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Ocean of Misery: The Hidden Epidemic of Scams
By Christine Durst & Michael Haaren
May 24, 2012
of people are scammed on the Web each year, but the epidemic has little
remedy in the halls of justice. Yet many of the scams cause
Here’s what’s happening.
PORTAL TO THE TORTURE CHAMBER
Out there in the real world, where few politicians venture unless
they’re looking for votes, and none of them seem to live, times
are tough and have been for years. The few “safety nets”
our society offers are tattered or gone. Many people are about to be
evicted into the street, their children along with them. This is beyond
Enter the scammer. His website has psychological traps at every turn.
Heartrending testimonials (often featuring grave illnesses and
mountainous medical bills), with joyful escapes from debt. Pictures of
happy customers. Well-groomed spokeswomen (usually actresses earning a
little extra cash) walk out on his Web page in a recorded presentation,
boosting the “opportunity” in trustworthy tones.
The scam dangles a simple work-at-home job that pays well, such as
“rebate processing” or “data entry.” Or, for a
low fee, it offers information on “free grant money,” or
“ecommerce websites” that purport to produce immediate cash
flow with little upkeep.
But the scam sites (or late-night TV infomercials touting similar
schemes) are just the threshold of the catastrophic experience awaiting
the victim. Yes, their credit card may be hit with repeated monthly
charges of $69, or $99, or $197. And they may labor for months at a
futile task. But far worse, once the scammer has obtained their
personal data, he sells it to a “boiler room” – a
call center specializing in abusive sales tactics – and
that’s where the tale gets grim.
BOILER ROOM BEATDOWN
While the victim works in vain to make the “ecommerce
website” produce a few dollars, the phone rings. It’s a
friendly salesman on the line, telling her how she really needs the
help of “coaches” or “mentors” to make that
website produce cash, and change her life in the process. (We know this
for a fact because we've tested it, receiving these calls ourselves.)
He tells her she can use “other people’s money” (in
other words, the bank’s money via her credit card) to do this.
Better yet, she can earn back her “investment” in just a
month or two, guaranteed.
And it’s only "just" $10,000 or $15,000 or (fill in the blank
with the ceiling of the victim’s credit, information which the
salesman extracts asap in the call). The victim already feels foolish
or even stupid for having failed to make any money with the
“package” she bought earlier. She is also often
psychologically vulnerable due to age, or disability, or long-term
These boiler-room calls can last literally hours, in whatever time it
takes to grind the victim down and soak her for the maximum amount.
Afterward, she’s passed along to a “coach” who is
paid a few dollars an hour to babysit the victim while she drowns in
the deep end of the debt pool.
Why aren’t the scammers prosecuted? They are, occasionally. But
authorities are overburdened, litigation is lengthy, con men are
elusive, and the boiler rooms often have deep pockets, hiring
aggressive law firms to defend them.
The result? Millions of victims each year, suffering silently in their misery.
For more detail on this trend, see a recent article at The Verge, at http://vrge.co/JkfqGy.
Christine Durst and Michael Haaren are leaders in the work-at-home
movement and advocates of de-rat-raced living. Their latest book
is Work at Home Now,
a guide to finding home-based jobs. They offer additional guidance on
finding home-based work at www.RatRaceRebellion.com. To read features
by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators
Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2012 BY STAFFCENTRIX, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM