Have you checked your spam folder recently?
My email address is listed freely online, so I get a lot of spam. Some of it is quite entertaining. What amazes me though, is that in 2015 I am still getting variations of this email:
“I am Evelyn Lai, I work with the Bank of China here in Hong Kong as an Investment Manager Also Member of the Audit Committee and Member of Strategic Development Committee. I got your email address while searching for a business oriented personality in my private study in the internet. I am in need of your assistance just for one reason in a Business Deal where I want you to act as a beneficiary and next-of-kin to a large amount of money. If you are interested reply me immediately for more details. Thanks Evelyn Lai”
Gifts from God variation:
“I write to you because I intend to give to you a portion of my Net-worth which I have been banking. I want to cede it out as gift hoping it would be of help to you and those in need around you.If you have received this email then you are one of the lucky recipients.Kindly reply as soon as possible via this email because you have been chosen by God and not man. so that i can possibly furnish you with more information to contact the payout bank who will transfer your own part of the donation to you.”
Or, more commonly something like:
“I have a deceased customer[name withheld for now] whoes fund[amount withheld for now] is pending for six years now awaiting to go into Bank Reservoir as the banking law stipulated in my country. I am his personal Account adviser before his demise,I have done a thorough investigation…No relation and his beneficiary is no where to be found. With these findings i am satisfied we will not have any stress, as it will take just 1 week to pull fund out.”
These are variations of the Nigerian prince scam, which has been around longer than email. Before computers, scammers would send these messages via snail mail, and people fell for it. When you work in web like I do, though, and deal with a lot of freelance clients, you get hit with even weirder, sneakier scams. I often come across posts on Craigslist that claim to be a small business looking for email marketing help, which turn out to be scams. I also see a lot of posts on Craigslist that have URL’s like, “getpaidtositathome.com” and, “makemoneyonfacebook.whatever”…and I think you get the point. Clearly, these are scams. Other scams though, aren’t always so black and white.
A week ago I had a former classmate from undergrad reach out to me on LinkedIn. The message she sent me read like a sales pitch, but I remembered her as a nice individual so I cautiously bit at the offer. I asked for more information about the specific company, and when I was given a second sales pitch, I pointed out to her that everything she was writing was extremely ambiguous. I asked her directly, what is it your business wants to hire me for that my services in social media marketing and web design apply to. Instead of a response, I got a text message asking me to call her.
I had some free time, so I bit. I called, asked how she was doing, and then asked what this was all about. She passed the phone off to her senior partner, which was a red flag in itself. The person on the phone was a born salesmen, a natural. The tone they spoke with was confident and excited. Everything they said was just as empty as everything I had been told in the email though. After the two-minute speech, they said they were about to go into a meeting (did I mention that it was late at night?) and asked if we could do a screen sharing Skype interview next week. I said sure, got their full name, and ended the call.
A quick Google search of the two partners’ full name, and my concern was justified. Without putting the specific individual on blast too loudly here, I’ll make my point with a few quick links. Their website. An unrelated website, and another. Hmmmm…. If that doesn’t clear things up, here’s the real pudding:
And then I laughed out loud because of the “opportunity” videos I found on J&J’s website, and one of the duplicates above. I spliced them together below. Watch, go read about how a pyramid scheme works (if you don’t already know) and tell me what you think this looks like.
I emailed back my former classmate and politely declined the offer. I then tried to warn her that what she was getting into looked a lot like a pyramid scheme. Her response sounds like I either struck a never, or she’s already in too deep. What can you do? Other than try to warn other former classmates and write a blog post, not much.
The reason behind this post is simple. A warning to others in my situation, looking for new clients and trying to avoid the scams that pop up along the way. Research the people you work with, regardless of how you are connected. It’s easy to get sucked into a scam; they are designed to fool people. And with so many of us burdened with student debt, near desperate to find a way to pay it off, it can be even easier to get swept up. If it happens to you, cut your losses, accept your mistake, and simply move on. I generally avoid cold calls and LinkedIn messages now, because I have not had a one that wasn’t a scam of some sort. So I suggest you stay wary, too.
Keywords for anyone trying to research J&J International after being reached out to: Albany, upstate new york, linkedin, Amway, start your own business, j and j, pyramid, scheme, scam, fraud alert, freelance, social media, social marketing, network, connections, top down model business.