Archive for 2008

Yahoo protects online fraudsters, locks out legal ethical experts

28, June, 2008

UPDATED Saturday 28 June 2008

LONDON-UK, Saturday 28 June 2008: A global war has erupted between online Internet fraudsters and unpaid content providers or legal ethical experts on Yahoo. This global war may last much longer than any conventional crusade to drive out the fraudulent cowboys in order to save millions of consumers, including gullible under-18, poor, old and disadvantaged all over the world. Paralegal eagle and investigative journalist, tyneham (pen-name) reports.

A growing number of websites provide useful platforms where consumers can ask questions that are answered instantly by unpaid ethical content providers and experts.

However, this public service has opened up a welter of fresh opportunities for online fraudsters who advertise on trillions of web pages. The opportunities also enable fraudsters to plant questions that have been answered billions of times.

Organised fraudsters and their cohorts answer the planted questions promptly to provide links to fraudulent websites where consumers are required to buy useless e-books and pay for them by credit/debit cards. The books provide information on how to get “work from home,” and “data entry” jobs, “paid surveys,” and failed get-rich-quick schemes.

Even when consumers don’t buy the books, the fraudsters create web visit traffic. That in turn help fraudsters generate, secure and increase advertising, pay to/per click revenue streams.

However, after buying the useless e-books, consumers discover that it contains information that is already in public domain, free of charge. After years of trials, more than 99.9% of consumer discover that there are no real paid jobs, online or offline. This is organised crime.

Valid credit card numbers and PINs are sold for US $15 each. Personal details and email addresses are sold to other online and offline fraudsters. The data is used for a variety of scams such as fraudulent insurance claims, illegal purchases of prescription drugs, and medical ID theft. All that and more creates extra income streams that in turn generates bulk junk emails, phishing and more frauds for years to come.

As if that was not bad enough, Yahoo locks out honest, ethical and unpaid content providers experts who alert and warn the consumers. Yahoo protected fraudulent advertisers also get second free bite to sell their wares on the platforms. Yahoo let hundreds of fraudulent links go through to millions of consumers.

The scams are helping Yahoo and other Q&A platforms to protect their ad revenue streams and profits. Free content is provided by unpaid experts who unknowingly give credence to the platforms. It means profits for the platforms and the fraudsters, and nothing for ethical experts.

In his recent article “Why Yahoo! Isn’t Worth Anything To Management and Investors,” Ashkan Karbasfrooshan said Yahoo “makes the criminals at Enron, Worldcom and Arthur Andersen seem like shareholder activists” That may also apply to a number of other US outfits, including Google’s scams related to Internet click fraud that must also be scutinised by US lawmakers and the Justice Department before it is too little, too late, yet again, for institutional investors, defrauded advertisers, millions of shareholders and consumers.

So, what tempts Internet information providers, such as Google and Yahoo, and click fraudsters to get deeper into click fraud? Lets analyse the temping and irresistible financial incentives.

According to CNN and Ad Age report on Monday 23 June 2008, the top 100 US advertisers, who represent 41 percent of total advertising spending, moved another US $1 billion in 2007 from TV and newspapers to the Web.

According to the Javelin Strategy & Research 2008 Identity Fraud Survey Report, identity fraud and theft totalled US $51 billion in the US in 2007, after peaking at $58 billion in 2006. So, the financial incentives are there for online fraudsters.

According to a new report from Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney, there is a huge opportunity … to capitalize on the growing trend towards online display advertising in the US and abroad. He said display advertising in the US is expected to reach US $8.5-billion or 35% of total Internet advertising in 2008. By 2010, he said display, ads are expected to hit $11.2-billion in the US and $22-billion worldwide.

Mahaney overlooked the negative impact of growing and unreported click fraud, and the regulatory impact of pending Yahoo-Google deal that is being scrutinised by US lawmakers and the Justice Department.

The fraudsters target and recruit people who have low incomes and are desperate to earn cash to pay their bills. The fraudsters also recruit under-age and disable people. The fraudsters recruit millions of people to plant questions and answers on Internet web-pages. Many fraudulent clicks are generated automatically by software programs, such as Botnet. By some logical estimates, click fraud could be over sixty percent. So, even one percent of $22 billion of global 2008-2009 ad spend is too high, mainly because advertisers are still deceived, overcharged and thus defrauded every day.

