Do you want to find out if a certain person, offer or program is a scam?
You're in the right place! 🙂
First, we'll take a look at what constitutes a scam. Then we'll look at potential hints, warning signals, and surefire tells of online scams.
After reading this article you'll easily be able to spot scams and differentiate legit offers from the crap.
I hope you're as excited as I am!
Let's dive in...
What Triggered This Article About Online Scams?
A few hours ago, I got an email in my inbox that - unfortunately - is pretty common and representative of an often bigger, underlying issue...
Before you judge for yourself what exactly is going on here, I need to state the facts first:
- This is the very first email I ever got from this person.
- The program mentioned in the email is an entirely free, high-quality course that offers - as an upgrade - more in-depth training and an attached affiliate/business opportunity
- The upgrade is 100% optional and not a necessity
- I'm in close contact with the founder of this program and his support team. We're communicating back and forth on an on-going basis.
- The support structure of the program mentioned is superb. The corresponding Facebook support group is very active and the support staff, as well as the founder, show up every day, several times throughout the day
- Many people involved with this program (including me) help the support staff and answer questions popping up in that group within hours, often within minutes
- The person who wrote this email has never signed up through my link
- The affiliate program of the mentioned course is managed through Clickbank (a very trusted company around since 1998, that's handling refunds very generously and professionally)
These are the facts.
There's plenty of things to learn from this example, and I have good reasons for making the following assumptions.
But in all fairness, please keep in mind these are assumptions and not facts:
- The person probably never reached out to their "sponsor" (person who referred to and recommended the program) and asked for help
- The person was very inpatient and very unfriendly in his emails
- The person was extremely demanding and not willing to make any efforts
- The person doesn't know about or understand the success mindset and what it really takes to make progress in any discipline including online business (focus)
- The person probably never took any action (never entered the execution loop) and probably never finished the free - as well as the additional paid - training provided
I could go on and on... But:
What's The Real Issue Here?
This email is representative of an underlying problem that's especially true for the "make money online" and "internet marketing" niches:
Most people will fail at online business because of their mindset.
The technique of making money online is - generally speaking - very simple.
- You build an audience and attract the right people to you
- You provide lots of value to these people
- You capture their contact information so that you can provide more value, regularly to them
- You solve a major problem within your niche
- You offer a solution to that problem
- Some people will buy from you immediately, some will buy from you later, and some never will.
That's the business we're in - in a nutshell.
Not too complicated, right?
The free course that's being offered goes into way more detail about all of the aspects mentioned briefly above.
Again, for $0,00 - completely free.
As an upgrade, the program offers more in-depth training, as well as an opportunity to promote the program for a commission.
Standard affiliate marketing.
I make my living off of that stuff.
Is it all a big scam?
You are the judge.
Is What You Are Looking For Even Possible?
Please take a look at this Facebook Messenger dialogue:
Unfortunately, these messages and emails are very common.
As you can see, the person wants to know "how to make money online".
I have no idea about the person's background.
He says he's "a newbie affiliate marketer from Nigeria".
His goal is "to get leads/sales on autopilot".
He doesn't have a website, blog, or YouTube channel.
He wants to "make money with affiliate marketing without creating a website, a blog, or a YouTube channel".
Please think about it for yourself:
"On autopilot" means not just automated, but without any work.
"Make money with affiliate marketing without [...]" means again, without the work.
Is this reasonable?
Do you think there is ONE program/course/offer in the entire world that can deliver what the person is asking for?
If you answered yes, please let me know about it in the comments below.
I'd love to have this button that's spitting out money for nothing.
What Is A Scam?
According to Lexico (by Oxford):
A dishonest scheme; a fraud.
According to Merriam-Webster a scam is:
A fraudulent or deceptive act or operation (example: an insurance scam)
And according to Dictionary.com:
A confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.
And lastly, according to Cambridge Dictionary:
An illegal plan for making money, especially one that involves tricking people (example: an insurance scam)
There's plenty of different scams going on, but since we're talking about online business here, we'll focus on those scams in this article.
How To Spot A Scam?
First of all, it's extremely important that we do our own due diligence.
This "task" can not be delegated or skipped, as it is critical.
The only way to make sure you're not engaging in a scam is to perform your very own due diligence.
Therefore, we need to look at a couple of different aspects:
Who Is Behind [XYZ]?
You want to find out if the person behind the program is real.
If he's selling the latest dropshipping course: Is he a successful drop shipper himself?
If it's about affiliate marketing: Can he get results?
If it's about email marketing: Does he have a huge list himself and are his emails enticing, entertaining, interesting, and helpful?
Can you reach the person via email or messenger/skype?
What Does [XYZ] Promise?
Every product vendor tries to make the product/offer appealing.
Otherwise, he wouldn't sell anything.
But how much hype is ok and when is it too much?
The larger the claim and the bigger the promise, the higher the likelihood to be really disappointed later, right?
Take a look at what exactly is being promised and how reasonable it is.
Does it make sense to you?
