Secret Society Invitation is Just a Book-Selling Marketing Trick

Snippets issue investigates secret society scams, fake Facebook lottos, and a new phishing trick: Internet Scambusters #828

It all sounds mysterious and intriguing: Join our secret society and get rich quick.

But this invitation, which usually arrives by snail-mail and implies you’ve been specially selected to join an elite group, is just a front to get you to buy a wealth-making book.

And once you’ve bought one, for an inflated price at a supposed discount, more will follow, as we explain in this week’s issue.

Let’s get started…


Secret Society Invitation is Just a Book-Selling Marketing Trick


How would you feel about joining a secret society? Intrigued, for sure. And maybe just a bit suspicious.

With good cause. Because secret society con tricks are rife at the moment. Like most other scams, they’re just a ruse to get your money.

The trick works something like this. You receive a letter in the mail, together with a pamphlet explaining the supposed background to an organization whose members are all getting rich — and it’s all thanks to the society.

To make it more secretive, the letter, which invites you to join the group, contains lots of dubious testimonials. It’s also full of praise for your achievements in life so far, which is supposedly why you’re being invited. Yes, you’ve been on the society’s VIP radar for some time.

All you have to do is sign up. Then you’ll receive an even bigger brochure telling you more about secret routes to unimagined wealth.

But, of course, it doesn’t disclose the secrets. To get them, you have to buy a book. But wait, you’re going to get it for almost half price — $140 versus a regular $250 or so.

But if you’re gullible or desperate enough to buy the book, all you’ll get — if you’re lucky — is a volume of rehashed money-making ideas, some of which will cost you even more to put into action.

And that’s just the first book. There’s a whole series lined up and waiting for you to buy.

In some cases, the come-on actually includes an invoice for the first book — making it seem like you already ordered it.

You can probably see where this is going. It’s just a money-making publishing scam that trades in the gray area between illegal and legal business activities. Plus, of course, you’re likely handing over your credit card details to a dubious “publisher.” Who knows where that will end?

Looking back through our files over the past couple of years, there are several variations of this scam, including ones in which victims received nothing at all.

So, you know what to do: If you receive an invitation to join one of these so-called organizations, give it a miss — along with the “invoice” — and go buy yourself a volume of money-making ideas for 10 dollars or so at your favorite bookstore.

Facebook Lotto

Another easy-money idea you can toss is the notion that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has lined up a pot of gold for you — in the form of winnings from a supposed Facebook lottery.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a Facebook lottery, but does everyone know that?

Apparently not. As we’ve previously reported, there’s no shortage of people willing to believe stories that they’ve won the lotto — especially ones with names like Facebook and Zuckerberg attached.

This scam is rife right now. The prize is usually pitched at a sensible-seeming $750,000 and all you have to do to collect your winnings is send in $200 worth of iTunes gift cards — the scammers’ current payment method-of-choice.

Tragically, as we know, that’s merely the first installment. Money demands will continue to escalate until the victim realizes he or she has been scammed.

In a recent investigation, The New York Times found 205 Facebook accounts using the name of Mark Zuckerberg, of which more than 50 were lottery scams — though many of them were subsequently removed.

But that’s rarely enough to put the scammers off. They’ll likely just open new impostor accounts.

Mark Zuckerberg is a very wealthy man, but, as far as we know, he’s unlikely to be sharing that wealth via lottery programs anytime soon — and, as we always warn, being asked to pay for items with iTunes gift cards is a dead giveaway for a scam.

New Phishing Trick

For our final Snippet this week, we switch to the subject of phishing — tricking people into giving away their confidential information — usually sign-on or bank account details.

Crooks use all manner of sophisticated tricks to fool people. But, as so often happens with scams, the simplest approaches are often the most effective.

That’s the thinking behind what seems to be a straightforward message — a request to update your password.

With all the data breaches we read about, it’s common to be told to update passwords.

In the current phishing scam, victims receive a message saying their email address password has expired and must be updated. This may seem to be either from an email server or a company for which you use the email address as your sign-on.

Again, it’s increasingly common for organizations to require users to regularly change their passwords, so it’s easy to see how this would seem like a plausible request.

Of course, victims then have to tread a familiar path that involves clicking on a phony link, entering their current password and then a new one. The only problem is that they’re on a fake sign-on page and have just given away their password.

That’s the reason you should never click on links in emails that then involve giving away information about yourself. Visit the genuine site of the supposed sender and check your sign-on and password status there.

Alert of the Week

The media have been full of reports these past few weeks about the data breach that has affected tens of millions on Facebook users. Are you one of them?

If so, you would likely have heard from Facebook by now, or you’ll find that you’ve been signed out of your account (instead of automatically logging on) and must sign in again.

If you want to know what to do next, check out this report in The New York Times: Facebook Was Hacked. 3 Things You Should Do After the Breach.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!