Are you a skeptic?

I am; a born skeptic, and a poor one at that.

I was laid off five months ago. One of the happiest days of my life, truth be told. I’d escaped the corporate-America cube farm with my skin! My supervisor, bless her heart, was traumatized by having to let go some of her staff, so I did what I could to comfort her; but, by the time I got back home, I skipped with glee up the walk to the front door.

I was also very fortunate to receive a substantial severance package, so could take my time deciding what to do next.

I started down a dozen blind alleys, struggled back out, and finally found the nexus of my skills, experience, and passion: I can write! That’s great, but it’s notorious for not paying the rent. So, next up was to find market niches and sub-niches that would pay me to do what I love. Check.

Rubber Meets Road.

And that’s where the proverbial rubber met the road. Several months later, I’m still struggling with my web site and with developing a client base. I’m not the only writer who’s learned the hard way how much easier it is to develop business plans and write copy for other people than for yourself. It’s sort of like cleaning the kitchen: darn hard to clean your own but pretty easy to clean somebody else’s (that’s probably the principle behind home-cleaning services).

Are you scratching your head yet, wondering what all this has to do with “I’ve Tried That?”

Well, in desperation, I started looking into all those sites that promise easy money: data entry at home, surveys, product assembly, MLM, follow the marketing guru, buy this book, enter that contest, apply for government grants, find sellers for buyers, warm market, make a killing in real estate. The list is nearly endless, isn’t it?

And that’s where the writer and skeptic converge. I started seeing the same words, the same styles, P.S.es and P.P.S.es, disbelief-suspension strategies, get-it-NOW, and sales tactics used in those too-good-to-pass-up junk-mail offers that constipate our mail boxes in real life.

Running That Offer to Ground

So, I decided to see what I could find out about these offers – I tried to run them to ground. For each and every site I found, I did three things.

First, I read just far enough to figure out the offer and then scrolled to the bottom of the page to skip the rest of the blabber-jabber. I even continued through the multiple pages of the really annoying sites to get to the sign-up part. I clicked either Back or Close when asked for credit-card information, and about half the time a pop-up begged me to stay and offered a lower price or free shipping or some other enticement. Sometimes, I followed the enticement a little further, but was still eventually asked for a credit card, so bagged it. But before giving up, I always looked for phone numbers anywhere on the site or the pop-ups, and wrote them down.

Second, I Googled the name of the offer and appended words like ‘review,’ ‘scam,’ ‘report,’ ‘secretary of state,’ ‘FTC,’ ‘ripoff,’ or ‘opinion.’ Without fail, every single offer turned up in scam-report files, disgruntled discussion threads, complaints, or other forms of warning. To be fair, some also showed up in glowing reviews. But who ya gonna believe – the couple mentions of high praise or a couple hundred people complaining they’d been ripped off?

Third, if I’d found any phone numbers, I Googled them directly. (Enter any land-line phone in the search field in 999-999-9999 format, and Google will try to find it. (Do your own home phone and see what happens.) Guess what turned up? Usually, the number appeared on a call-complaint site. It might be reported to send you to voice-mail purgatory, or manned by rude or non-English-speaking salespeople, or even to be disconnected. In a few cases, Google couldn’t find the number at all.

I’m still a poor struggling writer and born skeptic, but I’m less poor than I might be if I hadn’t run those offers to ground before “investing” in them.

This article was written by Christine Rauckis who also owns and operates Clarity Communications. Be sure to give her website a visit. This is also our very first post in our series of guest postings. Get your articles featured here at I’ve Tried That. Click here for more information.

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Last Updated: April 6, 2009

Join the Discussion

  • julia
    julia
    Reply

    thanks for this information. i recieved an offer to process rebates, for $157.00..and decided to research…but I didn’t have to go too far.

    thanks for all of you who are helping others by informing and protecting from fraud.

    in these economic times….we all need money…but honest money…and working for free was for Mother Teresa…who unfortunately is no longer with us…

    thanks again.

    julia

  • Chris
    Chris
    Reply

    Jerry –

    I agree with Joe both about changing your eddress and about Gmail’s good filtering.

