Don’t Fall for the Trap: Recognizing Pay-to-Play Business Scams

Jan 3, 2023 | Content, News

If you’re looking to start a business or take an existing one to the next level, you need to be aware of pay-to-play business scams. This one’s a longread, so get comfortable.

These scam artists target unsuspecting entrepreneurs with promises of high returns and low risk. But don’t be fooled – these fraudulent schemes are designed to scam victims out of their money and can cause serious financial damage. The best way to protect yourself from pay-to-play business scams is to be aware of the warning signs and know what actions to take if you suspect a scam. Here, we’ll help you recognize pay-to-play business scams and provide tips on how to avoid them, drawn from a real-life scam we received at Aries.

Here’s a real scam letter that we received here at Aries Security:

Hi Anna,


I am Conor Simpson with Cyber Security Review Magazine. While I have your attention, I would like to propose an excellent opportunity that has helped our clients to close more deals with their prospects.


You will be excited to know that our evaluation panel has shortlisted Aries Security to feature as one of the ‘Top 10 Security Awareness Training Service Companies 2022’ in the 2nd annual edition on Security Awareness Training. We want to feature Aries Security with a customer-centric profile about Aries Security’s unique offering and meaningful insights along with what keeps you ahead of the competition.


We are offering a unique proposition where you can reach out to over 117k active subscribers of Cyber Security Review, including your target audience. In this edition, we will showcase the Top 10 companies delivering best-in-class Security Awareness Training services. This issue will also include thought leadership articles from well-known leaders such as Chief Information Security Officer, Director of Cyber Security, VP of Information Security, Director of Technology, and other Technology Heads talking about experiences, insights, and advice with their peers from the Cyber Security domain. It’ll be a value-driven platform for Aries Security to be included along with them in this edition.


The unlimited print and digital rights of the profile and the recognition that we are proposing have been helping companies to close more deals from their prospects, resulting in a substantial increase in the lead closure rate. Hence, we are sure it’ll be an incredible platform for Aries Security to showcase its uniqueness and strengths with the readership base of Cyber Security Review Magazine.


We are offering you the “unlimited print and digital rights” of the profile for $3000. This package includes the complete print and digital reprint rights of the profile and also the rights to use the profile in your efforts to acquire new clients and other business development activities. We will also provide Aries Security with the high-res PDF of the feature, Certificate of Honor, Awards Logo, a full-page color Ad space & complimentary copies of the magazine. We will also showcase you as a “featured vendor” on our website.


Our senior editor will draft the profile based on a telephonic interview with a senior executive from your management team to ensure that there will be a minimal investment of your time. We will also share the draft with you for your review, feedback, and approval before the publication.


I am sure you’d like to know about the magazine; here is a quick overview: Cyber Security Review Magazine is a leading technology magazine that reaches over 117k qualified print and digital subscribers across the U.S. Our subscribers include Chief Security Officers, CISOs, Director of Security Awareness, Chief of Cybersecurity Strategy, VPs/SVPs- Security Awareness Training Products, Security Analysts, CEOs, Managers, and other Senior Technology decision-makers from various industry sectors. It is the go-to resource for senior-level technology officials and decision-makers to learn and share their experiences with products/services, techniques, and technology trends following a unique peer learning approach.


Let’s explore how we can work together on taking this opportunity forward. I can share more information about this recognition, what we offer you, and why high-growth companies choose our reprints. I would be more than happy to connect to explain this feature at a greater length. Would you be so kind as to inform me of a suitable time to discuss this further?

I look forward to your kind response.





Conor Simpson

Cyber Security Review

510 556 2284


This Email transmission contains confidential or legally privileged information intended for the individual or entity named in this transmittal.

If you do not wish to receive any further communications, please Discontinue.

Introducing Pay-to-Play Business Scams

Pay-to-play business scams are malicious schemes that scam victims out of their hard-earned money by requiring them to pay money or provide goods and services in order to gain access to a false business opportunity. Common examples include business mentoring, being featured in a high-profile magazine or website article, receiving sales leads, and purchasing lists of contacts.

