This Week in Corona Scams, we’re celebrating the winter holiday season the best way anyone possibly can do so in 2020. Obviously, this means we’re finishing the year by exposing more scams!
Today, we’re looking into new offers to “start your own small business!”. Also, beware… the return of “demon sperm”!
Here’s why we couldn’t afford for them to drop the ball.
Back in August, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) teamed up with the fine experts at FINRA to warn Nevadans about the dangers of “business opportunities” and “investment tips” that aren’t really what they’re hyped up to be. During this event, Nevada Securities Administrator Erin Houston warned, “Be extremely deliberative on what you want to achieve with your investments. […] Check their licenses, and check their disclosure statements.” She also added, “Be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true. Be careful of firms that guarantee high rates of return but don’t provide evidence to back it up.”
As long as the COVID-19 pandemic and its twin crisis of a recession rage on, and as long as far too many of Cortez Masto’s colleagues in Congress continue to hype up inadequate “stimulus deals” that don’t do nearly enough to help Americans survive the pandemic and the recession, Americans will continue to face another danger: that of “business gurus” who promise all kinds of “abundance” if they just “join the team” (as in: pay for “personal development” literature, pay to join some “entrepreneur university”, and/or pay to join a full-blown pyramid scheme).
Now that the winter holidays are here, Americans are scrambling to not just find some last-minute gifts, but also figure out how to pay for those gifts alongside paying the bills. So in the winter holiday spirit, we’re here to “stop the steal” of your holiday cheer!
Drop it like it’s hot? Here’s some cold, hard truth behind all the dropshipping hype.
On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) issued a seemingly innocuous warning about holiday-themed scams. Of course she got blowback from Trumpist/QAnon dead-enders who still refuse to admit that outgoing President Donald Trump lost the election, but Nessel also got some blowback from people who did not like what she had to say about dropshipping.
Here’s the deal on dropshipping: It’s simply performing as the online “middle man” who directs a product sold via e-commerce from the supplier to the consumer, even though this dropshipping “middle man” does not ever keep the product in stock and may play zero role in shipping the product from the supplier to the consumer. When we factor this in, we can see why consumer advocates like Dana Nessel are sounding the alarms on the dangers of unethical dropshippers who falsely market the products on their websites. Even with the more ethical dropshippers who do follow through on their promises, the products they feature are more or less the same caliber of those one can easily find at cheaper prices from direct-from-China discount sites like AliExpress and Wish.
When we really think about it, dropshipping is just an internet version of running a traditional retail store. People who run traditional retail stores must invest plenty of time, money, and effort into developing their inventory, designing their storefronts (both physical and virtual), and advertising to potential customers. Yet when we see these “gurus” go viral on social media with their “secrets to dropshipping success!” content, they give the impression that all it takes is “marketing magic!” to succeed at dropshipping.
These “gurus” then direct aspiring dropshippers to their own e-commerce sites, where they sell all kinds of “lecture series”, “business academies”, “personal development guides”, and much, much more. While the vast majority of these “gurus” go nowhere close to the kind of crude depravity that Keith Raniere fostered in NXIVM, and while they’re not exactly doing the same thing as MLM’s (or multi-level marketing companies) with their “salesperson is actually the end consumer” business model, they all share the same rotten core of selling a fraudulent dream and deceiving aspiring “business owners” into buying their products and services.
Please drop it already. We’ve seen this s–t before.
Where have we seen this before? Oh yes, that’s right: Brian Rose took advantage of his own amplification of David Icke’s farcical COVID-19 conspiracy theories and the Plandemic sequel’s remix of similarly farcical COVID-19 conspiracy theories to direct people to his London Real “business accelerator courses” and the “digital freedom platform” that was just a white label streaming service. And of course, Grant Cardone operates a similar sales funnel where he uses “anti-establishment” rhetoric to direct people to Cardone Capital and all his “secrets to real estate success!” merchandise.
