BEWARE: Scam Artists Impersonating Bloggers To Get Free Products

[ 6 ] May 14, 2010 |
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A couple of days ago, a fellow blogger, Emily from Busy Mom, informed us that she had been the victim of a scam. A random person, we’ll call her Mary, found a way to score free “review” products without the need of a blog, any hard work on her part or an actual posted review, for that matter. Mary pitched a high end baby company, said that she wrote for Busy Mom and would like to test specific products to be featured on this successful review blog. The Baby Company agreed and sent her two of the high end products she requested. This was back in December, 2009. Baby Company then sent Mary a surprise review product in March of this year.

Of course, Baby Company was also expecting reviews, posts and links on Emily’s blog in exchange for the products. Quid Pro Quo. That’s how it works in the blogging world. But unbeknownst to Baby Company, those reviews were never going to happen. They had been scammed. And Emily’s reputation as an honest review blogger had been put on the line without her knowledge.

The PR rep for Baby Company, finally contacted Emily through her blog because she had not been able to get a hold of Mary using the email address they had previously corresponded with. Of course Emily was shocked when she finally realized what had transpired. Then she got angry. The PR rep provided Emily with the full name and address of the person pretending to be a representative of Busy Mom. Emily then let us know about the situation via the MomDot forum, and we, wanting to help our friend, went to work attempting to verify if this was a real person or if she used a fake name.

She turned out to be real. And real dumb.

Her phone number was found via the white pages and Emily called her. The woman actually admitted to being part of the scam, but put the full blame on a family friend. We’ll call her Annie. Annie was contacted by Mary. Annie emailed Emily and said that she had found out how to do this via a survey site and a pamphlet entitled “How To Get Free Products”.

Uh, huh. You read that right. The criminal said she got a “How To” pamphlet and thought it was OK to use the ruse because it was a “published” pamphlet {The “pamphlet” has yet to be produced}.

Can we say Free Range Stupid loud enough for this one?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

The PR rep was contacted with this new information, their company legal team was informed and invoices are being sent out to both the con artists, with the threat of legal action if the bills are not paid in full.

Good luck on that check ever getting in the mail.

We have some pretty savvy members over at the MomDot forum. Through good old fashioned detective work, we were able to find more than just an address and phone number for these scammers. We found FaceBook and MySpace pages, deeds, birth announcements and county court records documenting family members’ criminal convictions, as well as a couple of Annie’s pending court cases for shoplifting at Wal-Mart. This was not their first time around the block.

Nor do I expect it to be their last.

Unfortunately, Emily chose not to press charges against these two geniuses and is instead letting Baby Company’s legal team handle it. That is her choice and I respect that. However, if it were me, I would have reported them to the FBI for internet fraud, impersonation, slander and defamation. I would have also pressed charges against them with their local law enforcement. I would not let anything like this slide. EVER.

“Annie” also announced that she has opened her own blog and is actively pitching companies for review products. Uh…

beware-of-the-cute-duckling-scam

I have been the victim of a real life stalker. It’s one of the main reasons that I do not have my real name on the internet or a public Linked-In profile. I have also been the victim of identity theft {These two things are not related}. And EIGHT years later, I am still trying to untangle my identity, credit and taxes from the effects of this thief. It is not fun. And it causes a lot of heartache, time and trouble for the victim.

One of the main problems with this kind of crime is that it is such a new area that law enforcement does not truly know how to deal with it. The victims are made to feel as if they are crazy and the authorities really do nothing to help us out. I know this because I have been there. In some ways I am still there. It happened to me and instead of the police finding the suspect, arresting them, taking them to trial and giving me closure and resolution, it was left to me to find the criminal and prove my own innocence. My reputation, credit worthiness and bank account have all been sullied because of the activities of an immoral con artist.

No one has ever been, or ever will be, brought to justice for the crimes committed against me. Hopefully, the two scammers that defrauded Baby Company and Busy Mom will.

