The “Blog Follower” Bots are Still Busy

Yesterday I posted an article about affiliate marketing and the underhanded, despicable lies they use in their come-on websites to hook gullible people into buying worthless products.

Surprisingly, this post attracted a flurry of new followers:

  • Online Health Offers
  • Net Millionaire Dudes
  • Online Arts Marketing
  • Digital Tools For You
  • Motivated to Lose Weight
  • Marketing Trends Secrets
  • Digital Marketing Blog Updates
  • Set Up Multiple Income Streams
  • Create Your Own Lifestyle Online Business
  • Three “empty” blogs
  • Marketer’s Handbook
  • Lose Fat in 21 Days
  • … and three empty blogs, placeholders for who knows what.

Clearly the keywords that triggered this inrush were “Marketing” and “Weight Loss.” Now, I’d like to think that all of these “fine people” were interested in what I have to say, but every single one of these was clearly out to promote their own product/scheme/system/scam, take your choice.

For what it’s worth, all of these were deleted this morning, just on general principles, but I have one very persistent follower, a cryptocurrency hawker, who came back five times before he finally gave up.

I can only assume that they think the more blogs they follow, the greater the likelihood that others will follow them automatically. In the case of WordPress, every time someone follows my blog, I get an email like this:

[Blogger] just started following you at http://playingintheworldgame.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.

You might want to go see what they’re up to! Perhaps you will like their blog as much as they liked yours!

The fact that WordPress tacitly enables this behavior ¹ is a bit disappointing, but in a perfect world where there were no spammers, it would not be a bad thing. I wouldn’t mind at all if like-minded individuals followed my blog or liked my posts, and I would be more inclined to go see what they had to say about relevant topics. Sadly, the vast majority of my current 1,578 followers never interact with my posts, so I can only assume they are – if not outright fakes – simply promoting their own schemes.

Fortunately, I’m not writing this blog for the purpose of making money, so I really don’t lose any sleep over how many people follow me; a lot of my posts are a form of public service announcement, placed out there so that people who are investigating potential scams can be warned and save their money. If people find me, and occasionally they do, then I’m satisfied.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ The referenced article is 7 years old, but interestingly still entirely relevant. WordPress is a good platform, but they obviously have to monetize, and also have to live in a world where less-than-reputable people will do whatever it takes to increase their own exposure. It’s an ongoing conundrum.

Affiliate Marketing – How many lies can they cram in?

I’ve written before about affiliate marketing, and what a plague it is on the internet. I just had a tab pop up on my browser – despite two ad-blockers being active – and I thought I’d share an image or two.

Health experts recommend losing between 1-2 pounds a week for healthy weight release. This claim amounts to close to 1 lb per day. Ain’t gonna happen, unless you’re eating 500 calories per day and burning 3,500. In addition, this claim is not backed by Fox News (as disreputable as they may be in other areas), the NY Times, Today, Oprah, Style Watch, or Redbook.

This is not going to happen in 22 days. Look, children, this is what we call “a lie.”

Limited time only: Lie
Only 4 Bottles Still Available: Lie
40% discount: Negated at the purchase page.
Offer ends Today: Lie

Countdown timer at the bottom of the page: Another Lie.

Let’s look at the purchase page:

This page claims to send you free bottles: Lie
Only 241 promotions left: Lie
Endorsements: Lie
Lose weight without exercising: Lie

So if you want that free product and provide your information (which, by the way, will be sold to every marketer with two coppers to rub together), you get this:

Oh look, you’re being charged $59.95. That’s not free, nor is it the 40% discount promised on a previous page. And if you don’t notice that the 6-bottle option is checked, the charge on your credit card is going to be horrendous.

But wait, there’s more!

Buried deep on the purchase page in light gray print is the link to “terms and conditions,” which very few people will bother to read. If they do, they’ll find a wall of text, which includes these hidden gems (there’s a lot more of it)

Terms
SCOPE & APPLICATION
1.1 You expressly agree and accept the Conditions set forth herein unconditionally as a binding contract (“the Agreement”) enforceable by law… (How well this load of BS would stand up in court is an open question)

PRODUCT AND BILLING
2.1 All product purchases made from this website are required to be paid in full. For more information about our products, please visit http://www.ketopurediet.com.
2.1.1. The prices for the products are as follows: $199.99 or $28.57 each for the 7 bottle package;$149.95 or $29.99 each for the 5 bottle package; $99.99 or $33.33 each for the 3 bottle package and $69.99 each for the 1 bottle package, plus $7.95 shipping and handling. Shipping and handling is non-refundable.
2.2 You authorize us to initiate a one-time charge to your credit card as indicated upon your purchase. (So, not free at all)

