Reports on CNN, advertisements on Yahoo boasting easy ways to make money from home, a job posting links on Google, professional e-mails sent directly to his inbox and phone interviews were what reassured Terry*, a 61-year-old writer based in the Midwest, that Mary's Money Blog was a legitimate employer. Unfortunately, like so many others, it took Terry $4,000 and more than six months to learn the hard way that not all jobs on the Internet are what they seem.
"If I hadn't had my good job outsourced, I wouldn't have been looking for something, but I was in need of something else to help support myself and my family, and there were so many things that made this job look legitimate I figured it was worth a try."
How a bogus job looks legit
Terry first heard about this job in 2009 when CNN reported that Google was hiring people to scan online ads for certain buzz words so that correlating links could be placed on certain websites. This piqued Terry's interest, so he did some research and found a story about a single mother of three that was making huge amounts of money doing just this. "'How I make $5,000 per month posting links on Google.' That is how this thing was advertised," says Terry.
A few days after exploring Yahoo, Terry got an e-mail in his inbox, not his spam folder, about the Google job and directing him to www.marysmoneyblog.com. "It said, 'As seen on CNN.' Being in my inbox gave it an air of legitimacy," recalls Terry.
How you get scammed
Within a day of sending an e-mail expressing his interest in this job, Terry received a phone call. He was asked some basic questions about his skills and time availability and computer knowledge. He was also asked to supply a credit card number so that he could pay his $25 registration fee for the necessary software (a CD) so that he could get started with the job.
Once you pay your start-up fee and sign an agreement, you are given a pin number so that you can access the website and start making money. "I knew there would be a $25 charge because it says that in the e-mail ad. That didn't bother me because they didn't try to sneak it in."
Two days later Terry received a second phone call to let him know that his credit card had been charged $25 and that his account had been set up. The only problem was that Terry had not yet received his CD with the necessary software to begin and he only had 10 days to start making money or bail out on the job and cash in his money back guarantee.
The tipping point came a couple of days later when Terry received a third phone call. "This guy was a real fast talker and he told me how much money I could make if he set me up with my own website and marketed all these new products. I just had to fork over $25,000." Terry explained that he was not interested.
By day 12 of the month, Terry still has no CD in hand, so he could not start this job. Terry called the company back and complained. They claimed they sent his CD, but that they would send out a second one. By the 18th day of the month, Terry had still not received his CD and had missed the window to cancel this job opportunity and get a refund of his initial $25 investment.
The hammer really fell when Terry got his monthly credit card statement on the 25th and he saw that there were tons of fake charges on it. "I called the credit card company and disputed the charges, which they claimed I had authorized. I told them I had authorized the $25 set-up fee and nothing more. By the end of the second month I was disputing over 200 charges."
"Once they gave you that pin number you were captured," says Terry. The pin number is what makes the job appear legitimate. By using your pin number to log onto the website or open e-mail attachments for this job, it serves as your signature, saying that you are accepting the terms and conditions stipulated in the document, and all charges that are forthcoming. "The pin number made everything feel kosher."
Why this scam works
This clever scam works because it's advertised as a money-back guarantee, making people feel like they have nothing to lose, and the initial $25 credit charge seems minimal when compared to the earning potential.
- You are disputing credit card charges with the credit card company, not future charges. "You dispute five charges with the credit card company while these guys are still running around making 14 other illegal charges," says Terry.
- This process is long and drawn out and frustrating, and it's nearly impossible to track these fake companies down.
"I called the FBI and they never even followed up on it. It's like the Internet is the Wild West; it's not regulated and there are no laws governing this. There is nothing anyone can do with the people on the Internet who hide behind computers and prey on older people."
Advice for others
"If it looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true. Don't waste your time."
When I went to marysmoneyblog.com, the first thing I noticed is that there was no contact information anywhere on the site. No office address, e-mail or phone number.
The site also didn't have a copyright seal at the bottom or any indication about who created the site or how it was hosted -- more red flags. Also, further Internet research screams that it's a scam.
* Terry chose to not disclose his last name.
Next: How to Find Real Work-From-Home Jobs
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