    You’d want to weigh the pain of notifying all desired contacts of a new eddress against the pain of continuing to delete all that annoying spam.

    I’ve handled this problem in two ways (sorry, Mark):

    (1) I put filters on my primary account. When something new comes in that the current filters didn’t catch, I make a new one — by sender or subject or content (takes a little experimenting) — and send it along with and all future junk like it straight to trash.

    (2) I use one of my alternate eddresses at any site where there’s a question of it being mis-used. (With enough alternates, one could probably track good-guy and bad-guy sites, assuming it were worth the time and effort.) These accounts are visited only once in awhile, for a quick scan in the off chance of something useful being there, and to empty the trash. Yahoo and Hotmail are two providers who don’t seem to mind being used in this way.

    Of course, you could always give out a fake email address, but that has good and bad ramifications of its own.

  • Chris
    Chris
    Reply

    Well, of course, Mark, one should do one’s homework when looking into a business opportunity. Saying so may feel passé but, if everyone did, this site would be superfluous or nonexistent, to say nothing of the “opportunity” sites themselves being out of business.

    As to plagarism, I’d not considered running a DupePro search on my own stuff, but it’s always possible that others have reached similarly approached conclusions. My post was merely a quick-shot summary of personal experience in response to IveTriedThat’s call for said same. Over time, I’ve learned that those phone numbers provide “fig leaves of respectability” (this one, you’ll find if you seek) to which people fall victim without considering that the numbers themselves are usually integral to the scams.

    As to tone, this is a creditable site but I’ve yet to read anything here in white-paper- or MBA-speak.

    And, sincerely, thanks for the website feedback — a stupid error better-than-which-I-should’ve-known as I, too, have little sympathy for live ones nowhere near ready to so be.

    Lastly, your comments have given me several new ideas for PLR content (with which I have no problem, for ghostwriting can pay the bills nicely); thank you.

    Cheers.

    P.S.: I’m not mad. Well, not ill-tempered, that is, but, as to alternate definitions of the term, I’d probably shouldn’t try to certify….

  • Mark
    Mark
    Reply

    Hi Guys,

    Time for me to be a “hardass”… In reply to Christines post, she mentions that she believes she’s a good writer, there’s a side of me that really doubts that; it gives me the perception that her entry was a “fill-in”, sorry…

    From my understanding, apart from the paragraph that she talks about herself, she could replace the remainder by simply writing: “WHEN LOOKING AT ANY BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY, DO YOUR HOMEWORK”… I think that the info in her post is very “passé” and has already been said & discussed by numerous sites…

    Lastly, after having read her post and seeing that she has a website named “Clarity Communications” made me chuckle, I don’t believe that clarity is her strong suite; frankly, in reading her post, I thought that it had been written by a 12 year old and definitely not by a semi-professional blogger…

    OK, I’m ready for all replies!

    P.S. Sorry if I get anyone mad; I just believe in saying it like it is… This website is too good to not do so & I’m sure one of its main purposes is telling it straight…

  • jerry english
    jerry english
    Reply

    Hey Guys:

    Utterly fantastic website. When your site pops up, I always read it first. Everyone in this (home-based) business ought to subscribe. Thank you for your service. You have rescued me several times.
    How do I get away from the Nigerian/Benin scams. My mailbox is filled with them every day. I am tired of all the tripe. I figure I have won close to a billion dollars and of course never seen a time. I always delete them. I have been offered jobs. I have that figured out. The Western Union ones are a hoot. And don’t forget mystery shoppers. A friend got a check for $3,000 and was told to deposit it and keep some and write another check for the remainder. I told him to trash it.
    Do you have any advice on how to get away from this and could you address it in a future post. Thanks for your great work in this area. You guys are great!!!

    Jerry English

    • Joe
      Joe

      Jerry, the only way I know is to change your email address and then carefully guard where you submit your new one. You might also look into Gmail. Its spam and scam filters work pretty well for me to weed out the junk.

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