Can You Make Money Through Crowdsourcing?

Jeff Howe, in his June 2006 article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing”, called crowdsourcing “The new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D.” In essence, crowdsourcing utilizes the combined efforts of a group of people to help a person or business resolve a problem, create a new product, etc.

The person or business compensates the group’s efforts by either paying all participants a nominal fee or by awarding prizes to those individuals that come up with the best resolution, idea, etc. Unlike employees, these people are not directly hired or fired by the person/business. Also, since this group is derived from the general (i.e., anonymous) public, it is not considered outsourced labor.

Crowdsourcing is not new. Back in 1714, the British government offered The Longitude Prize to anyone who could find a way to determine a ship’s east/west coordinates at sea. Built in 1827, the Fourneyron hydraulic turbine was the result of a crowdsourcing competition created by The French Society for the Encouragement of Industry.

Modern examples of crowdsourcing include iStockphoto, an image-sharing site that features the work of amateur photographers for $1-$5. There is also Threadless, where community members submit and vote on which T-shirt designs should be produced. GeniusCrowds, a product invention site that I myself was a part of for six months, offers members the opportunity to submit their product ideas and vote for the ones that should be developed into prototypes.

Crowdsourcing Site Compensation

Crowdsourcing sites fall into one of two categories in terms of their compensation: pay-on-task or contest/prize. The pay-on-task sites offer a nominal level of compensation, say $1-$30, for a completed task. It’s not a lot of money but at least it’s a guaranteed amount of pay. Contest/prize sites pay significantly more money or offer job contracts, product prototypes and royalties; however, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually win that amount or get that offer. Overall, it’s best to find out beforehand just what you’re (not) signing up for with a crowdsourcing site.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing has many benefits for the sponsoring person or business, including access to a vast pool of talented and cheap workers, instant feedback on product ideas, little/no overhead (e.g., severance pay), free marketing and customer loyalty. Furthermore, those individuals that best perform on a crowdsourcing project can later be retained as contractors or employees, reducing a business’s hiring costs. For crowdsourcing members, the benefits of crowdsourcing include personal satisfaction from seeing a product idea realized, feedback from community members, job offers and monetary (or other) compensation.

Crowdsourcing also has its disadvantages. For starters, payments to crowdsource members are rather low. Ownership of your original ideas, designs, etc. is uncertain and the business may later capitalize on your submissions without compensating you. Because crowdsourcing is conducted in an open and public forum, competing businesses can easily swoop in and steal your work.

Crowdsourcing Sites

Despite its criticisms, crowdsourcing is here to stay. Here is a list of crowdsourcing sites that pay money and/or offer monetary prizes for various member tasks:

crowdSPRING: With nearly 90,000 members and roughly 250 ongoing projects, crowdSPRING is one of the biggest and most competitive crowdsourcing sites online. Monetary prizes range from $100-$1,000 for winning a task like naming a company, designing a logo or image, or creating a home page. If you are an accomplished artist or programmer, this may be the place for you.

Crowdtap: This site assigns you points based on your activity, whether it be through posting Facebook Likes, providing product feedback, answering questions or even hosting product-related parties. When you have attained enough points, you can cash them in for gift cards or donate them to charity. Also, 5% of your earnings are donated to a charity that you select from the Crowdtap site with Crowdtap matching your donation amount.

IdeaOffer: This site allows you to view projects that are in need of ideas. If you submit an idea and it is picked as the “winner” you get paid up to $100. Most winning ideas pay out between $5-$15. Here’s one example project and idea:

Daycare in Grocery stores
I have been all over the United States and there has been only one store that I’ve come across that had a childcare or babysitter inside of the store. There was a woman inside of a kids play area that was hired to watch the customers children while they are busy shopping. I would really like to see more of this being that there are a lot of parents out there that could use a hand while trying to focus on shopping. If this a good idea?

Mechanical Turk: Amazon’s micro-labor site offers members a chance to perform Human Intelligence Tasks, or HITs, for a few pennies per completed task. These HITs are easy to do for a human but are a bit too complex for a computer to understand. An example task might include something as simple as finding a URL’s Page Rank for $0.12 or writing a 350+ English resource article for $17.50. Personally, I have found the cheaper HITs to not be worth my time because I had to first contact the task requester and wait for a response before completing the task. However, the more highly priced HITs are worthwhile if you can complete them quickly.

NamingForce: Much like IdeaOffer, NamingForce focuses on the creation of product and domain names. Prizes for submitting a winning name range from $50-$250. It’s easy to sign up to the site and start inputting names almost immediately or just start voting for the names that you like the best. Pro Namers, which are those members who submit at least 200 votes in 30 days, can win as much as $500.

My Personal Experience with Crowdsourcing

As I mentioned before, I was part of GeniusCrowds for six months. During that time, I submitted a lot of invention ideas, some of which were touted as quite innovative by the community members. However, my ideas were never selected for prototype development. After some time had passed, I decided I’d be better off developing these product ideas on my own. Now I just need to get motivated and build my very own human-powered TV.

I also signed up for Crowdtap several months ago. The site doesn’t offer much in terms of instant pay but I am getting closer to cashing in my points for an Amazon gift card. I’ve also had the opportunity to provide feedback on several products that only months later appeared on store shelves.

How to Successfully Market Your Ebook Online

Have you decided to offer your freshly written book as an ebook? Then you’ve made a wise choice. The Pew Research Center reports that at least one in five Americans has read an ebook in the past year. OverDrive, a distributor of ebooks and audiobooks to libraries, reports that ebook checkouts from libraries increased 200% in 2010.

Ebook sales are estimated to be $3.2 billion this year and to reach $9.7 billion by 2016, according to a market report published by Juniper Research. The main impetus for this growth is increased sales of ereaders and tablets like the iPad, NOOK and Kindle. With such devices becoming cheaper each and every year, more people than ever before are building digital libraries.

Even those folks who have yet to purchase an ereader or tablet will read ebooks on their computers or mobile phones. Indeed, ebook sales have become so successful that hardbook fiction sales have dropped over 10% according to Nielsen BookScan.

