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Fools and their Money - How to Make a Million Online

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First, raise $10 million - kidding aside, there really is a time-tested and proven way to make a bundle of money online.

Just build a Web page which has a lot of interesting things many people would want to see or buy, then get millions of people to visit your Web site and buy things from you at profitable prices.

That will absolutely work, but you may have spotted a couple of small potential problems, two of which are how you get things to sell which people want to buy at your price and how you get millions of visitors to your site.

Selling things without tricking people is hard work. Work at home schemes neglect to mention that or simply lie and say no selling is involved. Selling things by tricking people is easier but, of course, both illegal and bad for your karma.

It turns out that selling some item online at a profit only works if you are the only source of that item, OR you already have a going business with lots of customers, OR you get people to pay for something which costs you nothing (and is probably worth even less).

One of the most enduring ways people tell you to do this is by creating a Web site which sells kits telling others how to build a web site and make a lot of money - usually by selling kits which tell others… you get the picture.

This way of making money depends on the "greater fool" hypothesis and while we will never run out of fools, finding a particular one foolish enough to give YOU money is the tricky part.

Here is how the GF system works. Once you discover you have been tricked into paying for something essentially worthless you can still make money by finding someone even more foolish to sell the same worthless information.

This works best if you can get those people to find even greater fools and your subset of fools is dumb enough to pay you a cut every time they succeed in tricking some poor fool out of their money (the way you were tricked). This takes a strong stomach but some people enjoy doing this sort of thing.

At their core, chain letters worked the same way and can also make money (illegally, of course). If you aren't familiar with the old chain letter concept, it has largely been replaced by email scams these days because email is free.

What used to happen was that you got a letter which you duplicate and send to (soon-to-be-former) friends. You send this begging letter on to others. (The most horrendous of these involve extortion too - "something bad will happen if you fail to send this along" or "we won't pray for you if you don't send this along.")

The basis of the chain letter scheme is the list of people who have sent out these letters to others. Each time it goes through another layer of fools the person at the top gets a lot of checks (from said fools) and is removed to be replaced by the next in line.

(My now you have probably figured out that being the first to create the letter is the most (probably only) profitable position and only if you can avoid the Postal Inspectors.)

The way you are supposed to make money is to have fools find fools who in turn find more fools to send checks to a stranger until eventually you make it to the top of the list and get rich.

The way it actually works is that 99% of people toss the letter and the remaining 1% simply put their name at the top and relatives in the other positions so if anyone is dumb enough to send money then they get it instead of you.

Many "make money on the Web" ideas work like that if they work at all.

A lot of creativity goes into selling these concepts since people do eventually begin to learn (the most foolish run out of money first) and new clothes have to be draped on the idea each time to trick people into thinking it is some new concept.

Other ways to earn on the Web sell you a plan where you resell their products on eBay (which brings up the question of just why THEY don't sell them on eBay themselves since they obviously pay less than you do? Is it perhaps because no one wants to pay that much? Or eBay fees and shipping eat up all the possible profits?)

eBay is perfectly legitimate - I have a profitable eBay store myself, but the same can't be said for most of the "get rich by selling on eBay" schemes. Even if they were legitimate, eBay already offers loads of free training and advice. Selling a few things on eBay isn't difficult, but building a profitable business on eBay is about as easy as opening a successful new restaurant. (EveryONE knows someone who thinks they can open a restaurant. Hint - making money in a restaurant has a lot more in common with making money selling hardware than it does with being able to cook - or EAT.)

In another variant of the get rich online idea you get sold instructions to write some report which lots of people will want to buy from you. Knowledge is power but just how much of an expert are you on something which other people will pay to know about? This is especially difficult now that everyone has heard of Google.

It turns out that the easiest information to sell online is a report showing how you can make a lot of money selling information online.

Reality Check

It is possible to make money on the Web.

It isn't easy.

It normally requires a large investment of time and money.

It takes some luck.

It often involves defrauding other poor suckers.

It usually requires a lot of selling ability.

It very often requires skill or knowledge which very few people have.

You probably stand a better chance of winning PowerBall and would certainly do better putting the same amount of time and energy into learning a marketable skill such as plumbing or engineering.

Yes, lightning CAN strike. Unfortunately you really wouldn't want to be there when it does.

If they say "no selling required" that is only true if you don't mind not making any money.

If it is a "limited time offer" or features a countdown clock then you can only hope the offer expires before you experience a brainstorm and send them money.

If you were contacted by email it is probably a scam.

If they contacted you by email and can't write a grammatical sentence in whatever your native language is, it is DEFINITELY a scam.

One email I got yesterday began (I kid you not) "This is an awareness to…"

You can bet I rushed to learn what I had won this time and what exiled prince or deposed dictator needed my help this time!

(I actually knew an exiled Prime Minister once. He was from a small Pacific Kingdom and didn't get along with the King, so I know such people can exist, but he didn't ask anyone for any money - making him a very rare individual indeed.)

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. Contact John through NewsBlaze.

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