This next one is a real treasure:

16.7 I also acknowledge that I understand that by placing my order of Keto Pure Diet, I am automatically enrolled in the Keto Pure Diet health community program. I further acknowledge that I understand that my membership in Keto Pure Diet is included in my product purchase, that my complementary membership will remain active for as long as I remain an active custom of Keto Pure Diet, and that once I am no longer an active customer of Keto Pure Diet the membership dues shall, at my option, become my responsibility. I hereby grant authorization for the monthly membership dues to be charged to the credit card or debit card used to complete the purchase of Keto Pure Diet. I further acknowledge, agree to, and accept the Keto Pure Diet Privacy Policy, the Keto Pure Diet Website Use Terms and Conditions, the Keto Pure Diet Terms and Conditions, and the Keto Pure Diet Health Coin Terms and Conditions. I acknowledge that I understand that my Keto Pure Diet my Keto Pure Diet membership can be canceled at anytime by calling 1-888-628-6284, by emailing support@ketopurediet.com. Your Keto Pure Diet membership entitles you and your household dependents to consultation fee free calls with licensed doctors 24-hours per day, 365-days per year, as well as access to thousands of dentists with typical savings of 50% off regular bills, vision care savings, and prescription savings at most pharmacies in the US. To learn more value to the included Keto Pure Diet program, go to http://www.ketopurediet.com, and look for emails explaining the programs and services included in the membership.

Notice that if you stop ordering this product, you have just given permission for monthly dues to some worthless program to be charged to your credit card, and nothing is ever said about how much those monthly dues are until you’ve bitten the hook.

There’s a lot more legal noise in those terms and conditions, which mostly assure you that the company has all rights and that you have very few.

But what about the product itself? Is it any good? will it work? Wow, it’s so easy:

The ketogenic diet has been around for a long time. There is a massive body of information out there about it, some positive and some negative. While the marketeers would have you believe that exogenous ketones (i.e. the stuff that comes from outside your body) can put you into a state of ketosis in minutes, that’s highly debatable. So if you want to release weight with a ketogenic diet, follow step 2 above (but be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any program of this nature.) Step 1 can be safely replaced with:

  • Singing opera 10 minutes a day
  • Painting with Bob Ross
  • Learning to speak Turkish
  • Taking homeopathic weight loss drops
  • Not taking homeopathic weight loss drops
  • Standing on your head and spitting nickels
  • Anything
  • Nothing

… and you’ll get exactly the same results, whatever those are.

The Internet is awash with pages like this, because most affiliate marketers will say absolutely anything to get you to buy the product, for which sale they get a commission. And most affiliate marketers have the ethics of an angry honey badger.

Don’t be taken in by “offers” like this from sleazy, irresponsible salespeople. Stay away from any product that claims to help you lose weight fast.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The scammers are getting desperate

A friend of mine in Finland just got one of these, it falls into the same category as the sextortion scam about which I have already written: desperate bad guys blasting out millions of emails to the entire world, hoping to catch the handful of people who *do* visit adult sites, have unsecured webcams, a guilty conscience, and very little education.

In this case, they’re hoping to snare the fearful and gullible segment of the world’s populace. It astonishes me that people could be so foolish as to fall for these kinds of scams, but if it didn’t work at some level, the bad guys wouldn’t do it.

But the takeaway here is the same as always: This is a scam, there’s no truth to it, and you should never send money to criminals. Please keep your loved ones, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, educated and protected.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Gently, Gently Go.

For the longest time, this little plaque has hung by my door, much in the same way as a mezuzah graces the home of the Jewish faithful.

Mahn Mahn Hong

For a number of reasons, it is among my most treasured possessions, those things that have transient value during our sojourn on this pale blue dot, and which often end up in a thrift store or the landfill when they are passed to family who have no connection to them.

The back side looks like this:

This came to me from the effects of my father, who – despite the fact that it was a gift celebrating a marriage that would end 9 years later – obviously treasured it and the sentiment included.

I have already written of Ladson Butler, a man of keen intellect and the heart of a Compassionate Samurai, whom I regret not having known in life. This was a present from him to my parents on the occasion of their wedding.

The hanzi (慢慢行) on the front read “mahn mahn hong” in Cantonese, or “Màn man xíng” in Mandarin. Butler’s translation, “gently, gently go” is accurate – 慢 is “slowly,” and 行 means “go” or “travel.” Other translations have been rendered as “take it easy” or “take care.” The sentiment extended to a visitor who is leaving your home is the same, regardless of how you read it, and brings to mind the gentleness of the well-known “Irish blessing:”

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat
Go raibh an ghaoth go brách ag do chúl
Go lonraí an ghrian go te ar d’aghaidh
Go dtite an bháisteach go mín ar do pháirceanna
Agus go mbuailimid le chéile arís,
Go gcoinní Dia i mbos A láimhe thú.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Decades ago, Chase Manhattan ran an investment campaign featuring the “nest egg” as the primary hook:

Charles Addams, the famous cartoonist whose work appeared so frequently in the New Yorker, had a different take on this:

Despite intense effort, it’s still true – you can’t take it with you. Elbert Hubbard, an author and humanist of previous generations, once expressed the same sentiment more poignantly:

“The dead carry in their clenched hands only that which they have given away.”

