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Adventures in Spam: Appeal to Greed

May 12th, 2007

Being an Internet marketer who has been making (and sometimes losing) money online since 2004, I have joined lots of programs, registered at many sites, and opted in to many other marketers’ email lists. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in a fair amount of spam mails flowing into my inbox over time.

A few weeks ago, as I was going through the daily ritual of deleting all of the obvious spam emails, I got the idea of saving some of these documents to use as examples of how both spammers and legitimate marketers will attempt to bypass your mental filters and reel you in to make that all-important sale. So after saving a sufficient number of emails, I decided to make an “Adventures in Spam” series so that I could showcase the various types of spam and spammer tactics, and also warn readers about possible scams lurking within this unsolicited content.

Perhaps the oldest form of spam (with the possible exception of direct e-commerce solicitation) is the appeal to greed. Many newbies who enter the “make money online” genre can be quite desperate at first, and this can lead them to join money making programs of questionable quality and/or promote these kinds of programs themselves.

One such category of online ventures that often attracts spammers is called HYIP, an acronym that stands for High Yield Investment Program. Here is an example of a spam advertisement for a HYIP that I received a few days ago. The sender was listed as “Automatic Withdarwal Paying HYIP” (as usual, spammers are not very good spellers):

Title: running and paying automatic withdrawals for more than 275 days. Over 600 million already invested and 3000 people joined.

[spammer’s referral link here]

Info:
Running days 273
Total accounts 3269
VIP accounts 285
Total deposited $ 609,042,122.10
Total withdraw $ 16,158,315.19
Plans:
120% After 1 Day
65% Daily For 3 Days
400% After 1 Week
1100% After 1 Month

There was also some extra text at the end that was obviously copy/pasted from the HYIP site and used financial gobbledygook in an attempt to fool naive newbies into believing that it was actually a sustainable investment opportunity. The referral link was sprinkled into the text three times.

Those of us who are veterans of this particular genre know that the majority of these high yield investment programs are financially unsustainable and are in fact Ponzi schemes that last only for a short time before collapsing and disappearing. It is possible to make money with these programs if one gets in and out of them early enough, but it is very risky because of their Ponzi-styled structure, not to mention the possibility of an unscrupulous administrator suddenly disappearing with investors’ money even before the system actually collapses.

While most high yield investment programs are not really sustainable, some of them operate under a more reasonable business model and can still yield profits (albeit at a much slower rate than a Ponzi) for the investor. For example, instead of a Ponzi-based system, some sites use a profit sharing model where all revenue that comes in from advertising, product sales, etc. is pooled and divided equally among investors. There are also banks such as Emigrant Direct that offer high yield savings accounts to potential investors. These kinds of programs are generally considered more legitimate and can usually pay out at a higher rate than regular savings accounts.

Nevertheless, greed can be a powerful motivator. Since many of the Ponzi-style programs offer referral commissions, people are sometimes tempted to spam for referrals in order to lure in new “investors”. If you have ever registered your email address with a HYIP before, or if your email address was registered with another party who later sold their email list to a current HYIP administrator, you are more likely to receive this type of spam. Although the promised returns may be tempting, unless you really, really know what you are doing, it is not advisable to participate in these kinds of programs.


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