This is a big topic in Auckland right now as our City Council Elections are hijacked by a supposed candidate promoting his porn empire. It’s hard to separate the “no harm done” side of the industry from the exploitive and damaging side and to understand, in the long run, where to draw the line.
Aside from the obvious industry fronts of websites, movies, magazines and gadgets there are the rogues that exploit the demand for the product. I guess anytime you have something popular there are going to be people who trick and connive.
Take Captcha – it’s a great way to bot proof your website and unless you have something that people really, really want it’s going to work. What can, and does happen, though is that there are decoy sites that offer free downloads of photos and movies if you complete the captcha. The image, however, is sourced from another site and if you enter it right a bot will use your answer to access the other site. Your reward is the free download.
As a consequence the spammers are able to get any number of emails, forum logins and eBay accounts just because Mr Drool wanted that free download.
A second victim is Lead Generation. In the early days of the net companies paid per impression for advertising and then auto-surf sites started up. So the companies changed to pay per click and the script kiddies wrote auto clickers or just asked visitors to “visit our sponsors”. The advertisers got hacked off at losing money and looked at ways to cost per action… and so lead generation was spawned.
In the past few days I have seen two scams being played out.
#1: Movie downloads
To access an adult movie download for free the user has to complete a lead form – which they will do happily, I guess. Is Mr Drool really going to say “But I don’t need a new garage door, I just want to watch Enthusiastic Amateurs!”. I don’t think so, he’ll give his info (fake phone number, surely) and start the download. The unwitting advertiser gets the lead not realising that it’s not a real lead and then spends more time and resources trying to follow it up.
#2: Lasik (although not involving the Adult Industry)
In this example a USA-nationwide Lasik company was paying per lead – with a verified phone number. So the Scammer was paying people US$5 to be one of those leads – and I guess when they rang you just had to say that you’d decided on a different company or your eyes had mysteriously improved.
I’m glad I’m not an advertiser
I don’t currently advertise through any of the methods above but I’m aggrieved, nonetheless for the companies who spend their ad budget and get ripped off. How long until we find that advertisers walk away from the net, or make it so hard to meet their requirements that the smaller sites miss out on ad revenue altogether. I think it’s great that even small sites can earn a bit of revenue to pay their way – and it’s great the programs like Adsense exist.
So, if you see someone cheating the system, suss out who the advertiser is and ask them to review the lead generating site… some will be grateful that you’ve taken the time.