Ah, the get-rich-quick scam. It’s been around forever, in all shapes and sizes and forms. Many of them can be spotted a mile away, distinguished by their too-good-to-be-trueness and their excessive use of the exclamation point.
I’ve seen more than my share of them in newspapers and magazines, and have been up during the wee hours of the night to see the infomercials on TV.
Some claim that if you have the basic skills to stuff an envelope, that you’ve got what it takes to start your own home-based business, and soon the money will be piling up.
One of my favorites is when an ad starts out, “Do you own a personal computer? Don’t just let it sit there. Put it to work for you!”
I own a personal computer. I’m clacking keyboard keys on it right now. And my post office box isn’t overflowing with five-figure checks. What am I doing wrong??
Others that pop up almost everywhere include vending machine routes from which you can make thousands upon thousands, and the ever-popular no-money-down real estate programs.
Buy this mansion with only the change you find under your couch cushions!, the 3:30 a.m. infomercial reports.
I thought maybe I’d give that a try, but...I couldn’t even afford to buy an outhouse, much less an actual residence with indoor plumbing. So I instead went back to my computer and tried to put it to work. For me.
Probably the most famous—or perhaps infamous—of the scam artists, is Don Lapre, who’s been on TV ever since he took overacting lessons from William Shatner. That boy must have watched a lot of Star Trek when he was younger.
You know the guy: he made millions out of his tiny one-bedroom apartment placing small classified ads in newspapers across America, yadda yadda yadda. And he came on TV to tell us all about it, emphasizing every...other...word...along the way.
He was always just vague enough while describing his system so that he didn’t have to actually say anything, but sent camera close-ups slowly scrolling over income checks for seventy-five grand and up.
You, too, can do this working just a couple hours a day!
And the title of his system? “Making Money,” of course. All you had to do was send him forty bucks and he’d show you how. Meanwhile...he just made forty bucks.
If you google his name, the first page of results is so saturated with words like “be wary” and “rip off” and “have you been fooled by Don Lapre?” that it paints a clear picture of the worth of his brilliant scam...uhh, scheme.
After latenight viewers tired of his “tiny classified ads” script, he freshened it up a bit with an idea for a business running your own Web site, and then quickly moved on to pushing vitamins. Not just any vitamin, mind you...but the Greatest Vitamin In The World! (say that like James T. Kirk would, and the dramatic effect will ooooze from the words.)
So Don Lapre made his money...forty dollars at a time. Who knows? Maybe the guy's really only worth like a hundred sixty bucks. And I doubt any of his protégés are cashing big checks and sailing away on their yachts.
But I’ll keep watching for his next big idea, and be sure to read the fine print at the bottom of the TV screen before I pick up my phone to order.
Seeing as how I can’t find an infomercial on any of my channels, I better get to bed. I’ve got to go to work in the morning.
Unless...does anybody need any envelopes stuffed? Or have the next great money-maker involving seven hours of TV watching a day?
“I do want to get rich
but I never want to do
what there is to do
to get rich.”