A practical demonstration on how to spot one of the biggest scams of the season
Level-headed though I attempt to be, I have nothing but the utmost scorn for scammers. There is nothing more repugnant to me than individuals who run scams like they’re full-time jobs. We can have a conversation about certain crimes that rise to the level of acts of desperation by a marginalized individual or group of individuals, but if your 9-to-5 is defrauding people at scale—you’re just a trash human being.
Unfortunately, the internet is a perfect climate for scammers given the level of anonymity and the volume of morons. That’s one of the reason we touch on topics like “how to spot a fake website” and “tips for safe online shopping during the holidays (for Idiots!)” on a fairly regular basis.
Today, we’re going to dip our quills in that same inkwell and discuss one of the most common scams playing out on the internet right now: the work from home scam. This one deals specifically with Amazon, and was brought to my attention by a good friend over the weekend.
So, without further ado, we’re going to discuss this Amazon/Work-from-home scam, highlight some of the warning flags that should be going up the moment you arrive at one of these sites and we’ll pepper in some general advice on how to steer clear of this kind of duplicity.
Let’s hash it out.
You cannot make hundreds of dollars a day working from home
Let’s start out with this: there’s no such thing as a job where you get paid to relax in front of your computer for just a few hours a day. Or actually, just to hedge a little, there MAY be one of those jobs out there, but you sure as hell weren’t lucky enough to stumble across it while you were sitting on the can thumbing through Facebook. I can also guarantee that no stranger is going to call you out of the blue to give you a heads up about it, either.
The point I’m making is that these jobs that sound too good to be true are almost always too good to be true.
But I understand why these kinds of scams persist, and it’s oftentimes less a product of somebody just being stupid and more the product of some form of financial strife. And to their credit, these scumbags do everything they can to make this all seem very legitimate and very believable.
Don’t be fooled though. Today we’re going to look at one specific form of this scam and point out some of the things you should be looking for anytime you’re presented with an “opportunity” that is just too good to be true.
Anatomy of a Scam
This scam was first reported on back in August by the Better Business Bureau, but it’s continuing to evolve.
You receive a voicemail message inviting you to apply for a job at Amazon. Allegedly, the online retailer is hiring dozens of people to list products online, post reviews, and do other website work. The position pays well – targets report anything from $20/hour to $6,000/month – and you can work from home. Scammers use the names Amazon Cash Website(s), StockRetail.com, and WebStoreJobs.com.
This turned out just to be the tip of the iceberg though, there are dozens of domains running a variation of this scheme, they all redirect to a splash page that’s filled with slick marketing, stock photos and videos purporting to show success stories. And the telephone is far from the only vector being used to turn people on to the scam, email and social media posts are also common methods.
Here’s a partial list of sites being used in this scheme:
When you attempt to go to one of those URLs, you’re immediately redirected to the aforementioned splash page.
This doesn’t look like a legitimate page, like, at all. But if you’re desperate or you really want to believe, I guess you’ll go along with it. A few things to notice right off the bat:
- Always be wary of a re-direct, if the website you end up on is different from the one you entered into your address bar, that’s a bad sign.
- This page’s URL isn’t even similar to the any of the Amazon-related ones they’re giving out. For a website that is advertising Amazon jobs, it’s odd there’s no Amazon in the URL.
- Look at the TLD, the top-level-domain, at the end of the domain name. It’s a .pw URL. This TLD is the country code for Palau. You don’t even know where Palau is, do you? Not a good sign.
Just those three things should have you out of there. But let’s unravel this a little more.
Let’s start with the Social Shares buttons just beneath that poorly photoshopped picture of Jeff Bezos. When you click on it, it sends you on to the same video page that clicking literally any other link on the page sends you to – not to the social media platform you think you’re going to. This is also a sign.
As is this: those buttons are just an image.
The entire site is working you towards this:
If you are “lucky enough to qualify” you have the opportunity to pay them for an “educational” package, and then you can start making money!
This small fee covers the processing costs and also separates the people who are serious about working with this huge netwok [sic] through this program.
See? They’re testing you. How do they know you’re serious if you don’t pay them first? Also, notice right below that as of… today(!) anyone who speaks English now qualifies. And since you’ve made it this far on the page, we’re assuming that includes you!
Upon clicking to head to “Real Profits Online” you’re sent to the similarly named “realonlineprofits.pw” where you can fill out a quick form with your information and take a gander at their static, clearly fake site seals.
Obviously I would not advise sharing any information with these bottom feeders.
This is what the real Amazon jobs site looks like:
Frankly, considering Amazon is one of the richest companies in the world, that’s closer to what it should look like, too. Not the low-rent cookie-cutter garbage from the first site.
If you read closely, they straight up tell you they’re fake
Nobody reads the fine print. And that fact couldn’t be borne out more perfectly than it is in this scam. At this point, it should be obvious that this was a bait-and-switch. There is no Amazon job, this is something completely unrelated where you can work from home.
But if you couldn’t figure that out on your own, don’t worry. THEY COME RIGHT OUT AND TELL YOU.
Since I realize nobody reads the small print (even when it’s put right in front of them), let me quote the good bits:
We are not affiliated in any way with Amazon © All trademarks on this web site whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.
That last sentence is just an outright, bald-faced lie. You are literally luring people here with URLs designed to look like they are Amazon affiliated and the entire first half of the page you redirect to is all about Amazon. But who’s keeping track?
This is the part that gets me though:
I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS PROGRAM, AND THAT THE STORY DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site. This program is not a job but an educational opportunity that can help individuals learn how to earn money through their entrepreneurial efforts. Anyone who decides to buy any program about making money will not necessarily make money simply by purchasing the program. People who think “I bought these materials so I’m going to automatically make money” are wrong. As any type of education has so many variables, it is impossible to accurately state what you may expect to achieve, however, people who bought the program not only bought the program, but also undertook additional training and education, applied the principles to an area of the market that was growing, kept their commitments and continued to learn. If you do what the individuals depicted did, you may generally expect to achieve a great education in the area of your choice, but you should not expect to earn any specific amount of money. Typical users of the starter materials that don’t enroll in coaching, don’t keep their commitments and don’t implement what they learn, generally make no money.
Courses. Coaching. Commitments. These are all products, this is what you’re actually being sold. They take care to make sure you know that they are just giving you the “tools,” ultimately you’re accountable for it when you don’t make any money. You failed.
Despite its length, this disclaimer can be distilled down to three admissions:
- We aren’t Amazon
- There is no job
- Despite how we designed it, this website is not to be believed at face value
I don’t really feel like I need to add much more.
This is a timely scam because Amazon IS expanding, it’s moving into new areas and it’s hiring new people. But this isn’t Amazon, it just plays on the familiarity people have with the brand and their hopes for a better life to sell them an “educational resource” that likely won’t even pay for itself let alone generate additional revenues.
So, long story short, don’t fall for this bul-… BS.
As always, leave any comments or questions below…