Occasionally, we’ll see such “gurus” claim their “secrets to success” are “not ‘get rich quick’ schemes”. But really, all they’re doing is changing some of the verbiage and using slick marketing techniques to get us hooked on their “personal development” products. After all, how are promises of “abundance in passive income” all that different from guarantees of “getting rich quick”?
Whether it’s Brian Rose, Grant Cardone, Tai Lopez, Gary Vee, Jake Paul, Rachel Hollis, or some other “personal development guru”, it’s all the same “millionaire mindset” that’s based on the same “Napoleon Hill Complex”. Just add in The Power of Positive Thinking, and you’ve unlocked The Secret to Think and Grow Rich! No, it never really works that way. Yes, we need to get real about what we truly need to do to help more Americans achieve real success.
Let’s drop these “hot trading tips”, too.
Important to keep in mind that these mispricings are mostly not explained by technical factors and mostly are explained by the fact that Trump traders at PredictIt are literally idiots with money to burn. https://t.co/OdVngNiKER
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 12, 2020
Now that we’ve thoroughly debunked the foundation of lies beneath all the “guru” hype, let’s rip into one more layer of such “guru” hype. Now that the Electoral College has formally confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, the online gaming platform Betfair has finally closed its 2020 election prediction markets. However another major online gaming site, PredictIt, still has some of its 2020 election prediction markets open, and a clique of “very online” Trump fans continue to place real monetary bets on Trump’s “Clown Car Coup” succeeding.
Before anyone starts pulling more receipts from the (not really) wonderful world of Parler, keep in mind that these shoddy “investment opportunities” go far beyond election betting. We also have this sudden explosion in “forex clubs” and cryptocurrency “opportunities”. But just like the “dropshipping guru” bait-and-switch, these forex scams and crypto-scams are not what they seem.
Yes, real people can make some real money by trading foreign national currencies and/or private cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin). It’s one thing to either know what you’re doing while you’re making your own trades, or to entrust your money with a properly credentialed financial advisor. It’s something completely different and far more dangerous to hand your money over to some “guru” who promises “abundance” but never produces actual receipts.
Again, these scammers excel at seducing people with their “anti-establishment” bravado and their heady promises of fast and easy cash. Also, some of these currency scams get even scammier when we dive deeper into the fine print, such as iMarketsLive selling the dream of “forex fortune” but really recruiting people into their MLM setup. So unless you really want to risk falling into some “forex” or “crypto” flavored pyramid scheme, do your research and don’t just buy whatever that “Instagram influencer” is shilling.
Finally, can we drop the anti-vaxx QAnon-sense already?
For all Americans’ renewed hope due to the news on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the anti-vaccine movement keeps on chugging. And once more, we have some repeat “Corona Scam” offenders on our hands! Remember the shadowy far-right operatives who made a group of anything-but-reality-based conspiracy theorists so viral that even Madonna fell for their scam?
They’re back! No really, “America’s Frontline Doctors”, the same front group for the same hacks who attack everyone and everything from “Medicare for All” to “demon sperm“, have returned to the forefront to regurgitate the already debunked lies about the COVID-19 vaccines containing “Mark of the Beast” microchips, harming human fertility, and being part of some secret plot to exterminate Black Americans.
On that last lie, there is some horrifying truth to America’s ugly history of using “medical science” as a weapon of mass discrimination that these far-right agents of chaos are now misusing to sow distrust in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. With a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll showing that 35% of Black Americans and 27% of Americans overall don’t plan to obtain any COVID-19 vaccine, we still face some risk that we won’t approach herd immunity even if/when the federal government finally provides enough resources in 2021 for state and local authorities to distribute the vaccines.
If there are two overarching lessons we can learn from all these “Corona Scams” and all the rest of the “Corona Scams” we’ve exposed this year, it’s these: Think before you click, and always do your homework. Here’s to the holidays, congratulations for surviving 2020, and we’ll meet again in the new year.
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check with Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, and check with Nevada 211 for more health care resources. If you’re in need of additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square. And for goodness sake, please wear your masks and maintain social distancing from people outside your household.