowledge, in taking what you have learned and applying it to your unique offerings and giving it a fresh spin by making it truly yours.

Beware of common online ‘reviews‘.
It is important to understand that most so called ‘review websites’ are not reliable. Why? Because of a sneaky strategy that has become widely popular in the internet marketing world, one that involves creating a so-called ‘review’ yet one that is very biased. This strategy did work quite well, and so the internet became an avalanche of supposed online reviews.

These ‘reviews’ were created with an agenda in mind, something like…‘here’s a review about X Company (or person or product) and at the end of this ‘review’ you will find a comment like ‘… and here’s why ours is better’ with a link.  The author may not really know a thing about X Company, they are just using that name (as a search keyword) to get traffic to their site.

That’s not to say that all reviews stated in a similar way as above are bogus, just be aware of this over-used strategy. The source is more important – best to stay with sources you trust over reviews from unknown people.

I’ve found one internet marketing review website that is much more reliable than most, and have referred to it frequently over many years time.  I published an article about this website called ‘internet marketing report card’ awhile back, a helpful resource to find real unbiased and legitimate reviews.

Beware of promises that ‘It’s easy.  Anyone can do it.  All you have to do is …’   NOT!
If it were so easy to make money online, then everybody would be doing it, right? Claims that ‘anyone can do it’ are obvious red flags, because no business is perfect for everyone.  I know of one company who actually claims to offer an online business for free (and people believe it!) and another company claims you can have an online business opportunity for only $25 and ‘all you have to do is …’ (red flag).

The truth is that while you CAN make money online, it’s not easy.  Some parts of it might be simpler for you based on your own personal skills and experience. Success online requires dedication and persistence, the same as any business.  Unlike other businesses, an advantage to working online is that it does not require a huge investment of money, just some carefully planned choices.

Research Carefully Before Spending $$$.   Be an educated consumer.
For example, one company called the ‘Empower Network’ has exploded in the past couple years. If you google that phrase you will find countless links raving about this business opportunity as if it is the best thing since sliced bread.  Most of these are called ‘reviews’ but they are totally biased.  They exist because the only way to make $$$ in the Empower Network is to recruit – to get more people to join the network.

Finding real and unbiased reviews that tell the entire story is tough. While there’s an avalanche of EN ‘reviews’ online, maybe 1% or less provide anything near the complete picture.  I wonder how many people would have jumped on board had they known the complete story beforehand.

You may or may not find this to be a scam, but uncover the facts first to know exactly what you are getting into.  The problem is that those who did research found only bogus hyped up ‘reviews’ over and over.   I use this company as an example because with EN it is particularly tough to find actual facts about the company among heaps of online hype.  My review: Sour on Empower Network‘.

You know the saying…  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably IS!  

Don’t Go Phishing!!!
Yes, that’s ‘fishing’ spelled with a ‘ph’ rather than the common spelling.

Phishing works like this: you get an email from some business like maybe eBay or Pay Pal or your bank or even the IRS.  The message asks you to ‘update your information’ and so ‘please click this link‘.  DON’T!   Some phishing emails now contain viruses (see the article from the BBB below).  Never enter any of your personal information, for that is the scam.

The email is cleverly made to LOOK like it is from one of these places, and may even contain the same logo, etc. It’s a fake. And if you click the link and submit your information, you are screwed.  The sender impersonating your bank or other financial institution will then have your log in and maybe even your credit card number and/or bank account numbers.  The IRS impersonators might even try to scare you with threats.  Once they have your private info, they can use it to rip off your accounts and possibly even identity theft.

NOTE:  Banks and other financial companies will never call you and ask for your personal information – they already HAVE it!

By the way, a good way to be sure an e-mail is ‘phishing’ is to hover over the link (but do not click it). When you hover your cursor over the link, a box will pop up with the actual link name.

Once you see that it is indeed different (and it will most likely be), then forward the entire email to the appropriate company using the address phishing@paypal.com or phishing@whatever.com.  Yes, most every large company has now established an e-mail address for consumers to report phishing.   Forward the suspicious e-mail immediately as it arrives for best results, giving the company a jump on the crooks.  I did this regularly with PayPal for awhile when I kept receiving phishing messages, and they messaged me back with a huge thanks.  It doesn’t matter whether you are sure, just forward any email that appears suspicious.  They’ll know.

Here’s an article from the Better Business Bureau about phishing scams.

Resources:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a good list of articles about online business opportunity scams.

Internet Marketing Report Card is a free online community offering reviews for anything related to internet marketing.  You can search people, companies, products and services.

 

Stay tuned to SoloSpark updates, where nothing is ever recommended without first hand experience.

Have you ever felt that you’d been scammed online? Do you have any additional resources that you’ve found helpful to research anything related to internet marketing? If so, please tell in the comments below so we can check it out.

Carolan Ross

CFO(Chief Fun Officer) at SoloSpark
Freelance writer, creative soul, solopreneur and former teacher who networks with rebels, visionaries, artists and other square pegs in round holes. I support solopreneurs with copywriting and juggling life and business to SHINE ONLINE!

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