Gambling, or ‘games of chance’.

Games of chance and their place in online advertising.

gambling - games of chance

Obviously, games of chance (gambling) are an incentive to increase membership activity on a site, but are they legal?

America is the largest market. Therefore, it is unlikely that your advertisement will not be seen in America. America also has incredibly powerful agencies whose sole directive is to protect the American public from anything that may cause harm.

For those reasons, I have chosen to look at American State laws relating to lotteries.

Lottery laws were designed to prevent illegal gambling.

California Penal Code 319 defines a “lottery” as:

[A]ny scheme for the disposal or distribution of property by chance,
among persons who have paid or promised to pay any valuable consideration for the chance of obtaining such property or a portion of it, or
for any share or any interest in such property, upon any agreement,
understanding, or expectation that it is to be distributed or disposed of by
lot or chance, whether called a lottery, raffle, or gift enterprise, or by
whatever name the same may be known.

Specialist MLM lawers have broken this down into a slightly easier to read statement:

Each of three elements must be present to constitute a “lottery,” namely, a prize,
distribution of the prize by chance, and consideration for the opportunity to win the
prize.

And MLMLaw also define consideration for us:

“consideration” (anything of value, frequently money or effort).

In essence:

  • If you have provided something of value (money, credits, time) and you will win a prize, you’re not gambling.
  • If you haven’t had to provide anything of value and you might win a prize, you’re not gambling.
  • If you have provided something of value and you might win a prize, you are gambling and the game is illegal.

Is there a place for games of chance in online advertising?

Emphatically (with a capital M) no! I will not promote any site that blatantly promotes/encourages gambling.

Lotteries, raffles, poker, dice, slot machines, prizebox, scratch & win, etc. Whatever they are called, if you have to put in effort for the chance of winning a prize you are gambling.

  • “everyone is doing it” does not make it right.
  • the value of the prize does not make a difference
  • being a closed membership doesn’t magically make the games legal

Passwords revisited – make your passwords more secure now

Why am I revisiting passwords? Because it’s bloody important that you keep your personal information safe!

Passwords. Time to check you are following best practices to ensure your passwords and personal information are secure.

You’ve possibly noticed the changes implemented in the Internet browsers regarding website security. They are letting you know where your passwords (and any personal information) are at risk. Firefox is the most obvious with the warning that displays on any insecure input box when you are going to enter your password –
Don't enter your password into this box

Why is it not safe all of a sudden?

Entering your passwords on insecure sites has always been unsafe. The change is more to do with the browser creators being more active in warning you of sites where your personal information is at risk. If a page where you are able to enter personal information is not secured, you are at risk of having that information stolen.

Typically, the indication of site security hasn’t been obvious.

Insecure – not safe Secure – safe
Chrome passwords google insecure passwords google secure
Firefox passwords mozilla insecure passwords mozilla secure

Mozilla’s addition to Firefox is a massive improvement. Firefox puts the message right in front of you.

Support for the older, less secure, certificates has also been removed. If you would like to know why they have done this, check out this video of how quickly and easily these older encrypted passwords can be cracked –

What guidelines should I be following when choosing a password?
  • Your passwords should contain least 8 characters (16 is better) and include upper and lower case characters plus numbers and special characters (like !@#$ etc.) Your passwords should look something like – GxYdR[{9gDf-Gza]
  • Never reuse passwords. One password, one site.
  • Don’t rely on simple character substitutions such as 0 for o, 3 for e and 5 for s in your passwords.

Dr Mike Pound (same guy as in the video above) covers selecting passwords very well in this video –

How am I going to remember hundreds of secure passwords?

Use a password manager and secure all your passwords with one hard to crack password per Dr Mike Pound’s recommendation in the password guidelines video.

Which password manager?

PC Mag have reviewed the main managers to help make that decision easier for you. You can find the reviews for the best managers by following these links.
The best free managers of 2017 or, for paid options, The best managers of 2017

I’m a fan of the free edition of LastPass, but that’s just my personal opinion. Check the reviews and make your own choice. The important thing is that you get a manager for your passwords and start using it – today.