In the letter we received, the proposal was for Aries Security to be featured in an allegedly high-profile article. We were even selected for the  ‘Top 10 Security Awareness Training Service Companies 2022’ in the 2nd annual edition on Security Awareness Training. Wow, great, right? Isn’t that amazing? Read on.

Business partners submit fraudulent cash to entrepreneurs whose male businessmen refuse

Common Warning Signs of a Pay-to-Play Business Scam

One of the most common warning signs of a pay-to-play business scam is when someone promises high returns with low risk. The scammer might also guarantee access to exclusive leads or contacts, feature you in a prestigious publication, or provide mentoring that will allegedly help you increase your profits.

In the case of our example, we were to be featured in “Cyber Security Review”, a magazine purported to be read by the highest of the high: “Chief Security Officers, CISOs, Director of Security Awareness, Chief of Cybersecurity Strategy, VPs/SVPs- Security Awareness Training Products, Security Analysts, CEOs, Managers, and other Senior Technology decision-makers from various industry sectors”. Goodness, that’s a list!

Another key warning sign is if someone asks you to sign a non-disclosure agreement or pay large sums of money upfront. Paying hefty fees or signing legal documents means you are more likely to be scammed.

Our example email was only going to charge the paltry sum of $3000 for their service. Cheap at twice the price, right?

Finally, if someone is pressuring you to make a decision quickly or saying that the deal won’t be available for long, it’s a scam. Legitimate business professionals do not operate this way and they will respect your decision if you decide to walk away.

While this example scam did not apply time pressure, the poor grammar and spelling used in some areas of the email were an immediate warning sign that something was wrong. If you remember our article on the SCAM Framework, the C stands for “Consider”. Why would someone advertising to high-tech companies – for writing, no less! – use poor spelling and questionable grammar to make their pitch?

How to Recognize and Avoid Pay-to-Play Business Scams

Pay-to-play business scams are designed to scam victims out of their money, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and know how to protect yourself. Here, we’ll explain how to recognize and avoid pay-to-play business scams.

Always do your research. Don’t be too eager to jump in without doing the necessary due diligence first. Do a background check on the individuals or companies involved and make sure they are who they say they are. Research the opportunity thoroughly and read other people’s experiences with it, if possible.

In our case, since the publication in question did not provide their URL (suspicious in and of itself), we looked up “Cyber Security Review Magazine” using a basic search engine. It turns out that there is no such animal – or at least, not just one of them. Several results for “Cyber Security Review Magazine” came up, and they all looked a bit fishy. Certainly not reliable enough for us to drop $3000 on.

You should never pay for access to a business opportunity or provide personal information without fully understanding what you’re getting yourself into. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Consider the situation

Tips for Protecting Yourself From Pay-to Play Business Scams

Protecting yourself from these scams isn’t difficult, but it does require paying attention. Here are a few simple steps you can take.

First, familiarize yourself with the signs of a scam as discussed above so you can recognize the warning signs if you come across one.

Do your research before signing anything, and never agree to anything without fully understanding what’s involved.

Make sure any agreement or contract you sign is legitimate and fair, and be wary of companies that guarantee success with no risk.

Finally, if someone offers you a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity, don’t be so eager to jump in without doing your research first.

What to Do if You Suspect a Scam

If you suspect that you have been scammed or come across a scam, it’s important to act quickly and take steps to protect yourself. Here are some tips for what to do if you suspect a scam.

First, document everything that has happened so far. Make sure to save any emails or other communications related to the scam, as well as any contracts or agreements you have signed.

Report the scam to your local law enforcement agency and any relevant government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission. Additionally, it’s a good idea to file a complaint with any organizations related to the scam, such as the Better Business Bureau.

Finally, if you can, spread the word about the scam and warn others so they don’t fall victim to it.

In Conclusion: Stay Informed, Stay Safe

It’s important to be aware of pay-to-play business scams and how to recognize them in order to protect yourself. By familiarizing yourself with the warning signs, researching any opportunity before signing up for it, avoiding companies that guarantee success with no risk, and taking action if you suspect a scam, you can make sure your hard earned money is safe from fraudsters. Don’t let scammers take advantage of you; stay informed and always do your due diligence when considering new business opportunities.

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