The British Awards Council: scam or not? You decide

Is The British Awards Council prize claim ‘promotion’ another scam? As always, you decide..

But let our collection of comments about all McIntyre and Dodd Marketing Ltd‘s other recent rip-off promotions help you.

If you want to know about McIntyre and Dodd Marketing Ltd, click here.  You’ll see that this kind of promotion is their speciality – and they’re doing it as much and as fast as they can before the OFT manages to shut them down.

** WANT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THESE PEOPLE?? Click HERE **

Since I’ve been tracking their rip-off promotions they’ve gone through several names – all designed to appear credible and worthwhile. They change the name as soon as the general public wakes up to the fact that this is a con. Community Awards Register was the first one I blogged about. Shortly afterwards came PDO Prize Distribution Office. Then there was NB: Notification Bureau. Now – probably speeded up by people like me blogging about these rip-offs – they’ve changed the name again this time to the grand (and trustworthy-sounding) ‘The British Awards Council’.

Please follow the links I’ve put here to see just how systematically exploitative this outfit is.  You’ll also see how lucrative this business is. The group of companies that’s behind this rip off is worth nearly £14m – of your money.

More importantly, read all the various ‘victim’ comments from ordinary, everyday people who have wasted their hard-earned money on these promotions and received little or nothing in return.

The British Awards Council: scam or not? You decide – and please feel free to share your experiences here to help others make up their minds too.

TripAdvisor: sliding down the trust curve?

TripAdvisor changes its logo yet again in the face of reality.

For a long time I’ve been watching TripAdvisor. This online hotel review site is a classic ‘user generated content’ business: it has to juggle making it easy for users to add content (reviews) from a position of effective anonymity, with trying to ensure those reviews aren’t gamed for advantage (or disadvantage). It has to try to do these while avoiding litigation from hotel owners and disgruntled travellers alike. And it has to somehow make the content relevant enough to drive valuable and qualified traffic to parent company Expedia.

As I’ve said previously, I think this is an equation that can’t possibly work out. Not particularly because TripAdvisor is doing something wrong, but because you simply can’t mix anonymous reviews with commercial interests and create ‘trust’.

Without trust, a business like TripAdvisor has nothing.

While the ‘downgrading’ of its strapline from claims about truth and objectivity (what the traveller REALLY needs) to claims about itself being a big site (who cares??) is at least realistic, it’s a shame. It goes to prove that somewhere in TripAdvisor, the decision has already been made not to try to build a business with trust at its core and to pursue a shorter term strategy instead.

Why shorter term? Because many people using TripAdvisor or watching it professionally get the impression that hotel owners (and others) are gaming the system. Given the precariousness of the economy and the struggle that most hotels are experiencing, it is hardly surprising that many will seek to raise their standing in what is still the most frequently-consulted hotel review site.

Erik Erikson and Gospel tv strikes gold

Erik Erikson, founder of Gospel TV uses the lure of gold to secure donations in a distinctly ungodly way

Gospel TV is not a good channel for me to watch.

A few weeks ago, I came across Peter Popoff ripping off the faithful with his ludicrous (but hugely lucrative) ‘Supernatural Debt Cancellation Miracle Water’ scam.  No, I’m not joking. Read that post and weep.

Last week, I came across Erik Erikson, founder of the Gospel Channel, talking to (surely be-wigged?) Welshman Robin Rees. They were talking about gold, not god. That struck me as odd – on a religious channel.

According to Erik, God told him to ask his viewers for donations for the Gospel TV channel. But not just a straightforward donation of the kind we’re familiar with. No, this was different. Special. Valuable. Different. According to Erik, this donation isn’t just a donation, it’s an investment.

If this was the Dragon’s Den, you’d see Deborah Meaden suddenly sit up and start paying attention. An investment? That sounds more promising. The numbers, Erik, what about the numbers?

‘Well, it works like this’ he’d say ‘you send us $1000 and we’ll keep half of it as a donation to Gospel TV and invest the other half in pure, 24 carat gold and send it to you’

WOW, you can hear the old folks thinking

‘Then over the years, that $500 worth of gold will be worth more than the original investment’

They then launch into a long and confused ramble about the massive rate of growth in the price of gold year on year.

A fellow outraged internet scam-baiter, who recorded, the show wrote to me afterwards to say:

Despite waffling, Erikson said that gold increased against the pound at 32% a year over the past ten years and at 45% over the last five which Rees described as ‘threefold’.  According to my reckoning if it increased at 45% a year over five years that amounts to an increased of 6.4 fold so he underestimated the increase that would have happened if Erikson’s statement was true; the ten year increase I estimate would have been 16.1.

