How To Detect Online Scams

How to detect online scams

The internet is a goldmine of information and it is just going to be growing everyday. Unfortunately, sometimes it is difficult to decipher what is true and what is not. I am writing “How to detect online scams” to help you understand what to look for when searching for online business opportunities and the possible associated scams.

My  scam experience

I hate being duped. I hate parting with my hard earned money. And when I buy something that doesn’t live up to its promotional promise, I get pretty angry about it. I hope that in my more mature state-of-mind, I have been more aware and less naïve when I buy something. By doing research and just being more cognizance about the “too good to be true” stuff, I am making strides not to be taken.

But truly, there are some very savvy people marketing their products out in cyberspace and sometimes the way they do things isn’t very transparent and outright scammy!

I  joined an MLM in 1995

I was a single mom, with a 1 year old, making $8 /hr. I was presented with this opportunity by my roommate. Being a entrepreneur wanna-be, the MLM sounded very enticing.

“Join us, we will make your dreams come true”

When I arrived at the “training center”,  the place was abuzz with excitement. There were a lot of overly enthusiastic people milling around, greeting people, as I walked through the door. I was ushered to a seat and after everyone showed up, the lights dimmed and the show began,

A representative stood in front of the room, presenting the opportunity through product demonstration and a video excerpt of the owner. The presentation was very alluring and was brilliantly constructed to tug at your hopes and dreams. They had it down to a science!

“Oh wow, this is a great opportunity!”

The opportunity sounded awesome and I’ve never encountered something like this before. Did I want to pass this opportunity up?  Of course not. I felt that I could give this a chance and see where it takes me. After all , I felt that if my roommate was part of it, I have no reasons to be skeptical, right?

“It’s only $29 to sign up”

The $29 wasn’t a lot of money. I looked at it as my starting point, an investment. I received a manual of information and beautiful brochures that detailed the MLM’s mission and products. I was encouraged to order the products for myself and try it out. So I ordered a bulky water filter, nutritional supplements and some beauty products. I couldn’t deny that the products were top notch and hey, if I was going to promote these items, I should at least try them out. $150 later, I got my stuff. “Not bad”, I thought.

“Go through training!”

Training was the key to success. The uplines had always stressed this. “Attend the trainings and you will go so far in the company!” So, I attended training after training.  Some free, some not. I was taught how to recruit people and how to present the products. But the stickler was, start with your friends and family. “Oh no. Not that!” I hated to bother my friends, family, their friends and their family. I hated being a sales person. Blech! But I was determined. I gave it my best shot. I wanted to be successful. So, I begged my older sister to sign up. She did – probably to shut me up. Lol!

“Do you really want to be successful? Get a desk. Look official.”

As I proceeded within the company, my upline kept insisting  that I sign on to a desk. They held the lease to the office. They charged distributors $500 a month. They explained that having a desk will give us an official place to bring our new recruits and it would lend a more professional look. Plus, it will guarantee a better success rate for conversion. Oh, ok. Sounded great! Signed on the dotted line.

Anyway, my mom paid for the monthly rents because I didn’t have that kind of money. And I continued to use part of my work income to buy more products and recruited a handful of people.

“Not successful yet? Attend a training with the founder himself!”

This was one of the biggest MLM pushes. All the uplines pushed bigger and better trainings, some of which cost a substantial amount of money. Most of them were in different parts of the US. So, I maxed out one of my credit cards and signed up for a few expensive trainings.  My sister and I went together hoping these trainings would add much more to our experience.

“Rah, Rah Cultish Club”

The trainings were attended by thousands of distributors from newbies to the very established uplines. It was a big woop-tido and was like a cultish following than an educational experience. People were dressed to the nines and were acting so successful even when they hadn’t made a dime! And I just felt that it was all  superficial hype, playing on the emotions of the crowd rather than teaching something substantial.

Plus, everyone there acted like the founder was God! They were mesmerized by him. It was weird.