According to a recent report by US-based Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) , most of the fraudsters are US-based (63.2%), followed by UK (15.3%), and Nigeria (5.7%). The UK would not start gathering statistics on Internet fraud or any other form of e-crime until well into 2009 when the National Fraud Reporting Centre (NFRC) comes online.

In a report in January 2008, for example, Internet traffic analysts at Click Forensics reported that the overall click-fraud rate for the online advertising industry was over 27%, and growing everyday.

However, Internet click fraud is underestimated by web-traffic auditors. The fraud is deceptively downplayed by major financial beneficiaries and their small time accomplices or affiliates. Big or not, no one is immune to click fraud. There is mounting unease and concerns over click fraud.

Online fraudsters and affiliates are defrauding online advertisers. That is an excellent financial motive to plant questions and answers that helps generate residual income, for years, forever. That is why it is important to put a clear, unremoveable watermark warning on each Q&A page.

The convergence of such online Q&A platforms, is one of the next major development in the evolution of the rapidly changing online advertising industry. At current monetization rates (June 2008), this is a temping and irresistible US $800 million annual revenue opportunity for Yahoo alone. This would help the company generate an estimated up to $450 million in incremental operating cash flow every year.

The platforms are set to capitalise on the growth and expansion, helping online fraudsters move forward and benefit in a significant way from live multiple marketplace alternatives. The fraudsters are a main source of funds to both deliver financial value to stockholders from search monetization and to invest in broader strategy to transform display advertising and advance their starting point objectives with users.

So, in that context alone, it makes commercial sense to lock out ethical experts in order to protect the ad income platforms by allowing online criminals defraud the millions of consumers every day, all over the world. The growing frauds, and the selective lock out of ethical experts as well as free content providers, would help live Q&A platforms enhance their ability to achieve their goal to grow operating cash flow and profits significantly for the sole benefit of the platforms and the fraudsters.

There is growing, irrefutable and undeniable evidence that Yahoo and other such platforms are knowingly protecting and helping Internet criminals, fraudsters and scammers to defraud online consumers, including under-18 youngsters and disable people all over the world everyday. At the time of writing this investigative report, the irrefutable and undeniable evidence was still available on thousands of Internet cached pages with links to thousands of website servers all over the world.

As you can see, Yahoo Q&A platform has made is too easy for fraudsters get your email addresses. Just analyse Yahoo Q&A protection racket online. Fraudsters are increasingly turning from offline fraud – such as using fake credit and debit cards in shops – to online scams.

The Q&A platforms are increasing their protection racket. They must be made to comply with UK, EU and US laws. They are not above the laws. They must be penalised, protect, encourage, reward and pay legal ethical content providers and honest experts. Otherwise the platforms will remain dominated by online fraudsters who must be driven out.

It is too easy to defraud millions of consumers online where the Q&A pages are saved or archived for reference by future potential victims. So, one planted question on Yahoo can defraud many consumers this week and millions of other in decades to come.

It is instructive to observe that Yahoo has millions of advertising placements for online criminals but does not have placements on those pages to warn millions of Internet users. Such warning-less search and display ads, and the live Q&A sessions help online fraudsters.

The unresolved problems are big enough to have prompted class action lawsuits by Checkmate Strategic Group, Lane’s Gifts & Collectibles and Caulfield Investigations against Yahoo and Google. The later was ordered to pay $30 million for lawyer fees and $60 million in ad credits, nor cash refund, to defrauded advertisers. The settlement doesn’t mean that the problem of click fraud will go away. In one $5m final (San Jose, California) lawsuit settlement against Yahoo, the verdict unwisely releases Yahoo from all similar click fraud claims against Yahoo in other actions.

Yahoo VP marketing, Reggie Davis, simply ignores and dismiss the volume of fraudulent clicks on Yahoo Q&A pages, searches and content networks. Davis downplays the fraud by claiming that click fraud is between 12% and 15% on Yahoo’s search pages and contextual networks. Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google’s business product manager for trust and safety, simply repeats his previous admissions that only a tiny fraction of Google’s clicks are fraudulent. Yahoo and Google don’t allow advertisers to audit and verify their claims and admissions. What have they got to hide? Google paid US $90 million in March 2007 to settle a class-action lawsuit by online advertisers over fraudulent clicks.

The following example would help show how Yahoo protected fraudsters plant Q&A, and then report ethical experts for alleged violation:

Question: Any surveys paid with alertpay or e-gold?