So, if you have an upcoming ebook to sell, you’re in good company. However, even with the favorable ebook market, you still need to invest in some marketing. Many authors subscribe to the “if you build it, they will come” mentality when it comes to ebook advertising; however, there is no guarantee that consumers will select your ebook from the many other (and even free) ebooks available. So, how can you make your own ebook stand out?

The single and most effective action you can take before releasing your ebook is to create your own fan club. Consumers who know about your ebook and who are looking forward to turning its digital pages are also more likely to purchase it than an unprepared audience. Such a fan club will also be of benefit to you should you have some hesitations about which chapters to include in or exclude from your ebook, whether additional points or explanations are needed, or even if your writing style is understandable for a given audience. Finally, if you decide to offer back-end products like videos, workbooks, classes or a second ebook, having a ready audience will increase the sales of these products.

How do you create your own fan club? Here are four different ways to do it online:

Create an ebook blog

You can start a blog for your ebook even while you’re in the process of writing it. This helps introduce you to your potential readers and lets them know you as a person. If you wish, you can create a forum for visitors to comment on your content, ask questions and offer suggestions. A blog also helps you rank well for your ebook title and subject matter in the search engine results pages, or SERPs.

Sample chapters can be listed in your blog, providing readers with an idea about your ebook’s theme and pace. These sample chapters can also be linked to a sales landing page. Finally, a blog is a useful tool for gathering subscriber emails, which can later be used as part of your email marketing campaign to gain buyers.

Start affliate marketing

You can offer your ebook through affiliate networks like Clickbank and Chitika so that affiliates list it on their websites and/or blogs in exchange for a pre-agreed commission. Doing this leverages your ebook marketing, effectively putting a team of salespeople at your disposal. Likewise, Google AdSense and Facebook Ads offer you the opportunity to advertise your ebook to a broad audience of potential customers, charging you only when someone clicks on your ad.

If you’d rather take a more personal approach with your ebook marketing, you could negotiate with individual website owners and bloggers whose sites you admire and would like to be featured on. This personal approach is time-consuming but advantageous in that you know who is marketing your ebook and what approach he/she is taking. Such a tactic also helps prevent your ebook from becoming associated with an unintentional or undesired branding (e.g., your ebook denouncing MSG is listed on the The Glutamate Association’s website).

Take advantage of social media

Marketing via social media is a great way to gain traffic, collect user feedback and create product awareness. Through social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, a message posted on your profile can go viral and reach a large audience quickly. This helps establish your name and brand in the minds of individuals. Furthermore, these individuals can interact with you by posting comments or questions, helping to turn your marketing monologue into a dialogue.

Direct marketing of your ebook via LinkedIn or Facebook is a faux-pas; however, if you offer incentives to your audience, as well as useful advice and content, your sales page will eventually become inundated with visitors. Furthermore, viewers who like your content will help publicize it, increasing your fan club.

Write guest posts

Guest posting is an ideal method for tapping into another blogger’s audience and making it your own. When contacting another website or blog, pitch at least two to three article ideas as well as the key points that you wish to make in each of these articles. You needn’t talk about your ebook exclusively; however, it is imperative that your ebook be mentioned and linked somewhere in the blog post.

Once you have successfully guest posted on smaller and lesser known blogs, start targeting higher Page rank sites, mentioning your past posts as a kind of blogging resume. This will expand your audience dramatically and increase visits to your own ebook blog.

Health Insurance Options for the Self-Employed

One of the biggest challenges of self-employment is obtaining affordable private health insurance. When you are employed at a company, that company’s group bargaining privileges allow for all insured employees to receive a lower premium. Once you strike out on your own, however, you lose that group bargaining advantage. Paying for private health insurance can take a big bite out of your income, especially if you are older or have preexisting health conditions.

Most self-employed individuals take one of five routes when attempting to find and pay for private health insurance. They either:

  1. Risk having no health insurance.
  2. Pay for COBRA-sponsored health insurance.
  3. Pay for exorbitantly expensive private health insurance.
  4. Obtain occupation-specific group health insurance.
  5. Obtain an HSA (i.e., health savings account).

Self-Employed Health Insurance Options

No health insurance

Many folks, especially if they are young and single, risk going without health insurance coverage. However, in the event that they become sick or injured, the costs inherent in treatment a condition like cancer or a broken arm can be astronomical. Personally, I’ve witnessed at least two of my friends, both in their mid-30’s, be diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses while not covered under any health insurance plan. In the first case, the friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and ended up going into lifelong debt to pay for her chemotherapy. In the second case, the friend ended up with an $80,000 surgery bill, which was miraculously paid by the hospital’s charity fund.

The other issue with having no health insurance coverage is that you don’t benefit from routine check-ups that could end up saving your life. For example, many cancers can be cured if they are caught early. However, if you don’t get routine check-ups, you could end up paying with your life.

Pay for COBRA

If you recently became self-employed, you can remain on your old employer’s health insurance plan for up to 18 months via COBRA coverage. However, you must now pay up to 102% of the plan’s costs, which includes the amount that you and your employer paid for your health insurance, plus an additional 2% for administrative fees. This can be quite substantial since employers often pay the majority of their employees’ health insurance costs.

In my own case, I went from paying just $78/month for my individual health insurance plan to $456/month. Keep in mind that I had no preexisting conditions and had not visited my PCP in nearly five years. When I added my partner to the plan, my insurance premium skyrocketed to over $870/month! Obviously, the high price tag of COBRA coverage makes it unfeasible for many self-employed individuals and their families.

Things become even worse if you are disabled and are obtaining COBRA coverage under an 11 month disability extension (following the standard 18 month COBRA coverage term). In such a case, you could pay up to 150% of your former employer’s premium. This is simply insane.

Obtain private health insurance

Many of my self-employed friends and family members purchase their own private health insurance plans through big name insurance companies like Dean, Kaiser Permanente, AllState, etc. However, they all had to apply to several health insurance providers before being accepted into even a single program.

