Online get-rich-quick scam exposed
A get-rich-quick scam has been slammed by Island consumer watchdogs.
The scheme purports to feature an interview with a Bermudian woman who makes $7,000-$8,000 a week in a home survey programme and appears on a realistic news-style website.
But the same name, Melicia Henry, is attached to stories on similar looking websites, although instead of “Hamilton, Bermuda” her location is given as “Redmond, US”.
Rhonda Daniels, enforcement officer at the Consumer Affairs department, said that she had seen a similar site where Melicia Henry was said to come from St George's.
The site quotes the woman as saying she had earned enough to buy herself a BMW 5 series car — a model far too large to be imported to the Island.
Ms Daniels said: “Spotting a scam nowadays is rather hard as the scammers have gotten more sophisticated in how they market their product.”
And she added: “Remember that if you get scammed online it is very unlikely the local police or the Office of Consumer Affairs will be able to assist in getting your money back.
“Scammers use the information you give to them to get rich quick themselves.
“If you have shared your credit card or bank account information, contact your bank immediately. They may be able to stop the transaction.”
The two stories featuring the Hamilton woman appear on the similar-looking Online Career Journal and Career Journal Online.
One story is bylined Amanda Winston and the other Amanda W.
Both sites carry the logos of respected media outlets like the BBC, CNN and Financial Times with the tagline “as seen on”.
But small print at the end of the online comments section warns the site is “not affiliated in any way” with news sites.
And it says: “This programme is not a job but an educational opportunity that can help individuals learn how to earn money through their entrepreneurial efforts.
“Anyone who decides to buy any programme about making money will not necessarily make money simply by purchasing the programme.”
And it added that the comments — all favourable — were “also representative of typical comments and experiences which have been compiled into a comment format to illustrate a dialogue.
“However, the comments are not actual posts to this webpage and have been compiled or generated for illustrative purposes only.”
The story said that Ms Henry had lost her job in the recession — but that after a $5 investment in a work-from-home kit she was making $3,000 within four weeks doing paid surveys at home online.
Ms Daniels said that — to avoid being scammed — people should ask basic questions before replying to what appear to be attractive offers.
Ms Daniels added that some of the questions consumers should ask themselves are:
• Do you have to pay up front for materials, product etc?
• Do they guarantee you wealth or financial success that will help you get rich fast from home?
• Does the website provide proof that big money can be made?
• Is there an unusable contact information link?
• Do they use the emotional sales pitch such as you deserve to have the car, home or vacation of your dreams?
She said people should “be wary” of get-rich-quick offers and that people should look for inconsistencies — like the BMW 5 Series mistake.
Ms Daniels added that people should research any online offer carefully before making financial decisions and check if e-mail accounts are g-mail, Hotmail or other free account providers.
And she said there were websites devoted to exposing the latest scams which were a worthwhile tool to use.
Ms Daniels warned: “Just because it is advertised on the internet or contained in an article does not make it legitimate.
“Take the time to educate yourself on the various scams out there and understand how they work.
“If your gut instinct is telling you it is a scam than more than likely it is.”