Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beware of Scammers

“Earn Rm500-5000 per week. No experience needed.” Bold in red font, I read the email from a stranger through the preview pane. The company’s address was in Cheras, KL, the same one I read about in a Chinese newspaper advertisement for working at home jobs. It was also the same one that several members of eHomemakers complained about in the website’s Forum Board on scams.

Another e-mail screamed, “Earn passive income! Stay home and let the money keep rolling in! Only fools work hard. Smart people join our scheme and let others work for you!” The tell-tale signs of a pyramid scheme were there: promise of sky-high profits for a small amount of effort, sellers and buyers have to recruit new sellers and buyers to keep the scheme growing. And the product sold was more expensive than what I could get in the shop! The legitimate company with the ‘largest global network’ used a free yahoo mail instead of its own company mail.

Another email thanked me for answering a job advertisement even though I had not applied for any job in the last ten years. It is a working @ home job that required only a PC with internet access, a legitimate email account, basic internet knowledge and minimal typing skills. I could chose to work full-time or part-time. Since I would be working with virtually millions of clients from all over the world, I could work any hour I want. I would be processing data sets which will be explained in detail in the complete set of training materials. No target amount of data sets to be completed, I could do anything I liked! What a nice job! The catch: I had to pay for the training manual. RM300.

It is a typical scam email where one has to pay to get work. After the money is sent, there will be no reply from the company. If one does a simple calculation, one can see how much the scam company earns if 100 people send in RM300 each. The company is the one that is earning passive income!

Every day, besides getting emails from American and European lottery companies announcing that I have won the first prize, I also get letters from children, wives, cooks, mistresses, security guards and private secretaries of presidents, prime ministers, finance ministers and bankers from all over the world, asking me to help them to get their money out of their countries without anyone knowing. If I agree and send my bank account number and some deposit to ‘help facilitate the transactions’, I will receive a hefty commission.

Wow, I will be a very rich woman if I respond to all these!

The first thing I do in the morning when I turn on my email is to delete all these scams. The only ones I read in my preview pane are those which announce working at home jobs. Promoting working @ home is my passion. This is why I am interested to see the development of this sector, including the scams.

The most common scams that target homemakers are those providing typing and stuffing envelope jobs. You pay for manual and materials, then send in your typing and envelopes. After that you never get your payment. This is why these jobs don’t need any work experience! Many members in the eHomemakers’ network have been scammed over the years even though we give them plenty of warning. People prefer easy and instant money. All it takes is caution and a good dose of common sense to prevent being scammed.

Real working at home jobs don’t dare to tell people how fast they can earn. They want experienced workers and they give real training. They also don’t spam e-mail boxes or put up advertisements announcing lucrative earnings.

Recently, a homemaker begged me to join a web building scheme. She got my number from somewhere. As a member, I could build my website but I earn through recruiting people. She claimed she had a doctorate degree in sociology from a prestigious American university but her spoken English was full of grammatical mistakes. She told me all the wonderful stories of people who made big money. “You want to drive Mercedes or not? Join-lah! So easy to make money. You don’t do anything, just call and meet people only!”

“What happens to the website building?” I asked. “You have paid for it. Do you know HTML?”

“What is that? Do later-loh! Make money first! We tok money, not funny tink!”

I told her the many sad tales of people I know who have lost money in similar pyramid schemes disguised in many forms. How much did she make and how many people actually build their websites? She was angry at first, but after a long talk, she told the truth: the doctorate degree certificate was bought through mail for RM100. Someone made the certificate in KL. She thought that a PHD qualification would help her to recruit more people.

“Making money this way is called ‘cheating’,” I gently reminded her.

By then, she had mellowed out. She hadn’t been able to recruit anyone for weeks. She didn’t get to earn RM10,000 per month as claimed by the scheme. She was desperate to earn money to help her husband pay new loans. Since she hadn’t worked for over fifteen years, the scheme was like a gift from Heaven.

At the end of the call, she sounded like she was crying. She didn’t want to give me her phone number because she was worried that I would report her to the authorities.

I sighed after I put down the phone. Lao Tze, an ancient Chinese philosopher, once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” If she really wants to make big money, she has got to begin with the first step - learn a new skill.

By Chong Sheau Ching