How To Avoid Online Scams, Offers and Fake Business Opportunities
In my work as a reviewer, I often come across products that are practically, or ethically dubious. And a few people have asked me how I actually compile my reviews, as they are usually quite detailed. Therefore I thought I would write down exactly how I review a product, and come to a conclusion on whether they are a scam, taking liberties, or have genuine promise.
I will often talk about red flags that I see that highlight that a product is a part of this collective. It has recently been brought to my attention that whilst I often make mention of such things, I have never really sat down and addressed this as a head on problem.
So with that in mind, I wish to look at some of the things that I look out for when I’m looking at a product.
A scam is referred to in the Oxford Dictionary as “A dishonest scheme; a fraud” citing the example of an insurance scam. Now I have to address the elephant in the room here, namely my use of the word scam.
There are a large number of misguided individuals out there who may genuinely feel that they are able to offer a service that ultimately fails. This doesn’t necessarily make them a scam; it simply means that they have a bad product. For something to be a scam there has to be a clear statement of intent to defraud and this is something that is generally very difficult to prove.
You know the kind of thing I refer to, when you read rubbish like this:
(Copyright: somebody trying to pull the wool over your eyes)
An example of a scam would be a product that I looked at recently whereby the vendor was taking tips directly from the free tipster website gg.co.uk and marketing them as being their own.
This was complete with a resplendent story about underground betting software and specialist insight. In this case, the vendor knew that the selections he was issuing weren’t theirs. As a result, this is fraudulent and ultimately a scam.
- 1 How to Tell the Genuine Article from a “Scam”
- 2 Things to Look For When Looking For Scams
- 3 Evidence is King
- 4 Advanced Methods of Checking Evidence
- 5 The Focus should be on the Product
- 6 The Money Back Guarantee
- 7 The “Free” Product
- 8 Circular Logic
- 9 Questionable Reviews
- 10 Pyramid Schemes
- 11 Conclusion on Avoiding Online Scams
How to Tell the Genuine Article from a “Scam”
I also look at a number of products that claim to have found the holy grail of betting with strike rates claimed to be ridiculously high and millions waiting for the taking. These are also fraudulent to a degree, however by selecting certain bits of data, a person can demonstrate that their claims aren’t technically false.
The fact is however that there are hundreds of product types out there and a vast list of things that you see that make a product questionable. This kind of misleading information, or ‘iffy’ set up, is however exactly what I look out for when looking at a product.
With that in mind, I would first of all like to break down my approach to a sales page.
This lets me get a feel for a product before I even open it (and I don’t think that I’m that far off the mark often). The second thing I shall look out for is some of the different methods that questionable marketers use to suck you into their products.
Things to Look For When Looking For Scams
One of the first things that I look at, before I even glance at the product itself is the headlines on the sales page. These will always take pride of place and will likely be bold and bash and are designed to immediately draw you to the key selling point of a product.
This type of nonsense:
(Copyright: somebody trying to pull the wool over your eyes)
Headlines are important to look at first as they will often set the tone for the product itself. Consider the following headlines:
- “Become a millionaire within 12 months with this exclusive piece of software!”
- “Do you want to become wealthier in just 12 months with this exclusive piece of software?”
One of those statements is much more grounded than the other.
The claim that you can become a millionaire is a very questionable one and any business owner will tell you that to even see turnover of a million (never mind your profit) in the first year is nothing short of miraculous. Simply becoming wealthier however is something that is more open. Earning an extra £5,000 per year certainly makes you wealthier.
With the two examples above, I would be much more prepared to dissect article one rather than article two.
The whole process of marketing in and of itself is often an indicator as to how legitimate a product is. Again, you should be on the lookout for outlandish claims and little details that don’t fit.
For example, I have lost count of how many supposedly top notch tipster services I have seen that were started by an ex-city trader and his old college buddy with a top IT job. Yes, these are both examples of things that can happen and in fact have before now, however these are very much an exception rather than the rule.
I am also always wary of any mention of a mysterious mentor, forgotten old book or advice of an old friend or relative. In fact, my gauge for any product in terms of its legitimacy is how much it is able to say about itself on a sales page. If there is a legitimate system in place, whether it is for affiliate marketing or Forex, or a tipster, then they should be able to paint a picture of what you can expect without giving the game away.