Question Details: Free survey sites that cashout with egold or alertpay i specify ALERTPAY and E-GOLD only only surveys

Deleted Answer: “Prudent people, under-18 or not, all over the world, avoid tempting and irresistible money making offers on Yahoo, Craiglist and elsewhere on the Internet. More than 99.9% of such offers are nothing more fraudulent crimes and scams against consumers who are often unpaid; pay extortionate bank charges for bounced cheques/checks; earn criminal convictions/record, and endure custodial sentences. This is just a little legal disclaimer alert from tyneham to help protect online consumers all over the world. This tyneham alert is in compliance with Yahoo community guidelines and terms of service. It may be tested by vested financial interests in UK courts with full publishing and broadcasting news reports. This ethical honest tyneham alert may not be the best answer for planted questions, but in fact it has been voted/chosen as the “best answer” by prudent and law-abiding askers, voters. For further information see tyneham profile on Yahoo Answers, or search google for “tyneham answers,” and “Yahoo protects online fraudsters””.

Read the answer deleted and blocked by Yahoo. What is wrong or illegal about such public warnings or advisory alerts? The expert answer were deleted and blocked by Yahoo, for alleged “solicitation,” allegedly violating Yahoo “community” guidelines, and/or Yahoo’s terms of service

How can one classify the public interest warning or alert as “solicitation” or even “violation”? Is that just an excuse to delete the disclaimer? What makes Yahoo protect such obvious frauds? Surely, the guidelines and the terms must be changed to protect and encourage unpaid experts who warn consumers about potential frauds, scams and the consequences.

But why change the rules of the old game that Yahoo and Google protected fraudsters play? Well, this is not rocket science. Let us analyse the Yahoo question that may be planted by the fraudsters’ paid or defrauded “data entry, copy-paste workers,” dotted around the world.

The workers may be following instructions for online copy/paste or data entry jobs. The workers may be participating in global online business opportunities, committing the fraud knowingly or unknowingly. Plain and simple, planted Q&A or not.

How about this? Why would millions of genuine online consumers ask questions that are already answered trillions of time on the Internet since 1994, and those answers are freely available in public domain? Is that rocket science?

Try it yourself, without participating in click fraud. A simple Internet keyword search would show that those questions, planted or not, have been answered trillions of times since 1994. Here are the results for the keyword searches:

Online jobs: 2,220,000,000;

Clicking jobs 1,500,000,000;

Work from home opportunities: 577,000,000;

Work at home opportunities: 576,000,000;

Online business opportunities: 397,000,000;

Pay to read (PTR) jobs: 350,000,000;

Pay to click (PTC) jobs: 246,000,000;

Online ad clicking jobs: 170,000,000;

Paid surveys: 88,800,000;

Data entry jobs: 86,100,000; and

Pay per click (PPC) jobs: 65,800,000.

Case closed? Okay, let us take another look at Yahoo question above. Who has the vested financial interest to force Yahoo to delete the ethical tyneham answer, and lock out the experts?

Who benefits when ten or more fraudsters answer to the same questions on Yahoo, everyday? Who has the financial motive to get the ethical, honest warning, alerts and answers deleted, removed and rated poorly? Who has the financial motive to force Yahoo to lock out legal ethical experts?

There are millions of click fraud promoters out there. Let us conduct another keywords search that may help identify fraudulent sources:

Online jobs ads: 923,000,000;

Data entry jobs ads: 52,900,000;

Paid survey job ads: 10,900,000;

Secret shoppers jobs: 9,680,000; and

Mystery shoppers jobs ads: 4,890,000.

Then there are references on the Internet to 714,000,000 parked and dummy websites filled with zillions of Google and Yahoo ads. So, click fraud goldmine is helping titanic global cartel to grab inflated billions once earned by traditional print and broadcast media outlets.

As you can see, there millions of web-page impressions and clicks, but what about real sales and real jobs? There won’t be any unemployment problem in many countries, only IF all those jobs were real paid jobs. Can you image ad income revenue streams that newspaper publishers and TV/radio broadcasters are losing or missing out? Would allowing those ads to appear on TV/radio and in newspapers be legal or illegal, with or without strict measures or rules to provide a clear public warning with each ad?

There is no doubt that global ad spend is funding click frauds as some advertisers pay up to $10 per click or impression. That is an irresistible and tempting incentive to protect online fraudsters, lock out legal ethical experts or content providers in order to defraud advertisers and consumers. After all, why kill the chickens that lay golden eggs with $22 billion annual market value?

