The scammers that promise to turn your PC into an ATM

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Can I turn my PC into an ATM? That's the enticing offer that comes thudding through my letter box via a 24-page brochure. It says that all I have to do is sit at my computer for around 30 minutes a day. From there, consistently making from £100 to £2,000 plus a day is as easy as flicking a light switch.

If that is true, then it's even easier than the ATM. I won't have to go outdoors or even enter my PIN.


There are other plus points. I don't have to do any selling. I do not have to buy mailing lists. I'm not investing in land, carbon credits, rare earth minerals or wine or any of the other nonsense assets scam callers try to flog me. And it clearly states that this is not get-rich-quick junk.

A tax-free return
So I turn the pages. I soon find that the magic key to making money is to invest in global financial markets via spread betting. Yes, this is posited as a method of earning big cash each trading day, by taking a gamble on how various assets move over short periods.

The brochure claims that it is possible to make over £1 million in a year – and because it is gaming, the gains are tax free.

But like the get-rich-quick literature it criticises, it is full of "the dream". It dangles the prospect of millions, houses (not even flats) all over the world, that £250,000 of Italian automobile you have always yearned after, the fully paid fees at top educational establishments for your children and the ability to "work" whenever you like and for just a few hours each week.

Most of all, it offers the goal all of these schemes rely on - financial freedom. You can tell your boss what you have always wanted to, but were afraid to do so.

A stress-free living
I could make even more by using an offshore broker who will allow me to "leverage" my cash. That's where you make your stake money go even further by taking ultra-high odds bets that are ruled out in "English speaking countries".

It's "total freedom" with no premises to rent, no staff to pay, and no experience needed. Compare that with work whether employed or self-employed. There you or your employer have worries such as paying taxes, dealing with people, always fearing there won't be enough interest in your product or services.

The bottom line for this miracle is that it is a trouble free way of making an incredible, stress-free living.

And how do I access this wonderful world? I spend a few hundred pounds on some literature which will talk me through the world of spread betting, offering easy to understand ways of continual wins.

It's just gambling
Yet, I have lingering doubts. I thumb through all the pages to look for some sort of risk assessment, for an acknowledgement that spread betting has its dangers. After all, this is betting on financial markets where around 80% of all gambles benefit the bookmaker, not the punter.

There is nothing formal here in the way of warning – there does not have to be as this brochure does not come from a FCA-regulated body as this counts as education, not investment advice. The literature is viewed in exactly the same way as a book on investment in a high street bookshop.
There is just the occasional small hint that not everyone will be successful with every bet.

One minor losing bet is printed on a statement in the booklet (it's small by comparison with the wins). But taking a closer look at the statement shows that what is printed consists of "open positions" - bets that are not closed out or finalised.

These are similar to putting your money on a horse in a ten furlong race. Your horse is winning after six furlongs, but that does not mean it will be first after ten or that you cash in on that position with the bookie. In short, this is not an indicator of money in the bank. Markets can turn suddenly and in the short term – which is what spread betting is all about – your stake money and more can be wiped out.

Yes, there are testimonials from happy punters. But no complaints are published. And yes, there is a money-back guarantee after a year although no terms and conditions are published. I think it is a safe spread bet to say this may cover the cost of the course (assuming the course provider is still around) although not the large amounts you can lose from gambling on fickle financial markets.
I wish there was a fast, easy and secure route to millions for the outlay of just under £300. But then I also wish the tooth fairy was real.

Revealed: The 10 most common scams

Revealed: The 10 most common scams