Scams and Cons

Everyone runs into this once in a while. You're busy surfing the web, watching late night television or reading a magazine and you come across the perfect scheme for making money. It all sounds so wonderful. Just follow the instructions (exactly of course), and you will make thousands of dollars. Of course, one of the first things that you have to do is buy a book, a web site, a tape or some other package.


Even a cynical old man like me has fallen for a few of these scams. I've signed up for a dozen multi-level marketing plans, and not one has paid back a single dime to date. These things are all over the web and they sound so wonderful, so great, that it's almost impossible to keep from signing up without a major effort. Just pay your $20 or $40 or whatever, and you'll get back thousands. Of course, you never do ...

And the web makes it even more interesting. You get your own "professional" web site which looks great and is, guess what, an exact replica of every other site of that plan. It all sounds so easy - just advertise the site and the hundreds of millions of people who surf the internet will all come by to see what you've got to offer and send you money.

You want a 900 number? These always make money, right? Well, there are hundreds of people who will rent one to you. Again, just put out the word on a web site and you'll be rich, rich, rich. Who can resist a good 900 number, after all?

If you watch late night television you'll even see some young looking, very animated guy offer you his concepts on making money. He'll even include an internet site and it will only cost you a few dollars, plus a perfectly reasonable $20 for each change that you make! Wow hold me back. The money will start rolling in!

Then there's the one that's the most fun to read - the $6 chain letter. This is a wonderful piece of junk written by a very sick individual which details how with just a six dollar investment, plus postage, you can make zillions and zillions of dollars.

One of the newest gimmicks is the "pay-to-do something" programs. Wow, has anything ever produced more spam in the entire history of the internet? I know people make money from these programs (I've made a few dollars myself) but they seem so, well, silly. And unless you can get hundreds of people signed up for them very quickly, they just are not worth the trouble. And the viewbars - they get in the way, slow down the system and make things difficult.

Okay, here's another tip for you. Take this advice from an old pro, someone who's heard them all, fallen for a few, and learned the hard way.

Don't bother. These programs are all a waste of time and money. Yes, you quite possibly could make cash from attending endless MLM meetings, but do you really want to subject yourself to that? And you certainly can make extra dollars from the "pay-to-do what we want you do to" programs, but do you really need them recording everything you do over the internet?

And if you do bother, before you spend a dime check with the Better Business Bureau and search the web and newsgroups for that program and see what others have to say. You may even want to check with the District Attorney's office, the FTC or the Post Office Fraud site. It's your money and I presume you worked hard for it - don't give it away to some con artist.

There are an endless number of ways to make money from the web and the internet. You can put up a nice web site quickly and sell products. You can auction your old used comic books. You can join hundreds of affiliate programs and get a percentage of sales. You can write an e-book and sell it. You can even become a consultant and tell other people what to do and what not to do.

These get rich quick schemes are just rainbows. They all promise a pot of gold at the other end, but all too often there is a deep, hidden pit with spikes at the bottom. It's probably best to avoid them all together.


What's So Special About the Internet?

In this article I'm going to give you a special secret - a secret and tip so powerful, so life-changing that you will never be the same. Read on and learn. The internet (which includes the world wide web, email, newsgroups, discussion lists and many other things) will change the world. I'll go even further - the internet is the biggest change to human society since the wheel was invented.


But wait a minute? The internet is just about surfing around, looking at stuff, chatting with people, and maybe buying something now and then. Isn't it? What's so special about that? I mean, couldn't we always talk to people, buy something and go to the mall and window shop? The internet doesn't change anything, right?

Wrong. Think about it for a minute. You are now connected to literally everyone (potentially at least) on the entire planet. Currently (and this statistic changes daily) you can directly communicate with over 300,000,000 people! In a few years this may top a billion, all available almost instantly!

Never before in human history have so many people had the opportunity to talk to one another.

It gets even better. The other day I surfed to a web site which was in another language. It was in Italian. Normally, say if this was a book, I would have moved on and read something else, but the site looked interesting. So I pulled up a dandy translation tool and within a few minutes I had a decent translation of the page! I could now communicate with someone with whom I didn't even share a common language. That's fantasic!

