As more people scour the Internet for work-at-home opportunities and online gigs, scam artists do their utmost to suck hapless individuals in and swindle them out of their money. The tricks and tactics that scammers use vary in complexity and often focus on eliciting an emotional response. For example, just take a look at this collection of online scams I scoured from just one Facebook group- scams that promise easy money in little time and with little work:

For example, just take a look at this collection of online scams I scoured from just one Facebook group- scams that promise easy money in little time and with little work:

Of course, once the victim purchases the scam system, he finds himself with a bogus product and an empty wallet.

Fortunately, most work-at-home scams feature one or several distinguishing characteristics that are dead giveaways about their true intent and nature. You can learn to spot these characteristics, or signs, and protect yourself from being swindled.

1. No or limited contact information.

A typical scammer isn’t all that interested in having you know where she operates, what her phone number is, how to email her, etc. The customer or technical support helpline might be routed to a very generic ZenDesk area; meanwhile, the company itself is offshore and/or based in a legally protected country like Cyprus.

Before you invest in any online opportunity, contact the owners of that opportunity. Find out how easy it is to reach anybody by phone, email or chat. Also, after making your initial contact, wait a few days and see how well the business performs its follow-ups.

2. Multiple requests for your contact information.

Opt-in forms are standard practice for many businesses that wish to build their email lists and/or learn who exactly is clicking on their web pages. Scammers also use opt-in forms, but quite often the purpose of those opt-ins is to round up your contact info so it can be sold to other parties and scammers.

How can you tell who exactly is asking for your contact info? The secret is the style.

A legitimate business might “gate” some of its larger content, or limit access to that content, until the user provides his contact info. A scammer, on the other hand, will gate the entire website, or tantalize the user with promises of “important information” or “this one secret trick” in exchange for contact information.

Alternately, some scam opt-in forms go on forever and ever; after you’ve entered your contact info, you are presented with yet another opt-in page, and then another. This is a sure sign that the scammer is passing your contact info around to her scam buddies, all of whom will eventually be pestering you with emails and phone calls about work-at-home “opportunities.”

3. Just when you thought you were out…

Sales pages are intended to induce you to make a purchase, leave your contact info, or take some other kind of action. While many businesses use sales pages, they also let the potential consumer go if he isn’t interested in taking the desired action.

Not so with scam sales pages. If you try to leave those kinds of pages, you often see pop-up after pop-up appear on your computer screen, offering you a discount or some other incentive to stay.

Exit pop-ups should always be treated with caution. If you must leave a page before you receive some wonderful “offer,” there’s a good chance that that offer never existed in the first place.

4. The site knows your exact location.

“We found exactly one position in [insert your town/city here]” is a common tactic used by many work-at-home scams. By geotargeting you, the scammer tricks you into thinking that the opportunity is especially relevant to you and your area.

You could take drastic measures to prevent geotargeting altogether by using a VPN. However, when it comes to avoiding online scams, just know that geotargeting is a tactic often exploited by scammers to make you feel unique and special, and thus more likely to pay for a rather generic offer. Don’t fall for this ploy.

5. Only 50 40 15 1 left!!

Another common psychological ploy used by scammers (and even legitimate marketers) is scarcity. By tricking you into thinking that an opportunity is getting away from you, a scammer induces you to purchase “the last one.”

Imagine your surprise when you find out, just days or weeks later, that the “scarce” opportunity has resurfaced, and there are several more available for sale.

To find out if the scarcity tactic is being used, perform a site history search using a tool such as Wayback Machine. If you go back one month or one year and find the same message of “just one left” on a website, you can pretty much conclude that this is a ploy being used to induce you to buy.

6. Slick testimonials

Scammers often hire actors to provide fake testimonials on products they’ve never used, much less seen. Some of these testimonials sound quite convincing. However, there are several ways you can tell that they are fake:

  • The language is too polished. Typical individuals intersperse their statements with “um” or “uh.” Some people stutter or lose their train of thought. Actors are much better trained in oration and won’t include any odd stops or buffer words in their language.
  • The testimonial actors can be found online. By saving an image file of the person giving the testimonial, and then searching this image file using Google Images, you can determine if the testimonial is a hired out Fiverr actor or the real thing.

7. Safety badges galore

Many scammers lure individuals into handing over their credit card information by posting a bunch of badges (i.e., trust seals) that announce how the site is protected from viruses, hackers, etc. However, when you try to click on those badges to obtain their information, the clicks go nowhere.

Such trust seals are added to gain your trust and to ease any suspicions you may have about the online product. Furthermore, it’s not hard to copy and paste these seals from legitimate sites and onto scam sites.

Always check so-called safety badges by clicking on them and/or checking out their certification number. You can also go to the company that offers those badges (e.g., McAfee) and find out if the business is listed with it.

8. Flashy cars, big bank accounts, luxury lifestyles

One of the most annoying tactics that scammers use to lure you in is to display obscene levels of wealth and luxury on the sales page/video. You’re bound to see piles of cash, yachts, mansions, sports cars and other obvious signs of wealth. All this is done so that you associate being rich with the online opportunity presented to you. Likewise, the scammer is simply trying to make you jealous.

It goes almost without saying that any work-at-home opportunity that uses flashes of wealth to induce you to buy is almost certainly a scam. Real jobs and businesses don’t need to show you money or wealth- that’s part of the process of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

9. No clue what you’ll be doing

When all is said and done, most online scam sites have one common trait: they all fail to describe what exactly you’ll be doing to make money. After all, the process of setting up a business and operating it is boring. What’s far more exciting (and dopamine-inducing) is thinking about all the money you’ll soon be rolling in, or how you won’t be working 60-hour weeks in a cubicle.

To prevent yourself from being”swooned” by this tactic, tell one of your family members or friends about the “golden opportunity” that you are considering. Can you describe this opportunity in detail to your family or friend? If you can’t, take that as yet another red flag pointing to a possible scam.

10.  A dicey money-back guarantee

Online opportunities are often packaged with a money-back guarantee so that potential buyers aren’t turned off from buying them. It’s only after the product is purchased that the true nature of that “guarantee” is discovered.

Many scammers get around money-back guarantees by adding all kinds of caveats. For example, one caveat might be the requirement that the system is used. Other scammers ask that you prove the system didn’t work for you. Such caveats make it nearly impossible for you to get your money back.

To avoid this issue, read the site’s terms and conditions carefully. Read the entire refund policy and ask questions. If all else fails, pay through Paypal or credit card only so you can later file a dispute.

With online work-at-home opportunities, it’s buyer beware

When it comes to online opportunities, you need to always be aware of potential scams. Even if an opportunity sounds legit, it should always be researched online. By being aware of the above-noted tactics and tricks, you can be better prepared to spot and avoid work-at-home scams.

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