I would be willing to bet that most of the people who read these blogs are pretty financial savvy — or at least are trying to be. But everyone once in a while people can get duped into spending money on something that is either a scam or simply a waste of money. I admit that I have been suckered into a few of these things in the past and was reminded of these times when I recently escaped one such scam.
I somehow stumbled upon the website picture.com which is run by the International Library of Photography. On this site they have the chance to enter their photo contest, which gives out cash prizes for exceptional photos. My husband had recently taken a very beautiful photo of a rose with the sun setting in the background at a local park and I thought this photo was truly remarkable. I decided to enter it into this photo contest because I thought it had a good chance of winning and thought it would be great if my husband could get some exposure. I submitted 2 of his photos, and because I didn’t know if 2 photos could be submitted under the same name, I submitted one under my own name.
About a month later I received an e-mail from this website stating that one of those photos was voted as a semi-finalist in the contest. I was pretty excited and e-mailed all our friends. Luckily my gullibility ended there this time. The rest of the e-mail told about how this photo would be featured in this coffee table book and even though we were under no obligation to buy, we had the chance to purchase this book for only $70 and see our photo displayed.
I thought the book idea was pretty cool, but there was no way I was going to spend $70 on it! But I did want to make sure that my husband got credit for the photo he took since it was featured on their website and apparently would be featured in this book. However when I tried to reply to the e-mail I received from them (using the reply-to e-mail address they provided) my e-mail came back undeliverable. So I went back to their website and found an e-mail address where questions were to be sent too and that e-mail also came back undeliverable. Red flag — I realized that if I can’t get a hold of them, this has a very good chance of being a scam.
Since I hadn’t sent any money to them, it wasn’t a huge deal and I was still pretty excited that our photo got recognized. A week later we received a second e-mail informing us that this photo was chosen as “Editor’s Choice” and that we had the offering us this special pin that depicted this honor. This was at a price of course. In addition we could buy a special plaque to go with the pin to showcase how special our photo was (of course, at an even higher price). I stopped reading at that point and I no longer believed that this photo was the Editor’s Choice.
Then I decided to do a google search of International Library of Photography and found message threads and discussions full of how people had gotten ripped off by this company. Many people had sent in money for books and kept getting empty promises that their books were delayed but would be shipped soon and the few that had actually received books noted that their picture was so small in the book that it was hardly recognizable.
The only price I ended up paying for this scam was a little embarrassment at the fact that at first I thought it was a real honor that my husband’s picture was chosen. That and we already had plans for what we’d do if we won one of the $1000 prizes. I was lucky, but many others were not so lucky with this company and lost hundreds of dollars. Some would say it’s because they were gullible, others would say they were tricked or simply misinformed. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t right.
Here are some ways that you can help prevent yourself from being suckered into internet scams like this in the future:
Do some research before handing over your credit card number.
I was so surprised at the number of discussion threads (and the length of them) regarding the misleading practices of this company. Not only had they tricked many people with their photo contest, they also had a similar poetry contest with which they had tricked many more people with. A simple google search of this company revealed all this information and it’s pretty hard to argue with hundreds of people who weren’t happy with what was going on with this company.
Make sure you understand what you are paying for.
A couple years ago when I was job hunting, I was also looking for ways I could make money by working at home. You want to see scams? Hit a search engine for “Work at Home” and you’ll find your fair share of them. I happened to find the one I fell for on Craigslist. “You can make up to $500 a week!” the ad said. “All you have to do is answer e-mails and process applications!” The start up cost was only $10, so I decided to e-mail the contact person on the ad for more information. I received an e-mail with basically the same spiel that was on the ad. When I asked what exactly “processing applications” entailed, I received the following reply:
This business is loosely based on replying to inquiring minds, similar to what we’re doing right now — simple, right?! You would also be promoting a website, that you’d have exclusive access to (included in the training material) and recruiting others to advertise as well. The $10 is one source of income, however, it also grants you access to the site that has unlimited earning potential. I hope you decide to join our team! Best wishes.
I admit that I still did not fully understand it but thought I’d give it a shot. When I received all the information it was still confusing, but the one thing I did understand about it was that the money I would make would be from gullible people like myself wanting a valid way to make money at home. I decided that I didn’t want to be that person and chalked it up that that $10 was gone forever — a small fee for learning a valuable lesson: don’t get involved with things until you fully understand them.
Check with friends.
Ask people you know if they have ever heard of what you are looking into or about to do. Chances are if you know anyone who has been burned by that or something similar, they will let you know.
Go with you gut.
If you’re pretty financially savvy, you can smell a scam coming from a mile away. The main reason I didn’t buy that photo book was because it sounded fishy that they were trying to sell me something and make me pay when they were one’s that wanted to print my husband’s photo. That just didn’t settle right and chances are, if you are about to be scammed, something won’t settle right within you and things will just seem odd.
I don’t recommend this one, but if you go through all the steps above and can’t find anything negative about what you want to do or buy and you still get scammed, I guarantee you that you’ve learned a valuable lesson. You may be out some money, but chances are this experience will keep you from wasting money on things like this in the future because you’ll remember your mistake and what it ended up costing you. And if this happens to you, please, for the sake of thousands of other people out there who are trying to avoid the very thing you fell into, make your experience known. Tell your friends, post a blog, start a message thread, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau — whatever it takes to get the word out so that others don’t have to get cheated too.
Image courtesy of mrjorgen