GoDaddy goes after affiliate marketers

I have often posted about snake oil vendors on the internet and the operation of scummy affiliate marketers that flood our inboxes and search results with come-ons for worthless products that hook vulnerable people into giving up credit card numbers and signing up for endless refills of overpriced trash.

After some brilliant internet sleuthing, GoDaddy just killed 15,000 spammy domains that hawk these products. The article is worth the read if you’re interested in protecting your loved ones from bogus marketing and scams.

It certainly won’t be the end of the problem, but it’s a good thing and I give them props for the effort.

Even if torpedoing 15,000 domains won’t put much of a dent in one of the most pervasive scourges of the web—as Miller-Osborn fully acknowledges—it at least shines a light on the problem. You can’t clear all the rats out of the sewer, but you can at least remind them that you’re there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Snake Oil from the 1890s

I saw this today over at Teresa’s Frog Applause strip, and thought I’d share it just because I found it fascinating.

Phytolacca Decandra, if you were not sure, is pokeweed – a toxic plant with no known legitimate medical uses and a host of applications in folk medicine.

It’s poisonous. That’s all I need to know about it. Unlike the fugu (puffer fish of Japan) which is supposedly delicious if prepared properly and fatal if not, this stuff really has no compelling reason to eat it unless one were starving, much like the pioneers in Utah who survived on sego lily bulbs after their arrival in the Great Salt Lake basin. It did keep them alive, but I’ve never been tempted to try them.

As I mentioned in earlier articles, thanks to cable television and the internet, there seems to be a new “hot” thing every year or so, hawked by the likes of Dr. Oz and a horde of affiliate marketers – green coffee extract, garcinia cambogia, exogenous ketones, chitosan, bromelain, coral calcium, the list is endless.

Take a pass on any remedy that claims to allow you to lose weight effortlessly. Just don’t waste your money. None of them work. It’s a sad fact that most of us love to eat, that the most comforting foods are high-density carbohydrates (often cooked in delicious, satiating fat), and that pounds are frightfully easy to put on and frightfully hard to take off. The only way to release weight consistently is to live with a caloric deficit, even a slight one. Eat a healthier, more balanced diet, burn more than you eat (exercise helps in a lot of different ways, but pushaways are the best dinner-table exercise you can do), and you will drop pounds.

Stay away from the snake oil.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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.

Facebook clickbait – it must work.

On my mobile device, since FB Purity doesn’t work on handhelds, I have to scroll through a lot of real garbage – often every other post is “sponsored.”

Here’s a sample of things I’ve seen just in the last few days.

Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-39-47Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-40-25Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-41-05Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-41-27Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-43-51Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-45-00Screenshot_2017-10-17-12-47-44Screenshot_2017-10-17-17-00-29Screenshot_2017-10-18-09-54-44Screenshot_2017-10-18-09-59-10Screenshot_2017-10-21-03-57-48

Obviously clickbait works, or companies wouldn’t do it – but it’s so annoying to see all these hackneyed “you won’t belive” and “this will shock you” attention-grabbers. The other part, of course, is that most of these articles are relatively valueless anyway, either [bad] opinion pieces or poorly-compiled lists.

It makes browsing Facebook on a mobile a less-than-fulfilling experience. I wish FB Purity were available for my Android, it really cleans things up on the desktop version.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Marketing by Deception Redux

I’ve written about deceptive marketing practices before, notably here and here. Finding people who are willing to ascribe to ethical business practices is a challenge in this world, and in marketing and advertising the phenomenon is well-nigh absent.

Here’s an example of an egregious bait-and-switch ad I received in the mail last week (click images to enlarge)

Deception Front

Deception Back

Now, before we go any further, some will already be shouting “But it’s a car dealership! What do you expect?” Yes, well, more about that later, but let’s look at the flyer in question.

The front clearly states,

“If the number you scratched off matches to any of the prize numbers, you have definitely won! Proceed immediately to Tucker Chevrolet to confirm and collect your prize.”

You’ll see that the scratched-off number matches the $250.00 prize in my case. I’m not a fool – I had no real illusions that I had won anything of value, but I went down the rabbit hole to see how the game is played.