Once again, I would ask you to consider two examples:
- “After weeks of trying to get traffic to my site, I called up my old buddy John (who was a computer nerd in Uni who ended up walking away with a PHd in neural networking). We sat down, and for months, burned the midnight oil putting the data in hundreds, if not thousands of different ways. The end results was…”
- “Having trialled a number of different methods of generating traffic for my new blog, I found that ultimately, I was having the most success with Facebook Ads. With that in mind, I focussed on them and saw even more traffic coming my way as I played with different methods. I call these methods…”
You can clearly see how one talks about what you can expect. It is a product for helping you to use Facebook Ads. The marketer details the process and how they reached the conclusion that this was the best method of generating traffic.
There are also no attempts to obfuscate anything and there is no distracting information there. The focus is purely on the product (this is something of a recurring theme and I will be looking at this in greater detail below).
Evidence is King
If a service makes any claims, it should provide some evidence to back this up. In the case of a tipster service, it will be proofing. In the case of a home business opportunity, it might be screenshots detailing an increase in income or traffic or sales.
This doesn’t however mean that evidence shouldn’t be blindly considered as gospel either.
One of the best examples of evidence of a product working that you can see is video footage. This should ideally be unedited and a continual stream. An often employed “scam” tactic is to show video footage of the start of something and then cut to the end of it showing a great success.
The next best piece of evidence is definitely images, however these can easily be doctored and so should be treated with some suspicion. Look for a difference in fonts that show that they might have been altered after a screenshot has been taken. Other things to look for are different colours behind the font and different “pixilation” around any text.
The final piece of evidence is one which talks about results. This is the one that I always treat with the most suspicion. For example, I could easily write here that my tipster service has generated profits of 572.8 points over a year.
The fact that I don’t have a website or a tipster service doesn’t stop me making the claim and nor does it stop unscrupulous marketers doing the same. Unfortunately, there aren’t any real tricks here other than to apply some common sense and question everything.
Advanced Methods of Checking Evidence
There are a number of more advanced ways of checking for red flags, none of which are actually that difficult but can go a long way to discerning the legitimacy of something.
The first is to Google the name of the product creator. Have they released products before? Do they show up elsewhere? This is something that is very important as genuine content creators are happy to have their name out there. Consider people like Matt Houghton, the author of the Betting Rant or internet marketing guru Tim Lowe.
These are real people and they are happy to associate their identity with their products as they genuinely believe that they are putting out something quality. This is in direct opposition to products from one shot marketers who are offering something too good to be true.
You can also use Google to see if people are actually who they say they are by cross referencing information. A prime example of this kind of slip up was a tipster service allegedly operated by an ex jockey. His career in tatters following a bad fall at a race track that unfortunately for him didn’t exist. A quick search showed that a course had existed there once, but closed many years ago.
In future updates of the website, this was changed to a course that was actually open when the “creator” was supposedly racing.
The second phase is to use Google again, this time a reverse image search. This can be done via Google or in Chrome, you simply have to right click an image and select “Search Google for Image”. This is an important thing to do as it allows you to see whether or not this is genuine evidence being provided. I have seen a marketer use a photo of a well known Professor at Bristol University as their “down on their luck” character.
One of the most important tools that I use is the website Who.is. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it allows you to look at details of who registered a website, when it was registered etc.
More often than not, if you are dealing with a dodgy product, the details will be left anonymous. This also ties in with something that is often overlooked, namely the UK company records checker. By looking at the details of the company that have registered a website or looking to see if a name is associated with other companies, you can easily paint a picture of what you are looking at.
You will often notice with my own reviews that if there is a company behind the product, then I make reference to that.
The Focus should be on the Product
The most reliable method that I have encountered for seeing if a product is a scam, exaggerating or even questionable, it is to look at what the focus of the sales material is based on. Any reputable and decent products sales material is dedicated to the product itself. There will be plenty of evidence provided to back up the claims made and whilst the product creator may talk about their credentials, it will be to discuss what led to their product being a thing that is available.
The Money Back Guarantee
A money back guarantee is by no means a guarantee that you are buying into a quality product however it is something that I always look for when I’m purchasing a product. The best money back guarantee on the market is on any product that is sold through the Clickbank platform. This runs for 60 days and is backed by Clickbank themselves which means you can always get your money back.
Other money back guarantees are often something that are offered but you deal with a vendor. Whilst many vendors are more than happy to offer a refund if a product isn’t right, there are some will try to talk you out of claiming your refund. This may involve talking you into “sticking things out”, offering additional support or even other products and services.
Ultimately however, if a money back guarantee is offered, it should be honoured.
This doesn’t mean however that all services that don’t offer a money back guarantee are scams and vice versa. Many tipster services that are genuine don’t offer any form of refund policy as the nature of their business is that it can be inconsistent in the short term.
It is worth building on this however to say that offering a money back guarantee can be a way for a scam product to add an air of legitimacy. I have seen a lot of dodgy tipster services offering a 60 day money back guarantee (via Clickbank) but a 90 day subscription.
