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Once upon a time, I received an email from someone telling me that she saw an article on CNBC spouting off a great work at home job. Her exact words were, “It seems scam-ish, but it’s on CNBC?”
I went to the site, and this is what I saw:
I’m used to the “(Insert city name here) Mom makes a Bazillion dollars working part-time” ads. I see them everywhere trying to pitch random programs teaching people how to make money with Pay-per click ads, or other Internet marketing industries.
Usually, however, when you start clicking around on the navigation links (home, news, markets, etc) the site just redirects you to the same page. This site, however, re-directs you to the actual CNBC site, which completely threw me off.
I also entered in some stock symbols in the “real time quotes” box, and actually received the quotes that I was looking for.
I clicked on the articles to the right, and the ones I clicked on actually went to the stories posted on CNBC. Granted, most of them were from a few years ago, but they were still valid links.
This was a fully-functioning site.
A few things were glaring errors however. After all, scammers aren’t perfect:
When I clicked on the sharing links (for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) I was redirected to a generic sharing link. Usually the page will auto-populate with what you’re actually sharing. To the untrained eye, this may not seem like a big deal, but from a coding perspective, it should have picked up the content you were sharing…that’s the whole point of the share button!
Also, just looking at the domain (http://cnbc.com.net-article-online.site/) I can tell that CNBC isn’t the actual website. Both “CBNC” and “com” are subdomains of the website net-article-online.site.
Frankly, I’m quite impressed with the scammer’s ingenuity. Since subdomains can be anything the scammer wants them to be, using “com” will trick people who only scan the website, instead of ready it fully. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much all of us. Just look at these potential subdomains:
Your brain is probably reading “amazon.com” or “microsoft.com” or “yahoo.com” and neglecting the .net-article-online.site part of the website. Which is the actual domain!
Once you realize that the “com” is just a subdomain, your brain can read it like this:
Teach yourself to start reading websites from right to left noting that the dots separate each part of the site:
site: is the domain extension
net-article-online: is the domain (the actual website)
com: a subdomain (a separate section of the website)
cnbc: a subdomain (a separate section of the website)
This little exercise will help you identify spoof websites more than anything!
Another glaring issue with this fake article is that it’s too “hyper-local” by identifying the mom’s city. (i.e.: Seattle Mom Earns a Bazillion Dollars Part Time) That was fairly easy to spot as a web script that would allow the page to read my IP address. Since I’m in Seattle, I’ll see “Seattle Mom” If I was somewhere else, it would read that city’s name.
To test this theory, I had my friend in Rochester, Michigan go to the same exact website address and send me a screen capture. This is what she sent:
Notice that her “mom” is located in Rochester even though it’s the same exact website address…and the exact same “Mom” name: Patricia Feeney!
It’s brilliantly scammy because it makes you feel like the news is local and relevant to you…when in reality, it’s just reading your IP address location.
So what exactly is this scammer trying to pitch you?
The “online business systems” is a program that supposedly teaches you how to make money online through pay per click ads and affiliate marketing.
This article was created by an affiliate who earns income by promoting it. The product in and of itself may not be a scam. (Although, I highly doubt it’s worth the money you’d pay for it!) However, the manner in which it was promoted: creating this spoof website, not stating it’s an advertisement, and omitting disclaimers is a clear violation of the FTC rules. In other words, when caught (and yes, they’ll be caught) these folks are going to be in big big big trouble!
And to answer the question, “Is this legal?” Of course not! The scammer is in complete violation of copyright and trademark infringement. But do you think that CNBC is going to send their very expensive attorneys to go and bring the scammer to justice? Do you think they have time to track down each and every scammer that sets up these spoof sites? Nope…especially when the site can disappear with just a few clicks of a mouse. This is why it is imperative that you learn how to identify scams on your own. The more you know, the more you can protect yourself.
Note: For the purposes of this example, I changed the actual URL (website link) to a dummy URL that I own. Obviously, I don’t want to direct traffic to actual spammers!
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