Posts tagged ‘fraud’


The Red Points saga: this might finally be resolved

24.08.2022

Nine days since the first DMCA notice was lobbed against us, the saga has finally reached the powers-that-be at Hearst SL.

And once it did, things began happening quickly. I’ve heard from their head of legal, and what he’s outlined to me seems like a good resolution to the whole saga.

He tells me some changes have been made to Red Points Solution SL’s processes, which I think is a good outcome if it saves others the grief of what I’ve had to deal with—especially while contending with publishing deadlines and the day-to-day running of a company. It was a bigger distraction than I would have liked to admit.

In a gesture of goodwill, I offered to set to private the two stories we published on the Lucire website over the whole affair.

I suggested to him that I update everyone here, since you might have thought that the disappearance of the two articles was down to Red Points!

I shudder to think what would have happened if I didn’t have contact email addresses for senior VPs at Hearst Communications, Inc. or former Lucire team members who wound up working for Hearst. Or how someone without a legal background specializing in IP would have felt. Not everyone would be in this position.

It’s still concerning to me that Google continues to state that results have been removed in site searches for us, and for the topics those articles covered. Basically, they’re saying we’re thieves, and I don’t think that’s fair dinkum. As Google works at a glacial pace, I assume the notices will eventually disappear once they receive Red Points’ withdrawals.

I’ve also received an apology from Red Points’ CMO. The gentlemanly thing to do is to accept it. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Google to stop saying we stole stuff.

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Google finally responds to our first counter-notification

21.08.2022

I suppose it’s positive that Google has finally responded to our first counter-notification against Hearst SL’s and Red Points Solution SL’s fraudulent DMCA notice. Hey, Google, why don’t you begin by asking your complainants for proof before presuming an innocent party guilty? Then used your milliards of dollars and high-tech to see that our work is original? Would have saved us a lot of time.

You’ll soon see the other two counter-notices I filed on the first issue alone while I waited and waited and waited for you to respond. Failing to do that first step has cost us all time. And you knew of this problem back in the second half of the 2010s, if not before.

This system is really broken.
 

 

Oh well, another two weeks of libel by Google on the first issue alone. Everyone: use Mojeek.

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Companies worth millions engaging in fraud, and Google is their weapon

20.08.2022

Yesterday morning, we received a second notice with two more URLs—one with wholly our own content—from Hearst SL and its contractor, Red Points Solution SL.

I’ve done a bit more digging and it’s usually fraudsters who engage in this behaviour. You can read more about them in Techdirt, Mashable and Search Engine Land.

With their millions of dollars, I guess these two Spanish companies are now in the same game of fraud.

And Google believes them, even though Mashable wrote about these techniques in 2018.

If it’s that easy to manipulate Google, then it’s finished as a credible search engine.

Meanwhile, Red Points Solution and Hearst SL open themselves up to charges of perjury. Not too smart there.

Three firms with millions, even milliards, of dollars who don’t like the independents, and one firm now falsely claiming ownership of work from us, French Sole, BFA.com, and L’Oréal. With L’Oréal, why would you involve your own advertiser? Does Hearst SL want to slit its own wrists as a company?

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Rand Fishkin’s ‘Something is Rotten in Online Advertising’

21.07.2022

I’ve been meaning to link Rand Fishkin’s ‘Something is Rotten in Online Advertising’ for some time, so here it is.

He writes, in his second and third paragraphs (links in original):

Where to even begin… Should we start with the upcoming loss of third-party cookies? The bizarre Google & Facebook duopoly teamup against anti-trust action? The rise of online ads as a money laundering & terrorist-funding tactic? Or maybe we should talk about brands’ ever-shrinking ability to attribute ad clicks. Hundreds of millions in provable ad fraudDisturbing privacy issues that remain unaffected by GDPR or other government efforts.

No wonder a lot of savvy people believe adtech and the entire online advertising industry are due for a subprime-mortgage-style reckoning.

It’s a well written piece, covering ad fraud, the incentivization of ad fraud, and real-world examples, including this:

The world’s biggest con continues. The con artists don’t need to do three-card Monte any more. They can just get into ad tech. Rand’s piece is well worth a read.

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Pirate sites, content mills and splogs exist because of Google

25.06.2022

In chatting to Alexandra Wolfe on Mastodon about the previous post, I had to draw a sombre conclusion. If it weren’t for Google, there’d be no incentive to do content mills or splogs.

