I made a brief visit to the Twitter world this morning and found I had a new follower. It was a name I didn’t recognize, which isn’t an automatic alarm. I talk about a wide range of things – my favorite sports teams, food, politics, other news items, and my profession. Occasionally, someone I know will re-Tweet a post, and then someone I don’t know sees it, and likes what they see enough to follow me. When anyone follows me, I check out their page. If I see we have any mutual interest, I’ll usually follow them back. So when I saw a notification that Mavis Wanczyk was following me, I went to check her out.
Mavis Wanczyk is a Massachusetts resident who won a lottery jackpot of well over $700 million in 2017. She claimed her winnings in less than 24 hours. NOTE: Most financial advisers caution against lottery winners moving extremely quickly, saying you are better off taking time to set up your infrastructure – a lawyer and accountant on retainer, and very robust identity theft protection are probably what you need most – and being deliberate about everything you do.
Probably as a consequence of moving so quickly, a number of Mavis Wanczyk social media profiles have sprung up, created by identity thieves promising that Wanczyk has pledged to give a big chunk of her winnings away to people who friend or follow her. One of these fake profiles is the one that followed me on Twitter this morning. I reported the profile to Twitter and blocked it.
It took me about 90 seconds of research to uncover the scam. Certainly there are much more complex forms of identity theft – I know, I’ve been a victim on two occasions – but a lot of identity theft attempts can be uncovered with only a little effort, as was the case with me today.
I often wonder how so many of us can fall victim to these crooks. In the 2 cases for me last year, it was desperation. I had started my Virtual Assistant business several months earlier, had not yet landed any clients, and the 401(k) and pension I had cashed out from my corporate job were almost gone, and I was in panic mode worrying about the bills. Here come these 2 people posing as clients, and they got me. Looking back, there was ample evidence from the very beginning that things weren’t on the up-and-up, but my desperation created a big blind spot. At least going forward, I have a much sharper eye for this, which will help me as I build my business.
(Incidentally, my good friend Regina Lewis wrote a blog post not too long ago about spotting online scams. Check it out here – the scam info is item 4.)
Similar to desperation, “get rich quick” promises lure many people in. There are probably as many of these promises as there are leaves on trees. The lottery is so popular because the idea of having all the money you need for the rest of your life, for no more effort than getting to a convenience store and buying a ticket, is very captivating. The odds, however, are minuscule. Generally, the odds of winning the big jackpot are about 1 in 13.9 million. Let’s examine that a bit. Pennsylvania is the 5th-most populous state in the US, with 12.8 million people. Montana is 44th, with about 1.1 million. So, if EVERY RESIDENT of Pennsylvania and Montana bought 1 ticket, there would be ONE winner, and about 13,899,999 losers.
The lottery is far from the only “get rich quick” promise out there. I recently received an email with a regular newsletter I subscribe to. There is normally a lot of useful content, but this most recent one trumpeted that you could earn $7,000 a week with what amounts to about an hour of work. The author is going to get a ton of people to buy the product that could maybe, possibly yield that kind of payout, because everyone is looking for that magic item that will bring in tons of money from tiny amounts of effort.
The problem with all this is that great wealth and success almost never happen instantaneously, surprisingly, or as a result of minimal effort. In probably 99.8% of all stories of people going from rags to riches, it took many years, a big stack of failures, perhaps even active opposition from loved ones, before the great success that becomes public comes to fruition. The instant success may occasionally happen – there is the 1 ticket out of 14 million that does hit the lottery jackpot, and the coach touting a $7,000 a week income may have actually seen that happen for one out of 10,000 clients. But for everyone else, the odds of reaching that great success will stay minute unless you are willing to put in the months and years of hard work that almost all success stories require.
Even if I had not been a victim of fraud not too long ago, I am a skeptic by nature and have used that to my advantage. Getting a follow from someone I don’t know on social media who then offers me free money “just cuz” (to use one of my family sayings) is never going to pass the smell test for me. It should not pass it for you, either.
While there is no substitute for hard work, partnerships can certainly move the train down the tracks a little more swiftly. If you are working hard building a business of our own, partnering with a Virtual Assistant to take care of your administrative tasks will free you up to spend more time building your business. Let’s talk about it.
When it comes to fast money, that very old cliché is usually right – if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.