The 'get rich from your sofa' scam
Make thousands sat on your sofa, with almost no effort. Sounds too good to be true? That's because it is!
A recent report from McKinsey Global Institute – an offshoot of the mega management consultancy – found office workers spend 28% of their time dealing with emails, reading, replying and deleting. This works out at 650 hours a year or around a month of your life without sleeping.
I get around 150 emails a day, not counting all that phoney viagra and imitation watch stuff which goes straight to spam. If I bothered to read them all, let alone respond, I would never finish before more arrive.
My strategy is to take one glance at the sender, then a micro-second at the subject line before sending the vast majority to trash.
But one caught my eye this week. It was sent by Pam, a friend I have known for 20 years.
Pam likes phoning and texting. She usually only ever emails when she wants to send a link or a picture. Here, however, the subject line was empty. Perhaps she forgot before pressing send?
Tattoo and body piercing enthusiasts
So I opened it to find a strange link from a French site for tattoo and body piercing enthusiasts. Neither myself nor Pam have any interest in either.
I looked at the link. It finished .fr, which is how I know it was for a French site. But after the .fr, there was a whole row of slashes and computer code stuff. As I have a machine running on an obscure operating system, I don't worry too much about malware. So I clicked on the link.
This did not take me to the expected body-art designs. Instead, and I don't know how this happens, I was redirected to an American site which featured “Tennessee teen makes $632 a week effortlessly” and “Mississippi mum earns $5,378 in a month from her laptop” and “California couple gain $11,543 and give up jobs”.
The obvious implication was that if these people could do it, then I could too. But while the words had changed, I recognised the attractive pictures used. They were models from an online American picture agency whose images have been used before for get-rich-quick schemes.
Attacking the contact list
Pam's contact list had been ripped off by a money generation scheme – a form of pyramid sales. These schemes, which claim you can make a fortune, lying on a couch, with no effort and out of thin air, are illegal in this country and many others so they are dressed up as “business consultancy” or “financial advice”.
Those behind them will claim they are selling a useful product such as a book on “how to profit from a computer” or “how to beat the stock market without trying”. So when you join, you have to send $20 or $30 for the “information”, invariably a few hundred words copied from one of ten thousand or more easy to find internet pages. Then you have to send another $50 to $100 to the person who sent you the email to “register”.
A new version of an old con
Of course, this is the internet age's version of an old trick. People used to advertise in local newspapers or sweet shop windows offering “Homework – Earn £100 a week working from your kitchen table. Send £5 for details.” If you posted your fiver, you would get a small card back advising you to place similar adverts in your area.
But emailing is almost instant and within minutes, I was overwhelmed by material on how easy it was for me to make a million or two. I had to “lock in” to my “moneymaking line” with $50 (by credit card) and find three others to join below me. I was promised that I could earn from now – in fact I already had $25 in credit before that (with no indication of how I might cash it in!). After that, I would pick up $50 from each new recruit – but again, that money would be “held” for 30 days.
Who knows – by then I might have sent out so many emails that I could become a “silver leader”, eventually working my way up to gold and platinum levels.
Needless to say, the only people who profit from this are the ones who started off this “money machine”. Last year, a man in Portsmouth contacted me to say he had been in at least 20 schemes in the past four years, never earned a penny and is now thousands down.
The original email, of course, did not come from Pam. Pam, who is South African, is currently spending time in Cape Town, where a combination of a hotmail account plus insecure internet cafes can create a substantial harvest for spammers. She has now changed her account while the French tattoo site has managed to block whoever was hi-jacking it.
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