Monday, September 13, 2010

Paybox: Is It the Opportunity or the Scam of a Lifetime?

Paybox is a would-be PayPal and AlertPay competitor that is causing quite a stir at the moment. The online payment processor business is a tough one to break into due to PayPal's dominance, but I think there is enough room for another big player due to PayPal's penchant for freezing funds and suspending accounts. Competition is always the consumer's best protection. Still, at this point, it's not easy for a new processor to emerge and attract business. Paybox has a tough road ahead of it, without question...but it just might be bold enough to challenge a giant. Don't believe me? Well, wait till you hear how Paybox is attracting new users!

Paybox is offering a very sweet offer to members who join it early (these are called EarlyBird members). New users get a staggering $50 bonus for joining. This is very high for the online earning world, but it actually isn't unprecedented in the world of finance: banks, for instance, often offer bonus promotions to encourage people to open new accounts with them. However, Paybox is also paying its early birds daily bonuses for as long as they keep their account active. There's something wonderful about logging into your account and seeing a new $10 or $20 bonus added on to your account -- it's very good for one's psychological health! In return for all this, Paybox is not asking for much. You must login often (bonuses stop accruing after two days without a login and your account can be canned if you go a week without logging in), and you must answer at least one short survey related to online shopping, payment processors, or usage of social media per week. At this stage, early bird members are filling two important roles for PayBox: they are participating in market research to help design the new payment processor and they are bringing in new members, increasing the buzz surrounding the site. Since PayBox offers $5 per referral, people have ample reason to refer others!

So, is all this too good to be true? The way I look at it online money is never truly yours till it it is in your hand. It feels wonderful to login to Paybox and see all the money sitting in your account, but there's nothing you can do with that cash until the site launches. Technically, the money in your account is in Paybox's own virtual currency. Until it becomes convertible with US dollars and other real world currencies, your balances are just numbers on a screen. The site has laid out a roadmap explaining the basic plan for the site's development. Online and debit card shopping and person-to-person transactions may be available as soon as next year, but withdrawing funds isn't going to be an available feature until the very end of 2011 or beginning of 2012. Since developing a payment processor is not a trivial operation, I expect the roadmap will have to be revised from time to time so it may take even longer before anyone can withdraw their money. There's even a risk of the site not launching at all!

With all that said, I do think it's worth joining Paybox at this point. The site is not asking for much in the way of personal information (you won't have to provide any financial info whatsoever). It is asking you to login often and take some time to answer short surveys -- admittedly, if the site goes nowhere this will mean you've wasted your time. I think the potential opportunity of being in early on something that could be huge is worth that risk, but you should definitely go in with your eyes wide open. At present, there isn't a whole lot of information on the site about the company. We don't really know if they're trustworthy or not. At present, the worst risk is losing your time, but it's possible they'll ask for more information down the road -- it'd be rather tempting to share private info in order to withdraw the thousands of dollars sitting in your account later! So feel free to join the won't get many opportunities to help shape a new payment processor...but remain careful, cautious, and patient. This is for people willing to take chances, not for those who are only interested in sure things.

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