[By Shabany Angolwishe]
Schemes, frauds, scams, call them what you may; are so common nowadays that you wonder what happened to checks put in place to curb such illegal businesses.
Victims of such activities are numbered in millions. You hardly come across people nowadays who have never been directly or indirectly affected by this sad development, somehow. Scams often manifest themselves as business opportunities promising huge returns on initial investments, high yielding investment programmes are one example of such initiatives. A scam is a dishonest scheme that aims to get money or something else of value from its victims.
In developing countries, schemes, more often than not, come under the guise of entities that aim at helping people achieve financial freedom. Perpetrators of such initiatives show great resolve to lift people out of poverty when in actual sense their motive is to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses. These unscrupulous tricksters masquerading as good Samaritans have left a trail of broke folks on their way to supposed financial break through. It is unfortunate that some of those who join such schemes are often times clueless on what they are getting themselves into.
A presentation, a sign up, a subscription, testimonies and proof of return on investment is the main concoction that woos unsuspecting prospects; and in no time, they are in the net. Early birds usually get their reward but they are in turn used by scammers as bait to catch even more prey. The prospects realise that the scheme is working and are willing to part with valuables to join, regardless of the amounts required. Why do we have so many scammers busy peddling their wares on the internet? What is the background to all this mischief, trickery and fraud being perpetrated both on online and offline platforms right under our noses?
Backdrop to Scams
There have been a lot of changes in the global economy for quite some time, especially in the recent past. Worldwide, life has never been the same. While some countries seem to be doing fine and their economies growing, no one can deny the fact that calamities, both natural and man-made, abound and seem to be increasing with each coming year. The aftermath of such occurrences has often been a reduction in people’s livelihoods. Many are driven to the very edge of poverty and are barely making ends meet.
Harsh economic times have even complicated the situation further. Soaring unemployment rates, joblessness and economic polarisation have mostly served to push people into scams and frauds of all kinds and descriptions. Those who patronise such schemes are so intent on making money that they are blind to the possibility of being ripped off. The inception of initiatives purporting to mitigate suffering and promising financial stability is always welcome news to the deprived.
In the abundance of knowledge and advancements in technology, mankind seems unable to effectively and efficiently cope with the situation they find themselves in. These developments have greatly impacted our lifestyles and changed our lives in profound ways. Our world view, and the way we perceive life generally, will never be the same. Though knowledge has increased and people are ‘running to and fro’, there has been a commensurate increase in social, political, economic and environmental ills that plague mankind.
The prosperity of a nation is closely bound with its ability to engage its population in productive work. Inability to do so has bred a number of social ills. It is against this backdrop that a number of schemes premised on ripping off masses have been hatched.
Prosperity seekers defrauded
Scholars have linked economic progress to various indicators, most of which emphasise generation and accumulation of wealth. Moreover, many religious entities tout economic progress or prosperity as a sign of favour with God. This paradigm shift has seen every one striving with everything in them to get rich. Amidst this frenzy, a number of frauds and scams have flourished, each of which promises these wealth-seekers a fortune in exchange for their hard-earned cash. Are victims of these crimes gullible? …Not at all. It is man’s nature…his right to seek pleasure and happiness; to seek everything that gives them maximum security and enjoyment. Scammers and fraudsters understand this; they take advantage and exploit this particular trait in man.
The possibility of being scammed is even worsened when prospects involved aren’t that savvy when it comes to soft skills. Such people cannot research the business opportunities they are about to invest in that much. We need to be technically savvy if we are to understand how most businesses operate, whether they are legit or not. Especially, this is the case with most questionable business entities that pose as legit ones.
Looking for a job, want to make extra money or thinking of going into business? Buying into a business opportunity that makes big claims about what you can earn might sound like the answer. But don’t be in a hurry to sign up. Even legitimate business opportunities involve risk, somehow. To avoid a rip-off, you need to understand your rights and the promoter’s obligations. You also need to find out more about the opportunity.
Prospective entrepreneurs need to take it upon themselves to ascertain the authenticity and credibility of businesses they intend to go into to safeguard their interests. Would-be fraud victims should be sensitised and educated on the need to take their time and research business opportunities before committing their precious resources. “If a business understands its own vulnerabilities and can recognize a scam for what it is, it can reduce its risk of being caught out.”
It should be borne in mind, however, that not all initiatives, whether online or offline, are fake. Since there are fake ones, there should be genuine ones as well. Look before you leap, not everything that glitters is gold or silver.
The author is an economist who has been working as an educator since 2004. He writes about business related topics, and over the years he has been very passionate about entrepreneurship and emerging online businesses.
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