If you only have a moment to kick back and read a single proper article this weekend, make it : Scamworld: 'Get rich quick' schemes mutate into an online monster written by Joseph L. Flatley at the Verge. He dives deep into the world of Internet Marketing and finds a network of pitchmen who have used the internet and fear of a failing economy to play the ultimate long con. It's detailed, it's well written, and it's depressing as hell.
As we’ve seen, the basic premise of Internet Marketing is straightforward: find customers, sell them useless products, and then send the leads on to industrial strength “boiler rooms” that separate them from what little money they have left. A simple con, it still requires a massive infrastructure to maintain: mainstream media outlets like CNN and the major broadcast networks, and websites like The Huffington Post and Facebook, all play a part in getting the message of Internet Marketers out to a wider audience, either through paid advertising or programming. Google sells AdWords for phrases like “make money fast,” and when unsuspecting consumers use their credit cards to give boiler rooms money, the payment has to be processed through a merchant account.
“The kind of people that they were preying upon were other people like me," says Richard Joseph, looking back, "who I think were naive enough, and new enough to this way of life, and desperate enough, that we were pretty easy targets." Internet Marketers, he says, are "kind of like carnival guys." It was only when he got back home and started to recover, and "started thinking like a person again" that Joseph realized that Rob Martino, the salesman from Raygoza's operation, the one who claimed his brother was also a paraplegic, had ripped him off. “And I was never able to speak to again," Joseph says. "And I could never find him anywhere... I don’t think he exists. He’s not on any social network or anything.” Joseph would wheel himself out of earshot of his family and work the phone. Many hours were spent in vain, trying to hold the voices on the other end of the line accountable. Ultimately, that’s all they were — voices. Apparitions, almost.