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.

Nine more Crypto Emails

Today in the mail, another gush of spam emails, each one with a .zip attachment labelled “invoice” or “statement” or “employees” or some other innocuous title. Each one containing a .js (javascript) file which would download encryption software, corrupt my files, and demand a ransom. Please do not be victimized by these criminals.

From: Carole Middleton <MiddletonCarole95@bol.net.in>
Subject: [SPAM] Re: Chart of Accounts
hello info,
You may refer to the attached document for details.
Regards,
Norma Palmer

From: Beatrice Salinas <SalinasBeatrice75015@slotcarsdirect.co.uk> Subject: [SPAM] FW: vendors

Hi info
The attached spreadsheet contains bills. Please review
Regards,
Beatrice Salinas

From: Devon Garcia <GarciaDevon55@uid.uk.com>
Subject: [SPAM] Re:

Hi info,
As promised, the document you requested is attached\
Regards,
Devon Garcia

Subject: [SPAM] Emailing: Photo 05-11-2016, 98 43 44

Your message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:
Photo 05-11-2016, 98 43 44
Note: To protect against computer viruses, e-mail programs may prevent sending or receiving certain types of file attachments.  Check your e-mail security settings to determine how attachments are handled.

Note: How kind of them to warn me against viruses.

Subject: [SPAM] Emailing: Photo 05-12-2016, 64 94 68

Your message is ready to be sent with the following file or link attachments:
Photo 05-12-2016, 64 94 68
Note: To protect against computer viruses, e-mail programs may prevent ending or receiving certain types of file attachments.  Check your e-mail security settings to determine how attachments are handled.

From: Kareem Sweeney <SweeneyKareem2103@residenceferrucci.it>
Subject: [SPAM] Re:

hi info,
As promised, the document you requested is attached
Regards,
Kareem Sweeney

From: Kristine Brennan <BrennanKristine0377@lemmertzturismo.com.br>
Subject: [SPAM] build assemblies

hello info
Attached please find the build assemblies report for your review
Thank you.
Regards,
Kristine Brennan

From: Mable Ward <WardMable44090@cmsadv.com.br>
Subject: [SPAM] FW: invoices

Hi info
The attached spreadsheet contains employees. Please review
Regards,
Mable Ward

From: Milagros Wiley <WileyMilagros41@telefonica.de>
Subject: [SPAM] receive payments

hello info
Attached please find the receive payments report for your review
Thank you.
Regards,
Milagros Wiley

From: Norma Palmer <PalmerNorma3969@jpowerassembly.org>
Subject: [SPAM] Re: Chart of Accounts

hello info,
You may refer to the attached document for details.
Regards,
Norma Palmer

I post these only in case people out there are searching the web for similar messages.

Be clear: THESE MESSAGES CARRY ENCRYPTION VIRUSES. Do NOT open the attachments!

Be careful out there

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Please do not share from these 10 Websites or Facebook Pages

This is a condensation of an excellent article from DawnsBrain. I’ve summarized the ten here for easy consumption, but her complete article is worth a read.

DBRielly_LovePotionsAndSnakeOil

☛ TL;DR – these websites promote pseudoscientific woo¹, and are dangerous in that they lead people to shun and be afraid of science-based health and medicine. ☚

10) Alex Jones

Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.

9) The Food Babe

Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.

#8 Eat Clean. Train Mean. Live Green.

Ms. McDonald mixes some common-sense dietary advice with a shot of “detox” and disordered eating, GMO and fluoride fearmongering, and pondering about chemtrails. She even claims that honey is medicine. Proof that even registered dietitians can be wacko.

#7 Dr. Joseph Mercola

Dr. Mercola, by virtue of his credentials and large fanbase, is possibly one of the most dangerous people on Facebook. Because he generates fear around science-based medicine, he discourages people from seeking real help for illness. He also scares people away from vaccinations, fluoride, GMO food, pasteurized dairy, and dental fillings. But you know, buy his line of supplements and all will be well.