“Credit card charge, $5000 please.”

A year into the MLM, I just felt like it was a dead end experience. It started to feel really fake and phony. I told the distributor, (who was also my upper upline and the leaseholder for the office) – “Hey J, I’m thinking about quitting.” I told him that I wasn’t seeing any results. I was spending a whole lot of money but wasn’t making a cent.

J wasn’t happy about it. If I quit, he knew his $500 desk rent would disappear. (That’s how he made money!) So, he persuaded me to stay, by presenting another “opportunity” to be successful. He had said I needed to establish myself as the next level distributor by buying in for only $5000. Once I achieved the “manager status” versus my current newbie status, I would look better to my potential recruits and guaranteed success! Somehow, I was persuaded to buy in. Here you go J, $5000. I bought more products that day! So many supplements and water filters. These products sat on my Dad’s garage shelves for years. It was laughable!

“Yay, I’m a manager. What now?”

Nothing! That’s what. I eventually got fed up with the whole MLM thing. I finally decided to quit and cut my losses. Naturally, it left me with a real bitter taste in my mouth. The only “real” money I made were the rebates paid back to me from my product purchases. At least, I didn’t have to report that as income, right?

“Whose fault is it, then?”

I don’t think I entirely blame the MLM itself. The training was available, albeit expensive. The products were great. I loved using them. Nor, do I entirely attribute fault to the founder nor everyone in the system. The founder was  a brilliant businessman and I believe that he built this company with the best of intentions.

Motivated by greed!

Unfortunately, a few too many unscrupulous distributors motivated by greed, twisted the system and lied about the possibilities. Trust was lost. Frustrations became the norm. Eventually, distributors who were not making money were fed up and started a class action suit against the founder and the higher up distributors. The FTC started to investigate and deemed the MLM a ponzi scheme. Everything eventually came to light and the company imploded.

A few years later, the class action suit was settled and if I can correctly recall, I was awarded ….. $97.28. SMH.

Make money dishonestly … roll in the riches! 

When greed is involved, the crap always hits the fan. You can make as much money as you can while you can, but dishonest people who make a living misleading people will never make for a sustainable business. (Plus, you might end up wearing an orange jumpsuit, and eating really bad food.)


But just as important, I had to take accountability as well. I didn’t have to charge the $5000 onto my credit card. I could’ve just said “No thanks.” But my desire to build a business got the best of me. Yet, I took the opportunity, tried it out and learned from it. These days, I’m much more weary about the opportunities available and do my due diligence.

Watch out for these scams

According to the FTC, these are the most common online scams circulating the internet. I won’t need to explain some of the scams because they are pretty self explanatory.

Bogus business opportunities

Detect the scam keywords:

  • “Work only x hours per week”
  • “Be your own boss”
  • “Set your own hours”
  • “Work from home”

Chain letters

Detect the scam keywords:

  • “Send x dollars to the person on top of the list. Cross out that name and add yours to the bottom.”
  • “Make copies of this letter and mail it to as many people.”
  • “If you don’t send this letter, something bad will happen to your loved ones.”


Work at home schemes

Detect the scam keywords:

  • “Make money forwarding packages from the comfort of your couch.”
  • “Home Cash System.”
  • “Google Fortune Kit.”
  • “Make money surfing the internet.”
  • “Work only 1-2 hours a week and get paid $1,000 or more.”

Health and diet scams

Detect the scam keywords:

  • “Need to lose weight for the summer?”
  • “Control your weight”
  • “Natural health remedy that works!”
  • “Reduce body fat and build lean muscle without exercise”
  • “Young at any age”
  • “Take years off your appearance”
  • “Gives energy and burns fat”

Easy money

Detect the scam keywords:

  •  “Make $1,000’s of dollars in commissions without picking up a phone or selling anything!”

Free goods

Detect scam keywords:

  • “Get freebie. Just pay a processing/shipping fee to get your free gift!”
  • “Sign up for a free offer. Just need your credit card #.”

