A young man narrated to an old man how he expected to double his money in a new investment scheme. The old man was silent answered, “I don’t know about your scheme, but I know of a sure way to double your money.”
“Which is?” demanded the young man.
“Fold it into two and put it back in your pocket.”
Sometimes, the numerous internet opportunities seem like the young man’s schemes – lucrative but doubtful in their returns. Many opportunities are expected to result from the imminent availability of high speed internet in this region.
Access to global markets will be easier – for farmers, tour operators, exporters. Professionals such as writers, graphic designers and programmers will have an opportunity to earn money by engaging in online work.
However, there are risks in seemingly nice sounding schemes, and the internet is no different. This is especially so because internet transactions operate on trust.
A most common risk is the 419 scam that has given Nigerians such a bad name. Someone sends you email asking for your bank details because they need your help to transfer some million dollars from their country. They tell you they are relatives of a dead president or minister.
Should you give them your account, they clear it, leaving you penniless. A more sinister version is where these people invite you to their country for negotiations, only for them to kidnap you until your family pays a huge ransom.
Other fraudsters send you emails that you have won a million dollars in a lottery and ask you to send a hundred dollars in ‘clearance fees’ to receive your prize.
If you imagine a hundred people sending a hundred dollars daily, you begin to see how these people make their money. They expect you to be excited enough (and foolish too) to believe you won money in a lottery that you never participated in. Other scams target writers and designers where a firm abroad gives you work on agreed terms.
After delivering the work, they refuse to pay and then move on to the next victim. Others will ask you to pay for money to get the USA green card.
They hope that you are ignorant enough not to know that the initial application for the Green Card is free of charge. In addition, they deceive you into thinking that you are dealing with the US government directly.
So you pay to participate in a lottery that you may never win- all the time thinking that it’s the US government you are dealing with.
You can guard yourself against online scams by researching well before you commit your cash. Ask around or search on google what other people are saying about that company or that money making scheme.
You may just realize that what the old man had a point; and that in the internet, the best way to double your money is to fold it into two and put it back into your pocket.
Edwin Maina is a social commentator