More internet marketing scoundrels have learned the hard way that they not only have to stay one step ahead of Google with their ‘black-hat’ marketing tactics . . . but that they have also have to stay one step ahead of the law.
Last month, online notoriety following a New York Times expose of the abusive (and allegedly criminal) business practices of ‘black-hat’ online designer sunglass marketer, Vitaly Borker, led to his business being bounced by Google, PayPal, Mastercard et. al., and then to his eventual arrest on charges of mail fraud and wire fraud. Each of the charges, if proved, carries a sentence of up to 30 years imprisonment.
This month, the International Business Times reports that an alleged ‘black-hat’ internet marketing operation run by Jeremy Jones, owner and operator of iWorks.com, has led the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to file charges against Mr. Jones, nine other individuals, ten corporations and fifty-one shell companies they created.
Although Google had not taken down the site at the time of writing, the FTC has asked for a federal court injunction “barring future violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act and unspecified redress for consumers” duped by iWorks and crew.
The FTC asserts that Mr. Johnson and his associates “made million of dollars by luring consumers into ‘trial’ memberships” for various money-making scams, and then made repeated charges to the dupes’ credit cards “without consumers’ knowledge or authorization for memberships the consumers never agreed to accept.”
While Google did not immediately react to the FTC complaint, “hundreds of thousands of consumers” filing chargebacks (reversal of credit card charges and bank debits) with Visa, MasterCard and other banks and financial institutions twigged authorities to the scams.
According to the International Business Times’ report of the charges, “(t)he high number of chargebacks . . . landed the defendants in VISA’s and MasterCard’s chargeback monitoring programs, resulting in millions of dollars in fines for excessive chargebacks, and preventing the defendants from getting access to the credit card and debit card billing systems using their own names.
Undaunted, these ‘black-hatters’ simply set up more shell companies and different charge accounts in an ever-growing effort to keep ahead of the authorities, credit card companies and internet watchdogs.
Now that the FTC has finally put the hammer down on iWorks network of interconnected fraud schemes, it would seem to be only a matter of time before Google, Bing and other search engines make iWorks’ network of sites go black.
After that, it would seem to be only a matter of time before we see Mr. Jones and his posse of ‘black-hat’ online marketing frauds take the same digital “perp walk” that Mr. Borker took last month.
Moral of the story? Engage in dubious online marketing behavior and you risk not only Google’s wrath, but also civil and criminal charges from authorities who are evermore alert to internet marketing scams.