It's no secret, though it would appear many people would like to act like it does not occur: people are out to manipulate and scam you out of money on the internet.
I have spent some time in the online sector, trying to make some honest money while I am recovering from some medical issues. I have been able to acquire around ~$400 dollars in the past few months, partially due to luck, partially due to finding a niche which has proven itself to be a very good choice, and even more because I have contacts who are familiar with online business and making money online (specifically: my brother who is active on Infobarrel under the screen name x3xsolxdierx3x).
In recent weeks, I have spent a lot of time with him; in part working on our online endeavors together. One reoccuring conversation that we have had, and will likely continue to have, is how many individuals are frankly not ethical in their business practices; and will do whatever they can in order to get more money. These are warning signs of greedy individuals. The unfortunate problem is that the entire online business world is litered with these types of individuals, sometimes in plain sight; and other times in ways that are not noticeable to the unaided eye. As such, I have put together a list of manipulative tactics online entrepreneurs use; and even some reasons as to why they are able to get away with their downright evil ways.
1). The internet allows individuals to be anonymous.
This may come as a fairly expected attribute on this list, however this is the basis of our abilities to essentially do whatever we desire to do from behind our computers. Many of us live alternative lives online. We can descend into the world of online gaming, and become so absorbed in our alternative persona; our character. On forums, we typically engage in conversation behind a screen name which does not personally identify us; and further: we can say whatever we want about ourselves and act as if it is the truth. There is little in the way of a check-and-balance system.
Now, how does this relate to online businesses? It relates because individuals who are running said businesses have access to the same "invisibility cloak" (forgive me, my nerd is showing). In the same way that Frodo and Sam (from Lord of the Rings) were able to use their cloaks to hide from the legions of warriors outside of Mordor, these business men and women are able to go unseen as they look to personally destroy YOU (as opposed to the mystical One ring).
2). People can make extraordinary claims with no backing, or fake backing.
We have all stumbled across sales pages on the internet where we find individuals claiming to have made "millions of dollars" within a week. Even smaller numbers, like $1,000 dollars within a week of starting up an online business is atrociously misconstrued. The unfortunate truth of most, if not all, of these sales pages is that they are scams in the most elaborate form. They play to your free will, and your overwhelming desire to make money with some sort of ease. Psychologically, this is simply terrible. I doubt very many people have even stopped to consider the real effects these manipulative lies have.
For example, consider the individual has recently become unemployed (we are in the midst of a very deep recession now). This individual has a family and children to care for. With little income coming into the household, of course the imagery of "making money quickly" looks very appealing. And to think people are not looking to the internet as an avenue for making money would be naive at the best, and completely ignorant at the worst. Go to your search bar in the corner of your screen, and type the word "making" into it. As you will see, a list of frequently searched terms will come up; with "making money online" being one of them. It is evident that we all desire some extra money, and where better to turn than the internet?
Returning to my original point, people can claim anything on the internet! Go onto any forum and begin acting like you are someone else entirely. You can very likely get away with it without much problem. Online business is often-times merely a charade. It is like a tragic theatrical play. The greedy "leaders" walk away with millions of dollars, while those who need assistance walk away with nothing; or rather, a deficit.
Finally, we all know that sales pages love to incorporate earning reports. These are generally just "snapshots" of an individuals money deposit. The major problem with these is that they can easily be photoshopped. I have done this myself with a little assistance from my graphic designer girlfriend. The ability to make oneself appear very financially successful is extremely easy, and when individuals are not aware of this; they will very possibly buy into what they perceive as "evidence."
In the words of my favorite scientist Carl Sagan from his book Cosmos, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." While he was undoubtedly referring to claims of ESP (extra sensory perception) and the supernatural, we can heavily relate this quotation to modern online business practices. In the words of the Tea Party Movement towards President Obama, "Show us your papers." This is the terminology we could very well be using in relation to every online business, as so many of them are built on ficticious premises; and are only allowed to bloom because of deception and consumer ignorance.
3). Hidden referral links
While this may not be the worst thing in the world, it is undeniable that this is a dishonest act; and when one adds this to all of the other dishonest acts it becomes unforgiveable and unignorable.
Hidden referral links are, just that, hidden referral links. Referral links are links which generally link to products with a specialized referral code attributed to the website owner or article writer. You can typically determine when they are used by hovering over the link and looking for the character chain "ref", generally followed by a sequence of numbers which specifically identify the account holder. These are frequently used on websites because when an individual clicks through that link, and purchases the item it is referring too; the website owner is able to take a percentage of the earnings.
In many respects, it is not the fact that these referral links are used; but rather that they are used without individuals being aware that they are present.
In the future I will return with some additional problems I have found relating to how online businesses are able to manipulate their viewers and customers.