Peter Popoff exploits people’s greed, need and vulnerability for financial benefit according to Google results

I happen to agree with that view. So did the highly respected James Randi (who demonstrated Popoff’s wife feeding him ‘divine information’ via radio link in his live ‘ministries’) and so do most of the people writing about Peter Popoff online.

I came across Popoff last night, flipping channels after England’s depressing performance in their World Cup opener. Clare and I watched Popoff and his charming wife Liz promising ‘supernatural debt cancellation’ in return for nothing more than writing in to request their miracle water gift.

A gift which, of course, then turns into floods of direct mail with ever-increasing demands for money – ‘seed gifts’ – to help God to get started sorting out your debt problems.  According to Popoff, you can’t expect God to supernaturally cancel your debt unless you stump up something yourself first. It’s the religious version of the Nigerian funds transfer fee.

Despite having declared himself bankrupt following Randi’s high-profile debunking on American TV (easily available on YouTube) Peter Popoff today pulls in millions of dollars a year through his latest direct mail operation – and pays himself and all the members of his family millions in salaries too. First time round the target was believers with health problems.  Now, in the shadow of the credit crunch, it’s believers with debt problems.

For someone with a really bad online reputation, he’s doing far better than he should – and raises a question about how important online reputation is to a business.  The answer, of course (and Popoff will know this all too well) lies in the likelihood of his intended victims – sorry, ‘market’ – using Google to critically evaluate the things they’re presented with.

Judging by the audience profile at his ministry events shown on TV last night, I’d say that this likelihood was low, to say the least, reminding us that online reputation is only a meaningful concept to those who are already critical and use the web to do some form of due diligence before making decisions.

That greedy, insecure, grubby little people exploit other greedy, vulnerable and grubby people is absolutely no surprise to me. It’s everywhere – scratch the surface of everything British these days and you’ll find this sleaze. What does surprise me is that Peter Popoff can be still pushing this scam on TV and there’s not a watchdog or body that can – or will – stop it.

MacIntyre and Dodd Marketing, Peter Popoff.  Just two – but there are tens of thousands more and our culture gives them carte blanche to operate. Disgusting.

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