Beware – You Can Create A Whole New Person on the Internet

As more people lose jobs or income, more and more scams–or less than honest opportunities– are appearing on the internet.  As a professional writer, who personally knows a lot of other writers, let me say that you should NEVER believe everything you read.  As someone once said, “Don’t believe most of what you read, and only half of what you see!”

Talented writers, professional motivational speakers, and website entrepreneurs can be very creative.  They can even create a whole new person and make you believe that they exist.  Unfortunately, anyone can say anything on the internet as long as it doesn’t lible someone else.

What does this have to do with gift business owners who are Creative Gift Entrepreneurs?  A lot!

How many times have you received emails telling you how wonderful a particular product or service is and how great the person behind it is?  We all have at one time or another.  Most of us regularly receive emails offering to put us on page one of the search engines if we only hire them to optimize our website.  Or how about the minister wanting to buy large quantities of a particular gift if you’ll only let him know how to pay you?  There are many scams– and the internet is a gold mine for scammers and those who are less than honest.

Innocence or Deceit — Which is it?

A person, who wants to impress potential customers,  can even create a whole different personality and resume for themselves in order to lure you into their web of deceit.  Sometimes it’s very innocent as in the example of the gift basket entrepreneur who has created a “twin” to handle the marketing aspect of his business or the business owner who has created an “assistant” to handle the customer service and email responses.  There’s nothing wrong with either of these creations.

But other times, it’s not so innocent, particularly if the person is trying to take your money for a product or service that doesn’t exist.  The statement “Buyer Beware” is very true of any internet website or email wanting to sell you something.

How to Protect Yourself?

How can you protect yourself?  It can be difficult as folks, who do this, are truly creative entrepreneurs.  Their background and experience and even testimonials can sound so convincing that any of us can be easily fooled.  But, unless you are personally familiar with a particular person, product, or service, ask someone that may be more familiar with what you are considering.  Does their resume include speaking and writing experience?  If so, ask for references and check them out.  Do they include testimonials?  If so, ask for names and phone numbers and check them to see if they actually exist.  Even then, a reference may be a “friend in on the kill.”

If it is a website, check the domain name and see when it was first registered.  You can do that easily at whois.com or any other website where you can buy domain names.  If it is brand new, I would be a little suspicious.  It could be legitimate or it could be someone out to make a fast buck before disappearing.

If it is an opportunity or product related to your own industry, it’s easy enough to ask others who are familiar with the industry what they know about a particular person, product, or service.

But, as I said, anyone can say anything or even create a whole new persona on the web.  I could tell you that I’ve published ten books about the gift basket industry and they’ve each sold over a million copies.  That would be a lie but you would have to do some research to discover that it is untrue.  I could tell you that I’ve been a speaker at The Basket Connection Convention in Orlando and again in Atlanta and that I was a regular staff writer for our trade magazine, Rave Reviews, since it began.  That would all be true and could be checked out with anyone who is familiar with our industry.

So, if you are considering spending money for a product or service that you are unfamiliar with, check it out.  It could be the best thing since sliced bread or it could be someone anxious to take your money in exchange for little or nothing.

It All Goes Back Into The Box

Ken Blanchard, author of “The One Minute Manager and other business books,”  told the story about the little boy who really wanted to beat his grandmother at Monopoly.  He studied.  He practiced.  He learned.   Until one day, he beat her at the game and told her, “Finally!  I beat you.”

She smiled as she picked up the pieces and put them back into the monopoly box.

She then told the child, “Yes, you did.  But let me tell you another lesson that I’ve learned about playing the game of life.  You can work hard, study, practice and become whatever kind of person you want to me.  But when the game of life is over, it all goes back into the box.  The only thing that’s left behind is what you’ve created or done for others.”

I’ve heard the phrase “You have to give to get,” and have also heard results of how people have been blessed as a direct result of what they have given to others.

But I have a different philosophy.  I don’t think you have to give to get.  I think you give, not because of what you will receive in return, but because your giving is from the heart.

There’s a country-western song that tells the tale about a young man who stopped to help an elderly lady stopped on the highway with a problem with her car.  The young man was broke but instead of taking payment for his help, he told the lady to “Pass it On!”  The song goes on to tell of a waitress, who was pregnant, tired, and discouraged.  An elderly lady left a $100 tip.  That night the waitress laid in bed beside the young man who had helped the elderly woman with her car and told him about the woman who had left the $100 tip.  And the song ends with the magical words of “Just Pass It On.”

I am a business coach for a County Business Empowerment Class in my community.  Last week, a local entrepreneur, who has become very successful, spoke about how he started his business hoping to make lots of money.  He said that he was in the business for the money–not just because it enables him to live well and do things he’s always wanted to do–but because he can use that money to help others as well.  I remember the author of “Everything I needed to Know About Life I learned in Kindergarden” say basically the same thing.