Only one in 500 clicks may become a buyer, implying that the ad spend cost of acquiring is a paying customer is $5,000. Is that a good conversion rate for a product that may be priced much less? Yahoo’s “Blocked Domains” only lets advertisers block up to 250 domains, instead of millions. Yahoo’s “Click Filter Report,” containing millions of “impressions, invalid clicks, invalid click rate, and average cost per click,” only create more work for advertisers.

The titanic cartel has financial incentives to promote and protect click online fraudsters, and lock out legal ethical experts who warn consumers and advertisers. Moreover, there are no punitive, exemplary penalties for running the racket.

So, click fraud is underestimated by advertisers, their traffic auditors or analysts. Moreover, click fraud is deceptively downplayed by major financial beneficiaries and their small-time accomplices or affiliates in over 190 countries.

There are no laws against ignoring chameleon “Clickbot,” “ClickAgent,” “Botnet,” “Zbot,” “Trafbrush,” and “Farfli” software programs. The fraudsters deploy their software tools to inflate the number of page views on all Yahoo and Google ads, as well as millions of links on Yahoo Q&A, 24/7 around the world. The affiliated fraudsters operate web-pages that display ads from global search engines or universal advertising agencies.

The fraudulent software tools covertly generate 86,400 web-page hits automatically and anonymously 24/7, 365 days a year from millions of locations dotted around the world. That is 31,557,600 fraudulent clicks generated annually by running one software copy of smart fraudulent tool on just one cheap desktop or laptop, thus defrauding many unwitting advertisers covertly. The tools can be slowed down to fool, blind and by-pass smart IP filters.

Such hidden or covert applications hide and change IP addresses and domain names remotely and turn computers into automated ghosts that commit click frauds, dial premium numbers, log keystrokes, collect email addresses, send spam. Mircosoft has been using remote applications since Windows 1995 for online product key registration, monitor product usage, report errors and install product updates, etc.

Armed with similar smarter remote software updater and resilient and fool proof hardware infrastructures dotted around the world, organised fraudsters lure victims into clicking on irresistible and tempting web links offers that are readily available on trillions of searched and cached web pages displayed by Yahoo and Google, some with millions of email addresses.

The fraudsters continually aggregate Internet data to fuel endless scams, crimes and spam. They can send the entire world’s law enforcement agencies on a wild goose chase for hundreds of years.

Many click-generators go undetected, mainly because they cause no real harm to the infected computer itself while they covertly generate up to 86,400 clicks every day to defraud advertisers.

In terms of technical expertise, resources and political will, the agencies are already decades behind the online fraudsters and criminals being protected or ignored by Google, Yahoo and others.

Many Botnets crawl the Internet looking for web pages that can be corrupted with pop-up ads selling fake anti-spyware; some implant programs on popular web pages to harvest any sensitive personal data typed there by visitors; some repeatedly click on online advertisements to earn fraudulent “click through” revenue.

Botnets own up to 40% of 850m desktops and laptops. On a global scale every day, diverse versions of Botnets and Zbots, for example, attack 10% of the 850m computers connected to the Internet are engaged in distributing email spam, stealing sensitive data typed at banking and shopping websites, bombarding websites as a part of extortionist’s denial-of-service attacks, phishing, reducing computer speed, spreading fresh infections, clogging the Internet bandwidth, speed and capacity.

A list of such risky websites is available from tyneham author for credible investigative journalists and approved Botnet malware researchers who can try the links entirely at their own sole risk. So, for obvious reasons, the list is excluded from all tyneham articles.

Considering the scale of click fraud, the cartel is doing almost nothing, in comparative terms, to stop such frauds and scams. In order to outwit and by-pass Yahoo and Google filters, such software programs hack, hide, create or fake email and IP addresses, domain names and servers. But the Internet search engines Titans have refused to provide click fraud data, citing self-serving, self-preservation reasons.

Remember that planted questions, and the expert answer are read by millions of consumers every day, all over the world. Yahoo Answers come complete with web links to many Botnets and Zbot. The links would be read and clicked by billions of consumers in decades to come.

This is just the beginning. Over the coming years, the fraudsters would become richer than Microsoft’s retired founder Bill Gates. All software publishers, including Microsoft, are liable for publishing insecure software complete with online registrations and updates.

Ultimately, the global criminal empire would become much larger than the combined value of top 100+ international brand owners, including all Internet information providers. As their wealth aggregates, the fraudsters would continue to buy more law makers to help protect their ever growing fraudulent global empires. Stay tuned. Watch this space. “Secured websites” are as insecure as any data on your infected computer’s backup CD or not. So, is it viable to turn off corporate networking and the Internet for a few hundred years?