So this little jewel of mine will remain behind when the bus comes for me, and whether or not someone treasures it after I am gone remains to be seen – I can only hope. But for me it has had immense value.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Malaprops and Malaphors

From Wikipedia:

malapropism (also called a malaprop or Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, sometimes humorous utterance. An example is the statement by baseball player Yogi Berra, “Texas has a lot of electrical votes”, rather than “electoral votes”… Humorous malapropisms are the type that attract the most attention and commentary, but bland malapropisms are common in speech and writing.

The expression was named after the character “Mrs. Malaprop” in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, “The Rivals.” Via linguistic back-formation,
the blending of idioms or clichés is called a malaphor.

These showed up somewhere on Facebook today – I think it was a screen cap of a twitter feed followed by a slug of suggestions from commenters. I found them delightful, and thought I would digest them for my readers here.

You can take one man’s trash to another man’s treasure but you can’t make it drink.
We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.
It’s not rocket surgery.
Not the sharpest egg in the attic.
… until the cows freeze over.
… until the last banshee is hung.
You’ve opened this can of worms, now lie in it.
America was a tinder box with a hair trigger just waiting for the other foot to drop
It’s like icing on the gravy.
“They’re too many cooks in the broth”.
Even a blind squirrel is right twice a day.
Not the sharpest knife in the crayon box
An ounce of safe is worth a pound of sorry.
We’ll drive off that bridge when we get to it.
We’ll jump off that bridge when we get to it.
You’re making me want to drink like a fish out of water
“We’ll burn that bridge when we jump off it”
I am bound and determined not to use any more cliches.
We’ll cross that bridge when it hatches.
That’s where the butter meets the bridge!
Does the Pope 🤬 in the woods?
I don’t need a compass to tell me which way the wind shines.” (Mr. Furious, from the movie Mystery Men.)
Never look a gift horse in the peas and carrots
It’s 6 one way, a dozen another.
Well, that gets the monkey off my face.
Even a blind pig can find the sharpest whip in the drawer twice a day.
Sticks and stones will make hell freeze over.
…like stink on rice
A bird in the hand has no bite.

And my all-time favorite, from Pinocchio’s Jiminy Cricket: You’ve buttered your bread… now sleep in it!

The Old Wolf has spoken

The “computer services” refund scam

A new sort of scam call has been infesting my phone in the last week or so. The number calling is 405-493-8251.

If you answer, you hear a recorded voice with a heavy female India accent telling you that “our company is closing and you are due a refund for computer services. Please press 1 to speak to an executive.” If you call back, the ringtone changes to an international-sounding one, and you are put in touch with someone in an Indian boiler room who asks you how much you paid for computer support last year.

Following the scam down the rabbit hole, I told the individual that I had paid $495.00. I was told, “I will refund you that amount right away.” I was then given step-by-step instructions to download and run either Supremo or TeamViewer, which would give them complete access to my computer.

It goes without saying, never do this! If you allow criminals to have total access to your computer, they would steal information or upload malware or ransomware to your machine. Any legitimate organization would not need remote access to issue a refund for something.

These drones are targeting anyone gullible or uninformed, but specifically people who were scammed by a previous con for fake computer assistance.

Be careful out there. Protect your elderly or vulnerable loved ones, and make sure they understand that things like this are the worst kind of scam.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Auto Repair: Don’t believe everything they tell you

It pays to shop around, and to do your research. There are a lot good, honest repair shops out there, and probably even a few dealerships – but it always pays to take what you’re told by a mechanic with a grain of salt until you’ve done your homework.

Here are a few examples taken from personal experience.

AAMCO Transmissions, California – 1987

Hopping on the freeway in San Diego after a lovely vacation to Disneyland and Sea World with our little family of 5 in our Buick Skylark, whZZZzzzz, the transmission goes out. On the strength of a robust advertising campaign, we had our car towed to a local “Double A – beep beep! – M C O” dealer, where we were told that the entire transmission needed to be replaced: $2400.00, please. In 1987, that was not chump change by any means. Oh, and since they had already pulled the transmission, they wanted $750.00 to put it back in if we didn’t like their estimate.

