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Psychology of an Online Scammer

Updated on August 10, 2009

Sales Strategies - Think You Are Immune?

We live in an age of unprecedented advertising. Even young children are pitched to directly and indirectly everyday, and in many mediums, including some school buses!  Ads are everywhere and savvy marketers know how to get their target market's attention.  As online marketers we are continuously being "pitched" to by other marketers.  Some of us get a little smug in thinking that because we recognize the "pitch" or the psychology behind it, that we are immune.  If anyone truly is immune, I have never met them. 

Let's take a quick look at what happens when a marketing message is well targeted, and well presented.  Quite honestly, not only are we not immune, but in many cases we are incapable of NOT buying!

A well targeted marketing message is one that speaks to people who are already purchasing products in that specific niche, or people who are actively looking to buy.  It may also speak to people who are open to purchasing in that niche. 

A well presented marketing message tests our intelligence, but not in the way you may think.  The very well presented offer is so jammed packed with value that we think we would be stupid to turn it down.  When the perceived value is higher than the cost, when the offer is so attractive that it makes us desire that product, we are like putty in the marketer's hands. 

We all know and have experienced that "fear of loss".  Fear of loss can cause us to make decisions that we would not normally make.  For example, we can be hesitant about a product or program that we think we can profit from.  If our fear of potential loss is greater than our hesitance, we can actually convince ourselves to join a program that we know is not a "good" deal.

Persuasion is truly an artform, used by both legitimate marketers and scam artists alike.  Mastering the art of persuasion, and using it to help others, is truly a key to long term success.  Scammers who are good at it do achieve financial success, but it is short term so they need to have the next scam ready to roll before the prior one falls.  They must be ever vigilent at hiding or obscuring their real identity.  I can only imagine how much energy that takes!

There has been a resurgence of fast money systems, both online and offline, designed to take advantage of people since the beginning of the global economic downturn.  Fear of potential or real job loss, stock market losses, and other factors have caused otherwise "smart" and "ethical" people to jump in with both feet in obvious pyramid or ponzi schemes.  Personally, I am interested and intrigued by psychology, and this trend is truly fascinating. 

How Far We Will Go To Be Right

We humans are a peculiar lot. Once we make a decision, we will go to great lengths to prove to ourselves and to others that it was the right choice. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, we will defend our decision, and sometimes even when we can no longer defend it, we find excuses for having made it.

I was invited to listen in on a Regenesis team webinar recently and I was absolutely blown away by what I saw and heard. Now, don't get me wrong, I admit to being tempted by the Regenesis opportunity when it first emerged. If I had a little less experience online, I would have undoubtedly joined, and then I may have been one of the "sheeple" in the webinar - so I am not judging those individuals. I was tempted in spite of all the red flags, that to me were absolutely obvious. Things such as:

  • lack of a physical office (just a mailbox)
  • unable to discover names of principals (the owner goes by J.W. - and people are fine with that!)
  • lack of a truly stand alone product
  • a payplan that defies mathematics

In the end, I didn't join. There is a saying that Ignorance is Bliss, and in this case, I just knew too much. I was fairly certain that if I joined, I could make a lot of money, but because I knew it would be short term money, that many more would lose, and because I had no desire to contribute to the financial success of the creators who had gone to such lengths to hide their identity, I could not in good conscience promote it. But even with all that... I WANTED to believe it could be true.

Well as most of the online world now knows, Regenesis has been shut down. The news story has been published both online and offline. No more question about whether it is legitimate right?


People who joined the business STILL want to believe. Even when faced with hardcore evidence - an FBI bust, the presenter in the webinar I witnessed told his team that the downfall of Regenesis was caused by its distributors passing around emails, and making false complaints. He claimed that it was a good business, a good business model, and that these "complainers" ruined a good thing. Now, whether he actually believes that or if he is an outright scammer, I cannot say, but what I found truly remarkable was the response of the participants!

The presenter, not surprisingly, had a replacement program all ready to roll. Tradingplaces 2x2 - complete with his sign up application. He assured his attendees that JW is not involved in this new program, that the owner was a distributor named "Brian" (no last name), and that all the perceived flaws present in Regenesis have been addressed, so that this new system was in fact designed to last "longer". Apparently annonymous owners is not one of the issues!

Without exaggeration, the attendees were practically begging for a sign up page. They were so eager to part with their $300 that they didn't even wait for the end of the presentation.

Scammer or legitimate marketer, this fellow has mastered the art of persuasion. Either he understands the psychology of the people in the room, or he got very lucky in delivering a message to a highly targeted audience. He was speaking to a group of people who had already made a decision. Now, they were compelled to defend it, to stick by it no matter what, even to the extent of "switching" over to the "new" program.

The Take Away

This is an example of psychology being used in a detrimental way, but imagine being a master at this and using it in a legitimate way!  Mike Dillard is a fine example of how to attain long term success by mastering the art of persuasion and truly delivering greater value than his customers actually pay for.