Those members that had preexisting health conditions like heart disease or diabetes were forced to pay extremely steep insurance premiums; for example, my uncle is in his early 60’s, has a history of high blood pressure, and pays about $1,000/month for his private health insurance plan. Likewise, your provider might raise your rates substantially if you make too many claims in a single year.

Obtain occupation-specific group health insurance

Although not as common as employer-sponsored group health insurance, some trades and guilds do offer occupation-specific group health insurance. In such cases, the premiums cost significantly less than those of private health insurance plans. For example, the members of the Freelancers Union collectively bargain with health insurance companies for a set member premium. Once you join the Freelancers Union, you reap the benefits of such membership.

Getting occupation-specific group health insurance is great; the problem is that it is not available to every profession or geographic location. Most of the available health insurance providers are centered in big cities like Chicago or New York. Unless you plan to drive many miles for your next health check-up or dental exam, occupation-specific group health insurance is not going to be possible for you.

Start a health savings account

The HSA, or health savings account, has become very popular in recent years as people try to find affordable health insurance for themselves and their families. An HSA is set up very much like a Flexible Spending Account, or FSA: You contribute pre-tax dollars into a separate bank account and then use that money for qualified health and medical expenses. Unlike the FSA, however, your contributed money does not expire at the end of the year. Thus, you are not subject to a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy with HSA monies.

On the contrary, you can even regard your HSA as another type of IRA, since it is likely that you will need to withdraw from your HSA as you become older. Unlike an IRA, however, you are not taxed upon withdrawing money from your HSA- as long as that money is used for qualified health and medical expenses. If you have the good fortune of not needing your HSA cash for health and medical expenses, you can still withdraw and use your money- provided you pay your taxes on it, of course.

HSA contributions can be quite substantial and really help you during tax time: For 2012, an individual can contribute as much as $3,100 into an HSA, while a family can contribute up to $6,250. If you are 55 years or older, you can add an additional $1,000 of “catch-up” money to your individual or family contribution. All this money is deductible from your gross income, allowing you to soften much of the taxman’s blow.

Before you start an HSA, you will first need to obtain a high deductible insurance plan. Many companies offer such plans, each with its own annual premium and deductible. Keep in mind that some deductibles can be as high as $2,000/year. Surprisingly, not all health insurance premiums will inversely correlate with deductible amounts, so it pays to compare individual insurance companies and find out exactly what they will (or will not) cover.

An HSA is not for everyone. If you require several drug prescriptions or are in poor health, the high deductible that you must pay before dipping into your HSA funds (which are still your own money) may make this coverage too expensive for you. Likewise, if you are considering becoming pregnant or have a preexisting medical condition, there could be a waiting period before maternity or other coverage begins. However, for many self-employed individuals and their families, having a tax-deductible HSA is a realistic solution to otherwise paying for highly priced private health insurance.

The Most Common Money Transfer Scams

Money/wire transfer scams are among the most prevalent work at home scams that people are falling for today. What’s worse is the fact that these types of scams are some of the easiest to prevent. You can protect yourself by following this one simple rule:

Never wire money or send money via Western Union or Money Gram to someone you do not know.

Scammers use money transfer services because you’re essentially just mailing cash quickly across the world. It’s near impossible to trace and you can forget about recovering it. Once you transfer your money away, it’s as good as gone.

But this can all be avoided if you only transfer money to people you know. It’s really that easy. If someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person is telling you to wire them money, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a scam.

Protect Yourself

Once you send the money and it gets picked up, consider it gone. It’s never coming back, especially if you wired the money overseas. Imagine dropping a $100 bill in Times Square and going back 12 hours later. You’re equally likely to get that money back.

That’s why you need to stick to wiring money to people you personally know. Don’t wire money to someone outside your friends or family. This includes…

  • Potential employers who insist it’s part of your job
  • Sellers on sites like craigslist
  • An online love interest who asks for money or a favor
  • Advertisers who put up vacation rentals

I’ve actually seen scammers take it one step further and try and impersonate a person you might know. I once received an email from my brother’s email address and it said he was in Spain on a business trip and he was mugged and desperately needed me to wire him money. Unfortunately for the scammer, my brother happened to be about 10 feet away from me when I read the email. They’ll go to any lengths to get money out of you.

The Most Common Money Wiring Scam

The most common scam I cover here at I’ve Tried That are fake check cashing jobs. With a check cashing scam, you’re asked to receive a check, deposit it into your bank account, and forward most of the amount overseas while keeping a portion of it for yourself as a “payment.” The checks you receive are either fake or stolen and it’s only a matter of time before they bounce.

Unfortunately, most banks don’t spot the fake checks and will allow you to deposit them. Federal law requires banks to immediately grant you access to the funds even though they haven’t cleared. This allows you to complete your “job” and send the portion required overseas.

The fake check you deposited WILL eventually bounce. It can take weeks, or even months but that check will bounce. Unfortunately for you, you’ve already wired the money overseas and there is no hope of recovering that money. This leaves YOU responsible for repaying the cost of the check.

Follow this one simple rule: NEVER accept a job that requires you to handle someone else’s money. If an “employer” want you to receive a check and forward the money elsewhere, it is 100% guaranteed to be a scam. Every. Single. Time.

Alternative Money Wiring Scams

Scammers in countries like Nigeria do this full-time. It’s like a job to them and they’ll go to great lengths and come up with amazing, emotional stories to get you to send them money. Here are some of the more common scams…

  • Overpayment Scams – This one creeps up on Craigslist a lot. The scammer will agree to purchase an item you posted online, and will send a check, but accidentally make it out for more than you agreed upon. The scammer will then ask you to wire back the difference. The original check will bounce and you’ll be out an item, the money for the item, and the money you wired away.
  • Relationship Scams – Online dating is becoming increasingly popular and naturally scammers are taking advantage of this. They’ll spend MONTHS building up a relationship with a victim and then one day leave on a trip an encounter a problem when away. He or she will desperately plead with you for help and ask you to wire money with promises to pay you back once the scammer is back home. Don’t fall for it.
  • Mystery Shopper Scams – Mystery shopping scammers are following the same formula as check cashing employment scammers. They’ll send you a check for a few thousand dollars, and tell you to cash the check, keep a portion of the money for yourself as “payment,” spend a portion of the money at a store, and then send the rest of the money back along with your evaluations of the bank, the store you shopped at, and the company you used to send the money back. It’s all a scam of course. The original check will bounce and you will have to pay back the thousands of dollars you spent.
  • Online Purchase Scams – Just don’t pay for an item via money transfer. Easy as pie. Stick with credit cards and reputable businesses.
  • Property Rental Scams – Scammers have been putting up fake listings for apartments or vacation rentals at amazing prices. They will promise to hold it for you for a deposit or for rent and will tell you to wire money to owner. Do not do this! There is no rental and you will lose all that money.

