Online Guru or Scam Artist: How Can You Tell?


You want to start your own online business. You want the financial independence from corporate America. You want to pursue your dreams. You need help. Who do you call?

Unfortunately, as the web has grown so have the undesirable elements too. The web is a microcosm of the real world. There are honest merchants and trainers. But there are also those looking to prey on inexperienced people. Before you get sucked into a bad situation and spend hundreds of dollars, read this article. As you read this article, do not accept what I say blindly. Test it against your own experience.

Every day, I'm certain you receive many emails promising you everything from cheap Canadian drugs to making big money fast at eBay. The first way to identify an online scam artist is by his SPAM. The spam emails you receive should trigger the same signals in your brain as the spore left by predators around the chicken coop. A reputable online business will not send SPAM (unsolicited email). A reputable company or individual will work hard to earn your business by publishing articles online, working on their website's search engine results, and providing you with a content rich website. So, the first sign of the online scam artist is his SPAM email. Just delete any you receive. But, how do you find the right company or individual to support you?

Start with a search engine, like google.com or teoma.com. Search for terms like "small business forum", "small business advice", "small business newsletters", and "home based business resources". Looking at the resulting search results, avoid those search results that start with phrases like "business opportunity" or "work from home and make $50,000". Come on! You know that just doesn't sound right. If they knew how to make a fortune with very little effort, do you think they'd be teaching others how to do it? So what do you look for? Sites that offer articles from true professionals in the field of online business.

Read the articles that interest you. Listen carefully to what the writer is saying. If they are painting a reasonable expectation and answering your unasked questions, check out their website. Reputable people will work very hard placing articles on reputable sites where you can find them. They will work for your business.

Now that you're on their site, what do you look for to determine if this company or individual is right for you? First, read the contents of their site. Is it focused on you, the potential customer? Does it give you relevant information, or just a sales pitch? Is it trying to get you to a free seminar without any other option of contacting the company? Does it give you a clear roadmap of how it intends to deliver on the promises it's making? If they aren't attempting to inform you so you can make a decision that's best for you, RUN! (In other words, skip their site and go to the next).

As a side note: Stay away from academic organizations. They tend to know the theory of creating a successful online business. You want someone who has created a successful online business and knows what to do based upon experience, not theory. Read the biographies of the people heading the company. Are the biographies focused upon real world accomplishments? Read how they operate. After you sign with them, will you be handed off to some hourly employee or will you work with someone who has actually created an online business?

Once you find one or two options that look good for you, sign up for their free seminar. Every reputable company has an online free seminar. Unfortunately, so does every online scam artist, so before the seminar, do some research. Start by contacting the Better Business Bureau where the company is located to research any prior complaints. Go to google.com or teoma.com, or any other search engine, and put the company's name in the search box. If anyone is really mad at them, results will come back. This is a case where "no news is good news". Now that you know the company doesn't have an already documented bad reputation, it's time to attend the seminar.

Now that it's time for the free seminar, what should you listen for?

Do they emphasize the money to be made, and downplay or ignore the effort required to accomplish that task?

Do they promise you to do the work for you?

Do they promise a lot of "free" things?

Do they offer a money-back guarantee? Though this may sound good as a sales pitch, few of them deliver on that promise.

Do they allow you to ask questions at some point in the seminar or do they keep themselves insulated from you and your concerns?

When the seminar is over, do you get to talk with the person who will be your coach/mentor, or do you only get to talk to a salesman only?

Let's say everything is sounding good and you think you want to sign up. What now?

Follow these simple guidelines and you can avoid a costly mistake: Don't talk to a salesman! ALWAYS ask to talk to the person who will be coaching you.

Ask them about their experience and make certain you will feel comfortable working with them for the long term.

Be sure they are asking you tough questions to make certain you are a good candidate to be successful in their program. No reputable company wants to sell you a program you will fail at. Reputable companies count on happy customers telling other people about their company.

Make certain you understand the program and what you will be required to do to be successful.

Don't fall for any "early bird registration discounts". If you need time to think about this decision, a reputable company will understand that. Have as many conversations as it takes to feel comfortable. If they want to sign you fast, what kind of service do you expect once they have your money?

Is it easy to spot a scam artist online? It is if you follow the simple guidelines laid out in this article and if you listen to that small voice in your head that keeps repeating "this sounds too good to be true".

Michele Schermerhorn has over 30 years experience in the business world and over 12 years running her own successful online businesses. She is President of Online Business Institute Inc. (http://www.obinstitute.com). Online Business Institute Inc. exists to "Create Successful Online Business Owners One Person At A Time".

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