The Difference Between a Scam and a Crappy Product


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Get-rich-quick products are almost synonymous with scams. Many people believe that this entire market is one big scam and that the only way to make money in it is by ripping off poor, gullible victims that believe you will show them how to get rich. Whether this is true or not is not the subject of today’s post. What I will focus on in this article is the fact that the word “scam” is very often misused and why it’s important to distinguish scams from bad products.

What is a Scam?

A scam is a swindle, a fraud, a trick being played on you. The scammer is essentially a thief. He is not the type of thief who breaks into your house at night and steals your stuff. Instead, he cheats you out of your money in some way. When you fall victim to a scam, you do not get what you signed up for, but you did sign up for it.

For example, you may find a good offer for a TV listed on eBay. You check out the vendor’s rating – 99.9% positive – read some of the comments and decide to go for it. You win the auction, get in touch with the vendor, wire the money and, at first, everything seems to be going fine. You excitedly anticipate the delivery of your new TV, but it never happens. After a while, you contact the vendor again. No answer. You try to call them. No signal. You try to find their address and maybe call their landlord. He tells you they moved out a while ago and he doesn’t know their new address. You contact eBay and maybe get some of your money back (they have a buyer’s protection policy), but whatever the outcome you did pay for a TV and you didn’t get one. This is a scam.

When you get suckered into betting on a three-card monte by a stooge and lose money (which you inevitably will), that’s a scam.

If you are on holidays and someone tells you they know someone who can get you really cheap tickets to an awesome concert and you later find out that the regular over-the-counter tickets to that concert cost half as much, that’s a scam.

You get the idea. When you are being scammed, you are being cheated, tricked and stolen from.

What isn’t a Scam?

Many things are are being called scams aren’t actually scams at all. Let’s go back to the TV-from-eBay example: If you buy the TV, it arrives and it turns out that it has terrible contrast, lame colors and an annoying flicker, that’s not a scam. You bought a crappy TV, that’s all. Sure, the product description didn’t say that the TV was crappy, but advertisement is never honest, is it? Even if the ad clearly stated that it was a high-quality TV with great colors, it’s still not a scam. The vendors standards of quality might just be different from yours and the colors are fantastic (compared to a black-and-white TV).
The point is: You paid for a TV and you received a TV.

The reason I make this distinction is because I believe many get-rich-quick products are in fact not scams. A product that promises to teach you how to make thousands of dollars and then contains only vague and impractical advice on how to do so is not a scam. It’s just a crappy product. Just like you can go to the cinema (hoping for a fun evening), only to find out the story is boring and the actors are terrible, you can buy a get-rich-quick program only to find out it doesn’t really help you get rich. In this case, you have not been scammed, you’ve just made a bad buying decision.

With information-products, there’s the additional problem of follow-through. For example, it’s perfectly simple to create a guide for “guaranteed weight-loss”:

Step 1: Exercise every day.
Step 2: Eat only fruits and vegetables.
Step 3: Repeat steps one and two indefinitely.

This really is guaranteed to make you lose weight. If you follow through and actually do what the guide tells you to. Of course you could say: “Hey, this guide didn’t help me lose weight at all! What a scam!” But I’d have to correct you and say that I didn’t scam you and it’s your own fault you didn’t lose weight because you didn’t follow my handy guide.


The reason I’m writing this is not to defend any get-rich-quick products (particularly not the bad ones) and it certainly isn’t to defend actual scammers. It’s simply helpful to understand the difference between scams and bad products. It’s also important for understanding my review-process and the Scam-Scale as well as Spam-Factor ratings.

Apart from that, I hope to help you avoid both scams and bad products with my extensive reviews.

And that’s it for now.


About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Rema says:

    I really wish I had come here 6 months ago when I actually started looking at IM as a means to making a career. Better late than never!! Very clear and simple explanation that would make a newbie understand the basic things necessary to make a lot of progress online.
    Thanks very much Shane.

    • Shane says:

      Well, I wish I had readers like you 6 months ago. Or any readers, for that matter. :D

      6 months ago, there wasn’t much going on on this site, yet.

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