If you’ve seen a variation on this scam, leave a comment below! You can help protect others from losing thousands of dollars. So speak up!

Please SHARE this page with anyone who thinks they’ve found a dream job that requires them to wire money. If a job wants you to wire money through Western Union or Money Gram, it is always 100% a scam. Do not accept a position where you handle a company’s money. Only wire money to people you PERSONALLY know and you’ll avoid all of these scams.

Stay safe out there.

Freelance Writing Jobs Directory

Now tracking 20 ways to make money through freelance writing.

Freelance Writing Background Information

One of the easiest ways to earn a few dollars and build a passive, recurring income online is through freelance writing. Many sites will pay you initially per article you write and then will give pay you more depending on impressions on the article and revenue generated from the article’s page.

You also don’t have to be a professional writer in order to apply and make money. If you have a passion for a subject and are able to write an article containing anywhere from 300-2000 words, you’re more than eligible to make money through freelance writing.

Recommended Freelance Writing Programs

  1. Helium is the best website when it comes to getting paid for freelance writing. Initially, your submissions won’t receive that much money, but as you develop your profile and submit more, Helium becomes one of the highest paying websites that freelance writers can join. If you only join one website on this list, make sure it’s Helium.
  2. Constant Content is a bit more for the advanced freelance writer. You submit articles for purchase by those seeking content for their own websites, magazines, etc. There’s the opportunity to make a lot more money at Constant Content, but there are more rules and guidelines here. You are able to set the purchase price of your articles.
  3. Guide isn’t always accepting guides, but if you are selected, you’ll be compensated for your knowledge.
  4. eHow is now paying its members to write how to guides on nearly everything.
  5. CyberEdit
  6. EditFast
  7. Epinions pays its members for reviews on just about anything. No experience is required. If you have an opinion and can type it up, Epinions will pay you.
  8. JustAnswer is hiring experts to give their qualified answers to their member’s questions.
  9. Manuscript Services hires native English speakers for various writing tasks. Great pay, no upfront fees.
  10. Proofread Now
  11. Review Stream operates along the same lines as Epinions: write a review, get paid.
  12. Squidoo is a new Web 2.0 approach to freelance writing. You create a “lens” which is just a name for a page dedicated to the topic of your choosing. You are paid if any revenue is generated from your lens.
  13. SunOasis
  14. TextBroker – Pays for articles. Higher quality articles earns you more stars and increases the amount of money you can make. A definite must-join for article writers.
  15. Wordfirm Inc. sometimes seeks highly qualified freelance writers, editors, copyeditors, proofreaders, and indexers. Submit your application to be considered.
  16. WordGigs
  17. WordsRU – Masters Degree required
  18. Writers Weekly
  19. Writing Assistance Inc is seeking technical writers, copywriters, and web content writers. They act as a broker between writers and businesses.
  20. Yahoo Contributor Network is another great program to join for freelance writing. You usually receive $3-$20 per article that you write with the opportunity to earn a share of revenue generated from more popular articles.

An Inside Look at Nigerian Scams, Part 3

[This is the last post in our series about Nigerian scams written by Mr. Chekwube Okeke.
Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.

Who Wants to Make a High School Boy a Millionaire?

The Nigerian scam affects not only the westerner who gets scammed, but also honest Nigerians who are in search of legitimate work. I have come across work at home jobs that exclude Nigeria from taking part. Clickbank does not accept Nigeria into their programs. PayPal does not allow people to open accounts from Nigeria). When I make inquiries, telling these online programs who I am and where I live, I don’t get any response from them.

What Kinds of Scams Do They Pull?

Here are some products from the Nigerian scam industry:

The Fake Money Order Scam
Back in 2004 in my university days, this scam was the most popular among scammers on campus. The scammer surfs the Internet looking for a date. Depending on the gender of the person he comes across, he poses either as a male or female. For example, if he meets a white or black female, then he’s a white or black male as the case may be, or if meets a white or black male, then the scammer is a white or black female, and the dating begins. The scammer could be chatting with more than one person at the same time to speed up his chances of getting at least one of them to fall for his scam. In one chat box, he might be a white girl, in another chat box, he’s a white male, and still in another, he’s an African American lady.

The stories the scammer tells his dates are the same especially if they happen to be chatting with a white male. He tells his dates that he’s a white lady visiting Africa for the first time on some archaeological expedition, to visit the ruins of ancient Africa and that ‘she’ is a student of UCLA for example, or any other story the scammer can come up with. The dating may last for days, weeks or even months but the main idea is to get the white guy to fall in love with ‘her’. That’s when the real scam kicks in.

The scammer, when he is sure the white guy has fallen in love with him, comes up with a sad story, telling the guy of something bad that happened to ‘her’ while ‘she’ was on the expedition. Now ‘she’ cant return to the U.S., but ‘she’ came to Africa with some money orders and would like the guy to help ‘her’ cash them and send the money back to ‘her’ so ‘she’ can be able to return home.

An ex-course mate of mine after getting this white guy to say “I love u”, told this guy living in the U.S. that ‘she’ was robbed in her hotel room in Africa and was left with nothing. But wait, the robbers didn’t take her money orders. Could he please cash the money orders for ‘her’ and send the cash back to ‘her’ so ‘she’ can return to the U.S.?

