Earning money online sounds fantastic doesn’t it?
It’s a way to get out of some of the grind of a normal job and to gain back control of your own life.
At one time or another, most people who have considered earning money online have fallen victim to one of the thousands of scams online.
In fact, there are many people who have spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars purchasing products that promise to help them earn money online.
The sheer amount of scams might make earning money online seem like a bad idea, but realistically, there are ways to avoid scams online.
If you are careful, and pay attention to the signs, you can pick out the warning signs of an online scam from a mile away and avoid wasting your money on any of them.
Why Are There So Many Scammers?
One thing I hate about the internet marketing field is that there are so many people selling products that are nowhere as good as they seem.
Many of these people are doing little more than scamming buyers out of their hard earned money, and it is actually unusual to find products that offer what they claim to.
The main reason that there are so many scammers is that they make money from it, a lot of money most of the time.
After all, the products are often expensive, and the authors tend to be very good at convincing people to buy their products.
Because of this, they will pull every trick in the book to get you to spend your money.
I’ve personally spent quite a bit of time going through the promotions and videos for different online products and comparing their claims to what they actually offered.
To be honest, I’ve been shocked at how convincing many of the product promotions have been and how some marketers blatantly lie to sell their point.
But then again, should I really be surprised?
After all, scammers seem to gather wherever here is money to be had.
Warning Signs of an Online Scam
It can sometimes be difficult to work out whether something is a scam or not, but there are some warning signs that can be helpful.
The owners of online products often like to ‘prove’ the effectiveness of their product using earning summaries. The most common of these is Clickbank, like the image below.
As far as I can tell, Clickbank is chosen so often because it is the easiest to fake. Photoshop is one way of doing this, but it isn’t the only one, and some people mess around with other ways of editing the information.
In fact, you can Google “how to fake Clickbank earnings” to see just how many people talk about ways of doing this.
The other thing is that even if they are legit, Clickbank summaries don’t actually tell you anything useful.
For example, the author of a product might post a Clickbank summary as evidence of how much he or she has earned following whatever system they are selling.
Even if they did actually earn all of the money they claim to, what does that mean for you?
After all, it’s very likely that the owner has a whole different skill set than you do and is very experienced at getting people to buy things online.
You don’t even have any way of knowing whether they earned that money
Regardless of whether they are written or in video form, testimonials for a product do not mean anything at all.
There are a large number of ways for product owners to get legitimate-sounding testimonials for their products, normally by people who have never used the product.
For example, many people rent out their services as reviewers, offering to review any product in a video for a small fee.
If you look closely, you might even find that multiple products have used the same people for testimonials, which is a good indication that they have paid for the service.
Rags to Riches
A lot of products will spin a rags to riches story about how making money online has changed their life.
This is most common in video format although I have seen it in images as well.
Some of the most common aspects of this approach include images of expensive cars and houses combined with a story of how well the product owner is doing because of the system that is being sold.
This is nothing more than a manipulation tactic.
In most cases, the person in the video is an actor and all of the expensive things in the video are rented for the purpose of the video.
In fact, in some cases you never find out who the product owner actually is.
Now, there are some people out there who actually do own everything in the video and are also the person presenting it.
This is most common among the people who have made a fortune online, like Anthony Morrison.
However, the fact that the person in the video is rich through the online environment doesn’t make his product any good.
Personally, I think of this as a major red flag.
Think about it for a minute.
How do internet millionaires make their money?
Most of the time they get it by manipulating people into purchasing their products, using many of the tactics that I am talking about in this article.
As a general rule, people like this will create a product and heavily hype it to all of their followers.
This product tends to be left ‘as is’ and will continue to earn the owner money simply because the affiliates of the product continue to promote it.
The product owner will then typically move on to making another product.
This means that whatever is in the product that you are looking at has very little to do with how the owner actually made money online.
In many cases, the rags to riches story is used because it is a good way to get the audience excited about the product without telling them much about it.
Overly Positive Reviews
Many products have fantastic reviews online, with people going on about how amazing the product is, and how it can change your life.
Like testimonials, you have to be very careful about reading product reviews, particularly positive ones.
Many internet marketing products offer people a chance to make money by promoting the product, a process known as affiliate marketing.
There is nothing wrong with affiliate marketing in itself – it is the way that many people make money online and it is very effective.
However, many affiliates will promote only the positive aspects of whatever product they are promoting, entirely ignoring any negative aspects that it might have.
In many cases, the affiliate for a product may not have even used the product themselves, or they may have used it and not liked it.
The good thing is that most affiliates for a product aren’t particularly good, so it is pretty easy to spot strongly biased reviews.
For example, many affiliates of scam products will use the same marketing language that the original product used and their review will often be written poorly.
Additionally, these types of reviews tend to tell you very little about what the product actually offers or whether it meets its claims.
