Do some people have absolutely no shame?  Sadly, the answer is “no, no they don’t.”  People want to work and are looking for ways to do just that.  So while there have always been con artists and “snake oil salesmen”, the Internet has made it even easier for scammers to reach wider and wider audiences.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on May 14th that it had successfully moved against a company that offered deceptive “own-your-own website” online business opportunities.  The defendants operated under a number of names but the umbrella name of their company is the North America Marketing and Associates LLC.   What were they offering?  Defendants promised to help people set up their own Internet websites through which, defendants claimed, the purchasers would be able to make thousands of dollars.   How would the money be earned?   The promise was that purchasers would earn commissions when other Internet users clicked through the newly created websites to make purchases from Fortune 500 companies (e.g., Starbucks, Wal-Mart and others).  Defendants also promised to help people who bought this service by offering them free, full-time marketing expertise to help boost their profits.

After sending the money for the website setup, purchasers got pitches not profits.  Defendants now had the purchasers personal contact information which they used to try and get more money from the purchasers.  Defendants now repeatedly called purchasers with pitches for advertising packages — advertising packages to help purchasers boost their profits.  These were the very services defendants had initially promised would be offered for free to the purchasers.  The advertising packages cost anywhere from $5000.00 to $20,000.00.  Were some purchasers so hopeful, or in need of assistance, that they bought these packages?  Sure, because they’d already invested thousands of dollars and needed to make back their initial investment let alone make a profit.

Purchasers of the packages didn’t seen any significant sales commissions.  Complaints to the defendants went nowhere — so purchasers went to the FTC which took action and investigated the defendants.  Complete information about the FTC’s settlement with defendants can be found on the FTC website (www.ftc.gov).

These Internet marketing scams are even more troubling given the tight economy with more people trying to find new opportunities.  The “work from home” option is appealing for so many reasons.  I’ll be doing more on this topic this week to help you avoid the traps and find the legitimate opportunities so that your privacy and personal information (contact and financial) are not jeopardized.