back to article Online advertiser pays $200,000 for deceptive claims

An online advertiser that falsely claimed consumers had won free prizes has agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty to the Federal Trade Commission, which says the outfit failed to disclose that people had to spend money first. Member Source Media, which operated under names such as ConsumerGain-dot-com, PremiumPerks-dot-com and …


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  1. Konstantinos
    Thumb Up

    Savvy users dont see this kind of ads :)

    And to be more specific...

    Savvy users use this ->

    And this ->

    and thats it :) no more _you_won_1_million_Dallars_adds

  2. Andy Worth

    It holds up to the old adage.....

    ....."If it sounds too good to be probably is"

    It's unfortunate what people will do for the prospect of a free laptop, Ipod, Wii, whatever, and more unfortunate that other people are willing to take advantage of this. Personally, I can remember taking a look at a couple of sites like this out of interest, some time ago, but it was easy to see what a bunch of lies it is. Anyone who goes as far as providing their credit card details for a prize, is an idiot.

  3. James O'Brien

    Inspector John your the 5000th Federal Agent to view our records. . .

    You win a shiney new CD filled with an unencrypted spreadsheet.

    God please tell me what they will find in the records? How many people they fleeced? How much money they made off this fleecing? How much they are going to have to pay back to the unsuspecting public? Erm scratch that last one. How much they owe the Federal Gvmt for fleecing people out of their hard earned money (unless your last name is Jobs or Gates) for their transgressions in doing so? Hell not like the Gvmt here doesnt already do a good enough job of that as it is.

    Grabs his coat that he won for being the 999999th visitor of The Reg ;-)

  4. dervheid

    Small beer...

    I suspect. There're still enough suckers out there to have made this outfit more than the 200k. Step in the right direction though.

  5. Steve

    A better punishment

    would be to make them honour the free laptop offer for anyone who clicked the add.

  6. Daniel Dainty


    Now all we need is for the courts to uphold that "unlimited" should MEAN unlimited, and not "capped to 10,000 texts" or such similar stupidity.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who gets the money?

    So, who exactly gets the $200,000? Do the victims get their money back?

  8. adnim

    Lies and deceit

    As a contracted Internet analyst, I see this kind of thing every day, several times a day. I run a dedicated laptop for this purpose with only an AV suite for protection. My tasks require I browse the Internet allowing all pop ups and Javascript to run without restriction. When I started my current contract I was shocked by the amount of bullshit sites would spout in order to get the visitor to click on links. Some are down right malicious, with almost impossible to stop pop ups and redirects. And the amount of ads, well they usually swamp the content.

    It is good to see something positive done about these parasites, but there is a long way to go to rid the net of such abuse of trust. All other machines at home are protected by NoScript and AdBlock. It is a wonderful browsing experience with these features enabled. After such a long time in IT I easily forget that there are users who will fall for this kind of scam, I tend to accredit users with the same level of knowledge as myself in this respect, a failing on my part I which accept.

    I agree with Steve, these sites should be forced to honour the promise made to every person that clicks on such pop ups. Failure to do so resulting in imprisonment for deception.

    There are also many convincing sites that will tell the user that the PC they are using is infected with malware, and that clicking on a link will clean the PC for them. Nearly always with these sites there is no malware on the PC in question, not until the user actually clicks the link. The same attention should be paid to these sites, and the owners prosecuted.

    And yes Daniel I have yet to see an advert that actually means the dictionary definition of "unlimited" when that word is used in the promotion of the product/service. As soon as I see "unlimited" in any ad for a service I think liars fvck 'em. And as for the "fair usage" small print, fair by who's standards? Certainly not the customer.

    The advertising world is full of such lies and deception, note the advertisements on TV for the latest most fantastic car. The model shown is the top of range model, yet the price shown on screen is that for cheapest base model. A flash of small print at the bottom of the screen alerts the user to this whilst they are engrossed in the fantastic imagery of the car doing impossible things.

    These are the main reasons I object to any kind of intrusive advertising, and unless I actually request some advertising or information on a product I deem it all intrusive.