#6 Prevention Magazine

Everyone that promotes “natural cures” above all else seems to jump from one cure-all to another. WebMD specifically states that there is insufficient evidence for at least three items on their list.

#5 NaturalNews.com

NaturalNews.com is arguably the most balls-to-the-wall looniest page on Facebook. They have never met a conspiracy theory they don’t love.

#4 Collective Evolution

All the misinformation, all the time.

#3 MindBodyGreen

The “conversations about health” are decidedly in favor of “natural remedies” that are not supported by scientific research. People who waste their time mucking about with ineffective alternative treatments often die much sooner.

#2 Spirit Science

Most of their posts are harmless new-agey spiritual stuff and kookiness. But sometimes they veer into unsupportable natural remedies and outright pseudoscience.

#1 The Mind Unleashed

They’re a good example of slipping in a bit of bullshit here and there amongst the standard viral Facebook stuff. There’s a theme of immature hippy-style mistrust of any and every authority. What are you rebelling against? What have you got?

Bonus Post

Ernest Hemingway coined the term Crap Detector to refer to the little mechanism that ought to be working inside each person’s brain.

The most certain way to develop this ability to discern truth from baloney is education. In particular, an education in science will help protect you from the charlatans and cranks of the world.

I highly recommend starting with one of the many free online resources, such as Crash Course: Biology, Crash Course: Chemistry, and Crash Course: Anatomy and Physiology.

Bonus 2:

Dawn did not mention him, but I personally would add Mehmet Oz to the list. A sad case of a classically-trained physician who has sold his reputation for a mess of pottage, and in his quest to find natural remedies has devolved into a pitchman for the most ridiculous and worthless products known to man.

Disclaimer: Even with education in the hard sciences, it’s wise to remember that not everything is known that can be known. Aspirin is a direct outgrowth of historical use of willow bark to treat fevers. I have a strong conviction that there are literally countless chemical compounds out in nature that remain to be discovered that can have beneficial effects on human health and disease… but most of them have not been discovered yet.

Heath and wellness is soon to be, if it’s not already, a trillion-dollar industry – and everyone and their dog wants a slice of that pie. Trouble is, most of those dollars will be made selling bullcrap to the ignorant. There are very few exceptions.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Woo is a term used among skeptical writers to describe pseudoscientific explanations that have certain common characteristics.

The Incredible Onslaught of Scamming Telemarketers

robo-call

  • “Hi, this is Rachel from Credit Card Services!”
  • “Hello, Seniors! Because you have been referred by a friend, we have a Medical Alert System for you free of charge!”
  • “It is critical that we speak to the business owner today! Our records indicate that you have not claimed your Google+ Listing!”

Some of these scams have been around for a long time; back in 2012, the FTC settled with five defendants for running the “Ann from Credit Card Services” scam, but like the mythical Hydra, for every head you cut off, two more grow in its place. It’s infuriating; my phone has long been on the national DNC register, but that tool seems to have about as many teeth as the CAN-SPAM act, meaning virtually zero. The Medical Alert scam appears to have ramped up during the last month despite being on the FTC’s radar for over two years.

At this point there is very little that the average consumer can do directly to stop the flood. But there are things you can do to reduce your own frustration level, and some which, over time, may help the authorities to take action against these scammers.

  • Report unwanted phone calls to the FCC, especially if you are on the Do Not Call list.
  • Make a note about the number that called you at 800Notes.com so that others can be aware of which numbers are being used by scammers. Most of these spoof their Caller ID anyway, but it’s just one more piece of the puzzle that investigators can use.
  • Call or write your Congressperson. If they get enough people complaining about this, they’re more likely to lend their weight to an effort to eradicate the scum.
  • Add all scam/robocall/hangup numbers to your “reject list.” This will cut down on the number of calls you even are aware of.

