Our wonderful wired world is bliss for scammers. Remember the old days? You'd get a letter offering you untold riches for something like $9.99 upwards. Owing to being a member of the Sydney Turf Club 20 years ago I still get hard copy letters offering me membership to a betting system from some hopefuls in Victoria. I've never bothered sending back 'not at this address'. Let them waste the postage. But I digress.
Internet scams are brilliant. Really, I can spend hours stunned at websites that offer the world for so little. So much is at my fingertips with a little click or two. Sometimes I laugh out loud. Sometimes I shed a tear for the gullible.
Have you ever clicked on one of the ads that appear in the sidebar in Facebook? I get lots about weight loss, because I'm female and therefore must be worried about my weight. I've clicked, out of interest, on every diet ad there is. Some of them radiant good common sense (= not scam). Some of them ask you to pay a fair amount of money for good common sense advice (=not scam but really, you can find this stuff out for free if you look around). Some of them offer a magic pill. Aha, the scam alarm sounds.
How do you identify a scam webpage?
- Firstly, they're miles long. If you decided to print one out you'd be condemning at least one pine tree to eternity.
- They are stand alone pages which don't have a friendly "about" or anything else useful. The contact address is typically a PO box or serviced office.
- They usually throw in plenty of offers "worth" X amount of money. "Worth" is an interesting description. What, I can get $1499 'worth' of goodies and extras for only $79.99? Sign me up, Scotty!
- Oh, let's not forget the testimonials. There have to be testimonials. All glowing. Often with before and after pics, particularly in health sites (diet, skin conditions, you know the ones)
- They feature primary colours. Websafe blue and red, usually, occasionally with a hint of yellow.
- Best of all, lots of ALL CAPS and EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!! The more exclamation marks after a statement, the more scammy is my rule.
I've mentioned Diet Scams as an example. With obesity raging through the western world there are a crapload of people trying to make money out of the insecure and overweight. Here's a useful website
with the lowdown on some popular diet scams. Read it. Do Diet Patches, Dieters Tea et all ring a bell? A shame they didn't include some links. Never mind, I've got a few here:
- Balance bands. They really work? Um.....nice use of bright colours in a mid-90s-I've-just-discovered-Front-Page way.
- Foolproof 30 day diet. This one is just beautiful. A classic example of design. Lots of lovely testimonials too. It might not actually fall into the scam category as the sample menu sounds sensible, but the design, and use of bold type, makes it look very suspect
- I do like this one. Liproxenol and its metabolic enhancing ingredients. Classier than the classic Lose Weight Now!-type website, but still a magic pill, and as we all know magic pills don't work... eating sensibly and exercising regularly does
If you're on Twitter, there's a lesson here. Before you retweet a link that shows up on your page, click through if it sounds remotely suspect. Check if it looks or sounds too good to be true. If it does, it's probably a scam. Twitter is a lovely new way for scammers to get their products out there. Passing on the odd scam tweet might not damage your credibility but passing on several a day might. Particularly if your Twitter account is biased to a particular industry.
The same goes for blogging. If you have an automated blog such as one offered by Blog Overdrive
, for heaven's sake, take some control. Moderate what's being posted on there.
Oh, and really obvious point: If some unknown wally starts sending you email that's clearly spam/scam with an unsubscribe link, don't click on the link. Just add the emailer to your junk or blacklist. Otherwise you'll still be getting invitations to buy a betting system in 20 years' time.
Hang on... just found a brilliant site offering dieter's tea with real herbs. Be back later.