Marketing by terror

I’ve mentioned Android webjacking before, but here’s another example. Things like this are not usually “viruses” on your handheld device, but rather malicious code embedded in a legitimate website by unscrupulous advertisers.

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First, this exploit makes your phone buzz like a hornet that’s just been pinched in a vise, and locks your browser. No going back. Second, vulgar sites? No, actually this popped up when I was trying to leave a comment at retailcomic.com. I trust the site not to hide exploits like this on purpose.

 

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The claims on these “warnings,” along with being written in questionable English, are absolute lies: “If the problem can not be resolved immediately , the viruses will spy your phone, and destroy your SIM card, delete all your contacts.”

Now I’m just following the trail to see who’s behind this.

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Looks like someone is hawking an app (surprise, surprise):

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A comment at the app’s site complained, and the developer responded; notice the salutation “Dear,” usually seen on Nigerian scam emails but certainly a red flag that the app developer is not a native English speaker.

 

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Despite the apology and denial of malicious intent, I would be very suspicious of apps that are advertised in this way.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Income by deception: they’re not even trying any more.

Have a look at a few screenshots from my Android a couple of days ago:

 

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Hilarious joke collection. OK, I’m always up for a new laugh or two. But beware: popup ads like this are rarely honest or ethical, and often sleazy and deceptive. Let’s see:

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Starting to smell a rat, but let’s just go down to the next level:

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Well, the joke’s on me – and anyone who clicks these links. This transcends the concept of clickbait, which usually offers some kind of content in order to get people to the pages where ads are displayed. Now they’re eliminating the middleman altogether.

And people wonder why fake news gets such traction.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

No, Virginia, “brain booster” pills don’t work.

I have inveighed many times against the deceptive nature of affiliate marketing. It’s getting worse all the time, and otherwise legitimate entities are promoting it by allowing anybody and their capybara to inject ads onto their websites. It’s all about the revenue.

Newser™ used to be one of my favorite news aggregator sites, but my enthusiam began waning when their site became jugged with deceptive advertising, and my patience finally snapped when they added code to create popup tabs and randomly switch me to unwanted articles.

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This one, which I had mentioned before, popped up again. It infuriates me, because people are going to believe this camel ejecta, and waste their money on worthless garbage. Instead of “BrainStorm Elite” or “IQ+,” it’s now called “Intelleral” – and it’s not much more than what they flufferously designate as WGCP (whole green coffee powder), meaning NoDoz™ would be just as effective because it’s nothing more than caffeine.

Take note:

  • Stephen Hawking does not say anything about Intelleral or anything else doubling your IQ.
  • The advertisement server is smart enough to know that I’m browsing from Maine, and it injects that state into the headline.
  • Anderson Cooper’s interview has nothing to do with any products.
  • I believe that Intelleral is worthless garbage, and its manufacturers are – in my humble opinion – criminal scum.

So let’s say you’re curious and google something like “intelleral scam.”

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Take note that almost every one of these results is the result of an affiliate marketer’s campaign. The red WOT circles are also a good indication that these websites are deceptive and potentially dangerous.

An example: the last link on the list purports to warn you about the side effects and cost of Intelleral. And it’s nothing more than a page promoting the product:

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How much more deceptive can you get than this? Why would you buy a product that’s so dishonestly promoted, even if it worked… which it doesn’t.

One customer wasn’t too happy… among countless:

This product is a scam
By [redacted], Canton, NC, Jan 6, 2017
I ordered Intelleral due to the wonderful advertisement and testimonies by several famous people. I have taken this for a couple of weeks with no noticeable positive effect.

I was checking my credit card this morning and noticed two different charges pending for the two trial items I ordered from the Intelleral website. I did not request future orders. I was billed $64.95 and then $69.95 (charges pending).I contacted my credit card company to dispute this.

Do not order from these people.

You notice her complaint about the extra charges? That’s standard operating procedure for these slimy bottom-feeders. Have a look at their “terms,” which you have to click through to read:

2.1 By placing your order you will be receiving a 14 day evaluation of for the price of $4.95! We stand by our satisfaction Guarantee and our friendly customer service. You will also be enrolling into our convenient auto ship program once your evaluation expires. You understand that you are subscribing to a monthly shipment program and you will be charged $89.99 per month starting 14 days from today and every 30 days thereafter unless cancelled. You also understand that you can cancel at any time, subject to the provisions of section 3, without further obligation by calling 888-298-0291, Monday – Friday between the hours of 9am-5pm MST. Your transaction will appear on your credit card statement as “”. You will recieve your package within 2-5 business days of each payment. Please allow 2-5 Business days for your initial Bottle.

There’s a lot more if you have the stomach to read it. You thought you were paying $4.95 for a trial, but you were actually obligating yourself to shell out $90 bucks a month for this snake oil, and good luck getting a refund from these weasels.

Best solution: TURN AROUND, RUN AWAY, DON’T LOOK BACK. Do not buy this or anything like it that sounds too good to be true, because it is.

An old scam, resurrected

I previously posted about the most deceptive ad I had ever encountered in an article entitled “Selling It.”

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Take away all the mummery, and the thrust of the ad was, “throw away your old rabbit ears and buy our pretty rabbit ears.”

