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COLUMN: Big-money claims thrive when living is costly

Scams promise financial help during difficult times
(Pixabay photo)

The promises of earning a lot of money with little effort have not gone away.

The other day, I noticed one ad promising an extra $19,000 a month for what was described as “an easy online job from home.” The person behind this ad claimed to have earned $16,650 in one month by working three hours a day.

It’s an unrealistic claim.

In order to earn that amount of money working three hours a day for every day in a 31-day month, it would work out to $179 an hour.

By comparison, British Columbia’s minimum wage is $16.75 an hour. Few jobs pay anywhere close to the figures claimed in the ad, and those offering high pay are for highly skilled positions, not entry-level roles. This alone should debunk such big-money lures.

And yet these get-rich-quick scams continue. They endure because there is a segment of the population interested in these offers. If there was no response from the public, the ads would disappear.

I have been noticing these ads and offers for some time, and every time I see them, I have the same question: Who is answering these ads?

In the early 1980s and early 1990s, during two of the worst recessions in Canadian history, ads of this sort would have had an appeal among those who were out of work.

The Canadian unemployment rate topped 13 per cent in the early 1980s and it rose past 12 per cent in the early 1990s. There was another bump in the unemployment rate in the 2008 to 2009 recession, and a spike in April 2020, when companies laid off workers during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For someone who had been fired or had lost a job due to downsizing, there was an element of tension during the job search process, which could sometimes take many months.

Today, things are different.

The unemployment rate is 5.7 per cent nationally and 5.4 per cent in B.C. Help Wanted signs are plentiful, and some businesses offer signing bonuses for entry level workers.

But there is also another factor to consider. The cost of living is a lot higher than the money one earns on minimum wage. Expenses are even an issue for those earning well above minimum wage.

Nationwide, the average rental cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Canada is $1,868 a month and a two-bedroom apartment rents for an average of $2,219 a month. British Columbia is more expensive and, in Vancouver, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,831 a month. (If it’s any consolation, Toronto is even more expensive than Vancouver, and the Ontario minimum wage is lower than in British Columbia.)

According to some rental studies, 44 per cent of Canadians spend more than one-third of their monthly income on housing, and 15 per cent spend more than half their income on rent. That doesn’t allow much of a buffer if there are any unexpected costs.

The rental figures are not the entire cost of living. Other items including food, clothing, transportation and utilities must also be considered.

The only way to ease such financial pressures is to bring in additional income with a side hustle. That’s the appeal of the get-rich-quick schemes and scams. They offer a level of financial security during economically challenging times.

However, they do not deliver on their promises and, in many cases, the victim is worse off financially than before responding to the offers.

Nobody should need to work two or three jobs in order to make ends meet. And nobody should feel the temptation to answer unrealistic promises of big money because of day-to-day financial challenges.

Put simply, the gap between wages and the cost of living needs to be addressed.

Until that happens, the get-rich-quick schemes will continue to prey on some of the most vulnerable among us.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.

John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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