As a general rule, I would suggest being careful of any positive review, and looking for positive reviews that consider the good and the bad of a product, and also tell you what the product actually has to offer.
Hype is everywhere in online products and it is a major part of the sales pitch.
Often this will involve product owners exaggerating how much money you can earn from their product, while also ignoring how much work is involved.
It’s lovely to think that you can earn a lot of money online with next to no work, but this isn’t the case at all.
It is very possible to earn a living online, but anyone who tells you that it doesn’t involve work is simply trying to sell you something.
It’s important to realize that product owners online can essentially say whatever they like and there is very little accountability.
This means that they are always going be unrealistic about what their product offers in the hopes that they can convince you to purchase it.
If you were selling a really good product online, you would probably tell your website viewers a lot about it. After all, you want people to see how wonderful your product is and how it can help them.
One of the most significant signs of a scam is when a product owner doesn’t do this.
Many scammers are very vague about their products and their promotions tend to focus on their own story of rags to riches and how much money you can make from their products.
I have seen product videos up to an hour in length (advertised as ‘free seminars’) where the product owner manages to get through the entire video without ever telling you precisely what the product is.
This should be a major red flag.
If you don’t know exactly what you are paying for before you purchase it, odds are you will end up with something different than you are expecting.
Ways to Avoid Scams Online
I’ve talked about some of the key indicators that a product is a scam, and realistically if a product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Now, there are probably a handful of products that do some of the approaches that I talked about above and are not scams, but they are rare.
As a general rule, you should be very careful about any product that uses the approaches I discussed to try and sell you the product.
However, not all online scams are obvious and some of them can look like a legitimate product.
The absolute best way to work if out whether a product is a scam is to look for reviews.
In this case, you need to specifically look for either balanced or bad reviews of the product. Any overly positive review of the product will probably be from an affiliate.
Bad reviews tend to come from people who are angry that they are being scammed, while balanced reviews are most common on sites that review products on a regular basis.
Both bad and neutral reviews will give you an indication of what is actually in the product, and provide you with the information that you need to make a decision yourself.
I tend to look for reviews that have positive and negative elements of the product, because this means that I find out more about the product than someone’s opinion.
A few negative reviews of a product doesn’t actually mean there is anything wrong with it – because there will always be someone who has unrealistic expectations, had a bad experience or simply didn’t pay attention to what they were buying.
However, when you see a large number of negative reviews for a product, it’s time to start paying attention, because there is normally a reason that people are angry.
Better Business Bureau
Another approach that I sometimes use is to look at the website for the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
If a product is new enough or small enough, it probably won’t even be listed on the BBB’s website, but products that have been around for some time often are.
An example of a product like this is Empower Network.
Empower Network is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company where users are pressured to spend a considerable amount of money.
I have actually reviewed Empower Network elsewhere, but even a simple Google search will show you just how many people aren’t happy with the product.
The BBB rates Empower Network with a B+ (on a scale of A to F), but makes the following note about it.
There are also quite a few customer complaints about Empower Network on the BBB.
Now, this doesn’t look like a lot of complaints when you consider the number of people who have joined Empower Network in the last three years (which is what Empower Network argues too).
However, this happens because most people will not bother complaining to the BBB about any product, regardless what they think of it.
The fact that 172 people bothered is an indication that there is something wrong with the product/service.
Realistically, you can find many companies on BBB that are bigger and have more sales than Empower Network, but have hardly any complaints.
Additionally, the majority of complaints were in the Advertising/Sales Issue category, which I would agree with, as Empower Network really does have misleading advertising.
In fact, people often don’t realize what they are getting involved in with the company.
Now, the BBB often won’t be any help at all in identifying scams, but it is always worth checking out, because the site has less bias that most review sites you will see.
Other Things to Watch Out For
Having a website is an important component of being successful in online business, and a lot of scammers take advantage of this.
Now, there are some products that do legitimately offer a free website and Wealthy Affiliate is one example of this, but these sites are few and far between.
There are many different variations to the free website offer – and it can include things like offering users a free custom designed website that they can use for whatever they like.
In practice, the design of these websites is rarely worth the bother; particularly as designing a good website on your own isn’t actually that hard.
The catch with the free website trick is that you still have to pay hosting for the website.
Now, if you want your own website and your own domain, you will have to pay for it regardless.
However, when you decide to do this yourself, you can shop around for the best deals – and realistically, hosting isn’t very expensive.
When sites offer free websites they will force you to go through one specific hosting provider.
They don’t choose this provider because it offers a good deal, but because they are affiliated with it – so they earn money when you purchase.
Because of this, the hosting you have to purchase tends to be expensive and it may be with a company who has a bad reputation.
As a general rule, any website that forces you to choose a specific hosting provider is a bad idea and should be avoided.
