A get-rich-quick scheme
is a plan to acquire high rates of return
for a small investment
. Most such schemes promise that participants can obtain this high rate of return with little risk
Most get-rich-quick schemes also promise that little skill, effort, or time is required. They often assert that wealth can be obtained by working at home. Legal and quasi-legal get-rich-quick schemes are frequently advertised on infomercials and in magazines and newspapers. Illegal schemes or scams are often advertised on the Internet through spam or cold calling. Some forms of advertising for these schemes market books or compact discs about getting rich quick rather than asking participants to invest directly in a concrete scheme.
It is clearly possible to get rich quickly if one is prepared to accept very high levels of risk — this is the premise of the gambling industry. However, gambling offers the near-certainty of completely losing the original stake over the long term, even if it offers regular wins along the way. Economic theory states that risk-free opportunities for profit are not stable, because they will quickly be exploited by arbitrageurs. Nevertheless, many people long for wealth, and find these schemes highly desirable.
Legal get-rich-quick schemes
- Work at home tasks such as stuffing envelopes or assembling trinkets. Essentially cottage work; only small fees are paid per piece, and to make real money vast quantities of work are required. The United States Postal Inspection Service has noted that they have yet to find a "stuffing envelopes" offer that pays as promised.
- Many get-rich-quick schemes offer training courses in areas such as real estate, estate auctions, rare coins, or gemstones. Generally they promise that the trainees, after purchasing educational materials costing several thousands of dollars, will be able to locate cheap or discounted items that can then quickly be resold at great profits.
- Get-rich-quick schemes often sell software programs for betting on horse racing or other forms of gambling, promising that if run properly they will pick winners. They rarely do and most users lose money. This software normally sells for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
- Selling "miracle products" over the Internet, by telephone, or to friends and neighbours.
- Many e-books are written about how to get rich quick by selling goods on eBay.
Illegal get-rich-quick schemes
- When there is no pretense at selling a product, many get-rich-quick schemes qualify as pyramid schemes or matrix schemes, which are illegal in most countries.
- Ponzi schemes, which are similar to pyramid schemes and offer exorbitant returns on investment, are illegal in most countries.
- Advance fee fraud