Of course a healthy level of scepticism is a good start. Not believing things that people say just because they’re saying them is a healthy approach, particularly if they want your money. At the very least, just asking questions and refusing to stop asking them until you get answers that satisfy you is a powerful thing to do.
But there are times when this isn’t good enough, you need to go a little further than just asking the obvious questions. You need to start doing some old-fashioned research. The good news is that in these days of Google research is a lot easier to do. Gone are the days of searching through electoral lists, phone books and state records to find someone. These days you can do it all with the click of a mouse.
Last week we heard from a reader who had received an unsolicited email that read as follows:
“all of my friends were sick of lending me money finally my aunt gave me a push in the right direction I knew I had to take advantage of this! now I live a luxurious life youre the first person I told good way to make some extra income!! read it!”Yes, I KNOW that the author is clearly missing the Shift key and almost all the punctuation keys from his keyboard. What’s more I’m sure you know that an email from a total stranger that was addressed to another 19 people and which contains the phrase “youre the first person I told” is suspicious.
There was a link in the email that went to a web site calling itself "Consumer Career Trends". On that site there's a picture of a woman and a little girl walking down what looks like the gangplank of a cruise ship. She apparently is "Kelly Richards from Brooklyn, NY" and she's made a fortune from "Home Wealth Solutions", an internet-based Get Rich Quick scheme.
The web site is interesting. It pretends to be a news site but it’s actually a fake. In fact it's just a single page, nothing more that an advertisement for this scam, masquerading as a news story.
More curious is that the very same picture of “Kelly Richards” appears on several other pages, offering other schemes. She appears on the "Homestead TV Magazine" page offering "Home Online Jobs". She also appears on a page calling itself the "Gaborone JOB REPORT" offering the "Home Cash Generator".
No, of course it's nothing to do with Gaborone, that's just the web page knowing from my internet address where in the world I am. If you're in Francistown when you visit the page it will be the "Francistown JOB REPORT" site. Similarly another site she appears on calls itself the "South-East CAREER TRENDS" page, but this time she's "Kelly Richards of Gaborone, South-East". She certainly gets around.
Best of all, she also appears on the "South-East Work From Home Report" page where she appears to have assumed a new identity. There she appears as "Tanya Davis".
Before you imagine that I’ve memorised the contents of every single scam web page, I’ll confess that it’s possible to search for identical pictures across the web using a tool called TinEye. That’s the secret.
Clearly this is suspicious. All of these schemes are basically the same thing, no doubt run by the same bunch of scammers, all using the same techniques to offer money for nothing. But you don’t need to go any further than the evidence provided by the pictures. A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.
However you also need to be able to see through rotten arguments. Following my comments on the TVI Express pyramid scheme recently I got this email:
“I have two questions: First; in business, do you buy only a product as a consumer? Second; why did the author not mention that some members of TVI are successful? Was it deliberate or was it through ignorance? Do not criticise systems that you are not a member of. You would be more convincing if you joined TVI and became a failure. Remember, many people have invested in ‘genuine’ businesses, and have failed. Inference, therefore, every business is a scam”Where should I begin?
In business, no, you also buy services as well as products. But with TVI Express they don't offer either. All they offer is the chance to make money from recruiting other people. That's a pyramid scheme.
Why didn't I mention "that some members of TVI are successful"? Because the ones at the top only make money by cheating other people. I criticise burglars and thieves for the same reason.
So I'm not qualified to criticise a pyramid scheme until I’ve joined it and had my money stolen? That’s just silly. I don't need to jump out of a plane without a parachute to know it's a bad idea. I don't need to burn cash to know it's a bad idea. I don't need to commit a crime and go to prison to know that it's a bad idea. I don't need to have joined the TVI Express pyramid scheme and lost money to know that it's a bad idea.
So because TVI victims lose money and so do some investors in real businesses, then all businesses are a scam?
I really hope you have nothing to do with the education of children.
This week’s stars
- Reginah from Barclays call centre for professionalism and calming an angry customer
- Koziba from Bank Gaborone for her “usual” exceptionally high standards of customer service.