In the meantime, remember what the FTC tells consumers:

If you get a call with a recorded sales message and you haven’t given the company your written permission to call, the call is illegal. Since the call itself is illegal, you can bet the offer is a scam

Be careful out there and watch over your vulnerable loved ones.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The fruits of ignorance: Spell Casters

Native doctors

Today’s email:

Good day everybody, I’m Flora from U.K. Today has being the most happiest day of my life after 6 months of sadness and sorrow without being with the one i love. I tried all my possible best to make sure i make my husband happy but it never seems to work out well, it was like I’m doing everything in vain but all thanks to Great Priest Essyewa for coming to change all my worries and sadness to Joy. i knew this great man when i read some wonderful reviews about Great Priest Essyewa on how he has helped a lots of people on their relationship problems, i was reading a magazine which then i saw great testimonies on how he has helped some many women to reunite their homes and husbands. so, i decided not to waste time and i contacted him via: greatpriestessyewa@gmail.com and he told me not to worry that he assures me that within 48 hours everything would be sorted out, i believed Priest Essyewa so much because i believe he can’t fail me and i sent him all my details. Truly Priest Essyewa never failed me, my husband who left me for good 6 months come back to me apologizing and asking for forgiveness. since then, My husband and i have been living contentedly since Great Priest Essyewa reunited us together with his love spells. Thank you so much Priest Essyewa for your powerful spells. expressions are not sufficient to say thank you. here is his email address greatpriestessyewa@gmail.com just in-case you have any below problems and i believed he will surely solve yours just the way he solved mine.

(1) If you want your ex back.
(2) you need a divorce in your relationship.
(3) You want to be promoted in your office.
(4) You want women & men to run after you.
(5) If you want a child.
(6) You want to be rich.
(7) You want your husband or wife to be yours forever.
(8) If you need financial stance.
(9) If you are barren and want to have a child.

This is not the first spell-caster email I’ve received, I seem to recall another one hawking this particular individual’s “services.”

I was curious as to how prevalent this sort of thing is, given the kind of rubbish my mother received when she was still alive.

Mathias

The depth and fearsomeness of the ignorance is staggering; the two following examples have to do with “curing” HIV, found at a page called “My Home Remedies:”

I want to share my testimony about the man called Great Priest Essyewa who helped me heal my HIV sickness, i know so many of you will be skeptical about this my story but you have every right to be skeptical because i was doubting when i first read a testimony of a man who said this man has also help him, until i get in touch with this man, this man is a real God sent from above to heal his people from this deadly disease. i am a living witness and i am heal from this sickness,so i would like so many of you that is HIV positive to be cure by this great man. This is the main reason why i am sharing this testimony so that you will contact him and get his herbal medicine, you do not need to worry or skeptical until you contact him and get what you are looking for from him, this man is a genuine man i have meant him facially and i have seen his hand work.please anyone looking for the help of this great man should contact him via: greatpriestessyewa@gmail.com truly here is a really solution home to all problem. please do what he ask you to do just trust me all your pains will be gone, i have gone for check up in the hospital my pains are all gone. I AM FREE. THANK greatpriestessyewa@gmail.com health is power.

Here’s another one:

Hello my name is Joyce Adams i am from Togo i have a wonderful testimony to share to you all , how a great spell cast help me and my friend to cure our hiv .back them we where doing prostitution but we change but we did not no we where have hiv when i was about to get married me and my husband visited a doctor for blood group the doctor discover that i was a hiv positive i was so diverstated we try to look for a solution .One day i went out for a shorping i meet an old friend of my he introduced me to a very powerful spellcaster i did not believed him but he told me every thing we be fine i believed him .he told me to go within 7days every thing we be fine she told me to pay a little amount of money to buy things that we be used .and immediately 7 days i was hiv nagative i am happy married and have a child.thanks to Madamlovethhomeofcure@outlook.com if you need her help email her Madamlovethhomeofcure@outlook.com

A spell-caster’s website.

Sadly, the amount of bulldust that runs rampant in our world is beyond a quick cure, and people die as a result of chasing after these shamans. As a race of people, far too many individuals still live in darkness, and where darkness reigns, the philosophies of men rush in to fill the void – most of it driven in the name of profit.