The Promise <-> Delivery Gap
After you bought into program [XYZ] you can see what it is all about.
You probably have access to a software (if that was promised) and/or the training material and/or advanced training and/or added benefits like an affiliate program or higher payouts.
You can assess for yourself if what was being promised is now delivered.
You are the judge.
Too Good To Be True? Then It Probably Is!
Unfortunately, common sense is not very common.
My point is: Use your brain.
If something sounds too good to be true ("guaranteed $14.000 in 20 minutes without doing any work!"), then it probably is complete BS.
Don't part too easily with your hard-earned cash.
You're Building A Real Business Here
And that stuff takes some time, effort, money, creativity, pain tolerance, persistence, and much more.
Plus even more work, sweat, tears, and many failures along the way.
If you're not willing to spend some considerable time in your chosen niche, you're probably better off looking for a job instead.
And that's totally fine!
Running an online business is not for everyone.
Nobody will be able to guarantee you anything, because again:
This is a real business.
And affiliate marketing is no different!
Underdelivery Or Outright SCAM?
Coming back to our evaluation if you came across a scam or not...
After analyzing the sales page and doing some research online ("[XYZ] Review", "Is [XYZ] Legit?", "Is [XYZ] A Scam?", "Does [XYZ] Work?", "How Exactly Does [XYZ] Work?", ...), you made your decision and bought the program.
Now you have access to the whole training/program/product, right?
I assume you took the time and effort to really go through the material etc.
That means, now you can compare the promise <-> delivery gap.
Was there anything (big) that was promised but never delivered?
Did you try to reach out to the owner and/or support of the program in several ways and did you give them an appropriate time to respond?
Did you give the people involved a fair chance to make up for their (potential) mistakes or shortcomings? Did you consider the day of the week and potential holidays?
If you got a response: Was it reasonable? Was it appropriate? Or was it all empty promises and delay-tactics?
If It Is A Scam...
If you identified a certain program as a scam, there's a few things you should consider:
- Try to get your money back. (initiate a refund)
If the program/course/software/product is managed through a reputable platform, and if you asked for a refund within the refund period, you shouldn't have any issue with getting your money back.
Side note: That's exactly the reason why I recommend buying programs - if possible - through regulated marketplaces. That way you have 3rd party to rely on and that will process your refund.
- Inform others about the scam
There's several ways to go about it.
You could inform others via consumer protection and/or review websites, as well as comments on these pages.
You could even take it a step further and get in touch with the (responsible) authorities.
But before you do so, you want to be absolutely sure that you're involved with a real scam, otherwise, you might face accuses of false statements, perjury, and potential charges...
If It Is NOT A Scam...
If the program is not a scam but you identified some hyped up promises and you feel the owner didn't deliver on his promises:
- Give the owner a real chance to make it right
If the owner is unresponsive or not willing to speak with you, or if he's making more promises and tries to delay the process, you can still initiate a refund.
But if you read this article from the beginning, you know what the likely issue here is:
There might be something wrong with your mindset.
Have you really given it your best?
A better question might be:
How Can I Make [XYZ] Work?
If you came to the conclusion that the program is not the issue but instead you haven't been able to make the program work for you yet, you're onto something!
Exactly this question in exactly this moment can lead to the biggest breakthroughs you're about to make in your online business journey!
This question empowers you!
You just switched from the victim mindset to the go-getter mindset.
This is really powerful, as you're now open to the possibility of learning and trying something new that could get you ahead like crazy!
You now have the right mindset to make [XYZ] work.
If you persist and come back to this question over and over again, you have a really good chance of succeeding in online business!
Can You Take A Look At Program [XYZ], Please?
If it's within the "make money online", "online business", or "affiliate marketing" niche:
Sure, let me know about it here and I'll have a look and give you my opinion.
How Can I Be Sure That Obdude (Online Business Dude) Is Not A Scam?
It comes with additional, high-quality, free training videos about how to start and grow an online business and how to become successful at affiliate marketing.
There're plenty of free but high-quality articles on my website... Just look around if you like to.
You can read about my story here: /about
You can see a few of my results here: /results
You can see what I'm currently working on here: /now
You can contact me here, and I'll get back to you.
If you send me a short email and introduce yourself briefly, I'm willing to jump on a short video call with you. (skype/whatsapp/google/zoom/...)
Do you still think I'm a scam or hiding behind a computer?
Sorry, I think we're not a good fit and I can't help you. But of course, I still wish you all the best and good luck on your entrepreneurial journey! 🙂
OK, I Want To Learn More! What's The Next Step?
I hope you enjoyed this article about online scams!
Your Online Business Dude
Hi – I’m Tim, an online marketer from Germany and the founder of Online Business Dude. I run a couple of websites, and I openly share what works when it comes to starting and growing online businesses. I specialize in value-first and results-focused content marketing. I live, eat, and breathe free/organic and paid traffic generation, list building, and email marketing. If you need a helping hand with your SEO, SEM, PPC campaigns, list building, or email marketing efforts, simply let me know. Stay awesome!