Updated July 31, 2018
Running a successful online business is possible for anyone who’s willing to put in the time and work. You don’t even have to start from scratch, as there are many online business opportunities you can join. Unfortunately, like many other money-making ventures, scammers find ways to take advantage of unsuspecting people hoping to work at home online. As a result, if you’re looking for a proven legitimate online home business, you need to do your research to weed out the scams and duds.
The first step is in knowing how scammers and schemers try to dupe you. After that, you need to know how to research and choose a credible online business option. Here’s what you need to know:
The first step to determining if an online opportunity is legit, is to understand what scammers do to lure you in. Often scam sites look legitimate, suggesting they’ve appeared on credible news sites make it hard to know what’s real. Plus make great income claims, which can be very tempting. Here are a few things to watch for:
1. Huge income claims and guarantees. While there are online entrepreneurs that make $10,000 a month or more, you can bet none of them are doing whatever program you’re looking at. The reality is, most people don’t make very much online. Further, if the word “guarantee” is used, don’t bother reading on. No one can legitimately (or legally) promise you income unless it’s a job and you’re being offered a salary. While these sites are tempting, use your head and walk away otherwise you’ll end up losing money.
2. Fast income. Right alongside big money promises are the claims that you can earn it fast, such as in 30 days. Fast, big money is totally unrealistic. Think about it: if you could really make $10,000 a month starting in 30 days doing practically nothing, wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Wouldn’t you personally know at least one person doing it?
3. Join now or lose out. Scammers like to use the trick that you might miss out if you don’t act now. Don’t fall for this. Any legitimate work-at-home opportunity will be good whether you get in today, tomorrow or next year. Bad programs usually are gone within a few months (although they reincarnate a lot). Take your time to research a program, get feedback from others who are involved in it, and sleep on it.
4. All your problems solved. Scammers are the best copywriters in the world. Whatever reason you need to make money online, they’ll promise to give it to you. It’s as if their ads are written specifically to you. It’s hard to resist a program that will solve all your problems, but you need to ignore the hype and fluff and look for the meat of the program. When you do, you’ll find that there is no meat. Scammers make big promises, but are vague on the details on how that will happen.
5. No or difficult refund policy. Without a refund policy, it can be difficult to get your money back. Some programs offer a refund policy, but make you jump through hoops and show proof of your efforts before they’ll consider honoring it. While you can often get your money back when you’ve been scammed if you file a fraud report with your credit card company or bank, you’re better off not wasting your cash in the first place.
6. Free. Many programs offer “free” sign up, but often you won’t make money on the free program. These schemers get you after you join their free version by telling you how much more you can make faster by sending money.
7. Unverifiable claims. Many scams will suggest they’ve been featured on news shows or in magazines. First, I’ve never seen a news show profile a legitimate work-at-home or online opportunity. They report on scams, but never the legit stuff. Other claims may come through shill or fake testimonials, non-existent awards, and fake research. If a website makes a claim, verify that it’s true. If it says it got an award from ABC Org, visit ABC Org’s website to find out if it’s true.
The Internet does not have magical powers to enable you to earn magnificent incomes overnight. Any program that suggests otherwise is lying to you.
When you find a Website offering an online business that appeals to you, investigate it before parting with your money. Some things to check include:
1. Look for contact information. There should be an email or phone number you can call. A physical address is helpful too; however many scammers will use the name and address of legitimate companies. Being able to call or email allows you to converse with the company. Note that scammers are good at responding to pre-sale emails, but not so much customer support or refund requests.
2. Verify references. Look for logos on the website of the respective consumer protection badges like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Truste.org, Alexa Ranking, i-Cop.org. Don’t just see that they’re on the business opportunity’s site, as many scammers will have these banners to make them look legit. Instead, click on these logos and you be taken to the consumer site where the information is located.
Look up the domain on the DomainTools.com (previously called Who is) website and see the registration details. For example, you don’t want to see a phone number listed as 1234567890. Note, that sometimes scammers will make their information private; although that doesn’t mean a private registration is a scam. It just means you need to do more work.
If the company makes other claims, such as awards won or is endorsed by someone you trust (i.e. a doctor or celebrity), do a Google search to verify it. Scammers lie.
3. Read the guarantees and refund policy. All legitimate programs will offer a guarantee, such as a 30-day 100% money-back guarantee. Make sure the guarantee is long enough that you can test the program fully. Seven or 14 days isn’t really long enough to learn, implement, and make money in an online business.
Note that scammers will “offer” a guarantee, as well, but they make it difficult to enact it. Your goal is to read the policy carefully to make sure there’re no hidden rules. The best way to protect yourself from a scammer that offers a guarantee, but doesn’t pay back is to use your credit card.
4. Understand what the work-at-home program involves. Some of these programs are filled with hype and promises, but no information on what you’ll actually be doing to make money. If you get to the end of the sales page and don’t know how the money is made, walk away.
5. See if there are training and support. There’s a lot that goes into buying a business opportunity including learning about the products or services you’ll be selling and the marketing plan. Scammers will often promise lots of help and then disappear.
6. Read the fine print. I’m often surprised at how often people don’t read what they’re signing up for, especially if they’re sending money. The fine print is where scammers will get you. They hide it so you won’t see it since most people don’t read it. But if you try to take legal action, they can point to it to show it’s your fault for not reading it. Even in legitimate companies, you need to read the contract and fine print so you understand all the terms, conditions and restrictions. I’ve seen plenty of people call legitimate companies scams, when, if they’d read the contract and fine print, they’d have know how the company operates.
6. See what others are saying about the program online. A quick Google search using the program name+scam can reveal a lot. Pay attention to what people are saying. For example, if there are complaints about non-existent customer support or an inability to get a refund, that’s a red flag.
Note that many review sites will use titles that suggest it will tell you if a program is scam and while some of these sites are legitimate, many of them making their money promoting these programs, so their reviews could be suspect.
7. Sleep on it. Remember, any program that is good today will be good tomorrow. Avoid buyer’s remorse and getting scammed by stepping away. Because scammers are good copywriters, you’re often thinking emotionally, tempted by the idea that all your money problems will be fixed if you just join now. But if you take the time to think about it, you have a chance to let you head get in the game, giving common sense a chance to weigh in.