How To Avoid Get Rich Quick Scams

Matt Lillywhite

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Research published by The New York Post shows that more than 60% of Americans have been the victim of an online scam. And as much as we’d like to think that only stupid people would fall for them, that’s often not the case. 

In 2018, one of my closest friends, Rob, fell for a get rich quick scheme. An advertisement on YouTube said he could quit his job and make thousands of dollars every month by learning how to trade FOREX with a “professional guru.”Although it seemed a little risky, the promised returns made it seem worth it.

Rob invested the entirety of his life savings. He hated his job at Walmart and wanted to wake up every morning with a smile on his face. So when the online trading guru took all of his money and ran, he was devastated.

I remember talking to Rob a few weeks after it happened. He told me how his savings account was completely empty. Approximately $10k was gone because he fell for a get rich quick scam that was (in retrospect) way too good to be true.

Unfortunately, get rich quick schemes have been widespread for decades. But if you can spot the red flags of a scam, the chances of falling for one will (hopefully) decrease. So without further delay, here are several signs that you’re being targeted by a get rich quick scheme:

They Emphasize A Relatable Backstory.

Pretty much everyone, including myself, loves a rags-to-riches story about success. I think it’s incredible when people adopt a strong work ethic to create a better future. But scammers know that many people love a good backstory and use that to their advantage. Quoting an article published by Psychology Today:

“We form impressions of other people by generalizing from the information we have. So we learn that a person has something in common with us, and that makes us feel positively about that person because we feel positively about ourselves. We then assume that the other person, like us, has other positive characteristics.”

Scammers purposely write a fake backstory that’s likely to resonate with your own experience. They know that people falling for scams (often) have little money and desperately want to create a better life for themselves.

Therefore, someone running a get rich quick scheme might talk about how they struggled with money in the past. After all, using this strategy enables you to build an emotional connection with the seller that would make it much easier to fall for the scam.

They Purposely Show You An Extravagant Lifestyle.

Once the scammer has you on an emotional hook, they reel you in by showing an extravagant lifestyle. The reason? You think they have a similar backstory to your own. So if they were able to create an extraordinary life for themselves, they could probably do the same for you, too.

Perhaps the scammer shows a lot of money to make it seem like they’re wealthy. Fun fact: A lot of the cash you see in Instagram posts and YouTube ads is actually prop money (that’s supposed to be for movies).

Maybe the scammer shows themselves on a private plane to highlight their extravagant lifestyle. Another fun fact: you can rent a Lamborghini (and many other things) for a day. So if you see someone claiming to have a wealthy lifestyle, they might be lying to you.

They Promise Extraordinary Results And Income.

Once the scammer has created an emotional connection and shown an extravagant lifestyle, they’ll probably pitch you their (overpriced) product. And more often than not, they’ll promise incredible results that are difficult to resist. For example:

  • “You can make $100k per month from sitting in your living room and building your own online business.”
  • “You can become a lot more confident and attractive, without having to do much work on your appearance or personality.”
  • “You can lose weight and have an incredible abs without having to go to the gym or adjust your diet.”

In essence, the scammer promises an ideal lifestyle or future by exploiting your desire for health, wealth, or happiness. They say that you can have the extravagant lifestyle that they have right now. And all of it can be yours… if you input your credit card information and give them a few hundred (or thousand) dollars. Don’t fall for it.

Before I wrote this article, I spoke to my friend, Rob. I said that I’d be writing a piece on get rich quick scams and wanted to get his thoughts on the subject. He said he doesn’t want other people to make the same mistakes as him. So if you’re going to give money to a stranger or company on the internet, be sure to look out for red flags and do your due diligence.

Scammer, fake guru, contrepreneur. Many words are often thrown around to describe people with bad intentions who prey on the disadvantaged for financial gain. But now that you’re aware of the psychological tactics they use, it’ll be much easier to avoid falling for a get rich quick scheme.

Photo via Unsplash

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