Saturday, October 25, 2008

Scams and How to avoids

Typical Scams


Just about every mail order publication has at least one ad in it promising hundreds of dollars a week, just for stuffing envelopes. Some even promise to pay $4 or $5 per envelope stuffed! So, many people send off their hard earned money for the "registration fees" just to discover they have been duped.

Let's take a logical look at this type of scam.

Would you pay someone even 50 cents to stuff an envelope when you can buy an envelope stuffing machine for a few hundred dollars? So, there must be more to what you will have to do than simply stuffing an envelope.

There is more. The most prevalent envelope stuffing scam goes like this. You pay your "registration fee" - usually around $30.00. This "registration fee" is pure profit for the operator.

The operator will then send you a copy of the ad you originally responded to, along with the wording to a classified ad, telling people about how much money they can make stuffing envelopes, and to send a self-addressed stamped envelope for information. When you receive someone's SASE, you send them a copy of the ad.

You have just "stuffed an envelope". If the poor sucker sends in the registration fee to the operator (like YOU did), the operator will send you $1 (or whatever was promised in the ad) for "stuffing the envelope". The operator is left with expenses of around $2 and a profit of $28.

Basically, you are doing all the advertising work for the operator for extremely low pay. You should expect a response rate, if you're lucky, of 0.25% to 0.5%. Even at 0.5%, you would have to get 200 responses to your classified ad to earn $1.

The other most common scam goes like this. You send the usual "registration fee" in, and the operator sends you a package containing all the components of the operators mailings. You must assemble them, fold them, and stuff the envelopes according to the operator's very exact instructions.

Then, you send the stuffed envelopes back to the operator. You will be paid for each stuffed envelope that "meets their standards". Of course, none of the envelopes you stuffed will meet their standards. They will find some reason not to pay you. Of course, that doesn't prevent them from still sending out the envelopes you stuffed...

As you can see, joining an envelope stuffing program is not a good idea. Save your money and put it towards a legitimate mail order business. You will be happier and more successful.


In case you are not familiar with them, here's an overview, so you know what to watch out for.

Chain letters are those letters you get, instructing you to send, say $5, to the 4 to 6 people on the list, who will send you a report, or some product, or sometimes even nothing. Then, you add your name to the bottom of the list, moving the others up, and the top one off.

You then print and mail out as many as you can, hoping others will do the same as you. The letters are liberally sprinkled with references to how much money you will make, and how many people are sure to participate. Some even go so far as to promise you $1,000,000 and more, sometimes in less than a month!

Pyramid schemes are what chain letters are based on. You buy into one, then you need to recruit others below you, to move you up the line. The people you recruit, in turn, need to recruit others, and so on. Pyramids go by all kinds of names and formats.

For example, a popular pyramid scheme goes like this: There are 8 "level 4," 4 "level 3", 2 " level 2", and 1 "level 1". When you buy in, you pay a predetermined amount, like $10, to the level 1 person. That makes you a level 4.

When you recruit 8 more people, you become a level 3. Your 8 people then need to recruit 8 more, to move you up, and so on. You're promised that you will get hundreds of dollars when you're at level 1.

These programs all share many characteristics.

They are illegal.
Don't believe what the chain letters say, that someone "showed it to the postmaster, who assured him it was legal," or "it's legal, check the postal codes."

Pyramid schemes are illegal because you're paying money for nothing, in a shaky con game which can fall apart if recruiting drops off. With a chain letter, it's the same, but it's conducted through the mail, which opens up mail fraud laws, also.

The mathematics used in the letters and schemes is flawed.
Most chain letters will say you should expect a 5% - 10% response from your mailings. As anyone in mail order will tell you, this is absurd, especially in regard to chain letters.

With a chain letter you are relying on others to do the work that will make money for you. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Somewhere along the line, people will drop out and everybody loses!

It doesn't matter if the chain letter/pyramid involves sending money, recipes, stamps, or any product or object of value. It's still ILLEGAL and a poor business proposition.

Collect names for us. We pay $20 each. Guaranteed! The truth is, this company WILL pay you $20 for each name you collect for them. What they DON'T tell you is that each person has to spend $100 or more by placing an order before you get your $20.

The customer is led to believe that all they have to do is get out their phone books and start sending the company names and addresses. In return, the company will send them $20 for each name and address they send them. When they send away for the details they discover the scam and think everybody in mail order is operating this way. Result: Mail order is labeled as a scam and illegal business activity.

"How to get 100,000 people to send you $5 each. Send $5 to..." This is cute advertising, but you have to put a legitimate product behind claims like this. One of the materials I found was a book with this title. And you get the book for sending $5 to the publisher. What the you find out is that you are expected to run the same ad in newspapers and tabloids. Other people will send $1 for information and their mailbox is "supposedly" flooded with $1 bills. This ad is NOT illegal. It asks you to send $1 for information and you DO get the information. It's just something you should keep in mind so your expectations aren't high.

These types of ads can be classified under the heading of a "Legitimate Scam." You can't complain that your order was not filled. You can't complain the idea is not possible. You can't complain the ad promised something it didn't deliver.