I needed to write an article on relationships and marriage and I wanted some data. Years ago this would have required going to a library, searching through magazines and books for articles that I wanted. Not these days. I put in my request to a search engine and, after a few tries to get the proper search, I had exactly the references that I needed to complete my article. What would have required perhaps days took less than ten minutes!

You need another example? I needed to buy a CD for my wife. The CD was not easy to find, and I dreaded the search. Using the proper search engines I was able to find what I wanted within minutes, and in less time than it takes me to heat a TV dinner I had the CD ordered and on it's way to my house.

In my field I often need expert consultants very quickly. A machine is down or our email system stops working and I need an answer NOW. Just a quick jump onto the internet, post to the right newsgroups and discussion lists, and in a short time I have exactly what I need.

Wow. I could go on and on. The internet gives you (and everyone) incredible power and control over your environment. And that's the incredible secret and the tip of a lifetime.

You can use the internet in any way that you see fit. You have at your fingertips such an incredible tool that there is, for the first time in history, almost nothing to stand in your way. You've got a product to sell, using the internet you can let people know (without spamming of course) and sell it for little or no cost. You've got an opinion which needs to be told, you can post it to a newsgroup.

You want to tell the entire world about what a great person you are, you can just create a web site and submit it to the search engines. You can even add pictures, sound and movies if you want!

Maybe you want to start a company! You can do it for very little cost without even renting an office on the internet. Maybe you've even got a closet full of old paperback books that you are never going to read - go to an auction site, post their descriptions, and most likely you will find someone who wants to buy them.

You like to talk? Find a chat room and have at it. You like to write poetry? You can easily find a hundred places that will publish it - and if you can't, you can publish it yourself.

For the first time in history, you can do anything that you want from your apartment or your house. Take advantage of this opportunity and the world is yours to enjoy.


Watch Your Web Statistics

One of the most critical, and most often overlooked, jobs of a webmaster is to monitor and react to the statistics of his web site. I cannot overemphasize how important this function is to the survival of any web site. It does not matter whether you have a personal home page or a high-traffic commericial site, you had better be watching your statistics.

web statistics
Web Statistics

Why? Well, presumably you want someone to visit your site, otherwise why did you create it in the first place? Thus it's important to examine your statistics to see if people are visiting, what they are visiting, and how long they are staying.

Let's begin with the most basic statistic, which most web sites have in one form or another. This is a simple "hit counter". The hit counter simply tells you how many times your page has been viewed. In it's most primitive, and usual form, each refresh, each view, everything counts as one hit. More advanced hit counters don't update on mere refreshes.

The hit counter is primitive but useful nonetheless in that you can find out if anyone is visiting your pages at all. Of course, you have to remember that your own visits count also, and subtract those numbers accordingly.

Better statistics packages such as Hitbox have many, many more features. One of the most useful is the average count of pages viewed by each surfer. This is valuable because it tells you if people are leaving or sticking around, which gives you insight as to whether your content is any good. If this number is high you can also infer that your site navigation is good.

Another good statistic is the amount of time spent viewing each page. This is another good way to tell if the content is any good. Pages within your website which have short values here probably need to be improved.

Very good statistics packages such as Hitbox (or direct access to the server logs) can provide the extremely useful Referrer statistic. This value tells you where your visitors are coming from, which is useful to tell you if your link exchanges and other promotion efforts are working.

Speaking of server logs, if you can get a host (such as Bizland.Com) which gives you access to these you are in great shape! One statistic you should always keep your eyes on is 404 errors. These are bad links within your own website. If you have any of these you should look through your site for the invalid references and get them fixed.

As you can see, web statistics are an incredibly valuable way to watch over your website to see if it is producing the desired results.


Privacy On The Internet

So you think you're pretty safe on the internet? You've got your firewall to protect against hackers, you've got your antivirus software installed and up-to-date, and you are doing backups regularly.

You're safe, right?

Depends upon how you define safe.

Yes, you've done the critical, most important things to protect yourself from the obvious dangers. If you've done the things listed in the first paragraph, you should pat yourself on the back, because you are better protected than 90% of the people on the internet.

internet privacy

However, there is another danger that has been surfacing in the news lately, and it is a much more subtle, insidious monster. This is the danger to your privacy.