Bulk email schemes

“Like most Ponzi schemes you will be required to pay a fee up front and then will be given the opportunity to sign up as many individuals as you want in you down line to sell them the same information and mass email system.”

Detect the scam keywords

  • “Get on the ground floor!”
  • “Time-sensitive response needed.”
  • “Send only $50 to get in on this money making opportunity.”

Cable descrambler kits

Detect the scam keywords

  •  “Buy a cable descrambler kit so you don’t have to pay for the cable channels.”
  • “Learn all the secrets that the cable companies don’t want you to know.”
  • “Wouldn’t it be great if you received every cable channel your cable company provides – for free?”

Guaranteed loans or credit

Paying a fee to get a loan. Scamming those who have a bad credit and has difficulty getting a loan.

Detect the scam keywords

  • “Send a fee to cover the cost of the loan.”
  • “Send a fee for insurance on the loan.”
  • “Send fee as collateral for your loan.”

Sometimes when a person is desperate to find a solution to their money troubles, the wool gets pulled over their eyes. I mean, it’s so easy to just accept an online offer as legit without thinking or doing research. I’ve been in those shoes before and it’s painful and humiliating.

By the way, have ever watched the show American Greed? I cannot believe the shysters that dupe people out of their money without conscience. SMH.

My best advice ~

Use common sense and research. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

There are a number of websites, such as and that have reviews by consumers who have been defrauded by companies and people.

Not all companies are scams

But take note that some reviews are not so transparent. It may be from people who found a legit company that offered a good product but it didn’t make them money right away and they were angry about it. So, even if you read a review good or bad, use your own judgement, do some research through the FTC website or read forums pertaining to the product.

Is Wealthy Affiliate a scam?

I know Wealthy Affiliate has been accused of ripping people off. After I signed up, I took about 5 days to look at the free program. Before I decided to become a premium member, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to be shafted out of my $49, so I looked up Wealthy Affiliate reviews and scams.

Of course, there were negative scam reviews on Wealthy Affiliate. It kind of scared me but I returned to the Wealthy Affiliate site and looked up “Rip off report” and got this – WA Ripoff response.

After reading that, I am confident that Wealthy Affiliate is not a scam. In addition, if WA was a scam, how come they have been in existence since 2005? Wouldn’t the FTC have shut them down a long  time ago?

  • Have over 200,000 members(not all of them are premium, just free members.)
  • Have millions of dollars devoted to their training platform
  • Ongoing live training
  • Free website hosting
  • No credit card requests upfront
  • Does not promise you will make instant money
  • Encourages your efforts and will train you to build your online business

Here’s a really stellar post written in support of Wealthy Affiliate by another long time member. The post really reflects how I feel as well.

For my $49 investment ~

  • I’ve learned how to build a website in a few days.
  • I’ve learned how to use keywords.
  • I’ve learned how to use SEO to drive traffic to my website.
  • I’ve been given free hosting for my website. (You can also buy and register your own domain names for cheap.) I’ve have been given answers that got me “unstuck” immediately – literally, in a matter of minutes. (Live chat.)
  • I’ve met a lot of motivated and very satisfied members in Wealthy Affiliate.

The only thing I don’t like about Wealthy Affiliate is that I’m addicted to it. But I certainly have not detected anything scammy about Wealthy Affiliate. You can read my review about Wealthy Affliliate.

Nevertheless, I know a lot of you will be skeptical and fear that what I’m telling you about Wealthy Affiliate is another scam. But that’s ok. Healthy skepticism is good!

But I hope that you will be able to compare the actual scams I’ve outlined above against Wealthy Affiliate and make your decision.

Thank you again for reading my post about “How to detect online scams.” Let me know if you have ever been scammed and share your experience with me. I bet that there will be a fair share to consider.

Again, thank you for visiting Liberation 2035.



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