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Before Spending Money, Let's Talk About History
SCAMS: SPECIAL INVESTIGATION SERIES

By Kathy Burns
Monday, November 22, 2004; 7:30pm EST


Have you noticed all of the advertisements on the Internet from "gurus" and people who have "made it" with their Internet business? You know the ones, they tell you how in demand they are. They tell you how they get several thousand dollars for each seminar they give. They tell you how they've made hundreds of thousands of dollars online. And they tell you they'll give you their secrets and formulas for the "ridiculously low price of $99.95"!

These characters are all really slick. Their one page web site is designed to draw you in, convince you, and take your hard earned money. Some of them are written really well and the product is very tempting to buy. But does a little doubt linger somewhere at the back of your mind? Is there something holding you back but you just can't quite put your finger on it? There might be a valid reason for that.

Let's travel through history a bit and see if we can figure out why you get those tiny doubts....

Orson Wells. Heard of him? War of the Worlds. Heard of that? I think almost anyone in the U.S. knows both names, but for amusement I'll summarize the story. The War of the Worlds was a fiction radio story. I think it was broadcast in the 1940's or 1950's era but I don't remember the exact date. This story happened to be science fiction, and happened to involve aliens landing on Earth and starting a war. Now the story was put on in full production mode -- just like the fiction movies you see on TV today with professional actors. The only problem is, many people tuned into the radio show while it was in progress, and they had no idea it was a fictional story! Panic and chaos ensued.

Jump to the 1960's era. Did you know there was a book that was put on to best seller lists, even though the book didn't actually exist? Yep. A radio DJ cooked up a plot to "fool" some people. He arranged to have listeners go to bookstores and request a specific book. The book didn't actually exist, and this was part of the prank. To his and his listener's surprise: Their requests for this book stirred up interest across the world. People were talking about the book everywhere -- reviews were even written about it! And soon enough it showed up on a bestseller list. But the book did not even exist. The non-existent book was called "I' Libertine", and due to the furor created from the prank, the radio DJ went on to write a real book by that name later in life.

Now let's jump ahead about 30 years. In the 1990's, some of you may remember computer communities called a "BBS". BBS stands for bulletin board system, and back then this was a computer that you dialed in to. Once connected, you could download files, chat with other members and play games. The public Internet was not available back then, so this was as close as you could get. One BBS was having a difficult time getting itself off the ground. They had one major competitor, and they couldn't seem to win customers away from that competitor. So the owners decided to entice the customers. The customers were almost 100% male back then, and one thing they were all looking for was a friendly female. So one of the owners of the new BBS -- a man -- took on a BBS personality of a female. They set up a charade basically, with all the trimmings. This man would pretend to be female and chat with all the guys on the competitor's BBS. During the chats, "she" would make sure they all understood that she could be found more often on this other, newer BBS. So, if they wanted to talk to her more, they would have to go over there. And they did.

Jump ahead to the later 90's and the Internet is just coming into play as a business medium. I'm personally aware of several companies which made themselves appear much larger than they were. How? Primarily by putting up pictures of their "office" building on their company website. The pictures they put up however, weren't actually their offices. They were in an apartment, or basement in reality. But the pictures showed gorgeous, upscale office buildings. They made themselves look much bigger and successful than they actually were.

And today we have thousands of one page websites which tout the accomplishments of their owners. These websites make many claims and sometimes those claims are hard to believe.

You see, there really are consultants in this world who make several thousands of dollars for seminar presentations. But those consultants usually have a corporate style, polished website. You can tell as soon as you get there that they've spared no expense in getting the site professionally done. You'll find links on the site too -- links to corporate and/or consultant information, links to additional resources, links to recent and upcoming seminars. There are links to their books too of course, and sometimes these links lead to Amazon or the publisher's site. If the book is electronically published, you can even buy it right on site. The point is though: there is detailed information there, not just sales hype. In short, there is supporting evidence that they are who they say they are.

History shows us that people can be fooled into thinking the world is coming to an end just from a radio show. History shows us that people will believe a book is wonderful even when they've never actually seen it themselves. History has shown us that what you think you see or hear is not actually what you've seen or heard.

So, when you land on one of those slick, one page sales hype Web sites. Before you spend your hard earned money, stop and think a bit. Is the person behind the site more likely telling the whole truth -- or skewing it in a way that will make you believe what they want you to believe?

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About the Author
' 2002, Kathy Burns. This article is provided courtesy of The Guru Gazette Niche Marketing Blog - http://www.GuruGazette.com - You may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.

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