Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How Facebook Helps Crooked Merchants Find The Suckers

The social media are receiving a lot of unwanted attention because firms like Cambridge Analytica exploited Facebook's system to find suckers in US elections.  This article describes the system that crooked merchants use to find suckers for products that don't work.  Facebook receives around $40 billion per year from ads placed on Facebook. Most of the ads are from legitimate firms who sell real products.  However, many of the ads placed on Facebook are for products that make false promises about products.  Most users of Facebook do not fall for the ads, but smart crooks have found ways to use Facebook's algorithms to locate potential suckers for their ads.  One example is described in this article.  It shows an ad that features Elon Musk.  The ad claims that Musk uses a pill that makes him smart.  Suckers who fall for the ad usually sign up for one months supply, but the agreement also includes a recurrent monthly payment on their credit card.  The pill, of course does not make them smarter but their credit card company will honor the charges for recurring monthly charges.  Facebook is full of ads from marketing affiliates who create the ads and receive a share of each purchase.  Facebook makes an effort to discover and suspend crooked marketing affiliates.  However, the marketing affiliates have learned how to work around Facebook's security measures.  They reappear with new names.  There is an useful graphic in this article that illustrates how merchants sell fake products through crooked marketing affiliates by using Facebook's algorithms to locate the suckers.  A very successful operator summed up his operation succinctly: He said that he got rich sucking money out of the pockets of poor Facebook users.

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