I replied: ‘People really are that stupid, and itʼs all thanks to Google. Google doesn’t care about ad fraud, and anyone can be a Google publisher. So scammers set up fake sites, they have a script trawling Google News for stories, and they have another script that rewrites the stories, replacing words with synonyms. Google then pays them [for the ads they have on their sites]. Every now and then they get someone like me who tries to look after our crew.’

Google is the biggest ad tech operator out there. And over the years, I’ve seen them include splogs in Google News, which once was reserved only for legitimate news websites. And when we were hacked in 2013, the injected code looked to me like Google Adsense code. You could just see this develop in the 2000s with Blogger, and it’s only worsened.

Have a read of this piece, which quotes extensively from Bob Hoffman, and tell me that Google doesn’t know this is happening.

Google is part of the problem but as long as they keep getting rich off it, what motive do they have to change?

Speaking of ad fraud, Bob Hoffman’s last couple of newsletters mentions the Association of National Advertisers, who reported that ad fraud would cost advertisers $120 milliard this year. Conveniently enough for the industry, the ANA’s newsletter has since disappeared.
 
I still haven’t got into programmatic or header bidding or all the new buzzwords in online advertising, because I don’t understand them. And as it’s so murky, and there’s already so much fraud out there, why join in? Better buying simple ads directly with websites the old-fashioned way, since (again from Hoffman, in the link above):

Buying directly from quality publishers increases the productivity of display advertising by at least seven times and perhaps as much as 27 times compared to buying through a programmatic exchange.

Everyone wins.

And:

Ad tech drives money to the worst online publishers. Ad tech’s value proposition is this: we will find you the highest quality eyeballs at the cheapest possible locations. Ad tech can do this because your web browser and mobile platform are vulnerable to a problem called ‘data leakage’ where your activity on a trusted site is revealed to other companies … If you’re a quality online publisher, ad tech is stealing money from you by following your valuable audience to the crappiest website they can be found on, and serving them ads there instead of on your site.

In other words, Google et al have an incentive to give ads to sploggers, who are getting rich off the backs of legitimate, quality publishers. And as to the intermediaries, I give you Bob Hoffman again, here.

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The erosion of standards

10.01.2022

For homeowners and buyers, there’s a great guide from Moisture Detection Co. Ltd. called What You Absolutely Must Know About Owning a Plaster-Clad Home, subtitled The Origin of New Zealand’s Leaky Building Crisis and Must-Know Information for Owners to Make Their Homes Weathertight, and Regain Lost Value.
   My intent isn’t to repeat someone’s copyrighted information in full, but there are some highlights in there that show how the erosion of standards has got us where we are today. It’s frightening because the decline in standards has been continual over decades, and the authorities don’t seem to know what they are doing—with perhaps the exception of the bidding of major corporations who want to sell cheap crap.
   The document begins with the 1950s, when all was well, and houses rarely rotted. Houses had to have treated timber, be ventilated, and have flashings.
   They note:

By the time 1998 rolled around, NZ Standards, the Building Industry Association, and BRANZ had systematically downgraded the ‘Belts and Braces’ and were allowing houses to be built with untreated framing, with no ventilation, and poorly designed or non-existent flashings and weatherproofing.
   Councils accepted these changes at ‘face value’ without historical review. They issued building consents, inspected the houses, and gave Code of Compliance Certificates. Owners believed they had compliant, well-constructed buildings, but they did not.

   Shockingly, by 1992, the treatment level for framing timber could be with ‘permethrins (the same ingredient as fly spray)’, while one method used methanol as a solvent and increased decay. By 1998 ‘Untreated Kiln Dried Timber (UTKD) was allowed for framing’. The standards improved slightly by 2005 but it’s still well off what was accepted in 1952 and 1972.
   We recently checked out a 2009 build using plaster cladding and researching the methods of construction, including the types with cavities, we are far from convinced the problems are gone.
   Talking to some building inspectors, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on how shaky things still look.
   Since we moved to Tawa and made some home improvements, we realize a lot of people in the trade do not know what they are talking about, or try to sell you on a product totally unsuited to your needs. This post is not the place for a discussion on that topic, but one day I might deal with it.
   However, I am surprised that so many of the tried-and-trusted rules continue to be ignored.
   Sometimes people like me go on about “the good old days” not because we don rose-coloured glasses, but we take from them the stuff that worked.
   It’s not unlike what Bob Hoffman included in his newsletter today.
   As I’ve also no desire to take the most interesting part—a diagram showing that for every dollar spent on programmatic online advertising, a buyer only gets 3¢ of value ‘of real display ads viewed by real human people’—I ask you to click through.
   Again, it’s about basic principles. If so many people in the online advertising space are fudging their figures—and there’s plenty of evidence about that—then why should we spend money with them? To learn that you get 3¢ of value for every dollar spent, surely that’s a big wake-up call?
   It won’t be, which is why Facebook and Google will still make a ton of money off people this year.
   The connected theme: rich buggers conning everyday people and too few having the bollocks to deal with them, including officials who are meant to be working for us.