“Why, sure thing!” The white date replied. Why would he allow his ‘beloved’ whom he’s just dying to meet to be stranded in Africa? And so the scammer sent the money orders to him. Another former course mate of mine told me that for this scam to work, the guy would have to take the money orders to the bank and not to the post office. If they are cashed at the bank, the bank in turn will take the money orders to the post office to be cashed. There, they would be detected as fakes and the person who cashed them at the bank arrested. I heard the guy was arrested. He tried to make contact with his ‘beloved’ but it was too late. The scammer scrapped his e-mail address, bought a benze and took friends out for drink to celebrate his success.

The deftness with which these people use information on the net to fool people is impressive. Another ex-course mate of mine pretended to be a girl living in Cuba. After growing irritated and tired of his date asking about the area in Cuba ‘she’ comes from, he simply Googled cities in Cuba and told his date ‘she’ was from Santa Clara!

The Credit Card Scam
Only recently, I saw a credit card for the first time in my life. They are not common the way they are in your country. Before then, though I had never seen them, except in movies, I came to be more knowledgeable about them through this same ex-course mate of mine who received hundreds of them from a hacker friend of his. So many were these credit cards that my friend never had enough time to sift through all of them and check their validity.

He copied the details of each credit card one by one, pasted it on a certain site and tried to make a purchase. If the purchase went through, he would then know the credit card was valid and separated them from the rest. If it didn’t go through he simply deleted the expired or invalid credit card.

Night after night, after I was through studying, we would go the café for some ‘Internet shopping’ and to chat with his ‘dates’ before finally retiring to the hostel.

Back then, I also learnt that most companies do not send items paid for with a credit card to a Nigerian address for obvious reasons. So what my friend did was to give these sites a western address. He has a partner over there who would then send the items to Nigeria. He told me that if he were to sell all he had been ordering at a give away price he would make no less than $25,000.

The Nonexistent Product Scam
“….we are a company looking for distributors and sales agents for our polymeric polyol product. Interested persons should please reply via this mail…..” What you have just read are the lines to a scam invented by this same ex course mate of mine. I call this the non existent product scam. He simply looks for distributors and sales agent telling them his company has a product to sell. He gives them a very large figure of the commission they will make as a way of motivating these distributors and sales agents to get buyers, If these distributors and agents find buyers, they are to pay half the price of the product before receiving the product, and the other half after they receive the product. The buyers pay this advance and ZILCH! ZERO! No product is forthcoming because there was none to begin with!

“What the hell is a polymeric polyol? It won’t work,” I told him. He would only receive replies asking what a polymeric polyol was. He told me I was only being cynical. He was right. He got a sales agent and almost made money from this scam.

The Dating or e-Begging Scam
Are you a westerner searching for love across the Atlantic? You happen to succeed in finding one, and you think you are chatting with an African chick? Think again! You might just be dating a Nigerian hustler who is just waiting for you to say “I love you” so ‘she’ can start making financial demands on you.

Like the fake money order scam, this involves posing as a female. Only here, ‘she’ is not a westerner, but a Nigerian girl. Sometimes, the scammer might send the westerner a picture of the girl he is pretending to be, (even when the westerner didn’t ask for one) just to make it all look real. When the scammer is sure you have really gotten to like ‘her’, it is now time to start asking for money. And would he refuse to send a couple of thousand bucks to the ‘girl’ he loves, who is struggling to make ends meet in a harsh economic environment?

Some westerners might be eager to see their dates through a webcam. “Now the scammer is in for it” you might say. Unfortunately, this is not a problem for the scammer as they are equally prepared for this and can go as far as recruiting their own girlfriends into the scam. “At last” the westerner thinks. He can see his African date through the webcam. What he will not see is the real mastermind behind the scam, sitting right next to the girl, but just out of sight of the webcam, telling the girl what to type on the computer. Finally the chatting ends on a happy note and the westerner goes to bed, satisfied to have seen his Nigerian girlfriend. Poor westerner doesn’t know he is dating a man like himself.

The other side to this kind of scam is much easier: I am a Nigerian man. I browse online dating sites and find myself a female date. I don’t need to lie about my gender or my nationality or where I live. I am doing the normal and regular dating everybody else is doing. Only thing is, I am only dating this white girl because I intend to ask her for some cash later on. This may not look like a scam but it is, when you consider that I am in the relationship just for the money. That’s why we call it the e-begging or electronic begging scam.

The Box of Money Scam
This is my favorite scam. I managed to get the picture you see here from a friend who makes up to 500 dollars almost monthly from this scam. Similar to the lottery scam, you receive a message with the picture of a box of money, telling you that you’ve won it, and an ambassador is getting ready to visit your country and hand you your box of money, but that you have to pay a certain amount to redeem your winnings.

This friend also told me that WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER, (the payment channel through which he receives the cash they send) has warned westerners times without number, not to send cash to people they don’t know in Nigeria. But “a fool and his money are soon parted”. So now we have greedy westerners who keep sending money to strangers in Nigeria, knowing very well at the back of their minds that what they are paying for is a scam.

It’s All About Greed

One reason these scammers are so successful is that the people who fall for these scams are themselves greedy. Like I said, they may have it at the back of their minds that the mails they get are scam mails, yet blinded by greed, they lose money to these scammers. Another reason is that they exploit the trust, honesty and forthrightness that is hallmark of most western societies to their advantage.

How to Detect Scams

There are a few ways to detect if a mail is a scam. It’s most likely, a scam mail if

  • It appeals to the emotions
    If the sender is telling you a tragic or pathetic story about something that happened to him and/or his family, then it is most likely a scam. This is meant for you to have compassion for him and let your guard down’ and be moved to help him do whatever it is he is asking you to do in the mail.
  • It has too many grammatical mistakes or is hardly fluent
    The scammers are Nigerians. They may speak English but “English ain’t our mother tongue”. Some of these scammers do not write good English. Why would a senate president, or a bank CEO, or a finance minister, make such grammatical blunders in his mail? Doesn’t he at least have a secretary whose job it is to proof-read what he writes, including his mails before he sends them out?
  • What they are asking you to do is illegal
    Most westerners may not know this, but some of the help these scammers are asking for is illegal. For instance, they might tell you their father who was a secretary to the federal government of Nigeria was murdered by a dictator and left some few millions in a bank somewhere in Nigeria, and he needs your help in getting it out of the country. Question is, how did his dad (a secretary to the government) come about such money? And why is he desperate to get it out of the country?