For the vast majority of online products, your decision to purchase is not the end of the story.
Instead, you are often faced with a promotion for another product or an extension of the product that you have just purchased.
These are known as upsells and they are frequently more expensive than the product that you just paid for.
The same sales techniques are generally used to try and get you to purchase the upsell and the product owner will try to convince you that it is essential to you making a profit.
In fact, the promotion for an upsell will often appear to contradict the sales pitch for the original product.
For example, one product that I looked at promoted itself as being automated income, and the sales video made a big deal about how the entire process was automated.
However, the upsell was promoted as being essential to making the product automated, something that was not mentioned in the original product advertisement.
Sometimes the upsell will be available later on as an upgrade, but sometimes you have to buy it during the purchase process to get it.
Often, the upsells are where the product owners make the majority of their money, and they are something you need to be very careful about.
Personally, I won’t pay for an upsell during the purchase process, because at that point in time I have no idea whether the product I have purchased is any good.
After all, if the initial product is poor quality, it’s very likely that the upsells are also.
Generally speaking, there are two types of hidden costs associated with online products.
The first of these is when it costs more than originally advertised to actually get the product to do what it is supposed to.
The most common example of this is products where one of the upsells turns out to be essential for making money.
Most products don’t take this approach, but there is a number that do, so it is important to be aware of it.
Products that promote binary options are one significant example of this approach.
Basically, binary options is a form of trading where you make money if you pick correctly.
It is an approach that can be used to make money, but it is also very easy to lose money that way.
Typically, binary options products are promoted as being 100% free and technically speaking this is correct, because the author offers free software to use with trading.
However, the catch is that you have to deposit into a specific binary options trader, which can be quite expensive.
Empower Network is actually another example of hidden costs.
The program is most frequently advertised as costing $25 per month for membership.
However, this $25 actually just covers the blogging system at Empower Network, and you have to pay an additional $19.99 each month for access to their payment system.
You can use Empower Network without ever purchasing the payment system, but it would be kind of pointless, as you wouldn’t be able to make any money.
The second type of hidden cost is when there is a recurring monthly cost that isn’t obvious.
When you first pay for a product, this information will come up in the billing agreement, but it is very easy to look past, so you need to be careful.
Additionally, some products have a very low purchase price, and imply that this is for the entire product, when it actually ends up just being for a trial of the product.
One of the worst cases I have seen of this was a product that cost about $9 and that cost was for a three day trial.
If you didn’t cancel within those three days, then the monthly fee for the product was automatically deducted from your card, and this was somewhere above $50.
To make matters worse the product was through Clickbank, and Clickbank can take up to a day to cancel products.
The fact that it was a three day trial really wasn’t obvious, and I suspect a lot of people ended up paying much more than they intended.
Cancelation and Refunds
Many products are advertised as being risk-free with a guaranteed refund if you don’t like the product.
Be very careful with this, because there is always some degree of risk.
If you are purchasing the product from the site of the product owner, you actually have no guarantee that they will give the refund when requested.
Many sites will spend a lot of time trying to convince you to stay or even to purchase more, making it even more difficult to get a refund.
If you are buying a product through a site like Clickbank you actually have a good chance of getting a refund, as the site oversees the refund request.
Products that have recurring payments can be even more challenging, because you have to cancel these.
Once more, sites like Clickbank provide an advantage here, because they will oversee the process – although the process can sometimes take a while.
If you are purchasing the product through the product owner’s website, I recommend using PayPal if it is at all possible.
PayPal gives you the ability to manage your own payments, which includes canceling any recurring payments without needing to go through the vendor.
You can also dispute payments, which can sometimes help you get a refund, although that is much more tricky.
Overall, I would suggest being aware of the site that you are purchasing from and how you can get a refund if you need to.
After all, there are some cases where companies continue charging when they should not, which can be very difficult to stop.
This article is focused on providing you with ways to avoid scams online, but it should also help you to figure out what products are likely to be of high quality and what ones are not.
Realistically, there are many products that I have seen that aren’t quite scams, but at the same time are not worth spending money on.
For example, some training products are useful, but contain outdated information or are difficult to follow.
Personally, I don’t categorize products like this as scams, but I consider them to be poor quality and recommend against using them.
It can be hard to pick out the warning signs of an online scam at first, but over time, it does get easier.
If you can figure out effective ways to avoid scams online, then the entire process of earning money online will get a lot easier.
If possible, look for products that you can try before you purchase, because at least then you know exactly what you are getting.
For those of you wanting to learn about making money online, there is one option that isn't a scam.
I'm talking about a site known as Wealthy Affiliate, which is an online training site.
Wealthy Affiliate offers a large amount of information about making money online in general and also has a support community. That makes it a great place to learn and, in fact, Wealthy Affiliate was where I learned most of what I know about sites and making money online.