February 6th, 2012

coyote Phil

Mutualistic scams

If you're a college student, you may have gotten an email this week that reads like this:

"You are invited to apply for a membership from the Wellgates Scholar Program based on nomination we have received. This is a global initiative to encourage and recognize academic excellence, leadership, and entrepreneurship among university students."

Is it a scam? It doesn't appear to be a non-profit. The clear attitude of people on Yahoo Answers is that, if it isn't a non-profit, it's a scam.

The organization may make money by selling your contact info to advertisers. But they do give merit-based scholarships.

Why do we insist that people who help us out at no cost are "scamming" us if they aren't losing money doing it? Is broadcast television scamming you when they make you watch commercials? Folk economic theory doesn't seem to have a concept of "mutually-beneficial exchange".