There are several lessons we can take away from all this.  First and foremost, learn your craft.  Study and practice the art of persuasion.  Study and learn how to target your audience, and then BUILD A LIST of highly targeted loyal subscribers and deliver them outstanding value.  Position yourself as a trustworthy leader.  Do your homework.  There is such a thing as healthy skepicism and you need to evaluate programs before you promote them. There is no faster or surer way to destroy your good reputation than to promote a scam.

Remember, everything you do on the web is archived.  Everything.  It is important to protect your image, not only for today, but also your legacy.  Think in the future.  Your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and their grandchildren will be able to find your "publications" and "associations" in the future. 


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I'm the worst salesperson ever, if there is one. I don't know how to sell anything, what more ice to the Eskimos. Great topic! =)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      It's all a scam. Get a job.

    • Karen Weir profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Weir 

      8 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Bob, I personally do not promote an MLM company - I have in the past, and I have made some money doing so. I no longer build or promote network marketing business, not because its crap but because it is so difficult for the average person to truly make any money. Having said that, I do purchase products from network marketing companies. MLM in of itself is not crap - there are some crappy companies, but there are some excellent ones too. I purchase products from Amway, Shaklee, Watkins and a few others regularly just because they are great products.

      That aside, Regenesis was not a network marketing company, not a MLM, not a company at all... it was simply a scam.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Typical mlm crap. Throw one company under the bus to pitch the next crap mlm scam. If it's mlm - it's crap - period!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      *shivers* Too scary to think that this kind of thing goes on and people actually fall for it. Thanks for the expose, Karen! MM

    • Karen Weir profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Weir 

      9 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Thanks for the comment Cindy. As Robbie pointed out, the loss to individuals is not a huge amount. It's the gain the owners netted that is really a bone of contention. The few who made money were duped into thinking everyone would profit, but that was never really possible. These same people have run similar programs under different names for years. In fact, Genesis Worldwide was shut down in 2002 and the owners were prohibited from starting another. J.W. (Jeffery W Snyder) actually served time for fraud.

      If you google Jeffery W Snyder you'll understand why he didn't want Regenesis affiliates to know who he really is! I hope that those considering or joining Trading Places will do just that. He may or may not be involved, but it really doesn't matter. It's another 2x2 that is doomed before it starts and the owners know it.

    • profile image

      Cindy Bolley 

      9 years ago

      Your right Karen, Fear of Loss is a terrible thing. Even when you know it sounds to good to be true. And your gut is telling you NO NO NO!!!

      I am sure a few people made a great deal on money in Regenesis 2X2. I am equally as sure many many more people lost money.

      Regenesis has now been shut down and is being investigated as a scam. The writing had been on the wall for a few weeks. Talk was that the checks were bouncing, that is not a good thing.

      But I heard that some of the top producers in Regenesis have already started their own 2X2. Imagine that.... the Regenesis websites have been pulled down but if you bought a generic domain name you'll be able to simply have your NEW website put right up in its place.

      But this time all of the things that were the down fall of Regenesis have been FIXED. You'll be able to just pick right up and continue. OH, BUT OF COURSE You'll have to pay again. This time they even have an add on that you purchase for an additional fee that GUARANTEES you 2 people. That runs right around 100 bucks.

      I too listened to that call you spoke of about the closing of Regenesis. The text chat in the room was amazing. People begging to be some of the first to signup. Fear Of Loss... What a terrible thing.

      I wonder how long this one will last?


    • Karen Weir profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen Weir 

      9 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Thanks for your comments guys!

      It is true Robbie that losses were limited to a one time payment, and that is indeed a good thing. Your comment about learning from our mistakes, and in this case, Regenesis's short term success, is exactly my intent behind this article.

      It is certainly NOT my intent to beat up people who were enticed into the program... (and I include myself in that group because as I stated, I was tempted), but rather let's look at HOW they managed to entice us.

      I truly find the psychology absolutely fascinating. It is unfortunate that this JW character (Jeffery Snyder is his real name), doesn't use his skills in a positive way.

    • profile image

      Robbie Bracco 

      9 years ago

      Great Article Karen!

      We certainly have made our share of mistakes. I'm just glad that many of the people I introduced to Regenesis were limited to the amount of their initial cost as opposed to ongoing monthly payments and purchases as many so called legitimate online businesses require.

      It's starting to look like the only successful sites are promotional sites but if we don't have anything to promote it's a little confusing. LOL

      It's never a loss though as long as we learn from our mistakes.

      Thanks for keeping us on our toes!

    • profile image

      Kristy Shields 

      9 years ago

      i always enjoy reading your articles!!

    • profile image

      Lonny Heiner 

      9 years ago

      Karen, your article is certainly "on target" Much to learn from this article, both to arm yourself with a protective shield of knowledge not to be enticed into something that is too easy, and secondly, to simply become a master of a subject and the art of persuasion in your own right.


    • profile image

      Kirsten Plotkin 

      9 years ago

      Karen, I love your hubs. They are always about a subject I have thought about...a lot. But unlike you, it never occurs to me to write about it. So top marks to you for your efforts. Loved it!



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