If college students need one thing, it is money. And if there is one thing college students do not have, it is money. That is where the allure of get-rich-quick schemes comes into play. Get-rich-quick schemes promise grandeur, prestige and large sums of money for little work. But, as the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Get-rich-quick schemes can range from Ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing, crypto and other digital currencies. But no matter the format, the result is the same: Grandiose claims that no one can deliver on.
Some of the hallmarks of a get-rich-quick scheme include exorbitant claims and promising returns far greater than your initial investment. Sometimes they ask for an initial membership fee, a start-up cost or another sort of monetary exchange for promises of a return well beyond what you paid.
But, if these schemes are well known to be unscrupulous and misleading, why are they still prevalent and why do people still fall for them?
Rebecca Lake, financial writer for sofi.com, explained what a get-rich-quick scheme is in an article.
“Generally speaking, a get-rich-quick scheme is any plan or strategy that promises large amounts of money for little to no investment,” Lake said in her article. “The term ‘get rich quick’ has a less than desirable connotation since these ventures often fail to live up to their claims.”
Lake said that while there are many different types of get-rich-quick schemes, they are all the same at their cores and prey on potential victims by promising them grandeur.
“Get-rich-quick schemes work by drawing people in and using some type of financial incentive as bait,” Lake said. “Potential victims may be told that they’ll be able to make a large amount of money very quickly if they just pay a fee or make an initial investment. Or they’ll be told that they can get their debts eliminated for much less than what they owe.”
Dr. Keanon Alderson, professor of business management, said that get-rich-quick schemes are widespread. Their roots even trace back in history to snake oil salesmen in the Old West during the 1800s, where salesmen would travel in a wagon from town to town.
“He would sell them some worthless thing in a bottle, but he would tell them all sorts of great claims that this is going to change their life and improve that and their health is going to go through the roof,” Anderson said. “We call them snake oil salesmen because they weren’t selling anything of value, but the promises they made and attached to them were huge.”
These schemes are notorious for preying on vulnerable people, such as single mothers, people in financially compromising situations and college students.
Alderson said even though making money is never as easy as advertised by get-rich-quick schemes, there are still easy ways that busy college students can make a few extra bucks. Thrifting and flipping are some of Alderson’s suggestions for an easy way to make money.
“If you have knowledge of a certain thing — clothing, for example — or something you collect, you can cruise around some thrift stores, and when you see an item for sale that you know is worth more than what they’re asking, you can go on Amazon or eBay and take a look at what people are selling it for on there,” Anderson said.
While the most popular and well-known get-rich-quick schemes include multi-level marketing and Ponzi schemes, Chris Butsch, freelance writer for moneyunder30.com, explains that get-rich-quick schemes encompass more than those two well-known examples.
Butsch also considers cryptocurrency, the lottery, phony job listings, robocall scams, bad online business courses and mystery shopper scams as forms of get-rich-quick schemes.
From a Christian perspective, these shortcuts are looked down upon.
“The Bible tells us that get-rich-quick schemes are not wise and that we get rich over our lifetime with hard work,” Alderson said.
(Proverbs 13:11 ESV) illustrates this: “Wealth gained hastily will swindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”