Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Who's who? Not me

In matters religious, my skeptical nature annoys me, as I envy people with simple, happy, child-like faith.

In other realms, I am everlastingly grateful that my shell of doubt and suspicion is a hard, hard thing to crack.

Today I got an email offering me free placement in some online who's who thing.

Pfft. Ain't getting no info from me.

I did a little research and found validation. This is why you don't want to give even such an innocuous pitch as I received an inch, as they will fight to win from you a mile:

A Who's Who scam is a fraudulent Who's Who biographical directory.[1] While there are many legitimate Who's Who directories, some individuals have created Who's Who scams that involve the selling of "memberships" in Who's Who directories that are created online and through instant publishing services.[1] These are essentially thinly veiled scams designed to get individuals to part with their money or personal information.

The target is initially interviewed in order to validate personal information which can be included in the fraudulent directory, sold to other marketing firms, or used in future attacks (see Phishing). The interview often takes the form of a telephone conversation or a web form claiming it is to verify the target's qualifications. Once the personal information has been gathered, the next goal is to acquire the target's credit card number. The target/candidate is congratulated as having passed the interview, and then asked to provide a credit card number to finalize the process. Upon further inquiry the target may be told a credit card is required to receive a certificate and copy of the directory, at a low price of $850 annually. Upon disputing the cost, the price will repeatedly drop in an attempt to acquire the credit card number by any means necessary.[2] In the event a target tells the scammer they have no credit card, the target may be told to take someone else's credit card number, or may simply be hung up on.

Often the companies that "own" these registries are recently incorporated and the few individuals listed in them are people who are having themselves listed as a marketing tactic. That makes the publication in these directories a simple form of vanity publishing, with the listed persons often posting their listing on their own web sites.

Online blogs or forum posts that discuss these scams often have posts from people stating they have used the directory to make valuable business contacts. However, these posts cannot be verified and are much like other online reviews that provide no verification of the consumer's or user's identity.

Some of these Who's Who websites have closed their websites and disappeared from the Internet without a trace. You can still find people listing them in their online credentials.[2]

Despite the existance of these scams, there are Who's who companies that filter adequately their entries and provide value to the people listed in them. The most notable examples of legitimate Who's who companies are Marquis Who's Who, Strathmore's Who's Who, Madison Who's Who, and A & C Black's Who's Who.[2][3]