THE WAY UP; Use .com-mon sense and avoid Internet scams            
                       (Boston Herald; 04/02/99)                       

   The "dot-com" mania that has Wall Street afire for Internet stocks has been 
trickling down to on-line bottom feeders for months.

   With that in mind, hopeful entrepreneurs should be aware that many "Internet 
opportunities," pitched via e-mail and other means, are just repackaged scams 
and dead-end business ideas with no real profit potential. Click the mouse hard 
and flee from any Web site that offers easy wealth on line.

   The Federal Trade Commission suggests you avoid:

   -- Multi-level marketing schemes that promise thousands of dollars a month 
for those who sell TV-based Internet access systems.

   First off, let's dispense with any qualifiers that "some MLM opportunities 
are legitimate." They work by making you recruit other sellers. If you haven't 
figured it out yet, that's a huge and circular effort that will, at best, offer 
questionable returns.

   It's also cult-like: lots of meetings in people's homes with guru- like 
figures giving pep talks.

   Moreover, if the compensation depends on your signing up new sales-people, 
that's illegal - a pyramid scheme and nothing else.

   -- Ventures that hawk walk-up kiosks for Internet access in shopping malls, 
airports and hotels.

   The good news: Time is running out on this joke of a concept. The big-bucks 
movement to make a go of legitimate "Internet cafes" failed in many places. 
Don't bite this rotting fruit.

   -- Seminar programs that teach consumers how to profit from the Internet.

   Keep in mind that Wall Street favorites like Yahoo and Lycos are still 
trying to figure that out. The FTC notes that most of these schemes boil down 
to a sales pitch for Internet yellow pages and other advertising venues.

   And the hefty fees for "sales training" and "consulting" provide little on 
which to start a business.

   The best defense is education, and not any kind you have to pay for. Much of 
this nonsense is aimed directly at those who are still at the "gee whiz" stage 
of Internet discovery.

   Surf carefully, and carry a big click.

   Income-tax season is more than just an annual headache. It's a downright 
waste of time and money, some strong-talking economists and business lobbyists 

   The Washington-based Tax Foundation calculates that time spent on preparing 
tax returns is "robbing" the economy of $18 billion a year.

   And the National Federation of Independent Business, which lobbies on behalf 
of small companies and entrepreneurs, is rolling out reform-minded economists 
to make that case.

   The NFIB wants to simplify IRS tax-filing procedures and cut away gobs of 
red tape by passing a "paperwork reduction act" for small businesses.

   "The opportunity cost of the time (taxpayers) are spending is very large," 
says James Buchanan, an economist from George Mason University that the NFIB 
cites. "It's a waste."

   Talk small business with The Way Up: [email protected]

Thanks Kinetic!

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