When it comes to separating suckers from their money, old ideas die hard. I mean, why throw away such a good concept if it works, right?

Saw this in WalMart just the other day:

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Other than the fact that the old one was analog and this one is digital, it’s the same marketing pitch, with the same marketing weasel words. But the summum bonum of the product? “Works just like your old antenna, ONLY NOW with a sleek design.”

Well, that’s certainly sufficient incentive to throw away my old digital antenna and buy this one. Except for the fact that I haven’t watched broadcast TV for over 20 years, but that’s another story.

Save your money and don’t buy camel ejecta like this.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Coin Prices: Part II

In a recent article, I mentioned a set of coins offered by PCS Stamps and Coins, and showed how much of a markup these people were getting.

Since their ads keep popping up on my mobile phone, I thought I’d add just one more example of how putting lipstick on a pig can bamboozle the ill-informed.

Today’s offering: A complete date set of the Peace Dollar, in protective plastic capsules and a handsome cabinet. Price: $848.00

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Complete 10-coin set, with cabinet

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United States Peace Dollar

No question, the set is very pretty. But:

Per the advertisement, these coins are offered in “gently circulated condition.” This is essentially a meaningless statement for collectors; let’s look at the average dealer asking price for a similar set as presented by the Professional Coin Grading Service:

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Note that these are average dealer asking prices for PCGS-graded coins; buyers of this set have no guarantee that these coins have been graded by anyone.

The price for a set of coins in 40-grade (Extra Fine) is $442, and the odds that you’ll get a set of coins in this condition are vanishingly small. So you’re paying at least twice the price of these items for the bonus of a cheap cabinet from China and a few plastic capsules.

If you’re thinking this is a good investment, it’s not. You could assemble the same set for much, much less by visiting different coin stores online or in person, armed with the PCGS grading and pricing information.

Be careful out there, and don’t be taken in by the bells and whistles of slick advertising promotions.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Foistware (or: Unwanted Software While Installing)

I wrote a few years ago about stealth installs, but the practice continues; I thought I’d give another example of what to watch out for.

Today I updated a couple of modules of Free Studio from DVD Video Soft; notice I link to them because they provide a really useful suite of products that work well, for free. I get that they don’t do this as a labor of love – they need to monetize this somehow, and I suspect the foistware issue continues because it helps the bottom line. So be it – but the consumer should be aware of the rules of the game, because what you get is often not what you want or need.

During the install, you get this dialog box. It tells you exactly what you’re going to do to your computer, so nothing is really hidden there.

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If you just go ahead and click the “next” button, you’ll be installing bytefence, Chromium (an open-source version of Chrome that doesn’t really work that well in the Windows environment), and YahooEverywhere, which will be difficult to remove if you don’t know what you’re doing.  It’s not until you click the “Click here to customize the installation” link that you see exactly what’s going to happen, and get to uncheck the boxes.

Far too many people, when installing software, just go NextNextNextNext, without reading what the boxes say. After all, who really reads the EULAs or is telling the truth when they click the “I have read and agree” button? We’d spend half our lives plowing through byzantine legalese if we did, and I’m still not convinced any of these agreements would hold up in court.

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“Set Yahoo as my default search, homepage and new tab on all my compatible browsers.” Uh, no.

From where I sit this is just not an ethical business model, because it takes advantage of consumer unawareness. In my previous article I mentioned Oracle, who for the longest time tried to cram the “Ask” toolbar and search engine down people’s throats when they installed or updated Java. I don’t know if they are still doing that or not, but I always thought it was supremely douchey because Ask is a supremely intrusive and essentially worthless software package.

Just be careful. When you install software, read each menu and see what’s being installed/offered. Deselect things you don’t want, and you’ll avoid a host of problems down the road. Unless you want your browser to look like this:

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The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

The Trading Stamp Era

In a previous entry about things gone but not forgotten (by me and my generation, anyway,) I mentioned S&H green stamps.

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Trading stamps were incentives given out by grocery stores and gas stations in the same way as stores do with coupons, reward-cards, and other come-ons today. You’d collect the stamps, paste them in books, and then take your books to a redemption center somewhere and exchange them for consumer goods.

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Based on the amount of your purchase, the checker would dial up the amount you spent on a machine like the one above, and the thing would dispense stamps in 1, 10, and the coveted 50 variety. The last one was great because you could fill up an entire page in the book with just one lick.

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Depending on the area of the country you lived in, there were different varieties of stamps available. The ones I recall in addition to the S&H Green Stamps were:

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Gold strike stamps

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Page from a Gold Strike Stamp Catalog. This was not cheap slum; the premiums had significant value if you were willing to collect enough books.

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Blue Chip Stamps. If you’re curious about that “cash value one mill” (equivalent to 1/10 ¢) thing, have a gander at this article over at Mental Floss.

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Blue Chip Promotional Ad

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Plaid Stamps, particular to A&P.

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Pages from a Plaid Stamp catalog.

I remember helping my mother gather and lick and apply these things and looked forward to her regular trips to the grocery store. I can’t recall what, if anything, she ever redeemed her books for, but the memory of the collecting is very clear. While the craze faded shortly after, I’m glad I was able to live through this interesting bit of cultural history.

The Old Wolf has spoken.