IM basics – use protection – one-time offers

One-time offers

One-time offers, or OTOs. A series of offers you will see when signing up to a new site outlining the benefits of purchasing an upgrade. Typically with a warning that you are never likely to see this offer ever again. It would be really nice if that warning was actually a promise. Unfortunately it very rarely is, and you will see the same series of offers every single time you log in.

One owner would always have six, followed by a login ad. If you could manage to fight your way through all the advertisements without getting chucked back to the login screen you were having a good day. It was largely due to this particular owner that I took the time to work out how to bypass the one-time offers. I have documented the method I use and published it within the resources section of the membership site.

Why do I have a problem with one-time offers? Until you have seen how the business operates and what it really has to offer, why would you want to be putting money into it.

When you sign up to a site, unless an upgrade at the site has been recommended by someone you really trust (know personally and trust implicitly – remember that anyone recommending a program is typically doing it just to earn a commission and not necessarily because they think you can benefit from the program), do not take the ‘one-time offer(s)’. It’s a bit like dropping parts of your pay check into random letterboxes on the way home from work.

please put your money into my letterbox - one-time-offers
 

I think that you’ll agree that an upgrade that allows you to send daily emails to 8500 members when the site only has 1500 members and is actually shrinking isn’t a particularly good investment (Hmmmm, not the best decision I've ever made! - due diligence not one of my best).

So, before putting cash into a business, spend some time to find out if it is going to be money well spent.

Be aware that nine out of ten internet-based products, programs, or “systems” just plain don’t work. Worse yet… they may be outright scams.

Do your due diligence.



IM basics – use protection – malware

Protection against viruses* and the like.

nasty viruses and malware
There are a surprisingly large number of people attempting to get their insidious programs installed onto your computer. They may be trying to get access to information such as email addresses, user names and passwords. They may be wanting to send thousands of emails via your email account. Or they may just be trying to disable your computer or trash your data (because that’s really grown-up). But whatever the reason, people are constantly trying to get their programs/scripts installed onto your computer(s).

Traffic Exchanges and Mailers are sometimes used as a method of distributing this crap because there are thousands of people daily viewing hundreds (or thousands) of pages. Most TE’s and mailers will say they are checking for viruses/malware when you add an advertisement, but don’t be lured into a false sense of security. Malware is constantly changing and detection is beyond the ability of the scripts.

So ensure you have antivirus software installed and always ensure that it is up to date (both the program and the definitions) and check that it is active. Ensuring you have antivirus installed and up to date is worth diddly-squat if it’s not running.

Everyone has their own favorite, and I would not suggest anyone change their antivirus unless they are unhappy with its performance. But if you a currently looking for a recommendation, I use a minimal install of the avast business version (business.avast.com). I use avast, and in particular this version, for a number of reasons. Even though this version of avast is free, it is far more reliable than the majority of paid options from alternative providers. The minimal install doesn’t include all the bloatware and therefore doesn’t impact as much on the performance of the computer and, more importantly, the minimal install doesn’t reactivate ‘features’ (for example, secure DNS which completely cocks up my network) that I have chosen not to install, each time the program is updated. And I don’t have to request a new activation key each year.

If I have any concerns that something may have found it’s way in (no antivirus solution is always going to catch everything), I run the free version of Malwarebytes from malwarebytes.com (custom install – don’t install anything other than malwarebytes – including any free trial offers).

And make sure that you don’t have more than one antivirus program active at once. If there are two antivirus programs running on a single computer, they will each try to install interceptors into the same part of the system kernel. This is likely to result in conflicts between the antivirus monitors – probably with one of the following consequences:

  • One of the two antivirus programs will fail to intercept system events.
  • Each antivirus program’s attempts to install parallel interceptors will cause the entire computer system to crash.

It is acceptable to have one or more spyware** or malware*** protection programs on the computer in addition to an antivirus scanner.

The better TE and Mailer owners work hard to keep objectionable material off their sites, but occasionally things can sneak through their defenses. As a member of a site you can help by reporting any advertisement that is flagged by your browser or anti-virus scanner as suspicious (as well as any objectionable advertisement or an advertisement that takes you away from the TE or Mailer to a different site (frame breaker).

