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Old 11-02-2009, 10:58 AM   #1
Rob Williams
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Default ScamVille: Social Networking Games Rich with Scams

From our front-page news:
Are you alive and breathing? Good. Chances are that you're also a member of a site like Facebook or MySpace, and don't feel bad... it seems like the vast majority is as well. My grandmother never uses her PC, and she finds most things about it complicated, but she's on Facebook. Despite the fact that both MySpace and Facebook are relatively young in real-life terms, it certainly took no time at all for them to become such integral parts of our lives.

Some people use Facebook more than others. Myself, I check things out a couple of times a day, while others never close the tab in their browser. In fact, that's how many people are, it seems, and one good reason might not be for the friend updates, but for the games. Who knew there would be such demand in these? Well, all of us probably, but not quite to such an extent. Some people are so addicted to these games, that I've actually had to block friends or associates because they spam their update feed with game-related speak. If you don't play, it's boring.

But I digress. With such a popular hobby taking over so many people's lives, the chance for scamming is there, and as far as TechCrunch is concerned, it's alive and well within gaming on various social networking sites. Michael Arrington goes into great detail about how the scams work, but to recap one example, imagine filling out a simple quiz to earn in-game cash for FarmVille, and without almost no notice whatsoever (it's extremely hidden), you realize on your next phone bill that you've opted into a useless $9.99/month service.

Mike also exposes another related scam... Video Professor. I've seen commercials for this on TV for what seems like the past ten or fifteen years, but I didn't realize how scammy it was, either. Even though the host of the commercial (and apparently the creator of the product) stresses that the sample is free ("only pay shipping"), what they try to hide is that you receive a disc that's not free, and if you don't contact them within ten days to state that you're sending it back, you can expect a charge of near $200 to come to your door.

Scams like these seem simple to spot, but in fact, they're not. The only way you'll spot the scam is usually after you've already opted-into it, and by that time, it's either too late, or you have some work to do to revert what's happened. If you have a friend who either plays these games or are extremely addicted, help them out and warn them about such shadiness. I shudder to imagine how much money these companies are coining by ripping innocent gamers off.

Zynga may be spending $50 million a year on Facebook advertising alone, fueled partially by lead gen scams. Wonder how Facebook got to profitability way ahead of schedule? It was a surge in this kind of advertising. The money looks clean - it's from Zynga, Playfish, Playdom and others. But a large portion of it is coming from users who’ve been tricked into one scam or another.

Source: TechCrunch
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