Grant Shapps’ online money making scam goes further than just bad internet etiquette and at times veers into possible criminality. A host of advertising regulations may have been breached whilst the company are also breaking US rules on registering domain names.
Shapps used the name Michael Green whilst flogging his spam software, registering the website trafficpaymaster.com under this false name in breach of US rules. Whilst this can lead to the website being removed by internet regulators, it is not in itself a criminal offence – unless the website is used to commit crimes such as copyright violation.
Whilst Shapps sold his share of the online business to his wife two years ago, ‘Michael Green’ re-registered the trafficpaymaster domain as recently as February 2011.
Traffic Paymaster is the software created by Shapps’ company which is designed to automatically generate content for websites by stealing other people’s work. This is known as ‘scraping’ and websites generated this way are considered spam sites by google. The software subtly changes some of the text it steals in order to fool google that it is not merely replicating content found elsewhere. Like much of the internet this is a grey area legally, but it could be deemed copyright infringement – it will probably take a court case at some point in the future to decide.
As the company themselves explain:
“We NEVER allow TrafficPaymaster to repaste unchanged articles and this would seriously undermine your website. Every article is ‘spun’ using the best spinner on the market called – TheBestSpinner.”
Predictably, TheBestSpinner is another piece of software sold by the company which can be purchased for just $77 a year.
Whilst it is not known if Shapps’ website used the software themselves to generate content, they undoubtedly aided and abetted others in doing so.
Online spivs use software like this to create scores of websites and place google ads on them to generate money. This is a breach of google’s terms and conditions, and arguably fraud. Google are very quick to ban sites which ‘scrape’ content, but so far have yet to prosecute. However the creation of websites knowingly in breach of google’s terms and conditions, to generate income through google’s advertising network, is clearly obtaining money under false pretences.
Once again there is no direct evidence that Shapps or his wife’s company have done this. The lurid advertising for the company does not mention that this software can be used to scam google ads. To find the company’s endorsement of this practice requires digging a little deeper, such as this post on the company’s blog where they say:
“Now if you’re sitting there wondering what you’d do with all this extra traffic then the answer is simple:
- You can use these pages to promote your own product or service.
- You can use these pages to promote something that you’re affiliated to.
- You can simply stick Google AdSense or similar on there and make PPC cash by having these pages ranked and pulling in traffic.”
Which could be considered incitement to commit fraud.
The company’s garish ‘get rich quick’ advertising style makes bold claims that their product will drive thousands of new visitors to customer’s websites by manipulating google and other search engines. Yet nowhere do they mention that the end result of using this software is that google are likely to remove any website caught using it from their search results completely. This reveals the company to be the worst kind of snake oil salesmen. Their product doesn’t just cost a whopping $297, is will also probably kill any website which uses it.
To make false claims is a breach of advertising regulations and possibly even a breach of trading standard rules. The company are obviously aware of the google problem, as can be seen by their answer on this forum to the following :
“Is this a type of autoblogging?
I thought Google didn’t like that.“
The company is quick to respond: “Google may or may not like a particular approach, but the real question is whether there are any signs about how a page has been created. If the answer is no, well then it doesn’t much matter what Google officially thinks.”
As google have now de-listed all of the company’s websites it does appear to matter what google officially thinks.
Shapps is attempting to distance himself from the emerging scandal about his shady online activities. Instead he is shifting the blame onto his wife, mother and sister who now run the firm. But all the above practices seem to have been taking place when Shapps himself was in charge.
Some may claim this is a victimless crime, or at the very least a crime against google search. But the trafficpaymaster software is designed to go further than that. Their endorsement of using the software to generate google ad revenue means they are advising people to rip off the tens of thousands of small businesses that pay for ads on the google advertising network. And the company rips off their customers by charging $297 for a piece of dodgy spam generating software that could see a website’s traffic obliterated overnight.
Whether the company’s activities are even legal is clearly open to debate. But the activities carried out in pursuit of profit by Shapps and his family tell us everything we need to know about this government of crooks. You really can’t trust a Tory.
The company’s online forum appears to have become unavailable. Anyone looking into this bunch of scam artists make sure to get screen grabs etc. The company are no doubt carrying out extensive damage limitation and things are likely to disappear without warning.