I have then heard of tipsters who will encourage people who want a refund to stay on, see out the subscription etc. with an offer to refund if they aren’t in profit at that point.
Unfortunately, once your 60 days are up with Clickbank, you are relying on a vendor to honour their word (which is where establishing the identity of the marketer is so important).
Just be aware though that there are many instances of Clickbank banning accounts of those who claim too many refunds, and this is because Clickbank make their profit from a cut from the vendors sales, so too many refunds coming from the same customer will have your account banned.
The “Free” Product
This is a rather questionable method of marketing that is most often employed in relation to binary options trading bots, although it is worth pointing out that I have seen them appear elsewhere. The “Free” product is where you are offered a product for free, however in order to get the free product, you have to set up an account with another company, often times having to make a deposit.
In cases like this, the marketer gets paid a commission for you creating a new account with a company which means that even though you aren’t “paying” for their product, you are in a way still. Why it is particularly important to look out for this kind of thing is that in my experience, the “free” product that you signed up to get very rarely works.
I don’t intend to dedicate too much time to circular logic but it is something that can be often used with scam products to make them seem legitimate. One of the examples that has always stayed with me was actually on a Forex trading product.
The whole premise was that 5% of Forex traders make money. This means that 95% of Forex traders must lose money. Therefore, by doing the opposite to the majority of traders, you will make money.
The product itself was a few indicators that the creators claimed would show you what the 5% were doing. It lost a lot of money. But to look at this kind of self proving argument, you could easily be swayed. This circular logic is something that you should always keep an eye out for as they are primarily designed to over simplify and obfuscate information.
Whilst the focus of this article is on how to tell if you are looking at a genuine or a scam product online, it is also necessary to mention the review process as well. Whilst all my reviews are fully researched and unbiased, a lot of reviews that you read for products come from people who are in fact looking to sell the product they are reviewing.
Personally, I don’t mind taking an affiliate commission if something works, but if something does not work, then there is no way I would even think of promoting it.
If you are involved in internet marketing in any way, you will be familiar with this affiliate marketing method. For those who don’t know however, it can be very misleading to see glowing product reviews everywhere online, only to spend their hard earned money on a product and find that it doesn’t deliver.
To help you tell if you are looking at a genuine review or not, have a look at whether or not the product name is in the URL (for example www.productxreview.com) as this kind of URL is often optimised to appear high in search engine ranks and therefore, have more people buying a product through that “reviewers” affiliate link.
You should also look to see if there are other reviews for other products, and if so, how far back do they go?
I don’t want to spend too much time on this as I feel that there is an article in and of itself in this topic. Briefly, Pyramid schemes are increasingly on the decline however they do still exist in a form. They are usually portrayed as a multi level marketing schemes in which you are selling a product to people. The product itself is usually very vague and involves people signing up with the scheme itself to get the product.
Essentially, pyramid schemes are all about having people “paying up”. Everybody new to the business pays £10 which is split between the person who signed them up, and the person who signed that person up and so on and so forth. This is highly unsustainable however and people have lost a lot of money signing up to these services, only to find that they can’t recruit and make their money back.
Conclusion on Avoiding Online Scams
There is no “de facto” method of telling whether or not you are looking at a scam product or not. I am sure that to many people reading this, a lot of what I have said seems like common sense, to others, it may be completely new and eye opening. The fact is that the only way to learn when you are looking at a scam or misleading product is experience.
The more you watch out for, the better your understanding will be. I have spoken with friends who have run successful businesses and manage massive sales teams who when presented with the kind of circular logic that jumps out at me, feel that it sounds perfectly logical and would happily part with their money to learn more.
This shouldn’t put you off trying to make money online however. There are plenty of products out there that offer genuine help and it is definitely possible to make a success of it. Generally speaking, I would say that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I would even go as far as to say that this is rule number one when trying to determine whether a product is real or not.
My review on Streetwise Publications will also show you the kind of content that can sometimes over-exaggerate the reality of a product, and this can be found by clicking the link above, and is what I call the perfect example of how a company can sometimes over-advertise the potential of a product.
The problem with the online marketplace is that for everybody who genuinely wants to help others to make money, set up a business and improve their lives, there are plenty who are looking to make a quick buck.
If you take the time to look properly, you will see that there are certain patterns which emerge amongst those who are only interested in your money. I have tried to highlight some of these however this article is by no means a comprehensive guide.
I do however hope that it has opened your eyes and changed how you view products online, how I compile my reviews, and most importantly, that it will save you some time and hard earned money down the line 🙂