Photo (cc) by tang*lee
I recently got this following email from a viewer. While the situation it describes is relatively rare, the type of rip-off it describes isn’t.
First of all I would like to say I enjoy and appreciate the advice from this website.
I received an email about a home business that got an (indirect) endorsement from Stacy Johnson from Money Talks. It’s called [redacted] Top Home Profit System. I guess I just wanted to hear it again if you endorse this product. I’m sure you know home based businesses are a dime a dozen and I have nothing to base its credibility on except your endorsements and a few legitimate looking testimonials. Hey, thanks if you can respond to my question.
Journalist or pitchman?
Here’s your answer, Kassandra: I don’t endorse this or any other for-profit product or service. Ever. Any journalist who receives money in exchange for a favorable “opinion” of anything is by definition no longer a journalist. So while you may occasionally see me recommending things like nonprofit credit counseling agencies, you’ll never see me in any kind of commercial, shilling for anyone, or otherwise exchanging my credibility for cash. Unfortunately, however, you might encounter what this reader did: someone stealing my identity.
While I can’t find the specific ad this reader is asking about – I asked her for a link to it and never heard back – if it’s actually me she saw in the ad, it’s likely that some sleazy scum stole my video from a site like YouTube and placed it in their ad in an attempt to gain credibility. It’s a technique that’s been used before.
In April 2011, the FTC put out this Consumer Alert regarding fake news sites used to promote weight-loss products. From that alert…
A typical site displays the logo of a legitimate major television network, newspaper, or magazine, followed by a “reporter’s” first-hand experience using the product. The reporter may claim a dramatic weight loss over several weeks, with no change in diet or exercise routine. Throughout the fake news site are links to other websites where consumers can buy the reviewed weight loss products or sign up for a “free” trial. Testimonials or comments from supposedly satisfied customers also may be posted on the site.
Don’t let this happen to you
One way to avoid falling into sophisticated online traps designed to separate you from your money is to do what Kassandra did: Send me an email asking if I was really endorsing this product. A simpler way, however, would be what I’ve suggested many times before: Simply put the product you’re looking at, along with the word “scam” or “ripoff,” into your favorite search engine. In the case of the product she’s asking about, the search results left little doubt this “Profit System” wasn’t on the up-and-up.
Don’t let this happen to me
While it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever be able to catch up with the con artists who attempt using me to hurt you, I’d like to try. If you ever see me associated with some sleazy product, please let me know and send me a link to the offending Web page. To the best of my ability, I’ll make them wish they’d chosen someone else’s image to steal.
Legitimate work-from-home opportunities
Other than help with debt issues, finding legitimate work from home is easily the most popular subject of reader questions and emails. So I’ll take this opportunity to hook you up with some past posts that help you find your way through the minefield of rip-offs.