Stay safe out there.

nasty viruses and malware


*A computer virus is a program, script, or macro designed to cause damage, steal personal information, modify data, send e-mail, display messages, or some combination of these actions. When the virus is executed, it spreads by copying itself into or over data files, programs, or boot sector of a computer’s hard drive, or potentially anything else writable. To help spread an infection the virus writers use detailed knowledge of security vulnerabilities, zero days, or social engineering to gain access to a host’s computer.

** Spyware or snoopware is a term used to describe a software program that has been designed to secretly gather information about a user’s activity. Spyware programs are often used to track users’ habits to better target them with advertisements. A computer can be infected by spyware by visiting an infected website, downloading infected software, or installing infected software. Most antivirus programs can clean spyware but it’s also a good idea to run an anti-malware or malware cleaner such as Malwarebytes.

***Alternatively referred to as scumware, malware is malicious software designed to change your settings, delete software, cause errors, watch browsing habits, or open your computer to attacks. A computer can be infected by malware by visiting an infected website, downloading infected software, or installing infected software. Most antivirus programs can clean malware but it’s also a good idea to run an anti-malware or malware cleaner such as Malwarebytes.



IM basics – use protection – due diligence

Due diligence

Doing due diligence can be a bit tricky because you often can’t find out how an advertising site operates prior to joining. Unfortunately there are some sites where management standards are less than ideal. Or, to put it bluntly, not all owners are honest.

The people who have been around the industry for a while have a pretty good idea of who are good and who are not so good, but there is no list published. So we need to tread carefully. I still get caught occasionally, but the following helps reduce the chances of being taken for a ride.

For me, one enormous red flag is a lack of ownership details.

danger, danger, danger - due diligence
While making ownership clear doesn’t guarantee honest ownership, the lack of ownership information suggests the owner has something to hide. As the site is supposedly being run as a business, ownership must be clear as it must be in any business. Particularly in a business where you are likely to invest, whether it be time or money that you’re investing.

Another red flag is the lack of ability to contact the site owner/admin from the public site (prior to login). You must be able to contact the site owner or administrator without having to first join and log into the site.

This is very important, so I repeat – if owner information is not readily available and/or there is no way of contacting the owner from the public side of the site, do not join the site.

An internet search on the site/owner name may provide you with some insights. For example, you may find references if the owner is known for not responding to support tickets, or for not paying due commissions.

Send a support ticket and see if you get a response. Always be polite. Don’t shout (don’t write in all capitals & keep terminal points (.?!) to a minimum). Never be rude in communication with a site owner. Apart from being unlikely to get a response, if you have one, you’re likely to get your account suspended. Consider that their primary language may not be the same as yours and be aware that they may be working in a different time zone, they will probably have a number of tickets to work through each day, and they may have a full time job away from their computer. They may even be on holiday. So don’t expect an instant response. The better owners will answer within 12 hours. The busier ones within a couple of days.
Some are just rude and don’t bother responding at all. Walk away. If they’re not responding to support tickets, you don’t want to be involved with them.

do your due diligence

When it comes to systems that you will see advertised, be aware that nine out of ten internet-based products, programs, or “systems” just plain don’t work. Worse yet… they may be outright scams. There are no get rich quick schemes. There is no “secret to making money online” or “missing ingredient without which you will fail”. Some internet millionaire’s “done for you website” is not going to make you a millionaire. Steer clear of anything that sounds to good to be true – it most probably will be.

Because you’ve read this far, I’ll let you into a little “secret”.

To be successful online, it is simply a matter of having a product which others are likely to find useful and then presenting that product to those prospects in a manner that is going to interest them. And that takes work.

I'm lucky because I work

You need to get your advertisement displayed to as many people as possible, all day, and every day. And if you mislead your prospects with unsubstantiated claims, you will very quickly lose credibility. Honesty and perseverance are both essential. Add branding to the mix and things will start to fall into place. But it will not happen overnight.

If you would like some ideas about where and how you should be advertising, there is some really good training available (including free weekly webinars) at this site. Traffic Exchanges are also rated there to show which are currently performing well.