Successful entrepreneurs have to be interested in money if they hope to be successful.  You can’t just forget the financial parts of a business and operate it any way you feel like.  How you treat your customers, your investors, and even your vendors go a long way towards determining how financially successful you will be.

There are, of course, those like Ken Lay of Enron fame and Mr Matoff of Ponzi scheme fame, who cheat others to make their millions and then use it to live like kings.  Then there are those entrepreneurs who achieve their business goals while practicing the principal of “Pass It On!”

When the game of life is all over, and it all goes back into the box, the Ken Lays and Matoffs of the world will leave behind people who have been hurt or destroyed.

The “Pass It On” entrepreneurs will leave a legacy that may not even be known by most but will be appreciated and remembered by those they helped.

We are in the midst of changes in the world.  Changes bring opportunities.  What will you do with them?  Share your comments!

Beware of Credit Card Fraud

This was posted on a bulletin board that I frequent and should be of interest:

This one is pretty slick since they provide YOU with all the information, except the one piece they want. Note, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it. This information is worth reading. By understanding how the VISA & Master Card Telephone Credit Card Scam works, you’ll be better prepared to protect yourself. One of our employees was called on Wednesday from ‘VISA’, and I was called on Thursday from ‘Master Card’.

 

The scam works like this: Person calling says, ‘This is (name), and I’m calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I’m calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in Arizona ?’


When you say ‘No’, the caller continues with, ‘Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?’ You say ‘yes’.

The caller continues – ‘I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. ‘Do you need me to read it again?’

 

Here’s the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The caller then says, ‘I need to verify you are in possession of your card.’ He’ll ask you to ‘turn your card over and look for some numbers.’ There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security Numbers’ that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him.

After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he’ll say, ‘That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?’

After you say, ‘No,’ the caller then thanks you and states, ‘Don’t hesitate to call back if you do’, and hangs up.

You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the Card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. Are we glad we did! The REAL VISA security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged to our card.

Long story – short – we made a real fraud report and closed the VISA account. VISA is reissuing us a new number.

What the scammers want is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don’t give it to them.

Instead, tell them you’ll call VISA or Master card directly for verification of their conversation. The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card as they already know the information since they issued the card!

If you give the scammers your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you’re receiving a credit. However, by the time you get your statement you’ll see charges for purchases you didn’t make, and by then it’s almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report.

Note from Joyce: After attending a big tradeshow where I place lots of large orders, I usually get a call from my credit card company checking for fraud. The difference between the call I get and the above narrative is that the company does not ask for any credit card information. They only ask if I made such and such a charge and I say Yes or No. So far, they have all been Yes. So make sure that you don’t give these thieves any of the information from te credit card itself.

Website Pirates Strike Again!!

They’re out there…waiting…and, then they strike!  It’s those website pirates striking again.  I first wrote about them on this blog at Website Pirates.  They had copied my whole website, including my photo and identifying information twice.  Well, they struck again — two more times.  And, I’ve just discovered a fifth crook!

In case you’ve noticed and wondered why my posts have been sparse, the reason is those d*%$ pirates have also stolen my time.  This has happened four different times now, with four different hosting companies.  I suspect the person, who appears to be from China, is responsible for all four raids. 

I’m writing about it to share what to do if this happens to you. There are several different ways to determine if your site has been hijacked.  The website www.copyscape.com  allows you to type in the url for a page on your website and it will show you any sites that have the same page.  Or you can type any unique text from your site into google and see what other sites have the same text.

Then you need to find out who the hosting company is and send that company a letter that meets specific requirements.  This is called a DMCAA letter.  Just google DMCA and you’ll find sample letters.  The hosting company is required to remove the site if it is copied once they receive the DMCA letter.

Three of the hosting companies that I contacted worked with me, even telling me what info I had neglected to include in the DMCA letter.  One, however, dreamhost.com  (located in California) was a different story.  My opinion is that they didn’t want to let go of the money they were receiving from the fraudulent company in China.  They made it extremely difficult to get the site removed–even telling me that just because my copyright info was on the homepage of the site didn’t mean that I owned the copyright on the other pages (even though there is copyright information on each and every page of the site.)  They also told me that I had to hire a copyright lawyer to get the site removed.  Not a good hosting company and not a very ethical one either, in my opinion!

Hopefully, you will never be highjacked by these crooks.  But if you are, there is something you can do about it as long as the hosting company is in the U.S.  If it is in another country, most don’t respect any laws.  And your primary action will need to be contacting google and the other search engines.