Really, there is no one way of spotting scams from Nigeria. Some of these scammers have no other job they do except go to café and send scam mails. For some of them, this is the only thing they do to put food on the table and feed their families. So they will keep coming at you with everything they’ve got until they succeed. You westerners just have to be on guard at all times. Some of my fellow Nigerians that may come across this writeup may hate me for spilling my guts here but I can’t help it.

Nigerians are one of the most gifted and innovative people on earth. Sadly, their ingenuity is mostly used to do bad rather than to do good. A certain talk show host in the U.S. said all Nigerians are fraudulent. In a way, that might be true. We have come to accept corruption, fraud and deceit as part and parcel of our daily lives as you might hear some Nigerians say trash like “I like that so and so governor. Even though he stole money, at least he did one or two few things for my state…” Or “…nobody says they (the government) shouldn’t steal money, but while they steal they should try to do something for the citizens….”

Come October 1 2009, Nigeria will be 49. (A fool at almost )50, we are a people who are docile, cowardly, and thoroughly laid back. Not wanting to struggle to do away with the ultra corrupt government that has long been in place, we are smiling and suffering in silence, preferring only to talk about how corrupt politicians are and how bad the economy is, in street corners, in churches, at news stands, in bars, in beer parlors, and in goat stew joints.

An Inside Look at Nigerian Scams, Part 2

Joe: This is part 2 in our series, “An Inside Look at Nigerian Scams,” written by Nigerian guest poster, Chekwube Okeke. Read Part 1 of this series here.

Who Wants to Make a High School Boy a Millionaire?

I once worked for a man who owned a dry-cleaning outfit. He was a car freak and owned a good number of flashy ones. “He can’t be making that much money from his dry-cleaning business to buy such a large number of cars,” I told myself. A colleague was later to tell me the man had one other business he was into. “The laptop our boss brings with him to work is used to correspond with the westerners he intends to scam,” he told me.

And trying to convince friends to leave such things is out of the question. Especially when you consider the fact that some of them grew up in poverty (the economic hardship having taken its toll on them). Since they have no other legitimate means of feeding themselves and their families, you don’t know how or where to begin to make them see reason.

Some of the reasons these Nigerians give for indulging in scams range from the palatable to the outright absurd. They may tell you that “the white man came to Africa, enslaved us and stole our resources to develop their own place, so we are only taking back what the white man took from us.” Or “Hey, we just want a few thousand bucks from these westerners. After all, their economy is better than ours so it won’t hurt them.”

What Is It Like to Scam in Nigeria?

For me, the sooner I get a PC with an Internet connection, the better. Surfing from a café is a risk in itself. It makes me a sitting duck for the cops who, once in a while, raid cafés and arrest scammers, including, if you are unlucky, people who came to do honest work.

I was once nearly a victim of one such raid. They raided one café after another. They stormed into the café where I was. They bent close to your monitor and if what they saw on the screen didn’t seem right to them, they moved you out into a police van waiting just outside the café to join other scam suspects who were rounded up from other cafés. They ordered me to get up and I was frisked (didn’t know what the hell they were looking for). Luckily for me I was not yet sitting behind a monitor as I was waiting for a free space, because who knows? The Nigerian police are an unpredictable lot and had I been sitting behind a monitor I might have been taken away with the others.

One customer quickly hid the flash drive he had with him (must have contained some scam material). Unfortunately for him, one cop thought he saw him hide the flash drive, but didn’t know exactly where and immediately a hunt for the flash drive started. The cops looked behind monitors, under the café tables, behind CPUs, under the chairs. All the while, the cop was angry at his junior partner (who was closer to the customer when he hid the flash drive) for not being fast enough to “catch these boys,” and at the same time exchanging words with the customer himself, who kept insisting he wasn’t even holding a flash drive to begin with. He kept saying he was in the youth corps and only came to check his mails.

Alas! After some minutes the cop found the flash drive. He was right after all! He did see the scammer hide a flash drive! And in the joy of triumph the cop lands the scammer a very hard slap on the cheek, telling him: “Youth corps, huh? I’ll show you I’ve dealt with your likes before!” The scammer is dragged away and into the police van outside. (The youth corps is a one year mandatory service to the country performed by graduates right after they leave the university.)

Can’t The Authorities Do Something?

Justice was served? Not really. Fortunately for these scammers and unfortunately for the rest of society, the police are also not insulated from the economic hardship and grinding poverty in the country. So they carry out such raids mostly when they are in dire need of money themselves, to feed themselves and their families as they are not being sufficiently paid by the Nigerian government. These scammers are taken to the station where, for as little as 30 dollars or more, they buy back their freedom and our scammers are back at the café doing what they know how to do best!

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), a federal government agency charged with apprehending and prosecuting corrupt government officials and scammers, as soon as it was established, read out a riot act to the cafes that aid and abet scams. So when approaching a café in Nigeria, it is not uncommon to see notices like the ones below pasted at the entrance or on the walls within the café itself:

[Joe editorial note: I love that! “Personally embarrass you.” Oh, the humanity!]


These notices have become so common that even scammers no longer take notice of them. And café owners, some of whom are scammers themselves, turn a blind eye to what goes on in their cafes either because they have become used to the raids and no longer give a damn because they know the authorities are not serious about dealing with scammers and they have to stay in business, or because they make good money from these customers.

And what do the numbers 419 mean? It’s a reference to section 419 of the Nigerian constitution that deals with advance fee fraud. So when you hear a Nigerian say “I was 419ed”, he means he got scammed. Or you hear him say “that guy is a 419” or “he’s a 419er”, it means the person is a scammer. The numbers have since become a synonym for lies, cheating, deceit, fraud etc.