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Facebook knows it doesn’t have as many users as it claims

22.10.2021

In the ‘I told you so’ department, from the Murdoch Press this week:

An internal Facebook presentation this spring called the phenomenon of single users with multiple accounts “very prevalent” among new accounts. The finding came after an examination of roughly 5,000 recent sign-ups on the service indicated that at least 32% and as many as 56% were opened by existing users. The company’s system for detecting such accounts also tends to undercount them, according to the presentation, which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

   They know, and frankly it’s been this case for years.
   Bot nets are the biggest culprit but they don’t even get on to that. But when you get news that milliards of bots have been removed, you know there’s a serious problem.
   And of course even regular people have multiple accounts, because no one can predict when Facebook is going to kill their primary one. I was locked out for 69 hours in 2014 because of a bug, then Facebook decided to force malware on to me in 2016 in the guise of a malware ‘scanner’. Wouldn’t you have a second back-door account?
   The Wall Street Journal also notes that this affects advertisers’ decisions about audience targeting. Considering that there’s no independent verification of these metrics, why would you even bother with that site?
   The newspaper continues: ‘Facebook said in its most recent quarterly securities filings that it estimates 11% of its monthly active users world-wide—which totaled 2.9 [American] billion for its flagship platform in the second quarter—are duplicate accounts, with developing markets accounting for a higher proportion of them than developed ones.’ Notice how that total number is rising. Now ask yourself: do you know anyone who’s recently joined?
   Exactly.
   The proportion is much higher, in my opinion. I’ve long said their total sits at around 750 million. Maybe it’s at 1 milliard now. It’s a great way for dictators to manipulate their countries.
   If Facebook’s own sample of 5,000 says as many as 56 per cent were opened by existing users, it would not surprise me one bit if this phenomenon occurred through the entire user base. As early as 2014 I said Facebook had a bot ‘epidemic’ and I had the user account URLs from just one night to back me up.
   And here’s the biggest joke of all:

Unlike Twitter Inc. and other platforms without such rules, the company requires users to have just one master account under a real name.

   I can find you 5,000 with fake names right now. It’s bloody easy.
   Of course I’ve reported some of them, but it’s not my job to sit there and report all of them—particularly if Facebook consistently gives the ones I report a pass.
   I’m glad the WSJ is keeping the story going because for a while the Frances Haugen whistleblowing had disappeared from the headlines. On that note, here are several links to that, from Aljazeera English, The Independent, and Vox.

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April 2021 gallery

05.04.2021

Here are April 2021’s images. I append to this gallery through the month.

 
Sources
Tania Dawson promotes Somèrfield Hair Care, sourced from Instagram.
   Austrian model Katharina Mazepa for Dreamstate Muse magazine, shared on her Instagram. This was an image that was removed from a PG blog at NewTumbl last year—apparently this was considered ‘nudity’ and rated M.
   AMC promotes the Gremlin, the US’s first subcompact car. More on the Gremlin at Autocade; 1970 advertisement via Twitter.
   Volkswagen 1302S photographed in June 2018, one of the images I’ve submitted to Unsplash for downloading. I did have the owner’s permission to shoot his car.
   St Gerard’s Church and Monastery atop Mt Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand, photographed by me and also submitted to Unsplash.
   Facebook group bots: someone else was so used to seeing bot activity on Facebook, they made a meme about it.
   Holden Commodore Evoke Ute, an example of ‘base model brilliance’. More at Autocade.
   Morris Marina ad via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Innocenti Mini 90 and 120 via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   The aerial shot of Rongotai in 1943 is from the Air New Zealand collection. This is a scan of a photostat Dad made for me in the 1980s. The piece of paper was getting a bit old so I thought it was time to make it digital-only. The ‘1929’ marks the site of the original Rongotai Aerodrome, I believe.
   Instafraud, from Bob Hoffman’s The Ad Contrarian newsletter.
   Alisia Ludwig, from her Instagram, photographer unnamed.
   Fiat X1/9 brochure, from the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   More on the Peugeot 508 (R23) at Autocade.
   Model Skyler Simpson at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa, photographer unknown, via Instagram.

