Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cooperating with the thieves

Ziggyny sent me a good, though perhaps overly long, article on get rich quick online scams.  I had always wondered how exactly those people who give seminars and sell books on making money with no expertise made their money - after all, the books aren't free to make and you can't see all that many of them.  It turns out that people who are moderately famous as 'internet gurus' or 'financial trainers' can make a ton of money just handing names and addresses of people who bought from them to hard sell con men.  You buy a book for $40 and promptly your name, phone number and address gets sold to every scumbag in the world who will contact you to try to get you to max out your credit card to make an 'investment'.  The real money isn't in the initial scam, which is worthless but not especially harmful, but rather in generating leads for the cons that will cost you thousands.

It saddens me to see just how prevalent these scams are.  The constant spam of 'try this one weird trick to lose 5 pounds of belly fat a week' garbage appears on all kinds of sites along side 'get ripped fast', 'random student makes $400 per day posting links on the internet', and 'this lady discovered the secret to getting rid of wrinkles, doctors HATE her'.  It isn't just on piddly little blogs like this one or even on small sites trying to make pocket change off of ad revenue but rather big business on Facebook, major news sites and other sites on a scale that would make you think they could filter out the obvious trash.  These sorts of sites have a real income stream and should in theory be able to figure out that they are helping criminals cheat desperate or naive people but they don't seem to be concerned.  Not that I particularly count Facebook as being on team good of course; they are perfectly happy to sell personal information for profit so it makes sense for them to help crooks do the same.

This is actually one of the reasons that I won't consider putting ads on my blog.  For one the income level would be laughable at best and for two I would feel at least partly responsible for what appeared on my page.  I know that all kinds of unethical garbage would be hawked from the sidebars of Brightcape in order to net me my 25 cents a month if I opted in so I haven't any interest.  The fact that these shady advertisers continue to be able to afford to pay for internet ads suggests that they are very successful and that means any company that works with them is straight up helping their readers get scammed.  If I see this sort of thing on any page where I think I can actually get information or results from complaining I will, and I encourage you to do the same.  Not that Mark Zuckerberg is going to stop letting thieves prospect on Facebook because I ask nicely but there are plenty of groups out there who probably just don't know what these terrible ads are actually about.  I assume most people just figure these companies are selling worthless junk that doesn't especially work (which isn't great but I can't expect people to stop buying things that won't improve their lives!) rather than setting up high impact scams for the people who can least afford to be scammed.

Prosecuting these people is extremely difficult because they are located all over the world and constantly shift companies, offices and names.  This isn't something the authorities can clamp down on effectively.  The only thing we can do is be informed and take small steps like complaining to sites that run these ads to try to choke out the jackasses out there who run these nefarious schemes.

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