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by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin, September 14, 2009
Those short messages on Twitter may be effective at sharing information, but when it comes to making money from them, officials warn there can be long-term hassles.
In what may be the latest work-at-home hoax to emerge since the economy went south, the Better Business Bureau is warning about money-making schemes promising you can make money from “tweeting.”
The how-to secrets, allegedly from industry experts, are supposedly revealed in free software that can be examined for seven days. But after paying about $2 to cover shipping and handling, the BBB charges, those who do not cancel the trial membership within a week of ordering are locked into monthly membership—even if the product is not received and examined by then.
One company prompting BBB warnings is EasyTweetProfits.com. It offers the vague promise of making up to $873 a day by tweeting from home by using the how-to secrets in its CD. Its automatic $47 monthly membership for those failing to cancel within seven days is revealed in the terms and conditions section of its website. But Scam Alert called the designated toll-free cancellation phone number three times—and each time, a customer service representative hung up immediately when asked how to cancel a membership. E-mails to that company went unanswered.
Another company—TwitterProfitHouse.com based near Los Angeles—had offered a similar seven-day free trial of its e-book on how to make money tweeting for $1.99, followed by a $99 monthly membership unless canceled within the designated time. In an e-mail to Scam Alert, an unidentified company official denied any intent to deceive, but said, “we did feel it was appropriate to discontinue our operations” and the website was shut down.
How to protect yourself
• Be suspicious of any claim that you can make easy and fast money with little effort and no experience. A study by the company Staffcentrix found that only one of every 55 work-at-home jobs advertised online is legitimate; the rest are either outright scams or highly suspicious.
• Don’t be fooled by testimonials on “independent” blogs—especially those that show big-money checks supposedly earned from such work. Such testimonials are usually bogus.
• Always read—and print for your records—the complete terms and conditions of any website offering you a free trial, whether for a new job opportunity or another purpose. Look for small-print loopholes that may (but often do not) reveal the gotcha “membership clauses.” Also be aware of any tiny boxes that are already checked; failing to clear them with a mouse click could hook you into long-term memberships or other ongoing charges.
• Pass on any request to pay money up-front in order to be considered for the job or receive more information, or to provide personal information such as your Social Security number. If you take the bait, keep close tabs on your credit card bills in future months to check for unauthorized or unexpected charges.
• Explore similar websites touting the same goods or services. In the cases cited above, the wording (and predicted payments) are nearly identical in both tweeting-related “opportunities.”
• Do a Web search of the company name, looking for complaints at www.RipoffReport.com and other websites, as well as a history report at www.bbb.org. Any company with a bad reputation should be avoided.
Complaints about questionable or fraudulent work-at-home opportunities pitched online can be reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and to the Federal Trade Commission.
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of "Scam-Proof Your Life" (AARP Books/Sterling).
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