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Why con?

07.12.2020


 
During the course of the 2010s, I came across two con artists. One thing that united them was they were men. But they could not have been more different: one was rather elaborate and was the subject of a Panorama documentary; the other was a rank amateur and, at least in the situation we were in, never fooled us.
   I won’t name them as I’ve no wish to add to their notoriety, but here’s the real kicker: both had the means to do well legitimately if they each followed through honestly.
   The first one was clever enough to rope in people from very different parts, essentially setting up a publishing operation. But it was a swindle, and people were left in debt and jobless.
   However, if it had been legit, it would have actually done quite well, and if the con artist’s aim was money, then he would have made some, over a long period, which would have sustained him and his lifestyle.
   The second was not clever but came to a business partner of mine with a proposal to become a shareholder. We heard him out, he proposed an amount, and we drafted a cast-iron contract that could see him get a return on his investment, and protect the original principal. The money never came, of course, and we weren’t going to alter the share register without it. He might have hoped that we would.
   Again, he would have got something from it. Maybe not as good a return as property but better than the bank.
   The first is now serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure after things caught up with him and he was extradited to where he had executed an earlier con; the second, after having had his face in the Sunday Star–Times, was last heard from in Australia where he conned his own relatives. He’s wanted by the police here.
   I don’t know where the gratification is here. And rationally, leaving honesty and morals aside (as they do), wouldn’t it be better making money regularly than swindling for a quick fix that nets you less? Is it down to laziness, making them less desirous to follow through?
   On the first case, I did have the occasion to speak to one lawyer pursuing him. I asked him about my case, since my financial loss was relatively small compared to the others taken in (namely a FedEx bill that a friend of mine helped me get a decent discount on because of her job). Where’s the con? I was told that it might not have been apparent as the con artist’s MO was to draw different strands, sometimes having them result in something, and sometimes not.
   Whatever the technique, it failed him anyway.
   And what a waste of all that energy to create something that not only looked legit (as in the TV series Hustle) but could have functioned legitimately with so many good people involved.
   That did make the 2010s rather better than the 2000s when the shady characters included a pædophile (who, to my knowledge, is also doing time), a sociopath, a forger, and a US fashion label that conned a big shipment’s payment out of us. I doubt I’d be famous enough to warrant a biography but they would make interesting stories!

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Are you a scam artist? Facebook loves you, and protects you

04.04.2020


The Royal New Zealand Ballet generously put its Hansel & Gretel performance from November 2019 online for free this weekend, choosing Facebook as its medium. That, naturally, attracts scam artists, putting in false links in order to charge credit cards. Many Kiwis were duped. The RNZB reported many, and so have I. All six of the ones I reported have been given a pass: in other words, scams are permitted on Facebook.
   Note that I did not report these people for selling drugs or guns, but ‘other’. Simply marking a comment on Facebook as ‘inappropriate’ does nothing: you are given only the option to hide or block the writer.
   This is entirely consistent with pretty much everything I have said about Facebook over the years.
   1. It’s not easy to report fake accounts, and when you do, Facebook keeps many of them up.
   2. Facebook behaves like scam artists anyway.
   3. Facebook enjoys fake accounts and uses them. (In fact, Facebook claims to have deleted 5,400 million fake accounts from January to November 2019—so just how many are there? I’m going to repeat what I have said many other times: Facebook’s claims of its user base cannot be believed.)
   And now, we can say: Facebook encourages scams by leaving them up and doing nothing.
   Remember, Facebook lies, so don’t bother with its terms and conditions, as they are meaningless.
   So why are people still on this site?

PS.: This fake page has been up for days, and its posts, promoting a phishing link, apparently do not violate Facebook’s standards. Duly reported, but what really is the point since Facebook seems to love these?

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