The repercussions of this scam, I believe, will be far reaching, for bloggers as well as the companies that use us to promote their products. If this turns out to be as wide spread as I believe it is, it could kill the review blogger completely. Companies will tighten up their requirements for reviews and only the big bloggers will be able to have any kind of review or sponsored giveaway. I can just see the only contests in the blogosphere being run on Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. This will be bad. I do not see any good result coming from this revelation.

And in some ways, it has already started. There is this nasty little blog out there who’s sole purpose seems to be to create drama where there is none. No, I will not give that site any page views by linking it here. I’m bitchy like that. I have visited it a few times and found it to be more like The Enquirer than an actual blog or informational site. I may have missed it, but there also seems to be a severe lack of original content. The author of this “blog” simply finds a post she thinks she can exploit and regurgitates it. Of course she will add her thoughts here and there and add the words “allegedly” and “claims to”…pretty much anything to get an otherwise normal post to sound salacious and inflammatory. She even posted about Emily’s situation. And while she did not seem to twist the information any, she did cut and paste it in such a way that it caused a mini uproar in the seemingly un-moderated comment section.

It seems that our research into who and what the scammers really were, or weren’t, got us MomDotters labeled as “stalkerish”  and “vigilante” by a couple of commentors. That really pissed me off. I truly hate when people who have nothing better to do than to hold a grudge against a group of friends, take a situation where one person was victimized and turn it into an opportunity to bash that group of people. Yes, this did happen. And yes, I commented about it. More than once. Hopefully they learned something, but I doubt it.

People like the owner of this tabloid gossip site intentionally add fuel to small fires and create flames where there are none. This site and others like it will only end up hurting people in the end. Maybe that is her ultimate goal, but does she understand what it is costing the person she is railing against? I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions, but it is not OK to let the commentors on your site label or inflame a victim’s situation to such a degree the the victim is turned into the aggressor for trying to prove her innocence and restore her reputation.

What are the lessons learned from this scam?

  1. Inform all potential PR contacts who the only authorized contacts for your blog are. Add a disclaimer to your contact page and PR disclosure outlining what the proper procedure for requesting a review from your site is, otherwise this could happen to you, too.
  2. People in general have no morals. Do not blindly trust anyone until they have been fully vetted.
  3. If you think you have protected yourself online, think again. Then find another way to do so.
  4. Companies that work with Bloggers need to confirm who it is they are working with by going through that blogger’s site to contact them.
  5. Always use an email address that is connected to your site in some way for all blog related correspondence. Personal email addresses used to pitch a company for a review item should be viewed as suspect.
  6. There are some very criminally minded people out there and their sole purpose is to work a con on someone, no matter who or what gets hurt in the process.
  7. MomDotters are some of the best detectives I have ever seen. We should open our own agency. I bet we could find Bin Laden and everyone on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list in short order.
  8. There are people out there who will always find a way to use a victim’s situation against him/her. The severity of the crimes committed do not matter to these kinds of people, only that the victim did or said something that they feel is inappropriate.

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Category: My Opinions

About the Author ()

I'm Shan and I 'm the creator of The Asylum and a magnet for The Free Range Stupid™. I'm a little nutty, a lot sarcastic and pretty damn smart. I am also a graphic designer, blog coder, virtual assistant, free lance writer and can whip you up a killer resume, media kit or press release that would make others green with envy. Go to Skewed Design Studios to check out my services. You won't be disappointed.

Comments (6)

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  1. Victoria says:

    Great tips on how to protect both bloggers and PR companies!

  2. Monique says:

    I say call her Jane.

  3. Sheila says:

    I don’t have a blog related email address, but it is on my site at least 3 times and I added a warning on my PR page!
    .-= Sheila´s last blog ..What is The 99? =-.

    • Shan says:

      You should be able to get one through Google Apps. But I’m not sure if you have to have your own domain name or not.

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