Get Rich Quick — Is it a Scam?

Get rich quick on the Internet: Internet ScamBusters #13

Before we get started with this month’s scam, there are new developments in the Nigerian Letter Scam and the 809 scam. The following is reprinted with permission.

“Nigerian Letter Scam In California: Residents in the Modesto, California area are receiving the infamous Nigerian Advance Scheme letter. According to news sources, the letter promises a bonus of $600,000 if the person’s bank account can be used to temporarily store millions of dollars in foreign aid. The letters are being turned over to the local postal inspector for investigation.”

809 Scam Update: “How about being a mystery shopper? The Online Fraud has heard that another permutation of the 809 area code scam is for the advertising of mystery shoppers. Mystery shoppers are used by market researchers to buy products at nationally known stores and report back to them. But a scam version has you buy useless information on how to become one. Apparently this new permutation is directed more to women on the internet than men. If you get a solicitation to become a mystery shopper by calling an 809 area code, please let the Online Fraud or Internet ScamBusters know about it. Also please send a copy to the National Fraud Information Center as well.”

SCAM: “Get Rich Quick” On The Internet

This scam is so blatant and obvious that we didn’t think we’d need to devote an issue of Internet ScamBusters to it. However, based on what we’ve been hearing lately, we were wrong.


Because we continue to hear outrageous claims promising Internet riches, and even people who should know better are believing this nonsense.

Here are a few examples from some of the recent promotions we’ve received and claims we’ve heard about at seminars (as well as the real story behind these claims):

Our current “favorite” totally outrageous claim: “You can make $500 million (just like XYZ Website) — and it only costs $40 a month to maintain your site.”

We checked this out with the owner of the Web site named by this seminar speaker, and at first the owner wouldn’t even answer our email because he thought the claim was so ridiculous. (He wrote: “You hadn’t heard back from me because the “rumor” is so silly that it’s obviously something you made up.”)

When we convinced him that we hadn’t — and wouldn’t — make this up (and that many people had paid $1,000 each to attend this seminar to hear this), he said that the revenue figures are “not even a funny joke,” and the cost figures are “off by something close to two orders of magnitude.”

If you are interested in a serious, fascinating treatment of what’s really going on commercially on the Web, take a look at the Executive Summary of ActivMedia’s most recent study called “The Real Numbers Behind Net Profits” at

Here’s another group of outrageous claims (all with the same premise) which we call “Billboards on the Information Super Hypeway:”

“Imagine adding 25-30 million wealthy prospects to your target market in an instant. That’s what the Internet can do.” or

“Don’t you want 30 million new customers that have money?” or

“You can get your ad in front of 20 million people on the World Wide Web.” or

“Remember, there are 30 million visitors cruising by all the time.”

What’s wrong with these claims (besides the fact that they’re not true)?

They are based on a misconception of how the Internet works. There may well be are 20 or 30 million people out there on the Web (although no one knows — or can know — exactly how many people there really are). And, they do in fact have demographic characteristics that are attractive to many business owners, since they are highly-educated, very likely to have higher incomes, professional, and predominantly male.

However, that does *not* mean these people are going to come to a Web site, or that they will instantly buy products or services, or that the business owner will make a fortune.

In fact, this is obvious, but there is no one place everyone on the Internet goes. And there is no one directory of what’s on the Internet — instead, there are hundreds of Internet directories.

Further, people visit places on the Internet that interest them. In other words, the Internet is very segmented. It’s not like a real highway where people cruise by and see a “billboard” on the way — rather, they have to know to look for a Web site or see that site mentioned at one of the places they like to go visit. They need a *reason* to find a business, and then they need to specifically and consciously go to visit that Web site.

That’s why it’s not possible to just get 20 to 30 million new wealthy prospects in an instant by putting a business on the Web.

Another related outrageous claim: “Just put up your Web page, and soon you’ll have to take up weight training just to haul all of your checks to the bank.”

We “love” the way these promoters always talk about a Web site as a singular “Web page.” There are very few Web sites with only one page that are doing well — most successful Web sites are very content rich — and therefore many pages.

Not surprisingly, doing business successfully on the Internet is based on many of the same principles as doing business in the “real” world. Yes, there are many important differences. (But abandoning one’s common sense is not one of them!)

Being successful on the Internet involves (among other things):

  • offering high quality products and services to a group of customers at a reasonable price that allows the business to make a profit;
  • having a good strategy and plan;
  • implementing it well;
  • providing great customer service;
  • understanding the Internet culture; and hopefully,
  • having fun and a sense of humor.

And we know lots of very successful Internet business owners, but not one has had to take up weight training to haul their checks to the bank. <g>

There are *many* more of these outrageous claims. We call them the “Aladdin’s Lamp Theory of Internet Marketing.” (You know, make three wishes, rub the lamp, and then you expect them to instantly come true.)

Don’t get taken by these claims! You can very successfully do business on the Internet, but you need to do a lot more than pay $40, put up a single Web page, or rub a lamp.