A couple of years ago I read the Motley fool regularly. I liked the philosophy, the articles were informative, the discussion forums were lively and interesting.
Somewhere along the way I lost interest. I don’t even remember what it was exactly that turned me off. I vaguely remember it having something to do with the amount of advertising. It may have been the shift to paid subscriptions in 2001. There wasn’t a specific incident as far as I can recall, I just lost interest.
Even though I don’t visit the site I’ve always held the view that they were a high quality operation. I assumed that when it came to financial hogwash they’d be on the side of debunking it and protecting consumers, rather than propogating it.
That’s why when I received what I assumed was a spam email promoting a get rich quick scheme, I was surprised to see that it came from The Motley Fool.
Now, I know that spammers aren’t above spoofing someone else’s identity to hide their own. Spammers have in the past sent spam claiming to come from some of my own domains, so I looked into this, thinking perhaps the Motley Fool might like a heads up that this financial nonsense was claming to come from them.
I was floored to find this wasn’t a spammer spoofing an address. The product being peddled actually was from The Motley Fool. So ended any chance that I would ever return to the site.
First a little history. When the dot com bubble popped in 2001 The Motley Fool realised that they weren’t going to be able to collect the kinds of revenues from advertising that they had previously. They switched to a model of selling (subscriptions, reports, newsletters etc) to it’s members.
Nothing wrong with that, it’s worked out very well for them, and I’m sure many of the products they sell are fine. The one they advertised to me through my mailbox was not fine however. It had all the hallmarks of a scam.
Here are some of the characteristics you expect to find in junk email promoting get rich quick schemes.
1. They tend to be very long. These emails don’t stop at telling you about the great idea. They tell you about it over and over and over. Very repetitive, numerous quotes endorsing the scheme etc.
The Motley Fool email is long. Very Long. It takes 25 seconds just to scroll down through it without pausing to read any of it.
2. They emphasis what you could have won. The biggest sign of a get rich quick scheme that you should run from is that it dwells a lot on past successes, and tries to convince you that they could have been predicted in advance.
The Motley Fool email has numerous examples of people who turned thousands of dollars into millions of dollars. The message is clear, we could have predicted the success of these people and we can do it again.
The mail also hammers home the idea that it is giving you the insider scoop on the next Starbucks. It talks at length about the phenomenal growth of Starbucks, how it could have been predicted, and how much you could have made if you had invested.
This is the oldest trick in the financial charletain’s arsenal, don’t fall for it.
3. They emphasise they this isn’t a get rich quick scam. I’ve never read about a get rich quick scam that didn’t point out that it was not a get rich quick scam. In fact I’ve gotten to the point now that when someone explains that their system isn’t a scam I assume that it is.
The following comes from The Motley Fool email:
I’m not a starry-eyed novice pitching some bogus money-making “system.” I’ve done my homework, and I know a rat when I smell one. Like you, I have a reputation to protect, and I’m not easily duped.
“The Motley Fool stands out as an ethical oasis in an area that is fast becoming a home to charlatans.”
— The Economist
4. They stress what you’ll be getting for free, and gloss over the fact that you have to pay for it.
Throughout the Motley Fool Email there is much talk of the free report that you can receive that will reveal the next Starbucks. There are 17 mentions of this famous “Free” report.
Do you know how many mentions there are of the $199 subscription that you have to take out? None. Not one. Despite the incredible length of this email, they couldn’t find anywhere to squeeze in the fact that the report is “Free” with a $199 per year subscription to a Newsletter.
Towards the end of the email they do tell you that you need to subscribe, but you have to visit their site to find out the “Low Price”.
5. The Money Back Guarentee.
The trial period scam has been around for years. Sign up for a subscription and receive a free gift. The honest version of this scam assumes that some of the people who don’t want the subscription will be too lazy or will will simply forget to cancel within the trial period.
The dishonest version makes it as difficult as possible to cancel, or in some cases continues to “accidently” charge the customer even after they’ve cancelled.
I’m going to assume that The Fool are taking the honest approach and hoping for customer inertia to deliver them subscriptions.
I’m being generaous by giving them the benefit of the doubt here, the rest of the mail has all the signs of dishonesty that I’d expect from the worst scam artists. If it was a lesser known website I’d be 100% convinced that they’d take the money and run.
Yes, you’re not imagining it, there’s the unmistakable stench of a scam eminating from this scheme.
I have to say I was completely taken aback by this email. I’m still baffled that a brand with a reputation for straight talking and honesty would get involved in this kind of thing. I guess when you go down the road of selling financial information it takes a certain amount of character to avoid falling into the trap of peddling crap at high prices.
Needless to say my respect for The Fool is gone.
See the Original Email Here