These people also do clean up after themselves. After they are done with the computer, they restart it before leaving the café. I asked a friend why he does this and he said restarting the computer destroys any evidence of scam, making his work untraceable. Simply put, by restarting the computers the scammers are covering their tracks.

Why Isn’t Everyone Doing It?

Please don’t get the impression that’s it’s been a holiday for all scammers. I know people who have been into scam for years, sunk all they had into it and are yet to make it. There are scammers that have been tried and are in the can.

And like every other industry, the Nigerian scam industry has spawned its own terminology. When you hear a scammer use the word ‘MAGA’ (pronounced mahgah) or the word MUGU (pronounced moogoo) he is referring to the westerner he is about to scam or has already scammed. The word ‘HAMMER’ has come to mean to “make it big” among scammers.

Part 3 will discuss specific examples of Nigerian scams Mr. Okeke has witnessed.

An Insider’s View of Nigerian Scams, Part 1

[Preface by Joe: We are pleased to offer this series about Nigerian scams from an honest-to-goodness Nigerian, Mr. Chekwube Okeke. He has a degree in business administration and notes that his first name means “Put your trust in God.” He has generously offered us this information free of charge, and I know you’ll be interested in what he reveals. I have lightly edited the text for correctness and organization.]

Who Wants to Make a High School Boy a Millionaire?

Here I am doing this piece in an Internet café. The guy occupying the space right next to me is preparing a scam e-mail. It contains the picture of a famous bank CEO and the logo of the bank itself. He is posing as the bank CEO. Whoever is unfortunate enough to receive the mail (most probably, a westerner) will get the false impression that he is corresponding with a bank CEO in Nigeria.

What I am describing is nothing uncommon among scammers in Nigeria. All over the café there are people preparing scam mails, posing as bank CEOs, central bank governors, ambassadors, businessmen, accountants, senate presidents, pastors, priests, etc. Among these scammers are students in their school uniforms. I am not exaggerating and this is also nothing new.

Just a few yards from the café is a police post. “It should deter these scammers from coming to the café, you would say. It doesn’t. “Why not?” you ask. Please keep reading this piece and you will find out.

The View from My World

Surfing from a café in Nigeria, you get to witness a lot of drama. I have seen a scammer smash his handset in ecstasy on confirming the cash he had long been waiting for had arrived. I have seen scammers faking their accents and intonation pretending to be white men on the phone with their intended victims. I have seen scammers pretending to be white ladies visiting Africa for the first time when they meet a male westerner online. I have seen scammers pretending to be females looking for a date online, or pretending to be white males, depending on the gender of the person they meet online. (More on these later.)

The Nigerian scam has turned out to be very lucrative for its perpetrators. Yes, it was once the third largest industry in Nigeria. A Nigerian paper once reported that America loses about 100,000 dollars to these scammers daily.

The westerners who receive and fall for this scam mails ought to know that the tens of thousands of bucks they lose to these scammers might very well translate to millions in my country’s currency. In other words, they are making millionaires out of these scammers, some of whom have become bread winners of their family.

Scamming has become a phenomenon being celebrated by some Nigerians. Oh yes! A well known former U.S. government official unwittingly danced to a popular Nigerian scam song on stage along with the performers at a function held in the U.K. recently.

Again, in another part of Europe, another Nigerian artist performed another popular Nigerian scam song on stage while the Nigerians among the crowd danced and sang along with the artist. After he was done performing, he was asked by the host of the ceremony what the lyrics of the song meant. There were giggles, chuckles, and sniggers coming from the Nigerian crowd as the artist, knowing the embarrassment the truth would cause every one at the ceremony, had to lie to the host about the meaning of the lyrics.

I Know Scammers

This might sound awful to the westerners reading this piece. The truth is, in Nigeria, if you are not a scammer, you must know somebody who is (some Nigerians who may come across this piece may disagree and even argue with me on this one). Just months ago, a friend of mine hit it big, making over 40,000 dollars. Now he is living big and has since moved his family to a better apartment.

“A friend?” Oh yes. A childhood friend for that matter. Everyone knows someone. The person might be your next door neighbor, or that tithe giver who is a church member of yours, or your course mate in the university, or your classmate in high school or your colleague at work, or your boss who may only be using his company as a front to hide the true source of his wealth, or your brother, or your uncle, or your aunt, or your cousin, or your nephew, or even your mom and/or your dad who have been supporting the family with the extra income.

And if you do find out the person is a scammer, it is not talked about in his presence. You maintain the relationship you had with him before you made your discovery. No mention is made of it. Not unless you are a scammer friend of his too or a very close pal. It is just like what you see in mafia movies: here’s this guy who is well known in the neighborhood. He’s the nice guy who is like a friend to all, who tries to help his neighborhood every now and then. But he’s a gangster and thing is, while you are with him you have to act like you don’t know he’s a gangster. You don’t bring up any discussion that’s anywhere near that fact. Not unless you are a fellow gangster or a very close friend.

[Joe: In Part 2 of this series, you’ll hear about Mr. Okeke’s experiences in a Nigerian Internet cafe.]

Recover Money Lost to Scams with a Refund.

So, you accidentally sent a lot of money out for that “job” that was going to make you a millionaire in just a few weeks time only to immediately regret it. The “job” you bought into most likely consisted of a website or book that insists that you spend money to do some form of affiliate marketing. Unfortunately, you were ripped off. There is hope however. Follow this information to find out the best ways to get your money back. Feel free to contribute your story in the comments section. It isn’t limited to just the programs outlined here. If you were able to get your money back from any scam, we want to hear about it and include it in the list.

Rebate Processing Refunds

Angela Penbrook and Refunds

A number of our readers have successfully received refunds from one of the worst scams we’ve ever seen. Angela Penbrook is running a rebate processing scam that costs $197. One hundred and ninety seven dollars! For complete crap! If you’ve fallen victim to this scam, follow these stories below in order to get your money back.

Numbers to Call

1-800-875-8042 (Warning: possible sex chat line at times!)

