My brother and I were fascinated with get-rich-quick schemes when we were in high school. We decided to buy one particular get-rich-quick scheme we saw in an infomercial. The guy in the infomercial touted he had made millions by starting a business in his one bedroom apartment with classified ads, and that he wanted to share this secret, which we purchase with three easy payments. We knew there had to be a catch, but we wanted to see for ourselves what it was.

When the package arrived, we were amusingly shocked by schlocky packet the infomercial guy put together. Although the booklets had a full color cover on heavy cardstock, it looked like he typed it up at home using a basic word processor, and had them printed at a neighborhood print shop. Inside, the booklets detailed a few at-home type businesses, like printing ads on restaurant menus, and how to run a door-to-door flyer ad business. It also had “strategies” on buying for cheap and selling for a higher price using classified ads. We weren’t sure how it all lead to a million dollars, but we were starting to see how this guy made his millions: by selling this plan on infomercials.

Then my brother and I recalled an ad in the newspaper on how to make money stuffing envelops. We wondered if it was a similar scam. So we put in an order and waited. This packet was even worse. It was literally a stapled packet made from a copy of a copy of material made at a local print shop. The packet had a series of instructions on how to set up your own “Make Money Stuffing Envelops” scheme. It was ingenious!

It’s sort of like a business virus. It replicates itself, and its only purpose is to replicate itself. The business virus is able to continue its existence by people willing to rip other people off. The scheme is simple:

* Make copies of the exact packet you received
* Rent out a mailbox, or a P.O. Box
* You place an ad that says, “Make Money Stuffing Envelops”
* Watch the money role in

We followed the instructions to the letter. The one exception was that we retyped the whole packet to make it look new. After all, it had a non-exclusive, open copyright clause built into it; they literally told you to copy it. The scam worked. We were making a couple $100 a week! We eventually had to shut it down because our parents got concerned about the complaint letters.

Although we had to pay for these scams, the money was well worth it. What we learned was that these get-rich-quick schemes made money by selling get-rich-quick schemes. My brother and I now know how all scams work in general, and can now smell a scam from a mile away. We could just hear the pitch of any business, especially infomercial businesses, and we would know how the entire business operated. Recently we spotted similar scams online touting to teach people how to make millions off the Internet.

We also learned a lot about the psychology of selling, and how to deconstruct legitimate businesses. Legitimate businesses are vastly different from a get-rich-quick scheme. Get-rich-quick schemes are sold only once to a customer without having built any meaningful relationship with a customer. Some would say that’s efficient selling. I would call it a rip-people-off-quickly scheme. A legitimate business, on the other hand, generates long-term profits by building long-term relationships with loyal, repeat customers.

The next time you see an infomercial, or an online ad touting to make you millions instantly, let me save you a few bucks: they make their millions selling the plan they are pitching to you. If you want to make millions, don’t do it by spreading the get-rich-quick business virus to others. Do it the healthy way. Work smart, work hard, and be good to your customers. You’ll feel better about it, and so will your loyal, repeat customers.

Author's Bio: 

Young (aka Young B. Kim) is a writer, artist, serial entrepreneur, and the creator of ideavist™. Young's mission is to help people make their ideas happen through his writing, coaching, consultations, and through speaking engagements on ideation, creativity, and entrepreneurship.