How-To: Spot An Internet Scam

Home Wealth Formula logoPatricia Feeney, a former television news production assistant, was down on her luck and in need of a job to support her family. By a stroke of luck Ms. Feeney came across the Home Wealth Formula.

Interested, she ordered the $97 kit, set up a website, and waited for the money to roll in. Before long, Feeney was earning an incredible $6,795/month, and doing interviews with NBC and CNBC. Tell me more!

The Home Wealth Formula was created by Michelle Starr (of the TradeMichelles internet marketing group ) and it is quickly growing in popularity. The program is geared towards those who are new to the Internet, and is marketed as an easy solution to make big bucks from home.

Now for the bad news: Home Wealth Formula is an Internet scam.

The Bait
Take a look at the CNBC web article featuring Feeney (BTW, the original URL went down on 1/12/12. The same exact article resurfaced shortly after using a different URL). Notice anything about the original URL? The article is hosted at CNBC-financing.be. .be is the Internet country code top-level domain for Belgium. CNBC.com is hosted in the U.S.

Now open up CNBC.com in a separate browser window and compare the two sites. The real CNBC.com uses a small and appropriately sized font. CNBC.be uses a font so big, my nearly blind mother would reduce the text size in order to read it.

If you actually do read the article you’ll see a very questionable Home Wealth Formula URL (id12941281workathome.php) linked six times by the article’s author. Seriously, no one links to a site six times in the same article, especially a respected journalist like

colleen kane from CNBC

BTW, I’m pretty sure she didn’t write the article, but you can e-mail her and ask if you’d like.

And then there’s the NBC 10 news piece with Ms. Feeney working from home, playing with her kids at the park, and enjoying her newfound wealth.

While I can’t tell you if this video is an actual news piece, I can tell you that it’s been posted to YouTube a number of times by a number of different users. The above video has been viewed over a million times, is private, and does not allow commenting. < — flag alert!

Perhaps the biggest waviest flag is something you probably wouldn’t recognize unless you viewed the article in two different cities. Have a look. Head back to the article (this one will probably be taken down soon). Move your cursor to any area outside of the article, RIGHT CLICK, and select VIEW PAGE SOURCE. Next, hit CMD+F (Mac) or CTRL+F (PC) and search for “Feeney.” You’ll be taken to a paragraph starting with “Patricia Feeney of” and then a bit of code:

Scammers code

Basically, the code changes Ms. Feeney’s hometown in the article and in the title depending on where the article is being read. For poops and giggles, travel to a neighboring town and open the article. Ms. Feeney lives everywhere!

The Scam
If you click one of the six links and make it to the actual Home Wealth Formula home page the site will start you off with…

home wealth formula header

…then promise false work from home promises

And then “securely” take your money.

home wealth formula payment

How the Internet Scam Spreads
An Internet scam travels the world in seconds. I came across the faux CNBC article when a friend shared it via Twitter. Since this person isn’t one to fall for such things I inquired and got a

What is that? I never posted that link!

Someone had hacked his account and began sending out Tweets promoting the service. Well, if you aren’t so lucky, happen to read the article, and click the link to the home page, you’ll be taken to a form asking for your name and e-mail prior to being taken to the main webpage. This form will save your information, spoof your e-mail address, and blast tens of thousands of people with a message from you promoting the scam. Not as cool as hacking your Twitter or Facebook account, but it works just the same.

The Scam Evolves

As people catch on, and websites are shut down, Internet scams will adapt. Just the other day my email SPAM filter caught the following email.

cnbc patricia feeney Scam

At first glance, the email looks legit. When you hover over the links on the page you’ll see that CNBC isn’t involved at all. In fact, the URL has switched from a CNBC look-alike to something completely different (http://28f95.freeonlinelivenews.com/). Clicking the link takes you to the same article as before with one big change. The scammers ditched Home Wealth Formula for Home Business System

patricia feeney work from home scam

click to enlarge

 

Protect Yourself
Do some legwork. If you happen to come across a similar website promoting a similar program and you’re not sure if they’re legit I recommend you visit Snopes or the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and search for the company to see if they have any complaints. At the very least Google the company and add the keywords “scam” or “complaints.” And if after all that you still want to give someone your money I’m happy to take it off your hands.