How do scams cheat buyers in the wild market
“Wild Market” is any site that has absolutely zero protection against click and payment fraud: forums, instant messengers, or social networks. The most popular places to cheat buyers are Skype and Facebook groups.
Some scams do it full-time and earn $5000+ a month, so they take their own business seriously and cheat professionally. This article is based on a real story of a scam we recently caught.
Let’s say, a scam John Smith decided to start stealing money from buyers by selling fake traffic, what would he do?
John creates 10-15 accounts with different names on Facebook, Skype, and a few forum accounts. John uses American names only, most of them are women, because generally, women get more trust. John finds avatars for all fake accounts. Avatar will never be a professional photo. Pretty girl, but not too hot.
Fake proof and testimonials
Using a graphics editor, John also creates fake screenshots from stats and autoresponders.
John cross-posts happy testimonials from all his accounts, claiming crazy results and excellent experience. John sends a few emails from one account to another with happy comments, thanking for great traffic, and begging for more clicks. He creates screenshots and adds these testimonials to other fake screenshots.
John creates a free autoresponder account and creates a video of him entering the member area. Then he opens the Firebug plugin, edits the number of subscribers with a fake big number, and records another video with modified subscribers count. Using any video editor, John combines two videos. Video with the fake subscriber number overlays the original one. This creates the effect that John logged into his autoresponder to show a large number of subscribers.
John starts posting his solo ad promos in ad swap and solo mailing groups, claiming he has just started with a fresh list, but already has a few happy clients.
He posts his (fake) screenshots with proof, adds a (fake) video of the autoresponder. He already has fake comments on his page from his other accounts. Buyers believe this and buy solos.
Now John has to send fake traffic to his buyer's website, but it has to look real. It is very easy to do.
John buys a proxy list of usual or residential IPs.
John buys a bot app to make thousands of clicks. This app has a proxy list built-in. It switches proxies and makes fake clicks. For each click, it uses a new proxy and then uses random computer info (OS, browser, screen, etc). This way traffic looks real: all “visitors” come from different countries, they all have different computer configurations.
After all, clicks have been “delivered”, John has to create visibility that some of his visitors actually signed up on the victim's website. John visits the site and looks at the signup form. Most likely it’s just a name/email combination.
His app already has a list with first and last names, John inputs values into the app and it creates accounts on the victim's site, randomly rotating names and emails.
John’s buyer is happy: according to his statistics, he got tons of clicks and about 40% of them have registered on his site. The buyer posts a testimonial for John. This is the first real testimonial for John for his fake traffic. He immediately adds it to his page and gets even more sales.
Even fake sales
If the buyer's product is cheap, John can even make a purchase or two. If a customer paid $40 - 50, a pair of sales for $7 wouldn’t be a problem for John, his profit will go down $14, but the buyer will be thrilled because he thinks John’s traffic is of high quality. His list buys.
But John is a greedy scam, he will ask for a refund in 20 - 25 days. He will say that “product is not for me” or “I didn’t use it, sorry” and will get a refund. His buyer will not remember that both “customers” were from John because he already bought a few other solos from other people. He doesn’t track what customer belongs to what seller.
Things could become even worse if John participates in black hat credit card fraud forums and uses stolen credit cards to make sales. After owners of these cards will see unauthorized charges, they will initiate chargebacks, and site owners will have to pay chargeback fees on top of the refund. After that PayPal can even decide that the buyer's site is high risk and close his account altogether.
Dealing with smart buyers
Some buyers suspect fraud, but most likely they won’t post anything in public. They will ask questions and John will do his best to convince them the traffic was very good. If he won’t be able to convince the buyer, he will easily give a refund. John spent nothing, but time. It is easy to give a refund and the buyer won’t keep pushing.