How to prevent being scammed online


Hi there. Want to learn how you can make $300’000 in 3 months? If you’ve ever clicked on such an ad you’re not the only one.

How to prevent being scammed online?

  • Check if there is sufficiently long term value in comparison to the price.
  • Check if the provider is answering questions, and how well he responds to criticism.
  • Check if the provider is genuinely trying to help people by being active, answering questions.
  • Check if the provider is honestly talking about the negative sides of the story.
  • Check what your gut tells you. If negative stay away or do more research.
  • Type in the provider name and “scam” into Google, to check if there are any people that report bad experiences.

If you want to take a deep dive into the tricks of clever online marketers, read on.


Understand Marketing ploy’s

Many people, especially on YouTube these days, fall for costly courses from self-pronounced online entrepreneurs that promise that they can make fortunes in a short time, no skills required. The “prey” usually clicks onto an advertisement that promising that much money can be made in a short time. A free webinar will be available. The marketer triggers all the relevant psychological buttons such as greed, financial freedom, infinite wealth, work from the beach, step by step guidance, no skills required, all possible within a few months of training, hence the steep price. Loaded with excitement, people will purchase the product to only a few hours later regret it.

Even though the provider might offer a money-back guarantee, it is very likely, that you won’t see your money again. Of course, nobody was forced to buy the product – but do people have a free choice? 

When looking at the tactics these online entrepreneurs use, and how they structure their sales funnel, people hardly have a chance to defend themselves against numerous marketing tricks, unless they’ve been educated to identify them.

The marketers know exactly how to get people to shut down their brains and buy. All components are tested and strategically built to have the greatest possible effect.

Did you notice that the sample ad below doesn’t say “How I made $300’000 in 3 months”? All marketers know that they could be sued if it isn’t true. So if you see an advertisement that says “How to make xxx in x months”, you can be pretty sure that it isn’t real and nothing else than just clickbait.

This article is intended to help you to not inadvertently fall for the scams of dubious online entrepreneurs, and make sensible decisions about how and where you want to invest your money.

This doesn’t mean that all courses are bad. There are good courses out there that are worth the money, but it takes research to separate the good ones from the bad ones. As on Youtube videos with such titles have higher click rates, also serious providers started with similar titles, which makes it even more difficult, to separate the white sheeps from the black sheeps.

Does this picture make you want to click it?

With such ads on social media, savvy marketers will catch you. Why? Who wouldn’t want to make $300’000 in 3 months? Maybe you are in a difficult financial situation and are desperate to find a way out. In such situations, you’ll be vulnerable and more inclined to click onto such an ad. Or you might be unhappy with your job and are longing for a life where you can work from home. Maybe your job isn’t very secure, and you want to build up a second pillar in case things go south. Or you just want to get rich to increase your social status. You might have identified yourself in one of these situations, and that’s how they catch you.


The sales funnel trap

The advertisement

You will see a sponsored advertisement in your social media timeline that promises you 6-digit sums in a short time. The colors are bright, and there are a lot of icons (increases the conversion!) And the face of a coach grins at you (faces are more trustworthy.)

You might have seen the commercials of young guys or women in tight clothes on YouTube, who have rented a luxury villa and a Porsche while on vacation and enthusiastically report on digital nomadism.

The ad or spot will take you to a landing page (a single web page to collect your email address). Here you can either get a free PDF with supposedly valuable tips or an invitation to watch a webinar.

The webinar

The webinar is the holy grail of salespeople because they have your full attention and can use the full range of marketing tricks on you. The (mostly recorded) webinar lasts 45-90 minutes. In the sidebar, you can see comments and alleged live chats with several other participants who are enthusiastic and who think everything the provider says is excellent.

Don’t be fooled – there is software available to create comments under different names.

The Success Story and its purpose

At the beginning you are promised that you will get a lot of benefits from the webinar and that you will learn a secret trick or an insider technique that will bring you sales tomorrow – so stay tuned!

But first the provider has to introduce himself and present himself with his success story.

The success story is mostly a modified version of the classic “From dish washer to millionaire”.

The provider looks for a way to find entrepreneurial freedom. Thousands of dollars and several years later he finally found the one product, system, secret, or blueprint that now enables him to make massive sales in his sleep and to live the life of his dreams.

The provider used to be burned down, depressed, sick and slept on his parents’ couch.

Now he is living the life he (and of course you) dreamed of your lifetime. He has time for his family, travels the world, and loves his job. He doesn’t have to work a day anymore, but he loves it – an entrepreneurial mindset and a real urge to do good in the world. “Especially helping you,” that didn’t make it yet.

The whole story has only one goal: to make you think that you have a lot in common. The provider emphasizes that he does not have any special skills himself and has made it despite his bad starting situation.

The real marketing trick is to remove your self-doubts and let the following thoughts arise: “If this guy managed to do it, then maybe I can do it too.”

The “added value” in the webinar

After you have tormented your way through the provider’s success story for 30 minutes and know his children by the first name, he’ll give you some little tips  (which you, of course, could have found with a quick google search by yourself).

But you have hope that there is more to come, because the promises were great and you are bravely holding on.

This brings us to the next step: The principle of “pain & gain”!

Psychological Manipulation: Pain & Gain

Now the provider lists all the pain points that you have because you are not yet as successful, beautiful, or whatever, as you would like to be. Often the negative consequences are incredibly exaggerated.