Also, get involved with discussion groups. Watch the chat in the Traffic Exchanges. If an owner is behind in their commission payments, you can be certain that there will be people complaining.

One very good piece of advice I have seen is “never upgrade at any site until you have received a payment from that site”. It may take a while for that first payment to come through, but you don’t want to be putting cash and effort into a site where you’re not going to receive your dues.



IM basics – use protection – passwords

Passwords

LastPass secure passwords
 

You will probably be joining (or you may already belong to) dozens of sites. At the time of writing I belong to approximately 150 mailers and a similar number of Traffic Exchanges (Why? All that free advertising for your product or service!). One thing that it is absolutely imperative is to ensure that you do not use the same password on every site. And, very definitely, do not use usernames and passwords that you use outside of Internet Marketing. For example, your online banking password should never be used for anything other than your online banking. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

So, how do you manage all those passwords? I use and recommend LastPass (free for individuals across multiple devices). Clicking on their logo (above) will take you to their site where you can read about the features. Briefly, it is a browser add-on that will allow you to securely save your username and password for each site. It will, if required, also generate secure passwords. The passwords are stored on their server encrypted with all encryption & decryption occurring in your browser, so in the unlikely event of the LastPass database being compromised, your usernames and passwords are perfectly safe.

And why is this necessary?
Contrary to the beliefs of some site owners, the internet is full of individuals who get their kicks by intercepting internet traffic to find email addresses, usernames and passwords. There is a ready market for email addresses, but user name & password combinations are gold. And far too many site owners include login details in every email they send.

It’s like there’s a great big public toilet wall out there with your username and password blazoned across it.

passwords on public toilet wall

In most cases it is just a lack of knowledge on the part of the owner and a support ticket requesting the removal of the password from all communications should get the password removed. After all, there is generally a password recovery option on the login screen, so there is rarely a need to send a password via email – particularly multiple times. If they won’t remove it, I would strongly recommend that you cancel your account with them – but at the very least, definitely don’t promote the site. If you promote a site where the owner shows no concern for the security of their members, you’re not presenting yourself as trustworthy.

Also, the inclusion of passwords in emails advertises the fact that passwords are not encrypted in their database, which makes their database an attractive target to hackers.



Traffic Exchanges & Mailers – what went wrong?

no more paypal

PayPal’s gone. Which payment processor will be next?

It’s now been a couple of month’s since PayPal limited the owners accounts of a huge number of Traffic Exchanges & Mailers, and I still don’t see very many owners changing their methods. I’m not saying none – there are many owners doing an excellent job. But, even with sites already being rejected by Payza and 2Checkout, I’m still seeing owners who continue to allow their members to advertise dodgy or even illegal programs.

I’ve even heard one owner state –

“I am not required to dictate to anyone what they can and cannot promote”

How bloody stupid is that? As an owner your are required to protect your members from all scams. It makes no difference that the membership is private.

There were numerous owners refuting PayPals classification of us as MLMs, but no one appeared to be asking why Traffic Exchanges & Mailers had been classed as MLMs?

I’m no lawyer, but I am able read and I have access to the internet. Therefore, I have read a considerable amount about the the American “consumer protection umbrella”. Why? Because America is a very large market and all sites will have American members. Plus America has Government agencies that work very hard to protect their citizens from scams.

Based on my reading, this is why I think that the industry is seen as an MLM industry –

The definition of MLM from Georgia’s statute –

Multi-level marketing (“Multilevel distribution company”) means any person, firm, corporation, or other business entity which sells, distributes, or supplies for a valuable consideration goods or services through independent agents, contractors, or distributors at different levels wherein such participants may recruit other participants and wherein commissions, cross-commissions, bonuses, refunds, discounts, dividends, or other considerations in the program are or may be paid as a result of the sale of such goods or services or the recruitment, actions, or performances of additional participants.

The definitions of a multilevel company or multilevel marketing plan in the other states that specifically define multilevel marketing are identical or very similar to Georgia’s.

 

Even if you only offer referral commissions one level deep, if you offer different rewards for different membership levels you are going to be seen by the payment processors as rewarding at different levels – an MLM.