Internet Fraud and Work-at-Home Scams

Consumer scams are not new.

As an example, in the 1920’s, the Ponzi scheme (bogus investment swindle) was a notorious way to bilk individuals from their savings. However, the idea of that specific scam goes back earlier, to 1857, when Charles Dickens described it in his novel Little Dorrit. Back in 2008, Bernie Madoff became the operator of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, a testament that old ideas can be given a fresh suit to steal from people anew.

Of course criminal behavior goes back much earlier than Charles Dickens depicts. One of the Ten Commandments (“You shall not steal”) is indicative of how long criminal acts have been problematic to Mankind.

Nowadays, a modern way for criminals to put on a new suit is by cloaking themselves behind the Internet.

Examples of Internet Scams and Fraud

The list of ways that theft is perpetrated via the Internet is seemingly endless.

The FBI maintains a website resource of Internet Crime Schemes and how to avoid such. The FBI notes a whole bunch of common categories of Internet fraud. Here are a few:

  • Internet auction fraud
  • Non-delivery of merchandise purchased from websites
  • Credit card fraud
  • Investment fraud
  • Business fraud
  • Nigerian Letter Fraud

That last is so well known as an example of Internet fraud that the FBI lists it on the same page as its own singular category. Although it has been bilking individuals of their savings “online” since the 1990’s, the scam goes back decades earlier in the form of direct mail and faxes.

Work-at-Home Scams

Many scams can be identified with the simple admonition, “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Most work-at-home scams could be avoided by simply respecting that age-old common sense.

A work-at-home scam usually involves a victim who is lured by a home employment offer to do some simple task for a disproportionate compensation. The true purpose of such an offer is for the perpetrator to extort money from the victim, either by charging a fee to join the scheme or requiring the victim to invest in products whose resale value is misrepresented.

To be sure, there do exist legitimate work-at-home opportunities. Many people do, in fact, work in the comfort of their own homes. But anyone seeking such an employment opportunity should be wary of accepting a home employment offer and apply due diligence, common sense and the following advice from the Justice Department.

Protect Yourself from Internet Scams

Internet fraud is common. And even though “auction fraud” is one category listed by the FBI, the vast majority of purchases made via auction sites, such as eBay, are fairly transacted. In other words, only a small percentage are fraudulent. The same is true for business fraud and online credit card transactions in general: the vast majority of purchases made over the Internet are transacted fairly.

The US Justice Department lists a number of ways to avoid becoming defrauded, including:

  • Being Careful About Giving Out Valuable Personal Data Online
  • Being Especially Careful About Online Communications With Someone Who Conceals His True Identity
  • Watching Out for “Advance-Fee” Demands

For more info on protecting yourself from internet scams click on this link from the United States Department of Justice on Internet Fraud.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind

It’s been about thirty years since I read the original text by Al Ries and Jack Trout and I just finished reading the 2001 version. It’s a classic marketing book. Here are a few tidbits from the book.

  • Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect.
  • Positioning as an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.
  • The basic approach to positioning is not to create something new and different, but to manipulate what’s already up there in the mind, to retie the connections that already exist.
  • Advertising is not a sledgehammer. It’s more like a light fog, a very light fog that envelops your prospects.
  • In the communication jungle out there, the only hope to score big is to be selective, to concentrate on narrow targets, to practice segmentation. In a word, “positioning.”
  • The best approach to take in our overcommunicated society is the oversimplified message.
  • In communication, as in architecture, less is more. You have to sharpen your message to cut into the mind. You have to jettison the ambiguities, simplify the message, and then simplify it some more if you want to make a long-lasting impression.
  • If you have a truly new product, it’s often better to tell the prospect what the product is not, rather than what it is.
  • To find a unique position, you must ignore conventional logic. Conventional logic says you find your concept inside yourself or inside the product. Not true. What you must do is look inside the prospect’s mind.
  • In a product ad, the dominant element is usually the picture, the visual element. In a service ad, the dominant element is usually the words, the verbal element.
  • The solution to a positioning problem is usually found in the prospect’s mind, not in the product.
  • Trying harder is rarely the pathway to success. Trying smarter is the better way.
  • Never be afraid of conflict.
  • An idea or concept without an element of conflict is not an idea at all.
  • With a given number of dollars, it’s better to overspend in one city than to underspend in several cities. If you become successful in one location, you can always roll out the program to other places.
  • With rare exceptions, a company should almost never change its basic positioning strategy. Only its tactics, those short-term maneuvers that are intended to implement a long-term strategy.
  • Creativity by itself is worthless. Only when it is subordinated to the positioning objective can creativity make a contribution.
  • Objectivity is the key ingredient supplied by the advertising or marketing communication or public relations agency.
  • To be successful today in positioning, you must have a large degree of mental flexibility. You must be able to select and use words with as much disdain for the history book as for the dictionary.
  • Language is the currency of the mind. To think conceptually, you manipulate words. With the right choice of words, you can influence the thinking process itself.
  • The first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.

In our overcommunicated society, the name of the game today is positioning.