Likewise, do not confuse scam-sounding ads with legitimate "lead-generating ads". A mail order company may run an ad that states: "Want to make a lot of money? Call 1-800-999-1212". This is NOT necessarily a scam or rip-off. Since there is no cost involved it might be worth your time and effort to call the number and see what is being offered.

Some dealers run ads that don't tell you what the product is because they have an entire package of information they want to send you. It would be too costly to advertise the complete information in a small 1" or 2" ad, so they run "Lead-Generating Ads" to bring them inquiries. This is also not illegal and is common business practice. You will also find that real "Lead-Generating Ads" DON'T ask you for a lot of money up front. They only tell you enough about the product to entice you to send in a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) or $1 for more information. They are unlike "Example 2" which basically tells you the scam before you order it!

Instead of complaining, people should be writing their mail order publishers when they are ripped-off, providing them with documentation and a summary of these mail order scams.

Use your common sense! Get your facts straight. Have documentation to back-up your findings and submit them! Wouldn't it be nice if everybody in the world were honest?


Multi-level marketing is a fancy name used by some companies in an effort to do two things.

1. To move products from their warehouses, and thus increase their sales volume.

2. To recruit "an army" of commission-only sales people.

After you've stripped all the hoopla away from these "super money-making opportunities", the bottom line remains the same - you make money from commissions allowed from the sale of products.

Generally speaking, very few people have any "real" sales experience, and thus, if offered the opportunity to take a job as a commission-only sales person, they'd run from it. Which is not always best since many companies do provide great support and free training to help you along the way.

Most commission-only sales positions are "direct selling" opportunities.
A lot of personal fortunes have been made by commission-only sales people.
When you sell by mail, you are almost always involved in commission selling, and direct selling.

BEWARE - Most people are "duped" into joining multi-level marketing programs without understanding that it is commission sales and at least a form of door-to-door selling. There are some multi-level marketing companies that subtly encourage you to break the law, and run the risk of huge monetary fines, long terms in prison, or both!

This is done by "inferring" that if you find a certain number of people to duplicate what you're doing, and in turn encourage each person to keep the system going, everybody will get rich!

That's a "Ponzi Scheme"!
A Ponzi Scheme is any kind of money-making opportunity where you get paid by recruiting, enlisting or soliciting other people to follow your lead and continue a chain of events. In other words, you'll be paid a commission from the people you recruit, from the people they recruit, from the people they recruit, and on into infinity.

This is the "secret" that most multi-level marketing companies use to induce you to buy into their program. Such practices are illegal, and subject to federal laws which could destroy you. Bi-level marketing plans are the same thing, as are chain letters, and people-helping people clubs. They are all based upon the Ponzi Scheme. If you have any doubts, take your money-making opportunity and sit down with your local postmaster and discuss it's legality.

These things are illegal because if they really worked, by the time one person had attained level number five, he would have "signed up" everybody on the face of the earth with only the first two levels receiving any of the money. There would be nobody left for the third, fourth and fifth levels to sell to.

Multi-level marketing companies get around the law by stating within their by-laws that it is strictly forbidden to promote or attempt to sell the program by mail. Then, when the postal inspectors come calling on the little guy, the MLM company says: He did it - we don't do such things - here, look at our by-laws.

To make any money selling a product or service on a commission-only basis, you have to have the ability to sell like the well known "used car salesman". It's all hard sell, and more often than not, involves "forcing" the prospect to buy whether it's good for him or not.

Anyone who has ever attempted to succeed in commission sales, knows that it takes a product in great demand - a great deal of sales calls, advertising and persistence - at least a little bit of failure - and a tremendous amount of "total business moxie" to make any money at it.

There is nothing wrong with commission selling. If you're good at it, and receive the proper training and support, you can make a lot of money, but remember that multi-level marketing is commission based. It takes a special kind of personality and a great company to succeed at it.


Phone fraud is a multi-billion dollar business that involves selling everything from bad or non-existent investments to the peddling of misrepresented products and services. Everyone who has a phone is a prospect. Becoming a victim is largely up to you.

1. High-pressure sales tactics.

The call may not begin that way, but if the swindler senses you're not going to be an easy sale, he or she may shift to a hard sell. This is in contrast to legitimate businesses, most of which respect an individual's right to be "not interested".

High-pressure sales tactics take a variety of forms but the common denominator is usually a stubborn reluctance to accept "no" as an answer. Some callers may resort to insult and argument, questioning the prospect's intelligence or ability to make a decision, often ending with a warning that "you're going to be very sorry if you don't do such and such". Or, "you'll never get rich if you don't take a chance".

2. Insistence on an immediate decision.

If it's an investment, the caller may say something like, "the market is starting to move even as we speak". For a product or service, the urgency pitch may be that "there are only a few left" or "the offer is about to expire". The bottom line is that swindlers often insist that you must make your decision right now. And they always give a reason why.

