Google Money Master: The art of designing web scams

"Google Money Master" - sounds cool, huh? And $5000 a month from home (working only 10 hours a week!) doesn't sound bad either. Oh, and this author is from Orange County, too! Great, where do I sign up? Obviously these underlined, blue words are links, so I'll click on one of these. Uh oh, this new page looks like a scam... but Mike Richardson from Orange County said it's legit!

Haha, that's what went through my mind this morning when I hopped on the article from the "Los Angeles Tribune" about a way to make $5000 a month. After sheepishly collecting my wits upon realizing that I had been scammed (no I didn't sign up), I turned back to the page to find out how I was so easily deceived. I looks like scammers (yes, those people capitalizing on unemployed people) are listening in web design class. Here are some ridiculously true principals that I should have caught off the bat, but that seem to catch me (us?) every time:

  • Localization

    First and foremost, the scammers localize the content. The page was created in PHP, which means everytime it's served from the host, it can look at your whereabouts and figure out where you're located at the time of viewing. Mine says "Orange , CA" (notice the extra space after "Orange" - a sign of hasty coding) in two places. And the "Los Angeles Tribune" is not a real newspaper... I'm sure if you're in Houston it will say the "Houston Tribune." We are prone to believe something if it's happening in our back yard.

  • Content

    They employed typical hoax content, using a fictitious name, realistic circumstances and a reputable entity (usually a media outlet or law enforcer, this time it's Google). It gives us a creditable source, or at least uses words that seem creditable. It even gives his email: "Tom Chilton@www.Financial-Weekly.com" - It's the first time I've seen "www." in an email's domain. lol This scam even holds true to form in its grammar - poor.

  • Layout

    photo from Web Style Guide
    Here's my favorite part. We as web surfers behave very differently in many situations, but in some ways we act exactly the same. Like how we scan documents. As the images above illustrate, our eyes spend a lot of time at the top-left area of the page, and the scammers capitalize on that. The bold, alluring title, the photo of a young work-at-home millionaire... look at the little social networking icons! Looks just like the real thing.

  • Reader Feeback

    At the bottom of the page, as all news articles or blogs should, we see a bunch of user comments. Some are skeptical, some affirm our hope that Google will truly send us a check within 48 hours of signing up. What better way to include non-obtrusive peer pressure! Notice the date of the comments happen to be before the "Created At" date, and they all were posted at the same time. And "Created At?" Is that English?

  • Functionality

    No no, this is actually my favorite part. Click on the news tabs at the top. Go ahead and login, or post a comment. Or reply to a comment or favorite it, or hover over anything that we web surfers know so well to be links or functional buttons. No little pointy hand, no subtle animation. Not a single link on the entire page, except the handful they want you to click that lead to their trap homepage. Ha! This should have been the first warning that this was a fishy site, but just like a skilled magician, they distract you from what they're really doing by directing your attention to a little trick.

And so it goes. The hoaxes are still hoaxing people. Especially when we are in a financial rut. Hopefully we can take a look at this page and laugh, then take a deeper look at what other imitations are designed specifically to deceive us. When designed well enough, we may just scan our way into a trap without even knowing.

Google Money Master: a bona fide folk tale. Pass it on. ;)


Anonymous said...

Nice job!

Anonymous said...

great job. I was skeptical right of the bat. My friend sent me the link, and your posting proves it. These scumbags need to be caught and jailed.

Triet said...

love it.

Ohandbytheway said...

Comments are closed due to spam.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)