Success Stories

From April:

First I called every one of her 1-800 numbers (and if someone needs one just shout out to me. ) I think the Bimbo has 3 numbers. I called all different times of the day and always got that annoying voice then that annoying music, then I just constantly pressed the “0” until I was connected. Then i spoke to 3 different people who were not nice at all and i composed myself very will because they had the upper hand, all of the 3 people took my name, e-mail address, and last four digits of my card that i put it on and my zip code. They all gave me the same confirmation number. A little funny to me so I kept calling and calling back 3 or 4 times until i got them disgusted. For the first few days i would get funny e-mails like we need your info again and i would keep calling back and keep getting the same confirmation number. Then i finally got a confirmation that i would get my refund in 5 to 7 days and i waited 6 and checked my account and my refund went through. I also recieved a confirmation e-mail from her that i was refunded.

From Patricia:

Today i called 1-866-885-8126 or 1-800-875-8042 and pressed “0″ as soon as I heard the Angela Penbrook greeting and in seconds I got a live person. His name was David Peterson. I told him I wanted a complete refund of my $197 and he asked me my E-mail address and name and what zip code I was from. He then told me that i was going to get a complete refund and gave me a autorization code number for it. Then I called back 2 minutes later and spoke to a woman named Rachel who did the same thing and also gave me the same authorization refund code as the previous Mr. David Peterson. I asked for their address and he told me that he couldn’t give me that information but he was in Urban California. I tried calling the Better Business Bureau and they dont do much but throw you on hold forever. I called my credit card company and I was told that the charge is pending and sometimes they know that you caught on to them and the charge gets dropped off as if you didn’t even make the transaction.

From David:

I called the 866 # just like Patricia did.I don’t remember the girl’s name I spoke with,but she was foreign and spoke english,albeit not clearly.She asked for my name,ph#,and zipcode.I complied and she said that the refund should show up in 4-7 business days on my CC.Unlike Patricia,I wasn’t issued a confirmation #,nor did they ask for the last 4 digits of my CC.I have already spoken with my CC company and forewarned them that I will be asking for a dispute or backcharge on this if they fail to issue my refund as promised.If you dial 800-785-8042,it takes you to the same place as the 866# that Patricia gave out.I’ll be checking my CC online starting this evening.

From Joyce:

Hi again to all, Joyce here again with a big smile because after jumping through many hoops, my credit card company notified me today they are giving me what they call a “conditional refund” of my money. Let me fill you in if it will help others. I sent all the info from the purchase of Angela Penbrook’s program to my credit card co. along with filling out an online dispute of the $197 charge. They emailed me about two weeks later, and asked for a complete and detailed letter about the situation, and also any proof from emails, correspondence, etc. and I was to forward all that to another address, different then the one on their website.
So I typed out a two page letter, along with copies of the email, a copy of the portion of her webpage which shows the 90 day guarantee, explained what the work was supposed to be in detail, etc. I never said “scam”. Kept everything very business like and explained that I could not do this work due to other obligations to my family, and since I have a 90 day guarantee, I should be entitled to my funds back. Mailed it off about 10 days ago, and today got the letter from my credit card company, with another page consisting of 3 questions to answer. 1. Exact date of cancellation of the order. 2. Why was order cancelled? 3. What was the merchant’s response when you attempted to resolve your dispute? (easy one, huh) Must sign and return within 10 days and they are “continuing to investigate this matter on my behalf”. So,to all out there please stick to your guns with the credit card companies, do whatever they want you to do,and whatever info you send, make sure you sign it, your own handwritten signature makes it legal. I checked my account on line just before coming here and I can tell you that the minus in front of the – 197.00 looks pretty good!!!!! Hopefully nothing will change. Must get the paper in the mail tomorrow with the info that the credit card company wants.
Hope everyone that has written to this webpage gets their reimbursement too. Thanks so much for all the honest hearted people who are out their pulling for everyone else.!!!

Getting a refund through eSellerate

Several scammers are running their operations through eSellerate. Including, Cindy Dalton at and Angel Stevens at I’ve heard that they can be difficult in refunding money, but be persistent! The rebate processing scam we bought into was through eSellerate and we still haven’t received our refund yet. But don’t lose hope and try the following advice:

I fell into the same trap and have been writing twice a day to the support site trying to get a refund. So today I thought i’d write an email to their payment gateway provider esellerate. They process the crdit card payments. I just described what had happened and within 3 hours I received an email stating that a refund had been made. Their details are:
Phone: (402) 323-6600

Update: I was able to successfully receive my money back from eSellerate after following the above advice!

Data Entry Refunds Refunds

From Claudette:

I have finally gotten a refund of my $49.95. from Dataentrybusiness. Actually it took some doing: I found this website called which is what was printed on my c/card account as having been creditted to from my accout and i checked it out online and found that all i had to do was punch in my emailaddress that i used to register with dataentrybusness and Essellerate would email me the account no. and the item no, of the registration transaction that i paid for. I immediately used that info i got from Essellerate and emailed dataentry business requesting my refund, and they immediately refunded my 49.95.

From Mitch:

If you havent already set up a paypal account – do so. That is how I paid for the DEB scammers membership (as Paypal is secure and you are insured)- but it doesnt matter how you paid.

You send a REQUEST FOR PAYMENT to : (as that was DEB paypal email account) the amount you want refunded and what I did was put in the ‘note’ box – THIRD AND FINAL WARNING. Failure to refund amount immediately will result a formal complaint to Consumer Affairs and Paypal.

Obviously Paypal knows these scammers – because I couldnt believe how fast my refund came through (I lodged it late last night and had it in my paypal account this morning) To those who dont have Paypal – you then transfer the money from your paypal account to your bank account.

Mich (Australia)

Clickbank and ClickandBuy Refunds

I haven’t found any specific scams operating through Clickbank or ClickandBuy, but use the following forms in order to request a refund from either website.

Clickbank: Customer Service Form
ClickandBuy: Complaint Department Information

Community Project

The list is small as of now, but I plan to update it as frequently as new refund stories come in. If you have a story to contribute, please leave a comment below. We’re always looking for new stories.