Note: Listen to this post instead using the audio player below, and consider subscribing on your favorite podcast player!
In all fields, there are good and bad people.
People that want what’s best for their customers, and those who can only look out for their own selfish interests.
Some say that the internet is like the wild west, where people can pop up, cause harm, and disappear without a trace. In many ways, this is unfortunately still true.
As the internet has evolved and consumers have become more aware, the scams and tricks shady marketers use to steal money from people have evolved as well. Some of these aren’t as obvious as the methods used in years past, and you may not even recognize them even though they’re wildly used.
I recently put together a mini course on identifying these scam tactics, and I’d love to share it with you here.
Let’s take a look at each one of the 10 tactics scammers use, and see how many you can recognize. You’re sure to spot these out there if you pay attention to them!
1. False Scarcity
One of the most common is false scarcity.
False scarcity is making it seem like an offer is going to end, and you’re going to miss out on it unless you take action right now.
The most common examples are saying that there’s only ‘x number of units left’ or those silly countdown timers you often see on sales pages.
Fake, artificial scarcity is so common because it works so well for marketers. People fall for it even if they know that the marketer is likely to be lying, especially if they are already heavily interested in the offer being proposed.
Nobody wants to take the risk of missing out.
Some of these timers are even quite smart, and will track your network’s IP address – meaning the time will sync up even if you view the page on a different device.
Be on the look out for this one, and be sure to watch the videos embedded in this article as they cover each topic in more detail.
2. Long-Term Contracts
Long-term contracts are not always a sign of a scam, but you have to ask yourself an important question:
If the service was really that good, why wouldn’t you want to keep paying for it every month? Surely there should be little risk in asking for a month-to-month contract instead, right?
Scammers utilizing this tactic want to hold you down under the threat of legal action. Be very careful before entering into a long-term contract unless this sort of thing makes sense!
3. Excessive Upsells
Have you ever purchased a product, only to be immediately pressured to buy an even more expensive related product?
This is an upsell, and it’s commonly used in the internet marketing world to extract more money from each person.
Like long-term contracts, these are not necessarily a scam on their own – but they’re commonly used by scammers.
In fact, some cheap products only exist for the sole purpose of pressuring people to buy the more expensive upsell shortly after. The cheap products do not actually solve the problem that you’re hoping to solve, but assure you that the most expensive version will.
It’s terrible. I have seen buyers be taken from a $7 purchase up to a multi-thousand dollar course in the heat of the moment.
Some upsells make sense and can compliment the product well – but not if it invalidates the promises you’ve been made when your purchase the initial product.
If the first purchase doesn’t deliver on its promises, what makes you think the more expensive purchases will?
4. No Contact Information
Legitimate businesses should always have contact information available.
The more options you find, the better.
Live chat, a phone number, and a physical address are better than just an email address (that may not ever actually get checked.)
Note that just because contact information is available however, doesn’t mean that it’s legitimate (or that you’ll receive a response.)
5. Deep Artificial Discounting
When consumers can’t easily establish a baseline price for a specific product, deep artificial discounting can be very powerful.
Artificial discounting is when a marketer claims a product regularly sells for $X amount of dollars, but you can get it now for a much lower price. This is very common with info products, events, and high-value purchases.
The reality is, those products have never sold at the higher price, and the fake, discounted price is actually the true price of the product.
I’m very happy to expose this one because it runs rampant in the industries that I work in.
But how can you tell?
For one, you can look up reviews online that may have been published at earlier dates.
You could also use a tool like the Wayback Machine to view old versions of the sales page.
6. Empty Unrealistic Promises
“Lose 20 pounds in 7 days!”
“Become a millionaire in the next 6 months”
Seems unrealistic, right?
In the heat of emotion though, these claims may just start to become believable. Scammers know just what strings to pull in order to get you to believe these claims, fueling your emotions and creating scenarios in your mind that justify purchasing the product.
As a matter of fact, some of these claims may be true – but not for the average person. Probably not for you either. The marketer technically isn’t lying if they say it’s possible to ‘become a millionaire in the next 6 months’ with their $20,000 program, if even one person actually accomplishes that.
But it completely ignores everybody else that lost their money, with nothing to show for it.
This one is most common with personal brands and people of influence.
They may use their authority and audience to mask any objections or problems with their products. The noise of their fans will bury any legitimate complaints and prevent people from speaking out further.
Analyze whether or not these people are willing to accept criticism, and draw public light to their issues – even if it costs them money. Marketers and entrepreneurs that have your best interests at heart will appreciate hearing about any pain points, and taking steps to solve them.
At the same time, don’t let the mob mentality or cult following of influencers fool you. When people have superfans, they will hype the product up (and genuinely believe that it’s good) even if objectively speaking, the product is complete garbage.
8. Pyramid, Ponzi, and MLM Schemes
These three are quite similar, but operate a little bit differently. All of them require you to spend money with the promise of making more at some point, and none of them have any real foundation to stand on. There are a few MLMs that are an exception to this, but not many.
I cover a few important questions to ask yourself in the video, but one of the most important is this – where is the outside money coming from? How is everything being funded? If it’s all coming from people within the scheme, and the focus is recruiting even more people into it, chances are you’re partaking in a scam operation.
9. Big Ticket Purchases
Not all big ticket purchases are scams, but many scammers utilize big ticket purchases.
The model suits them very well. It maximizes the amount of money they get from each person, and there are fewer people to cry out when they’ve been scammed.
After all, a scammer would much rather get $1,000 from 10 people than $10 from 1,000 people. Using a lower-priced model, it’s far more likely they’ll be exposed before they make any real money.
10. Fake Reviews And Testimonials
The internet is facing an epidemic of fake reviews and fake testimonials – even on legitimate marketplace websites like Amazon.
Marketers may write these reviews themselves, or pay other people to write the reviews for them.
It’s not always easy to identify fake reviews, but here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The more similar reviews are in term of tone, length, word choice, phrasing etc, the more likely they’re written by the same person.
- Vague reviews (i.e ‘meets expectations’, ‘my husband loves it’) may be a sign of fake reviews. Look for specifics. Specific details indicate the person is actually using that specific product, and also isn’t incentivized to crank out as many reviews as they can (which is the case for review farms.)
- Names and photos should be unique – no ‘John Smiths’ and no stock photos
- Reviews should be spread out and not posted in batches.
Don’t take reviews at face value – question them and analyze them, keeping the above points in mind!
If you enjoyed this mini-series, I’d really love it if you’d take the time to subscribe to me on YouTube, as I plan to publish a lot more business and entrepreneurial content in the near future.
Additionally, if you’ve ever purchased any one of my products, I’ve added this mini series to your account along with a few bonuses as well, so be sure to check that out!
Finally, if you’ve ever been scammed or you have other points you’d like to add to this list, I’d love to hear from you. Like all of my products, I never consider them to be fully complete. I will continue adding to this over time as I find other useful information to include.
Thank you and here’s to your success,
– James McAllister