    It is unlikely to change whilst our masters in power, the law makers have their grubby fingers in the financial pie. It is unlikely to change whilst businesses and corporations are allowed finance the campaigns of the corrupt and self serving politicians one votes for.

  9. 4a$$Monkey

    Catch the monkey

    I must have caught that dam monkey 100 times and I'm still waiting for my free laptop. Bastards!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    " ... to disclosure ... "

    You mean "to disclose", FCOL. Sheesh. This isn't some kind of jargon or technical terminology, so there's absolutely no call to go making up godawful neologisms for perfectly ordinary words that already exist in plain English!

  11. Chad H.
    Thumb Down

    @ Konstantinos

    If we all used Ad blocking stuff... The site you're looking at now would have to shut down. Believe it or not, people don't work for free. The money has to come from somewhere.

  12. adnim

    @ Chad H

    There are many sites that offer little in the way of content that is not skimmed or plagiarised from elsewhere. If they shut down today that would be wonderful. I could with a little research set up a site with no original content, managed by bots and scripts which steal content from elsewhere. Of course the site would be full of ads, and I would never have to write an article, lift a finger or get off my lazy ass to make money. I'm not a rich man because honesty is not very profitable these days. I really do not give a toss if websites' close because of ad blocking software. Those with content of any value will find other ways of raising revenue. And if the content is of value, users will pay for it. This approach would sort the wheat from the chaff.

    I will continue to encourage and advise users to install ad blocking software.

    I never see an ad.(not more than once). I'm sorry Reg if I deprive you of revenue, but put up some way of making a financial contribution to your coffers and I will pay or subscribe for your often great content. Alternatively if you are in need of a skilled researcher perhaps we could come to some agreement.

    I choose the little penguin because some people still actually do things for the love of it and not just for the £ or $.

  13. Acme Fixer

    OT - Spamford, et. al. just got in trouble -- again --

    - hot off the press -

    Once a criminal, always a criminal.. I wish they'd lock 'em up and throw away the key.

    Oh, and subject them to the same fate as their victims -- Spam, Spam Spam..

  14. Morely Dotes

    @ Chad H.

    It should also be noted, in addition to "adnim's" well-taken points, that many advertising servers also serve malware. Some of them aren't doing it intentionally, but one of the important points learned in military service is that "friendly fire, isn't."

    So a complete shutdown of services that are supported only by third-party advertising would be, not a disaster, but a boon to Mankind.

  15. Hans Mustermann
    Dead Vulture

    @ Chad H

    Chad, I see your point, and I do leave ads on for that same reason. (Although for most surfing I use a Firefox with JavaScript and Java disabled, so they can't hijack me with their ads.)

    But, to play the devil's advocate too, I can easily see why people started disabling ads. The fact is, the average ad on the Internet nowadays is one or more of:

    A) a vector for viruses and trojans (it's not just for porn and warez sites any more),

    B) trying to redirect the user,

    C) fake UI / fake game / fake poll, or other fundamentally dishonest attempts to trick the user, (no, I don't click on them, but the dishonesty of it rubs me the awfully wrong way)

    D) bullsh*t and lies, (e.g.,: "you're the 999,999'th user and won a free iPod!" BS)

    E) stalling the browser to extents that try even my pain tollerance, (JavaScript is single-threaded, so an ad with JavaScript on a page with JavaScript will stall the whole page until the ad loads and starts. Now think a page with several such ads, coming from some overloaded ad server.)

    F) annoying, (pop-ups, pop-unders, layers on top of the page that need to be clicked to go away, badly-writted applets that use 100% of the CPU, etc)

    G) distracting, (no, I don't want blinking and moving crap on all sides, trying to steal my attention)

    Now while any individual category described above probably isn't a majority, put together I'd say it's comfortably over half the internet advertising today.

    The fact is, back when the web was in its infancy, sites had one (non-animated) banner on the main page, and people actually looked at them and clicked on a lot of them. But then it's been an ever increasing number of them, and increasingly annoying. And it's moved our attitude too from interested, to don't-give-a-damn, to being outright hostile to them.

