Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Montreal Empire of Internet Scams

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Tony Vaughn
Tony Vaughn
"Total creator. Evil zombie fan. Food evangelist. Alcohol practitioner. Web aficionado. Passionate beer advocate."

Bianca Longbury, Olivier Primo, Charles Tessier, Jean-Luc Mongrain and Eric Douhmy are just a few of the Quebec personalities who have watched their identities usurped to promote Hyuna positions since the beginning of the year.

In March, CBC reported that Aboriginal artists living in Ontario and Quebec, Tara Quincey and Tami Puvis, were also victims of identity theft. (A new window) on social networks.

Mock contests featuring American celebrities, including host Ellen DeGeneres (A new window) Basketball star LeBron James (A new window)It is also organized by subsidiaries. In short, many of the scams we see all over the web that have been making headlines for quite some time have the same origin: AdCenter.

Le logo d’AdCenter.Photo: AdCenter

A “normal mother” in sight from AdCenter

Our investigation enabled us to determine that at least three fake Facebook accounts impersonating Bianca Longpré were created by AdCenter affiliates in the early months of 2021 alone. These fake accounts tried to lure netizens to Hyuna’s websites using fake contests.

Bianca Longpré, who runs the popular Mother Ordinary Facebook page, said she regularly receives reports of fake accounts in her name from her community. The girls who follow my page called me and said: “Hey Bianca, are you organizing a contest?” The author and businessman testify. It happens that I organized them, but there were none at that time. They sent me the link, and I went to see it, and saw for myself that, in fact, someone was impersonating me.

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After we contacted him, Facebook removed dozens of fake pages and events that we showed as an example of this scheme, which sent netizens to Hyuna’s sites. Facebook claims that these pages are in violation of its policies on spam, Fraud and deception.

A Facebook representative, however, claimed that the social network No link was specified between the respective pages. However, our analysis shows that the web addresses in these fake profiles have unique identifiers that reveal that they were the work of AdCenter affiliates.

Despite our reports, there are still dozens of fake contests that usurp the identities of well-known personalities as well as hundreds of fake virtual tours and concerts on Facebook, and new contests are posted regularly.

Forgetting and distracting netizens at the heart of the business model

While these seductive false promises of movies and shows attract large numbers of people, not all of them are drowning. In fact, the vast majority of people who are subject to the bait cancel the subscription within minutes of signing up and will not be charged.

But if the company succeeds in making money, or even making fortunes, it is because thousands of users forget to opt out, or simply ignore that they have signed up for a paid site.

These non-cancelled subscriptions, attested by several former employees, are at the core of the business model of the network associated with Philip Keiser. In fact, they say, the company makes almost all of its profits with this money.

Basically, we were making money off the appearance of people who didn’t realize it. It is inconceivable that people on their own would pay a monthly fee for the lower quality content viewed.

Quote from:Former employee of Philip Keiser

Imagine, a really bad kind of Netflix, full of movies you’ve never heard of, and which you can’t even find in the back of Blockbuster. This was itLet’s get to know this ex-employee.

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These former employees speak of experience: They have held various positions within companies associated with Mr. Keiser.

The business model used here is not new. Although it is located here on a rare scale, including affiliates around the world and hundreds of separate sites, it has already proven its worth.

According to the international investigator The best office work (BBB), Steve Baker, Many subscription-based scams rely on consumers forgetting to opt out.

Many people pay off their credit cards without looking at their statements. Sometimes it takes months and months before they notice it.

Quote from:Steve Baker, International Investigations Expert at the Better Business Bureau

And when they notice, paying off isn’t as easy as they might hope. In his study of subscription traps (A new window) and scam free trials, Steve Baker notes, that credit card companies are often reluctant to compensate people who are scammed by such scams.

Mr. Baker refers to an internal survey that I have conducted BBB Of the 1,000 people, 57% of respondents submitted chargebacks from their credit card company and 44% were not paid.

He adds that many people are unaware that chargebacks exist and that it is common for victims of this type of fraud to opt out without asking for a refund.

According to former employees of Keezer-related companies we spoke to, the company is quickly compensating disgruntled customers who request it to prevent them from attempting to invalidate a payment through their credit card provider. Because a lot of chargebacks will put credit card companies into a scam.

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That’s what we saw with our Fundonkey subscription. After paying a 2 month fee, we asked customer service to cancel our subscription and get a refund of CAD 124. Fundonkey complied with no questions asked.

Internet users empty their hearts

Our team has documented thousands of negative reviews and comments on the web regarding the websites participating in this scheme.

These opinions in particular suggest that not everyone can get their lost money back: many say they don’t know why bills have been paid to them without their knowledge for months, while others report opt-out problems that can only be resolved by canceling the credit card linked to the account.

These netizens think they have been scammed by sites with names like Yaydigital, Donnaplay or Lizardfun, which seem to be unrelated. But our checks show that they are all part of the Hyuna International network.

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