Mind Candy

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Don’t be so sure of what see – Online scams are everywhere

Posted by mandyf on February 23, 2012

When we think of a scam we tend to think of a Ponzi scheme or some sort of phishing expedition – not our friends pulling the wool over our eyes. I’m not talking about a friend pulling your leg a little too hard or just feeding you a flat out line of bull about the amazing night he had with a set of double jointed Ukrainian triplets that double as runway models when not fighting crime , I’m talking about them maybe not giving you the straight dope about why they are tweeting or posting certain things. The simple answer is money, and plenty of people have cashed in on it.

Nobody really believes Kim Kardashian, for instance, is so on love with product “XYZ that she tweets about it every other day. Most people are aware she is being duked out for it. In his book, “Scammed”, Christopher Elliot points out the same thing – as well as a number of other scams. As Elliot relates in several areas, there used to be a time when you knew what was advertising and what wasn’t. In the new digital age however where anyone can become a tool for advertisers, even your aunt Sally’s tweet about how much she loves shopping at “XYZ” could have actually been bought and paid for. She likely isn’t getting 5 figures for that like a Kardashian would, but a buck or two here and there is still a couple bucks and that is why companies love sponsored tweets and the like from common everyday people. You’d never think of aunt Sally as being someone that would get paid to tweet and that is why you accept that tweet about loving “XYZ” to be genuine.

It’s not just that though. How about videos – surely you can tell an ad from a genuine goofy video some kid shot. Think again. In “Scammed”, Elliot points out that when the stakes are high to the tune of some $24 billion spent on online advertising, you can never be too sure. That ad of a cute kid going nuts stomping on a bunch of plastic army men as if here Godzilla is cute. The camera is shaky, the sound is a little off and it looks like any other childhood moment recorded by a parent. Look closer though.

Let’s suppose you slowed it down and took a closer look. Did you catch the soda can on the table that is clearly a “Brand X”? It’s no big deal until you notice a few of them. You might think they just drink a lot of soda, but count how long one of those cans is clearly visible during the video. I bet it’s a lot. Look at the walls? Did you notice the picture on the calendar is for “Brand X” soda? The overwhelming odds are that wasn’t a cute moment that was luckily caught, but rather a staged commercial produced by a high powered firm to look like it.

It may not be a scam the way you think of it in literal terms, but it is pulling the wool over your eyes. You’re sharing the video everywhere laughing at the cute kid – all the while handling some firm’s distribution for them free of charge. many of us would say that’s just clever. I would, but not everyone feels that way. It’s just something to think about – consider the source and the motivation for what a person posts. Maybe they are genuinely recommending something – maybe they are being paid to.

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