3. The offer sounds too good to be true.

The oldest advice around is still the best: "An offer that sounds too good to be true probably is". Be aware that some phone swindlers are becoming more sophisticated and may make statements that sound just reasonable enough (if only barely) to keep you from hanging up. They may make three or four statements you know to be true so that when they spring the big lie on you for what they're selling, you'll be more likely to believe that, too.
4. A request for your credit card number for any purpose other than to make a purchase.

A swindler may ask you for your credit card number. Or, several credit card numbers just for "identification," or "verification" that you have won something, or merely as an "expression of good faith" on your part. Whatever the ploy, once a swindler has your card number it is likely that unauthorized charges will appear on your account.
5. An offer to send someone to your home or office to pick up the money, or some other method such as overnight mail to get your funds more quickly.

This is likely to be part of their "urgency" pitch. It may actually be an effort to avoid mail fraud charges by bypassing postal authorities or simply a way of getting your money before you change your mind.

6. A statement that something is "free," followed by a requirement that you pay for something.

While honest firms may promote free phone offers to attract customers, the difference with swindlers is that you generally have to pay in some way to get whatever it is that's "free." The cost may be labeled as a handling or shipping charge, or as payment for an item in addition to the "prize". Whatever you receive "free", if anything, most likely will be worth much less than what you paid.

7. An investment that's "without risk."

Except for obligations of the U.S. Government, all investments have some degree of risk. If there were any such thing as a risk-free investment with big profits assured, the caller certainly would not have to be calling people in the phone book to find investors!

8. Unwillingness to provide written information or references (such as a bank or names of satisfied customers in your area) that you can contact.

Swindlers generally have a long list of reasons: "There isn't time for that," or "it's a brand new offer and printed material isn't available yet," or "customer references would violate their privacy". Even with references, be cautious, some swindlers actually pay some customers to serve as references.

The caller may also be reluctant to answer questions by phone -- such as inquiries about the firm or even how and where you can contact the firm. The swindler may insist on contacting you "for your convenience".

9. A suggestion that you should make a purchase or investment on the basis of "trust."

Trust should not be given indiscriminately, and certainly not to unknown persons calling on the phone and asking that you send them money. Just the same, "trust me" is a pitch that swindlers sometimes employ when all else fails.

Now we come back to topic: How to avoid it?

1. Don't allow yourself to be pushed into a hurried decision.

No matter what you are told to the contrary, the reality is that at least 99 percent of everything that's a good deal today will still be a good deal a week from now! And the other one percent isn't generally worth the risk you would be taking to find out.

There may be times when you'll want to make a prompt decision, but those occasions shouldn't involve an irrevocable financial commitment to purchase a product or make an investment that you are not familiar with from a caller that you don't know. Also, purchase decisions should never be made under pressure.
2. Always request written information be mailed to you about the product, service, investment or charity and the organization or company offering it.

For legitimate firms, this shouldn't be a problem. Swindlers, however, may not want to give you time for adequate consideration, may not have written material available, or may not want to risk a run-in with legal or regulatory authorities by putting fraudulent statements in writing.

You should insist on having enough time to study any information provided before being contacted again or agreeing to meet with anyone in person. Some high-pressure telephone sales calls are solely for the purpose of persuading you to meet with an even higher-pressure sales person in your home!

3. Don't make any investment or purchase you don't fully understand.

Unless you fully understand what you will be buying or investing in, you can be badly burned. Swindlers intentionally seek out individuals who don't know what they are doing! They often attempt to flatter prospects into thinking they are making an informed decision.
4. Ask what state or federal agencies the firm is regulated by and is required to be registered with.

If you get an answer to this, ask for a phone number or address that you can use to contact the agency and verify the answer yourself. If the firm says it's not subject to any regulation, you may want to increase your level of caution accordingly.

5. Check out the company or organization.

If you assume a firm wouldn't provide you with information, references, or regulatory contacts unless the information was accurate and reliable, that's precisely what swindlers want you to assume. They know that most people never bother to follow through. Most victims of fraud contact a regulatory agency after they've lost their money. It is far better to make the contact and obtain whatever information is available while you still have your money.

6. If an investment or major purchase is involved, request that information also be sent to your accountant, financial advisor, banker, or attorney for evaluation and an opinion.

Swindlers don't want you to seek a second opinion. Their reluctance or evasiveness could be your tip-off.

7. Ask what recourse you would have if you make a purchase and aren't satisfied.

If there's a guarantee or refund provision, it's best to have it in writing and be satisfied that the business will stand behind its guarantee before you make a final financial commitment.

8. Beware of testimonials that you may have no way of checking out.

They may involve nothing more than someone being paid a fee to speak well of a product or service.
9. Don't provide personal financial information over the phone unless you are absolutely certain the caller has a bona fide need to know.

That goes especially for your credit card numbers and bank account information. The only time you should give anyone your credit card number is if you've decided to make a purchase and want to charge it. If someone says they'll send a bill later but they need your credit card number in the meantime, be cautious and be certain you're dealing with a reputable company.

10. If necessary, hang up.

If you're simply not interested, if you become subject to high-pressure sales tactics, if you can't obtain the information you want or get evasive answers, or if you hear your own better judgment whispering that you may be making a serious mistake, just say good-bye.

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