All right, why do you care about this? It's actually very important. Let's say you are using one of those grocery programs where you get a card which you use every time you go shopping. You get a discount and the store gets to better understand you're buying habits. Fair exchange, right?

If that's as far as it went, all would be fine. But look at the ugly possibilities. This data could be sold to advertisers (it is actually incredibly valuable). Worse yet, if you were, let's say, being sued, the data could be used in a court of law against you. After all, the store has recorded your transactions. The items purchased, dates, times and so forth. If your wife was divorcing you, she could prove you were an alcoholic if the store's records showed you purchasing lots of beer and liquor.

On the internet it gets even more alarming. If you are anything like me, the web is so convenient that you are doing literally everything from the comfort of your chair. I use the internet yellow pages to find phone numbers, mapping sites to give me directions, shopping sites to make purchases, and hundreds of other sites to make life easier.

On top of that, I use AllAdvantage to make a little extra money and I surf using Yahoo as my start page. I belong to hundreds of webrings. I use the web to sign up for credit cards and to pay my bills.

All of this is recorded. Underneath it all is a system of cookies, web bugs, log files, and databases that, if put all together, could give someone quite a picture of, well, me. Or at least what I've been doing on the web.

Theoretically (at least for now), someone could get the records from DoubleClick and similar advertisers and combine that with the records from the pay-to-surf program and know exactly my surfing habits.

All of this data could be used, in theory at least, in a court of law (although they would have to prove it was actually ME using the computer at the time). It could be used: - by employers before making a hiring decision (we don't like people who surf the Time Magazine site as they are a competitor, for example), - insurance companies before granting insurance (you have been using that very convenient medical site to record all of your prescriptions, haven't you?) - Credit card companies before granting credit (and you thought the credit bureau's were scary - imagine if they had access to literally everything you've done on the web). - by prospective dates (hey, now that's a service you could make a fortune off of - check out your dates surfing habits before meeting him or her. Imagine what you could find out...) - by the police to determine guilt (fairly obvious) - by the courts to prove or disprove a case (your honor, the records show he surfed those sites on the following dates, thus proving he had an interest in ...)

Let your imagination run wild. It could ALL happen.

Okay, now I've got you good and scared. What do you do?

First of all, don't panic. Most of this information is not yet available (and may never be available) in any form that anyone could easily use. In addition, there is some (but not enough) legal protection against quite a bit of this kind of thing.

Second, start getting educated on internet privacy. Just go to your favorite search engine and type in "internet privacy". You'll get a few good articles to read.

Third, read the privacy policies on the various web sites that you visit before you fill out their forms and use their services. How are they going to use this data?

Forth, get a good cookie manager program. Sometimes you do want cookies and sometimes you don't. The options in all of the browsers simply do not give you enough control, so you need a cookie manager to get that control.

You may also want to look at ad blocking software. The product I recommend is Norton Internet Security 2000 (check out the cookie article above for more information).

We are planning on writing several more articles on internet privacy over the next few months. This is an important issue and it is only going to get worse and more complicated as time goes on.


Research On the Internet

The internet and the world wide web is far and away the greatest single achievement for improving research abilities in the history of mankind. Some things that I will never do again because I can do them better, faster and more completely on the internet include:

- Using a library (well, unless it was to find something that was available nowhere else)

- scanning the white pages

- trying to find something in the yellow pages

- checking the classified section of a newspaper

- subscribing to a paper magazine

- owning a complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica (and replacing it every 5 years!)

- Using a hardcopy dictionary

- Trying to find out how to get to a place with a paper map

- calling directory assistance to get a phone number

The list goes on and on. Why would anyone, for example, keep a phone book handy? The thing is out-of-date before it is printed. It's large and difficult to store. It fills our landfills with trash. It can be difficult to find what you want. On the other hand, on the internet you can just go to any number of the phone directory sites, enter a name and get a phone number back. Always up-to-date, not stored in your apartment and it does not fill up our trashcans with still more paper.

Man, the problem is not a lack of sites providing research tools. The problem is there are so many places to get research done that it's hard to find what you want.

Where to start? Just start surfing. Check out for your encyclopedia. Then go to for your dictionary. I like for the yellow pages. Sites like and are also great places to start looking for things.