Work At Home Online Shopping Scam – A Personal Journey

m2sWe have all become painfully aware that the rise of advertising on the internet has reached a furious pace with no end – only growth – in sight. Many online businesses are capitalizing on this upward trend by appealing to the “work from home market” to jump on the band wagon and capture some of this lucre for yourself. Unfortunately most of these schemes are a scam. This post will describe how this works based on a personal experience. In today’s job scarce economy this humble blogger is not above the fray when it comes to grubbing for dollars. 🙂

It all started with a simple internet search for work from home opportunities. This resulted in a barrage of e-mails for all kinds of “opportunities” and even phone calls.

Most of e-mails came in the form of long drawn out videos of the company founder and selected success testimonials all living in the lap of luxury, surrounded by fancy cars and homes presumably acquired by spending as little as one hour a day on this “business” and urging you in every paragraph to take advantage of this unique opportunity to become rich. Too good to be true, you bet, but that was (is) the pitch.

So what is this “business?” In short it involves a template based website, thousands of e-mail addresses and getting your website ad placed on other websites. Your website consists of hundreds of logos and links to retail stores much as you would find walking through a shopping mall. A visitor to your site would click on one of these stores and hopefully make an on-line purchase for which you would receive a commission. Your shopping website would be provided for you by the company pushing this work from home opportunity. And, surprise, surprise there is a fee for this. The first of many fees as it turns out.

But let’s back up a bit.

My experience started with a phone call. It was clear listening to the person on the other end of the line and the background chatter that they were calling from a bucket shop of telemarketers but I decided to play them along to see where this went. After refusing their initial price of some $500 which included a referral link on the website they were to provide, they finally agreed to provide the package for about $250. But it did not end there.

After several more calls, each with a different person trying to pressure me into buying more “options”, I decided to give it a try for the Fall of 2012 and the holiday shopping season. It was little to risk.  If it paid off, great. If not, at least it would be fodder for a blog post.

One of the options offered was the purchase of a list of e-mail addresses. Initially they wanted to sell me 10,000 addresses at 50 cents each. Whoa, $5,000? You have got to be kidding! Needless to say I declined this offer. Where these addresses came from, who knows? See my previous blog post Are You A Victim of UBE? – Unsolicited Bulk E-mail. Anyway, they agreed to give me 3,000 addresses but I doubt that any of those received a marketing e-mail for my website.

I received a thin booklet that presumably described the use of the website and how the business worked. But it was pretty much worthless.

The company was big on having me sign their Terms and Conditions, Ts and Cs. As it turned out there were two different Ts and Cs on their website and one in the booklet. All were different. This may be a clue into the scam nature of these businesses.

One of their selling points was a series of lessons on marketing. Not being a marketing guy I thought this would be helpful. The big test came when I was to develop a marketing blog post for shopping mall website they provided. So I ginned up some ad copy and sent it in to my assigned representative. I was told it was good and that was the end of this extensive Marketing 101 course. I think I could have sent in a passage from the Bible and it would have been okay.

Did I make any money from this venture?

After developing and posting numerous flyers around town before and during the holiday season, posting timely blog entries and having a link to my shopping website on my e-mail communications I came away with nothing, not one cent. Am I surprised? No.

Operationally, the idea behind these types of online shopping sites is seriously flawed. First, why would anyone link to a store from a shopping site like mine? For name brand stores why not just go directly to the store’s site?  Secondly, it is difficult to see how and why any store on the site could possibly credit you, not to mention the thousands of other similar sites, with a commission during their order fulfillment process. Finally, aside from pure exposure, why would my shopping site be any different from the hundreds or thousands of similar sites this company is putting up?

Clearly, this company’s business model is to get ad revenue from stores placed on the shopping mall websites and to lure you into the dream of riches and self-sufficiency by selling you their shopping website and the e-mail addresses. By the way, e-mails sent out from organizations like these end up being spam for the recipient.

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