Get Rich Quick (Pssst. Pass it on.)
A few weeks back, my sister got a glossary postcard in the mail.
"What if", the words on the card asked:
The person who sent you this is someone powerfully working the "Secret" Law of Attraction, and blogging about his results that are quickly going from pleasantly surprising to awe inspiring.
He's into things like Yoga, Martial Arts, Holistic Health, Alternative Energy, Soveriegn (sic) Citizenship [Pink Slip note: i.e., someone who doesn't believe in paying Federal taxes] ...generating capital (cash) and starting projects and building businesses that serve the world.
What if he wants to work with you to help you achieve the same for yourself?
What if YOU attracted this message into your life.
Well, I'm not sayin' that Trish didn't attract this message into her life. Stranger things have happened. But, silly us, both my sister Trixie and I had the same reaction: What if this were, if not a capital S scam-scam, then one of your classic MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) schemes, where things work out for enough of the first-in that those who don't make it big are sloffed off as Double-L Losers who just didn't have what it takes to be a Soveriegn Citizen.
Anyway, it is recession-time, and the fancies of a lot of folks - young and old, male and female - do tend to turn to ways to dupe other folks into thinking there's an easy way out of "it," this slough of despond we're now wallowing in or through (in my case, exacerbated by a sick o' winter unlike any I've yet experienced; I am completely tired of nose-as-Popsicle, I can tell you that).
To help us avoid the temptation to grab onto what looks like a helping hand, but is really (surprise) the hand of a pickpocket, the Better Business Bureau has published a list of trial offers and scams that are too good to be true. The list, in general terms, outlines what were the Top Ten bad deals for 2009 - many, apparently, perennial favorites, but others more specific to this particular recession. Thanks to the list, we're warned not to fall for the following:
- Free trial offers for "teeth whiteners, acai anti-aging pills, and other miracle supplements [that] blanket the Internet."
Personally, I am completely fascinated by those teeth-whitening ads - the ones that show an alabaster-white tooth next to an ochre-colored fang that looks like it was pried out of the mouth of a nutria. But not fascinated enough to actually click on one - just to give it a side-wise glance whenever I shows up.
But shouldn't folks either go to their dentist, or go to The Google, before they fork over big bucks to get their teeth whitened. Or to the dental aisle of CVS to spend a few bucks on some teeth-whitening strips.
And then there's anti-aging.... Not that I'm delighted to be counting crows feet, but do we really want to live in a world where everyone over the age of 21 looks the same age - just like in that Twilight Zone where everyone looked like Richard Long. Not that I want to hag-up, you understand. It's just that I don't mind being able to at least vaguely place someone in the right decade - plus-or-minus - so at least I can guess whether they've ever even heard of the Twilight Zone and/or Richard Long.
- Stimulus/Government Grant Scams. Does this mean that President Obama is not offering every mom out there $2,500 to go back to school? And what is it with all these online advertisements who are using/abusing "mom". Why, look at those teeth whitening tricks. All discovered by "mom." And all those ads for "Boston Mom earns $7,500 a month without leaving her home or lifting a finger."
Did the scammers do focus groups and find out that, when people see the word "mom" they think "apple pie"? Good ol' mom! If a mom's doing it, it must be good. Or are the scam ads mostly aimed at moms? After all, my sister Trish - of the invitation to become a Soverieign Citizen is - you guessed it - a mom.
- Robocalls – making claims about car warranties and reducing interest rates are also on the BBB's list of must avoids. I've gotten a couple of these, and I'm always tempted to string them along for a bit. But I never give into that temptation. I just slam the phone down.
- Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam – This is the old one about you have to spend money to win money: cash this check, wire us the money, we'll take care of the rest. Variation on a theme of the Nigerian e-mail scam, a personal favorite.
- Job Hunter Scams – No surprise that, with fake unemployment at 10%, and real unemployment pushing 20%, that folks desperate for work are being scammed right and left. This is quite a scary one. Without thinking twice, a job hunter might actually believe that they need to provide their SSN in order to be considered for a job. It's even vaguely plausible to believe that you'd be asked for bank account information - or even a copy of a prior W-2 to prove earnings. Yep, easy to see how someone could fall for this, and give out wildly personal information.
And the credit report companies are apparently getting into the act, as well, Bay-bee. A job offer is dangled, with a mention that in order to be considered, the employer needs to run a credit check. Next thing you know, you're on the hook for a monthly credit monitoring fee.
- Google Work from Home Scam – There you go, Mom, you, too, can make $7,500 a month from the privacy of your very own home, in the comfort of your very own PJ's, addressing envelopes (it'll only cost you a few hundred bucks to get set up), making jewelry (it'll only cost you a few hundred bucks to get set up), or starting your very own MLM (it'll only cost your a few hundred bucks to get set up). The kids will be so proud...
- Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue/Debt Assistance – Nice one, and a double whammy for those who are unwilling to just walk away from an underwater mortgage and go buy a better house around the corner for less. Not only do they get to lose their home, but they get fleeced in the process. Yowza!
And, while we're on the subject of walking away from debt, what's with all those TV ads for people who settled with the IRS for a fraction of what they owe. Big smile on the face, "I saved $39,000 on what I owed the Feds." How does this work? Is settling up with the IRS that blithe an experience?
Maybe next time I get one of those 'you transposed two numbers on line 22, so you owe us $32, plus $654 in penalty' notes, I'll call one of these IRS dealerships. Yes, that'll be me, blithely smiling, "They saved me $654 in Federal tax penalties. These guys are good!"
Nah, that would take all the fun out of being so aggrieved at these smiling yahoos, all white-teeth grinning about how they got away with, if not death, then taxes. (Perhaps they are Soveriegn Citizens.)
- Mystery Shopping – Let no scam opportunity go unturned! There are bums out there who are asking prospective mystery shoppers to "evaluate their shopping experience at a few stores as well as a money wiring service such as Western Union or MoneyGram by wiring money back to the scammers."
- Over-Payment Scams – In this one, the bad guys deliberately overpay by check, then ask you to wire the difference back to them. (Puh-leese: wait for that check to clear first... Oh, it didn't? Hmmmmmm.)
- Phishing e-mails/H1N1 spam – My various, multiple, and sundry e-mail addresses are pretty good at catching things in a junk filter, but I got one the other day, citing my sister Trish (you know Trish, she's the mom who's been invited to become a Soveriegn Citizen), and asking me to connect to some Microsoft IM system.
Then there's the fake rent a vacation house on Craigslist scam, which had more than a few folks last summer showing up at the Cape with an SUV packed with boogy boards and cranky kids, only to find that they'd paid someone a rental fee who didn't actually, like, own the property.
Not to mention the official invoice-looking thing that gets sent out, for, say the directory you never ordered.... I've seen a few of these come to small businesses or non-profits, and its easy to see how someone could make the assumption that Joe Blow made the decision to list your organization in a directory, and agree to purchase it. And, what the hell, so what if there's no PO, it's only $69.95...
And, of course, we're calling on behalf of the Veterans/Police/ Firefighters because it's credulous, errrr, generous citizens day, and we're asking you to put cash in an envelope and leave it on your doorstep. We'll be by tomorrow to pick it up.
Truly scary how many scams they are out there.
Some, of course, are easy and obvious to figure out. (Smug me!) Others, not so easy.
When in doubt, go to The Google. Type in the name of the offer and the word "scam". See what comes back at you.
Better yet, just learn to live with your off-white teeth.