But if you’d actually knew the product, system, or secret, then your future would be as bright as riding on a unicorn into the sunset.

So you are presented with numerous pain points, and then the provider makes a comparison with the benefits of buying his product. He will suggest, that this bright future is already within your grasp – it only costs you this initial small investment to get there.

In the pain & gain principle, a lot of tricks are used to address deeply human needs and desires that every person has: security, love, recognition, longing, belonging, etc. (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). 

They stimulate your imagination and make you feel like you can do it too. At this point, if it didn’t happen yet, your resistance and doubts will crumble.

Psychological Manipulation: Principle of social proof

Now the “Principle of Social Proof” follows. In short: We are herd animals and we orientate ourselves strongly on recommendations and the opinion of the masses. This is genetically predisposed to us, and also the reason why product reviews work so well.

The provider now shows testimonials, praise and success stories from customers who have already purchased the product and have become successful with it.

This social proof is an effective marketing trick to convince you of the added value and to make it clear, that other customers without special skills have also become successful.

Samples are selected to represent typical customers – usually you you can identify yourself with at least one of them.

What’s however easy to overlook: The losers are not presented to you, only the outstanding success stories.

Often there is no evidence that these successes have actually ever occurred. Rule of thumb: The more exaggerated the successes are touted, the more skeptical you should be.

After holding on for this long, you have invested a lot of time. In the chat, you can see the enthusiastic comments. Everyone is excited about the incredible offer and can hardly wait to trigger and buy.

Meanwhile, you sincerely hope that there will be added value. But the hope is in vain – now the real sale follows.

The sale

Now all advantages are listed again and the provider tells you a passionate future story: Not only will you have more money, but you will also have time for your family and hobbies.

As an expert, you will enjoy a vast influx of new customers, your phone will be ringing all day, and you will be paid royally. Your family and friends will envy you for your success, and you will sip champagne from the belly button of your supermodel partner.

Good salespeople can even outshine fantasy authors here.

And then comes the all-important question: What price is your success worth to you? Because it’s not just about money, but about your precious lifetime!

Yes it is – and for a ridiculous price, that always ends in the number 7 or 9. These numbers have proven to have the highest purchase rate.

The incredible bonus

But wait, that’s not all! Because the provider is in a patronising mood today and would like to reward the participants who strike immediately and thus prove that they mean business.

The offer: If you buy in the next 20 minutes, you will get the “crazy incredible bonus” on top for free, which is at least as worth another few thousand dollars.

Background to this marketing trick: The provider wants to prevent you from thinking too long about the purchase.

Often a timer appears in the same context, with which the time runs down and should make you nervous. And remember: It took the provider years and thousands of dollars to acquire this secret knowledge!

How long would it take you to acquire the same knowledge? Particularly smart providers will also give you arguments so that you can justify your investment to your partner, friends, or family.

At the end, a few more questions are answered (of course never critical ones), and potential objections are eliminated that could prevent even the last skeptic from buying.

Follow-up emails

Afterwards you will receive several emails with the message that this is really your very last chance and the product will never be offered to this price again.

Conclusion

After this manipulation marathon, it is no wonder that many people buy.


How to distinguish good from bad providers

The issue is, also good providers will use sales funnel techniques or write some clickbait titles, as they work really well to get traffic. So how do you distinguish between good and bad providers?

Long-term real added value

Right providers are experts in their field for many years. Not because they call themselves experts, but because they continuously deliver added value – through articles, podcast episodes, videos, newsletters, etc. Please take a look at the provider and check how long they have been delivering added value and the quality of work.

There are enough people who want to jump on every trend train and quickly create an overpriced online course from a book or a few Google articles and sell it at high prices.

Commitment instead of mass

Follower numbers don’t say much about the added value of a provider, just that it corresponds to the taste of the masses. It is much more important how committed the provider is.

Some questions you might ask:

  • Does he answer questions?
  • Does he respond to criticism and requests?
  • Is he approachable or does he pretend to be a guru who no longer needs it?
  • How are his reviews and ratings (do some research on Google)?
  • How does he behave after customers purchase the product?

Honesty

Truly successful entrepreneurs know that success is not overnight or easy. Good providers don’t promise you quick wins, short cuts, or secrets to success. But they take you by the hand a little and support you in the best way they can. These providers do not work with everyone and explicitly point out who their product is NOT suitable for. They are more interested in long-term satisfaction than short-term sales. 

Gut feeling

Don’t buy straight away from someone you barely know. Take your time, ask previous participants, and see what your gut feeling is telling you. We often have an excellent antenna for whether someone is talking crap or is seriously interested in our well-being. If you have a bad feeling about the provider, you better avoid the product or do more research. 

Reasonable price

Good products are reasonably priced. Of course, good quality products will take a lot of knowledge, commitment, time, and experience, and hence the price for such products can be higher. 

Conclusion

Before you buy anything from anyone, do your own research. Go onto Google and search for the product/course provider’s name in conjunction with the word “review” or the word “scam”. If the price is above your means, don’t purchase! Don’t go into debt for any product or training. Remember the first two articles on calculating your net worth and how to manage your cash flow? We want to save money, not give money to other people, that might not deserve it. We want to be 99% sure that if we invest our money, we get a return on our investment.

Chris

Chris is an IT Project Portfolio Manager within the financial industry. Due to the nature of his role, he is engaged to study Financial Markets and is an active investor.

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