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Josef Cruz

Josef Cruz

Josef Cruz

Josef Cruz

1 month ago

My friend worked in a startup scam that preys on slothful individuals.

He explained everything.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

A drinking buddy confessed. Alexander. He says he works at a startup based on a scam, which appears too clever to be a lie.

Alexander (assuming he developed the story) or the startup's creator must have been a genius.

This is the story of an Internet scam that targets older individuals and generates tens of millions of dollars annually.

The business sells authentic things at 10% of their market value. This firm cannot be lucrative, but the entrepreneur has a plan: monthly subscriptions to a worthless service.

The firm can then charge the customer's credit card to settle the gap. The buyer must subscribe without knowing it. What's their strategy?

How does the con operate?

Imagine a website with a split homepage. On one page, the site offers an attractive goods at a ridiculous price (from 1 euro to 10% of the product's market worth).

Same product, but with a stupid monthly subscription. Business is unsustainable. They buy overpriced products and resell them too cheaply, hoping customers will subscribe to a useless service.

No customer will want this service. So they create another illegal homepage that hides the monthly subscription offer. After an endless scroll, a box says Yes, I want to subscribe to a service that costs x dollars per month.

Unchecking the checkbox bugs. When a customer buys a product on this page, he's enrolled in a monthly subscription. Not everyone should see it because it's illegal. So what does the startup do?

A page that varies based on the sort of website visitor, a possible consumer or someone who might be watching the startup's business

Startup technicians make sure the legal page is displayed when the site is accessed normally. Typing the web address in the browser, using Google, etc. The page crashes when buying a goods, preventing the purchase.

This avoids the startup from selling a product at a loss because the buyer won't subscribe to the worthless service and charge their credit card each month.

The illegal page only appears if a customer clicks on a Google ad, indicating interest in the offer.

Alexander says that a banker, police officer, or anyone else who visits the site (maybe for control) will only see a valid and buggy site as purchases won't be possible.

The latter will go to the site in the regular method (by typing the address in the browser, using Google, etc.) and not via an online ad.

Those who visit from ads are likely already lured by the site's price. They'll be sent to an illegal page that requires a subscription.

Laziness is humanity's secret weapon. The ordinary person ignores tiny monthly credit card charges. The subscription lasts around a year before the customer sees an unexpected deduction.

After-sales service (ASS) is useful in this situation.

After-sales assistance begins when a customer notices slight changes on his credit card, usually a year later.

The customer will search Google for the direct debit reference. How he'll complain to after-sales service.

It's crucial that ASS appears in the top 4/5 Google search results. This site must be clear, and offer chat, phone, etc., he argues.

The pigeon must be comforted after waking up. The customer learns via after-sales service that he subscribed to a service while buying the product, which justifies the debits on his card.

The customer will then clarify that he didn't intend to make the direct debits. The after-sales care professional will pretend to listen to the customer's arguments and complaints, then offer to unsubscribe him for free because his predicament has affected him.

In 99% of cases, the consumer is satisfied since the after-sales support unsubscribed him for free, and he forgets the debited amounts.

The remaining 1% is split between 0.99% who are delighted to be reimbursed and 0.01%. We'll pay until they're done. The customer should be delighted, not object or complain, and keep us beneath the radar (their situation is resolved, the rest, they don’t care).

It works, so we expand our thinking.

Startup has considered industrialization. Since this fraud is working, try another. Automate! So they used a site generator (only for product modifications), underpaid phone operators for after-sales service, and interns for fresh product ideas.

The company employed a data scientist. This has allowed the startup to recognize that specific customer profiles can be re-registered in the database and that it will take X months before they realize they're subscribing to a worthless service. Customers are re-subscribed to another service, then unsubscribed before realizing it.

Alexander took months to realize the deception and leave. Lawyers and others apparently threatened him and former colleagues who tried to talk about it.

The startup would have earned prizes and competed in contests. He adds they can provide evidence to any consumer group, media, police/gendarmerie, or relevant body. When I submitted my information to the FBI, I was told, "We know, we can't do much.", he says.