After the strange statistics Erikson then went on to say that some people have said the increase will be even greater in future. He’s clearly using this as a selling point, all the while smiling benignly like a dodgy salesman.

You can almost see Deborah Meaden shaking her head and Duncan Bannatyne looking at the floor in disgust.

All that’s happening here is that Erik Erikson is using a shiny ‘gift’ (er… purchase) with the promise of a great future value as a crude device to lower the critical faculties of the gullible viewer so they’ll part with the money.

It would be laughable if it were not going on night after night – and lining the pockets of BSkyB in the process.

And as for Gospel TV – the new home of religious fraud Peter Popoff? A quick check this morning revealed that at least 6 of the channel’s listed celebrity preachers have scandalous past or present lives.  More to follow soon.

Tripadvisor RSS feeds: dumped, apparently…

TripAdvisor’s quiet dumping of RSS feeds raises interesting issues

RSS – on the surface, a great mechanism for delivering your content to a wider world. In reality – as it appears that TripAdvisor has quietly concluded – completely counter-productive for sites dependent on on-site advertising for their revenues.

For a short time, RSS feeds allowed the traveller to monitor a hotel over time to pick up any worrying reports before booking or travelling. A hotel owner could use RSS to have latest reviews delivered so he could monitor and respond to any potential reputation problems as they arose.

It all sounded good – until somebody at TripAdvisor presumably realised that providing RSS feeds of reviews achieved absolutely nothing except keeping the potential clickers at a distance from the on-site sponsors. Doh.

What’s interesting is that now, if you search Google for Tripadvisor RSS feeds, there’s no clear information. TripAdvisor seems to mumble on a bit about RSS being available at various places on the site, but I didn’t see any when I did a quick search just now.

So if you’ve arrived here trying to work out why something that seemed so useful to the general public suddenly disappeared, the answer can only be that RSS, pushing content TO subscribers doesn’t work with the Google Ad Revenue model.

This also hints at something I’ve thought for a while – that online revenue mechanisms default to the Ad revenue model when direct monetisation or other methods fail.

5 reasons you should be scared of Google

You should be scared of Google. I’ve been saying it for years… here are 5 good reasons from Cracked.com

Some people think that ‘Google’ exists to… help them.

These same people think Facebook is a way for people, to, like connect with each other?  In their worlds, Schmidt, Page and Zuckerberg are just cool people who got really rich by creating really useful stuff.  They don’t care what it means.  Jeez, stop getting all serious about it and just, like, use it, mkay?

If you’re one of these people, you couldn’t be more wrong. Sorry to poop your party. Google stopped being about ‘just finding things’ the second Schmidt and Page worked out that being able to know what people were looking for was the goldmine.

The same applies to Facebook. For about five minutes, it was about a guy just trying to be popular with girls. Pretty soon, it was about harnessing that same basic desire in everyone else to create a world that people would pay – a lot – to sell into.

Both these organisations are now so powerful they (along with others like eBay and PayPal) are effectively laws unto themselves, effectively free from control by any body, nation or even groups of nations.

I’ve never visited Cracked.com (strapline ‘America’s only humour & video site since 1958′) before and I came across this piece about why you should be afraid of Google by accident but it’s worth a read.

All I can say is that I hope we’re going to live long enough to regret allowing Google and Facebook to do exactly what they want.

International credit assessment agency / ICAA Cyprus

Have you received demands for money from International credit assessment agency / ICAA Cyprus on behalf of Expo Guide?

If so, you might like to read this thread first.

Don’t forget to read the 240+ comments too.  Hopefully you’ll be reassured that you’re the victim of a global scam. This means they can’t take you to court in any country because THEY are the ones who would be sent to prison :-)

It also means that the ‘ICAA Ltd Cyprus’ acting on Expo Guide’s behalf to try to bully money out of you doesn’t actually exist.  Nor does ‘Fobble International’ or any of the other names they pretend are debt collection agencies.

Their ‘website’ is simply a front to make you think they are a real business and out to get you.  Don’t be fooled.

Trying to hide a reputation problem – how not to do it

Touch Local’s attempts to stuff Google with its own content for the keyphrase ‘touch local scam’ looks… well, dodgy

In the first quarter of 2010, online business directory service Touch Local had some reputation problems centered on a significant number of angry customers posting here on my site.  The Google keyphrase that brought them here was ‘touch local scam’ although the post they arrived at did not contain the words ‘touch local scam’ nor did I say or imply the company was anything other than reputable.

The reality was that those people arrived here because the Google algorithm connected the keyphrase ‘touch local’ (which I did use on my post) and the keyword ‘scam’ which is found in plenty of other places in my content and returned my post in the Google search results.

