Friday, April 23, 2010

iPad Scam – Bloggers Beware!!

I often get approached by companies to review their products or services on my blog, and on the rare occasion I have accepted their offer of payment in either monetary or product form (I say rarely, because although it was very flattering in my early blogging days, if I were to accept every request for review that I receive these days, then my blog would become nothing but an advertising hub and I’d be writing full-time – and doesn’t it just annoy you when you visit a website and it’s just completely cluttered and jammed with ads?)

Furthermore - really, how many people do you think make much money through ‘cheap’ reviews or the common advertising activities such as ‘Adsense’ or ‘pay per click-through’ programs (unless the site is getting millions of hits a month)?

Also, I’ve discovered that there are much better ways to monetize a blog (for example through targeted viral campaigns and partnership with reputable interactive agencies) – enough to provide some serious ‘play money’ for doing something that I enjoy.

As usual, I digress… the crux of this article is to warn the unsuspecting, new or maybe ‘naïve’ blogger, of the most recent scam that I’ve become aware of.

Just yesterday, I received an email from someone that I would consider quite trustworthy, and someone who has been quite a successful blogger. So it surprised me that he would fall for such a deviant online trick. Certainly, he would not have intentionally tried to involve me in the scam… the email was a result of the ‘believability’ of the deviousness.

In short, the email was offering me to become a part of a group of bloggers who are being engaged in a program to review the Apple iPad. The attractive part of the deal, is that the offering company claim that they are a marketing company that have been engaged by Apple for this activity (and looking at their very professional looking website, this type of partnership would appear to be their core business) and in return for the review and beta testing of the iPad (which would last one month), the reviewer would get to keep the device.

Now in my experience, if anything seems ‘too good to be true’, then it probably is. So in my usual skeptical manner, I immediately did some quick investigation. I am purposely not going to attach a hyperlink in my this article (because no doubt someone will click through and fall for the scam – regardless of the WARNING in the title above, and also I would suspect it would create some negativity within the Google search algorithms), but I can tell you that the company is, “Beta Testing Inc” – the click through was from a link titled “Reviewers Circle” – I reviewed the site, and like I said it was very professional looking – the give-away for the scam are the three steps to sign up for the reviewers deal – Step 1: Enter your information (name / email address); Step 2: Sign into your email – invitations to participate will be sent to everyone on your contacts list (what the??); and Step 3: Complete the Registration.

When I first visited the site yesterday, they were also asking for a contact phone number that needed verification before registration could be completed – apparently to ensure there were no duplicate registrations (sure thing…).

When I googled the company name, I found their website in the Top 10 returned URLs… ok, no problems so far... when I googled their company name with word ‘scam’ after it, as they say in Chinese, “wo de ma!!” – already the IT savvy websites had started publishing articles about a similar scam involving the iPad and reviews on Facebook and MySpace. FB has since pulled the fan pages down.

According to what I read, the scam provides for the victim’s information to potentially be used for a number of purposes, including but not limited to: identity theft; hacking of accounts; expensive premium SMS subscriptions that can only be cancelled by ‘opting out’ etc, etc.

So my advice to all you budding (and even experienced bloggers) – do not fall for this scam, or any others like it. Always be diligent when inputting your personal details into any website (especially login information, email addresses or cell phone numbers, personal addresses, etc). This particular scam is a very elaborate one and perhaps even difficult to identify at first – it’s not like the old ‘Nigerian banker’ emails that were going around – there are many computer savvy and creative website developers that can also be very conniving and involve themselves in criminal activities.


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