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5 top things that set off my BS Alarm

By Rick Hendershot
Posted Sunday, November 14, 2004

The web is overflowing with scams. Thousands and thousands of otherwise normal people are looking for ways to make big money by doing NOTHING.

Still, we have faith that there are some legitimate opportunities on the web. But how do you tell the scams from the real things?

Here are five things that set off my BS Alarm.

Number 1 BS Alarm Tripper

"You can make thousands of dollars a week, almost immediately."
There are thousands and thousands of sites that make claims like this. But this kind of BS is not limited to the web. The other day I saw a TV ad where the testimonial guy said he was soon going to be making $20,000 per week. Think about that for a minute. That is more than a million dollars a year, selling products of questionable value. This guy is going from zero to a million dollars in just a few weeks. Maybe Donald Trump can pull that off (at least in his own mind), but not your average Joe Trump.


Number 2 BS Alarm Tripper

No actual product is being sold.

This is not always easy to detect. Many "marketing" schemes claim to be selling "valuable information", but in fact are only selling you the "rights" to resell the same program (ebook, etc.) to other suckers. This is what you might call "the 24 hour plan": I'll sell you a "report" for $5, then you sell it to all your friends and relatives, then they can do the same. You aren't buying my report because of the information in it. You are just buying it to resell it. The actual content of the report is irrelevant. It could just be a blank report or a page of nonsense.


Number 3 BS Alarm Tripper

"We will throw in a bunch "e-books" worth "thousands of dollars"

Generally speaking, nothing of value is ever given away free. This is an immutable law of the universe. But web "entrepreneurs" are always telling us they will throw in a valuable set of info products, worth thousands, if you just buy their $50 product.

Does this make sense? No it does not. These info products are usually available many other places for free. And the chances are you will download them and then forget about them completely. In fact the whole concept of the "valuable e-book" has been so corrupted by this practice that it devalues ALL e-books. Giving away worthless stuff is not necessarily a bad thing. But it tells me the seller is a hustler and cannot be trusted.


Number 4 BS-Alarm Tripper

Any time I see the term "downline" I immediately think "scam".

Why? Because this is a term used in the MLM (multi-level marketing) "industry", and generally indicates you will not be selling products, but rather, trying to get other people to sell stuff for you.

This is the dream of every salesman and would-be entrepreneur: "To make money by getting other people to do all the work." I'm not saying MLM schemes never work. Some real world MLM schemes are notoriously successful. But these schemes generally sell real products that we all need -- stuff like toilet paper and whiz wipes. Aunt Minerva is going to buy this stuff somewhere, so she might as well buy it from you (or your "downline").

But by its very nature an MLM scheme runs out of suckers very quickly. And since most web schemes like this are not selling real products -- that would be too complicated -- the sucker pool is even smaller. The only people interested in buying into these things are suckers like you -- you know, other "opportunity-seekers" prepared to sell their friends and relatives $5 "memberships". And most people (not surprisingly) are not interested in doing that.


Number 5 BS Alarm Tripper

"We will do all the work for you."

I've already implied it a few times, but in case you've missed my main point it is this: There is no free lunch on the web or anywhere else. If somebody tells you they can make money for you without ANY work on your part, they are either nuts or simply lying to you. Think about it. Why would somebody set up a website, stick your name on it, and then start sending you checks just because you let them use your name? Wouldn't it be a lot more profitable for these guys just to make up names and send the checks to themselves.

Yes, it would. What they really want is get you on board so you can start buying their "products" (more BS), and promoting the system as a member of their "downline". Sorry. Not interested.


I can think of many more BS Alarm stimulators, but these five eliminate at least 90% of the "opportunities" I've run into. If you have any comments, I'd be pleased to hear from you. Check out my website and drop me an email.

About the Author
Rick Hendershot is based in Conestogo, Ontario, Canada. He spent many years as an advertising consultant, and small business owner. He currently publishes several small business websites and ezines, and provides web design and online marketing services to small business owners wanting to jump start their online marketing efforts. He can be reached at


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