    In other words, it's a pretty literal case of the Tragedy Of The Commons. As in, really, over-grazing a common unregulated resource. The resource here being how much advertising and how much bullsh*t people are willing to swallow, or at least tollerate.

    And it's a case where it's not just being the same amount of grass for an ever-increasing amount of cattle, it's a case where the pasture is overgrazed into becoming a desert. There's less and less benefit from each user subjected to that ever-increasing bullsh*t, because they're turning hostile towards advertising as a whole.

    Now as I was saying, I do feel some sympathy for the few honest people caught into that bullsh*t crossfire. Which is why I leave ads on.

    But even that, in the end is just a way of defrauding the companies paying to advertise their products. The fact is, I'm not just beyond the point clicking on ads, I'm even beyond being hostile to ads. I don't need an ad blocker, simply because I mentally filter them out by now. I'm not going to click it, and I'm not going to buy their product, even if they were selling eternal youth. I'm just not interested in it, if it's via an ad.

    Even worse, I might actually become hostile to the product itself, and actively avoid it, if the ad was so annoying that it got past my mental filter anyway.

    So basically an ad shown to me is, at best, worth exactly zero cents to the company advertising a product, and at worst it's worth some lost sales. Yet by not blocking the ad, I'm making them pay some money to show me some ads that won't do them any good. (Or, again, might even do them some harm.)

    Maybe, just maybe, blocking the ad would be the more honest thing to do after all. At least I wouldn't be taking a passive part in the scam that the ad providers and marketing agencies (and occasionally their own marketers) perpetrate upon the manufacturers and merchants trying to advertise their products. Just a thought.

  16. Scott


    I suppose you sit thru the ads on TV as well...... :rolleyes:

  17. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    @Chad H

    Are there ads on El Reg?

    I think you'll find that most of us can just "blank out" ads in web pages. Just keep your eyes focussed on the text in the middle of the page. There are very few web pages where the legitimate content is pushed off to one side so that a spurious ad can take centre stage. (Contrast this with TV advertising, where the real program *does* get pushed aside.)

    For me, the real mystery is why anyone pays good money to advertise on the internet. For almost nothing, you can host all your information on your own site, tagged with relevant keywords, and then anyone looking for that sort of product will find you through Google when they do their market research.

  18. Alan Donaly

    I hate to point out

    most of us know where the content is and don't even see the ads any more.

  19. Peter Lawrence


    I think the difference here is the *type* of ad shown. For my favourite sites (el Reg being among them), I don't turn the ads off. I don't mind an unobtrusive advertisement to the side of the info. I do, however, block those horribly intrusive ads which offer free iPods, laptops, etc., because they are not worth my time. I think that it's more about where the ads come from, and the way they are presented, than the mere presence of ads.

    I personally support adblocking software. It's my bandwidth, and I should be able to control what comes down the pipes. If you want to provide a small, tasteful ad, that's fine. I understand that people have to make money. But, start pushing flashy, control-freak ads with dancing monkeys and whatnot down my throat, and I'll never look at another one of your ads again.

  20. Andrew Badera
    Thumb Down

    also @Konstantinos

    A lot of these "ads" were delivered tagged on the back end of other signup processes, not purely as ads blockable with AdBlock.

    PS, everybody knows about AdBlock by now, but feel free to continue to feel yourself to be particularly "savvy."

  21. Mark Hartman

    "Lies and deceit" by Adnim (8th post)

    Great post, Adnim. You're right on.

  22. Joseph Zygnerski

    @ Savvy users dont see this kind of ads :)

    Not true. Some do see them, or at least hear them.

    There's a site called freelaptopnation that's been advertising on the radio in NYC for a while. They offer a free laptop to anyone who goes to their site. I checked them out a couple of times, but was immediately put off by their criteria for getting this "free" machine.

    When every store you hear a commercial for has a website as well, it makes sense that every website you visit will start to advertise *outside* of the web.

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