Let us now look at some other facts and figures. Between 2004 and 2006, the UK has seen an increase of 8,000% in fake Internet banking scams, mainly due to the growth in “phishing” emails that involves using fake websites to lure people into revealing their bank username, passwords, account names or numbers and PIN etc. Online fraud is a fact of life. It is a growing concern as more than fifty percent of Internet users who receive phishing emails.

UK bank credit card losses from phone, Internet or mail order crime totalled £290.5m in 2007. According to the UK-based Association of Payment Clearing Services (APACS) there was a 25% rise in the fraudulent use of UK credit and debit cards in 2007, with losses amounting to £535m. Some £290.5m of this took place on the Internet, via phone or mail order, where the credit or debit card holder was not present, a year-on-year rise of 37%.

Those are the facts for one country. Imagine the magnitude of frauds when you calculate the losses in up to 200 countries around the world.

It is almost impossible to communicate with the top Yahoo officials (through automated response) to inform them about their malpractice, the frauds and the scams. However, the highest Yahoo officials in California, including its president Susan (Sue) L Decker, CEO and co-founder Jerry Yang, con-founder David Filo, Terry Semel and Farzad Nazem cannot deny knowing about their Internet fraud protection racket and the frauds on their own Q&A platforms.

As major direct shareholders along with top institutional and mutual fund shareholders and investors, they must not be allowed to pass the buck to Yahoo India where Yahoo’s alleged “customer care” service is based. That enables Yahoo to evade US and EU laws. Yahoo India is an offshore and outsourced kangaroo court that accuses, convicts and executes ethical experts and free content providers within two or three days to block. The kangaroo court then excludes and locks out ethical content providers and experts.

More than 114 top Yahoo executives have left the global brand #55 since January 2007. Is the Titanic sinking? Is it too little, too late to avert crash landing that may leave behind a trail of destruction? Is Yahoo on life support along with its institutional investors and shareholders? Would the former executives ever expose Yahoo and Google in a way that would help stop defrauding online advertisers every day? In addition to vision, instinct and charisma, the Yahoo, and Google (# 20 on global brand chart), surely, institutional investors and shareholders expect brand owner executives must also have credibility and integrity.

Yahoo keeps hitting the headlines with top bleeding departures. Are deck-chairs re-arranged on stinking, sinking ships? How is that good news for Yahoo? Is this a big wake-up call for Yahoo? Is it the beginning of the end for Yahoo? Is it falling apart? Is this a sign or Yahoo’s demise? Is Yahoo so desperate for capital? Yahoo chiefs must be made accountable for their Internet protect racket.

Yahoo officials and public relation agency did not respond to requests for comment. The global brand #55 operates its websites in over 23 counties, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines. Quebec, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, UK, US and Vietnam.

In the concluding final analysis, Yahoo must be made comply with UK, EU and US laws. Yahoo must be made to place clear warnings and alerts about the frauds on each Q&A page to help protect millions of under-18 and other vulnerable consumers all over the world, everyday.

Yahoo must not block, exclude and penalise legal ethical experts or content providers who alert consumers where ever fraudulent vultures post replies with links to suspected, fraudulent websites. Yahoo must change its outdated guidelines and terms to protect and encourage ethical experts.

Yahoo must be made to detect or prevent online frauds. Otherwise Yahoo cannot be trusted by consumers and advertisers, and Yahoo remains liable for fraudulent online losses.

Only exemplary class-action lawsuits by consumers and advertisers would help make and deter all Q&A platforms, including Yahoo, comply the laws against online frauds, crimes and scams. Consumers and advertisers can also help prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace. They must report frauds, and provide information to help law enforcement agencies spot and stop online and offline frauds, crimes and scams. Readers and online consumers may forward the following tyneham web-links to their local news editors, publishers, broadcasters, law-makers, parliamentary representatives, candidates and government officials.

US Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the Commerce, the Justice Department, Trade and Consumer Protection panel, the House Small Business Committee panel, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection panel and the Senate Commerce Committee and all law makers, for example, must also scrutinise the pending/proposed Yahoo-Google deal, and its impact on defrauded advertisers, big or small.

Readers may forward this tyneham links to their local news editors, TV/radio broadcasters, newspaper publishers, elected parliamentary representatives, consumer protection groups and lawyers. Ask them why they would not expose such online frauds, scams and crimes?

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