I chose to publish those customer comments – a decision which, over time, forced Touch Local to be seen to try to address the problem.  In the end, a small number of those complaints were resolved. My contribution to that resolution however didn’t stop Touch Local resorting to legal threats demanding I remove the comments left by their unhappy customers and accusing me of initiating a defamatory thread about them. Having helped a few people out and having learned what there was to learn from the situation (and with no desire to spend money fighting pointless legal battles), I took the comments down.

Doing a quick search in Google tonight, however, I can’t help noting what Touch Local seems to have learned from that experience.  Rather than become more willing to look at what might lead a customer to either search or post with a keyphrase such as ‘touch local scam’, they appear to have gone all out to stuff Google with their own content to cover up any further critical feedback.

A search for that keyphrase reveals a very large number of Touch Local pages with titles like ‘Don’t touch local scam companies in London’  and ‘Don’t touch local scam companies in Birmingham’ and so on (through every town where Touch Local operates). It doesn’t take an SEO genius to spot the real motivation behind those pages: they’re trying to ‘own’ the top of Google search results for that phrase.  Any reasonable person might ask why.

It turns out that the content on those pages is Touch Local’s guide on how to write reviews for good and bad companies within Touch Local.

Ironically (click thumbnail on the right for a larger image) their advice for reviewing a bad company explicitly encourages you to label them ‘a scam‘. Or, to put it another way, to do exactly what they couldn’t bear their customers doing to them earlier this year. One law for Touch Local and another for everyone else it seems.

If you’re interested in protecting your online reputation, don’t make the mistake of trying to suppress your critics this way. It won’t work in the long run because people will recognise what you’re doing – and at that point they’re going to start asking why.

ICAA Ltd Cyprus: If you’ve received a demand from these people..

Is ICAA Ltd Cyprus demanding money from you on behalf of Expo Guide?

If so, you might like to read this thread first.

Don’t forget to read the 240+ comments too.  Hopefully you’ll be reassured that you’re the victim of a global scam. This means they can’t take you to court in any country because THEY are the ones who would be sent to prison :-)

It also means that the ‘ICAA Ltd Cyprus’ acting on Expo Guide’s behalf to try to bully money out of you doesn’t actually exist.  Nor does ‘Fobble International’ or any of the other names they pretend are debt collection agencies.

Their ‘website’ is simply a front to make you think they are a real business and out to get you.  Don’t be fooled.

So to beat them at their own game, I wrote this post to beat them to the top of Google for their own (fake) name. Lols.  See the results below.  Now, anyone receiving threats from them will go to Google, type in ‘ICAA Cyprus Ltd’ and find this post BEFORE they find their dummy website.

That, by the way, is how you use Google to get the truth in front of the lies.

Expo Guide scam: when I read this, I know I’m doing the right thing

Emails from Expo Guide victims like this one make it all worth while

Hi Sam,

Thank you so much for your phone call on Saturday, for your words of reassurance and for sending me the info on all those people who have been affected by this scam.  I shall certainly take your advice and ignore any follow up from them.

I have had this big black cloud hanging over me since receiving the demand from Expo-Guide on Wednesday.

My dinner party went well thanks to you and the removal of that cloud.

When you experience the worst that human kind can throw out it is good to know there are souls like yourself about who can redress the balance.

Kind Regards,
E

This is just one of many emails and kind comments people have written to thank me for posting on this subject and bringing together 200+ comments from victims of this scam – all highly visible on P1 of Google for a search on ‘Expo Guide’.  Their emails and comments reveal just how much stress and worry this nasty, global business directory scam continues to cause for decent, hard-working people.

NB Notification Bureau

Is NB Notification Bureau telling you you’ve won something?

Don’t believe it.

You probably entered a free competition some time ago and gave your address.

The result is that a company called McIntyre and Dodd have sent you a letter telling you that you’ve definitely won a prize.

** WANT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT THESE PEOPLE?? Click HERE **

It will cost you about £15 to claim your prize, which, if you believe many of the people commenting here, is likely to be nothing. Those who did receive ‘prizes’ received things worth considerably less than they paid to, er… claim them.

So there I was in my local Police Station this morning, making a formal complaint against a threatening organisation (see this thread) when I came across the leaflet (above) in their information rack.

Had they ever heard of McIntyre and Dodd Marketing (part of a PLC valued at £13m)? No, of course they hadn’t.

And that’s why M&D are laughing all the way to the bank (with your money).

6 months after the Office of Fair Trading announced it was trying to take M&D to the High Court to put them out of this exploitative business, there isn’t the slightest sign of any progress.

Week after week, I watch the traffic surge on this site as another hundred thousand or so people receive their ‘prize claim’ letters through their doors and the more suspicious turn to Google to see what’s being talked about.

Those are the lucky ones: they get to keep their £15 for something more important.