May 3rd, 2015

A Few Remarks on Internet Scams

As my regular readers know, the "A Few Remarks" = long, rambling and subject to link-fu updates.

I ran across an article on BI that set off my scam-detector. BI is a go-to for me to waste time online, and there are all kinds of problems with BI, but this was the first to make me go, wow, BI just plugged a scam artist. I did a little digging around, and found this _excellent_ piece from The Verge back in 2012.

Frank Kern is basically back in business. *sigh*

A couple of points.

(1) Internet Marketing is video heavy, and prefers players that don't let you see how long a video is going to be or let you fast forward through it.

"Besides conferences and email lists, the Internet Marketing underground is held together by a weird fascination with video. It's as if you're not really an Internet Marketer until you've inundated the web with hundreds of hours of shouting, gesticulating, boasting, and mugging for the camera — preferably delivered through a third-party Flash player with the transport bar disabled, meaning viewers can't fast-forward through the boring parts or even see how much more of the thing there is to sit through.

I’ve heard a few explanations for this phenomenon: it’s easier to control your message through video; video is more subtle than print; claims made on video don't leave a paper trail for the FTC; web video isn't archived; the claim that, after Google, YouTube is the second largest driver of traffic. These are all possible, but vanity seems to play a large part as well."

I don't like to talk about this, because some asshole will argue with me, but my policy on video is roughly like my policy on fiction with more than 300 pages circa 1989: I'm just going to _assume_ you needed editing. I'm not going to give you the chance to waste my time. I now, obvs, read a lot of fiction that runs longer than 300 pages per installment. But I also don't read the same way I used to (and still do, when reading standalone pieces of a more reasonable length). In any event, my anti-video bias has apparently protected me from a lot of nonsense.

More about Internet Marketing scams and video can be found in Act One of This American Life 26 Dec 2014, transcript here;

(2) They are sales people who aren't there to sell something; they just want you to give them money. That explains the high price point and low value for product. Selling your name onto boiler rooms who then -really- scam you is a side business for these people. They engage in cartel behavior to limit exposure.

(3) The weird stuff I found when searching on "Firstname Lastname" (in quotes) scam (not in quotes) was extensive. I did not find The Verge expose anywhere near the top (nor did I find last December's WakeUpNow episode of This American Life, of which Act One is about Internet Marketing scams). I did find a bunch of echo chamber stuff (like, a Tumblr) saying, you might be wondering if Firstname Lastname is for real. He is a god among men! You should buy his stuff. Here is a link. (I have paraphrased and my grammar, spelling and punctuation is much better.) Apparently, this is "social proof", to get people who are a little suspicious of claims to conclude that This Stuff Is For Real. I am frightened that this works. Reporting it as webspam to google was the right choice, altho probably not effective.

(4) There isn't a ton of enforcement on this stuff, yet, according to The Verge piece of 2012. Agencies doesn't really understand it and it's pretty complicated to prosecute. But if you are thinking of participating in Internet Marketing or any of its associated schemes as a way to get through a difficult phase between jobs, think twice and then a third time. The likelihood that you will come out ahead financially is probably slightly worse than selling more traditional schemes like Amway or Herbalife. And you just never can tell when law enforcement is going to get its act together and come after someone, who, if you _are_ really successful making money at this, might well be you.