Results of research: After a bit of digging in the local Yellow Pages – alas, the Internet didn’t exist back then – we found Interstate Transmissions who came and towed our car, plus the transmission and appurtenant bits and pieces in a box – and put us back on the road for $1,200 with a lifetime warranty as well. A couple of years later the transmission failed again, and an equivalent shop in Utah honored the warranty, repairing the transmission at no cost. I also learned why AAMCO stands for “All Automatics Must Come Out,” and never gave them the time of day again. Savings: $1,200 or $2,400, depending on how you look at it.

The following examples are all based on my 2007 Prius, which has been a good and faithful workhorse but which is now coming to the end of her economically viable life. At 240,000 miles, I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth. Good Molly.¹

Big O Tires, Utah – around 2015

Took the car in for a snow-tire changeover. Technician takes me over to the car and does “Grampa’s bounce test” on the back bumper. “Struts are shot, you should replace them. The parts aren’t cheap, it will be about $1,200.00 for each side.”

The price alone would have been enough to make me go do some research, even if my “BS-Meter” hadn’t already redlined.

Results of research: Average 2019 prices for strut replacement on both sides runs about $700.00, including alignment. I never had the work done. At 235,000 miles in 2019, the suspension is still just fine. According to a good article at MarketWatch, “At some service places, staffers (service writers, techs, even managers) are paid partly on commission,” so that could explain the stratospheric and unnecessary quote. In the interest of fairness, on other occasions that I went there I got quick work at a fair price. Savings: $2,400.00

Toyota dealership, Maine – 2018

My hybrid battery finally gave up the ghost after 11 years. Toyota quoted me $3500.00 for a new hybrid battery.

Results of Research: Most local shops wouldn’t touch it. Found a rebuilt battery for around $900.00 at Hometown Hybrids in Texas, free shipping both ways (returning the core) and some great YouTube videos showing step-by-step on replacing the battery. Took me about 4 hours, in and out. Runs like new. Savings: $2,500.00

VIP Tires and Service, Maine, 2018

I developed an exhaust leak and thought my manifold gasket had gone bad. Technician at VIP told me I had a bad manifold gasket and a crack in the exhaust system near the heat shield. “Need to replace the whole muffler, we can do both jobs for $649.00.”

Results of research: Muffler was just fine, thank you, and there was no crack in the pipe. Savings: $649.00

Meineke, Maine, 2018

Meineke replaced the manifold gasket for me without charging me for parts because I had had it done last year there as well. That was good. Replacing the gasket didn’t solve the problem, though, and I was still getting a lot of noise and exhaust from up front. After some more analysis, technician says “Here’s where we start,” and shows me an estimate to replace my catalytic converter for $810.82.

Results of Research:  Just out of curiosity, I checked with the dealership. I had been throwing a P0420 code (“catalytic converter operating below threshold”)² for a long time:

At this point, I figured that it was probably time to have it replaced, especially if I was considering selling the car. Toyota dealership quoted me around $2,600 for the job. Found a direct-fit converter online for $104.00, and a local mechanic installed it for me for $176.00. Savings: $2,320 or $530, depending.

Toyota Dealership, Maine, 2019

My rear wiper motor gave up the ghost; the local Toyota dealership at first declined to quote me a price for repair, saying – as they always do – “You’ll need to bring it in for a diagnostic.” Now, there’s a certain level at which this makes sense; you can’t really diagnose problems over the phone, especially when granny has a problem and the solution might be one of a dozen things. But in this case I knew what I wanted – a price to replace the motor. So they quoted me around $500.00, with the caveat that this would just be for the motor replacement ($146.00 for the part, $250.00 for labor), but if the problem was in the wiring or the switch, it could be a lot more, which I understand. Kinda.

Results of Research: Found a motor at a junkyard for $30.00. Watched a YouTube video showing how to replace it. Took me half an hour – most of that time was spent looking for tools in various places in the house. So Toyota wanted to charge me two hours of labor for what would have been a 15-minute job. Savings: $470.00


The takeaway from these experiences is always get a second opinion, and if you don’t like that one, get a third. Research parts and labor costs online, do what you can by yourself, and keep poking away at the issue for as much time as you have until you’re satisfied you’re getting an honest solution.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

————————————

¹ Although, for the sake of reddit karma, I was really hoping I could get her to 280085.

² Some free advertising for the FIXD OBD-II Active Car Health Monitor: This little plug-in device monitors your car’s health continually and transmits information to an app on your phone. You can clear any codes with the tap of a button, and keep track of what may actually be wrong in your engine or exhaust system, saving you a lot of money for diagnostic charges (although a lot of auto parts stores will check your codes for free as well.) Best $60.00 I ever spent.