It will take generations to raise the population of our planet out of ignorance and misery; education is the only answer. We as a planet must begin to think more globally – billions of people continue to live in intolerable conditions, and their human value is being largely ignored and wasted.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Global Travel Network in Salt Lake City: Avoid these ripsters like the plague.

global 2

Around December 20th, I entered a drawing for a $2,500 mall shopping spree. Of course, I didn’t win – but what I got was a call from representatives at “Rewards Fulfillment,” letting me know “we had been selected” to receive a “luxury vacation.”

Well, I’ve written about this kind of scam before. This time, it was Global Travel Network. They called me, told me “I had been selected based on my demographic profile,” and all I had to do was go up to Salt Lake for a presentation and to collect my prize.

The musicians have changed, but the music remains the same.

I told them I was not interested, and why. Thank you for calling. Goodbye.

Were we done? Not by a long shot. These people or their contractors called me back five times more, each one giving the same spiel, and each one being given the same information from me: 1) I’m not interested. 2) This is the [n]th time I’ve been called. 3) please remove me from your database.

Today I got a call from a lady who acknowledged that I had told previous agents that I wasn’t interested. She launched into a sales pitch, saying she was from quality control and her job was to make sure that her agents were doing their job right. I explained to her Rule No. 1 of sales: “Never try to sell to someone who isn’t going to buy.” Yet she rattled on for 15 minutes, trying to get me to come in for a presentation that I wasn’t interested in (I was just waiting for a car to be repaired and had nothing else to do at the moment.) They must get paid based on how many people they sign up.

Talk about relentless and disrespectful. This outtfit is worse than a rogue debt collector, and there seems to be no way to get them to stop calling. Each call, for what it’s worth, has come from a different phone number.

Here are a couple of horror stories about Global Travel Network: This one and this one.

An investigative report from 9News in Denver give you a good look at how the scam works – apparently Global Travel Network is behind this as well, but in Denver they were representing themselves as Global Connections, and hijacking that company’s BBB rating. Nice and honest, huh? Global Travel Network is not accredited with the BBB; have a look at what the Better Business Bureau has to say about them as of 1/12/2015:

This company has a pattern of complaints alleging misrepresentation during initial contact with the representative as consumers allege being offered several different incentives for attending a presentation such as gas cards, cruises, round-trip airfare, free vacations, etc. with promise that nothing will be required out of pocket and there are no black-out dates or restrictions. Once consumers receive said incentives or attempt to book their vacation they find that what was initially promised to them is not what has been received. There are additional fees required or difficulty booking the vacation.

While the business has responded to the BBB’s concerns and stated all terms and conditions of the offers are disclosed and that additional training has been set in place to ensure that this no longer occurs, BBB has continued to receive complaints with the same underlying issue.

This is an excellent report, and worth watching and reading both. They give you an idea of how deep this deceptive pool of slime goes.

After having the police called on them, here’s the response 9News got from Global Travel Network:

Global

Would you do business with this company? Don’t.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Why you *never* click embedded links in your email

Scam

See that link to “Capital One” there in the body of the email? It will actually take you to an entirely different website that just looks like it’s from Capital One.

Scam2

Congratulations, you’ve just handed the key to your bank account and your email account to thieves, probably in Eastern Europe or Africa.

One would think people would understand this by now, but there are a lot of folks who use computers who really don’t get below the level of Lolcats or Pinterest, and they need to be protected. Phishing scams are still rampant because phishing scams are still profitable. Far too many people are duped by websites like the one above, and happily hand over their information to criminals either online or via telephone.

2012-02-24-ScamArtist

If you are just learning about computers, this is Rule Number One about emails:

NEVER CLICK ON EMBEDDED LINKS IN AN EMAIL – ALWAYS TYPE THE WEB ADDRESS DIRECTLY INTO YOUR URL BAR.

I can’t emphasize that enough.

Not only are you at risk of losing your money or your identity, but you could seriously damage your computer files, for example, if you carelessly open an attachment which contains evil software like Cryptolocker.

If you are computer-savvy and have loved ones who are not, or who might be vulnerable to this sort of thing, please educate them and watch over them.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.