And, as it turns out – as in so many instances – the large print giveth, and the small print taketh away. Look on the back, and you’ll see this:

If the number printed next to your name in the address panel of this mailer matches exactly to the winning number on the prize board at the sales event, Setp. 27 – Oct. 2, 2017, then you win the prize that matches your number. The number you scratched off does not give you a choice, but an opportunity to win a prize. (Odds of winning grand prize of $25,000 cash 1:499,999. Odds of winning 60″ HDTV (value $499) 1:499,999. Odds of winning $25,000 cash 1:499,999. Odds of winning $1000 cash 1:499, 999. Odds of winning $250 Walmart card 1:499,999. Odds of winning five dollar want Walmart card 499,995:499,999.

In plain English, you’re walking out of there with a five-buck Walmart card, unless you’re the kind of person that regularly wins the lottery. I’d love to see a reddit AMA from someone who actually scored the grand prize in one of these “giveaways.”

The bold text in the disclaimer above seems to directly contradict the blaring statement on the front of the mailer, but it should be noticed that “you have definitely won” does not specify what you have won. The mind, however, fills in the gaps and brings you down to the dealership, which is the whole point.

The salesman who showed me the board, patronizingly explained to me that I was not a large prize winner, and handed me my $5.00 Walmart card “so you don’t walk away with nothing” indicated that he’d like a chance to earn my business whenever I wanted to trade in my Prius.

Odds of earning my business at a dealership that resorts to such deceptive advertising: 0:7,571,086,556 (number changes continually).

For all the good that car dealerships do – sponsoring Little League teams, funding scholarships for disadvantaged children, donating vehicles to first responders, paying their taxes and flying big flags, people generally have an unfavorable opinion of auto dealers, both used and new. And that reputation is deserved, even though some are better than others. There are just too many rotten apples in the barrel for the entire industry to clean up its own act.

Car sales is a business where the goal is to make the sale, get the commission, get the customer to agree to as many worthless add-ons as possible, buy the gold service contract, use dealer financing at the highest possible rate (if you manage to score 0%, you know they’re making money on unadvertised holdbacks or something else that you can’t see), and if the customer is really stupid, go for the lease option.

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There are too many hungry salesmen and sales managers out there, some of whom would make Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross look like Miss Julie from Romper Room. Ethics isn’t even in their vocabulary. And based on the kind of advertising campaign we’re discussing, it doesn’t really seem to have a presence in corporate boardrooms either.

“But it’s just advertising, nobody really expects the truth!”

Well, yes. Yes, they do. I went into this little exercise with my eyes wide open, so coming away with a $5.00 Walmart gift card is actually more than I had expected. But I know there are many people who truly thought they had won something significant, and left feeling used and cheated – or, if they were really unlucky, with a new car.

TANSTAAFL: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s good to remember, especially in the world of advertising. Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Don’t waste your money on this garbage.

Every time I see a new scam for weight loss, I shed a tear for the people who are taken in. But when I see major retailers pushing snake oil, the tears dry up and are replaced with fiery heat under my collar.

Saw this at Walmart the other day – absolutely nothing new here, they’ve been doing this for a long time, but this is the latest example.

Scam 3

There’s no excuse for this. It’s taking advantage of people who are trying to release weight, selling them something that is just as valuable as the gravel in their driveways.

There is no magic bullet.

The large print giveth, but the small print taketh away: “Kelli used C. canephora robusta with diet and exercise and has been remunerated. Average weight loss with C. canephora robusta was 10.95 lbs in 60 days with a low-calorie diet and 3.7 lbs in 8 weeks with a calorie-reduced diet and moderate exercise.”

Scam 0

Do you happen to detect a trend here? As I mentioned in an earlier post, reducing caloric intake and increasing caloric consumption (i.e. exercise) will cause you to release weight even if you:

  • Take HydroxyCut
  • take homeopathic drops
  • sing an aria from “Aida”
  • stand on your head and spit nickels, or
  • eat a spoonful of Portland cement with each meal.

If  you weren’t sure, C. canephora robusta is also known as “robusta coffee,” a cousin to arabica coffee, and is often used in espresso because of its stronger flavor and increased bitterness.

Coffee. Trying to recycle the “green coffee extract” scam. Let’s look at all the ingredients:

Scam1

You can see that what you’re getting is basically caffeine and some other random herbs. And for weight release, it’s junk. It doesn’t work. And they know it.

To release weight, eat less and/or exercise more, preferably both. If you set up a consistent caloric deficit, you’ll gradually release weight in a healthy way (unless you really have a medical condition preventing it, in which case see your physician.) Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s hard; as I saw posted by a Facebook friend just today:

18402645_1341988729221478_8904592300982774124_n.png

And that’s another conversation. But don’t waste your money at Walmart or elsewhere on this worthless garbage.

The Old Wolf has spoken.