Tag Archives: howtocorp

Grant Shapps Hides The Evidence – See For Yourself Whether Fraud Allegations Are ‘Political Smears’

Grant ShappsInternet con-man and Tory Party Chairman Grant Shapps has closed down his spam website company following a police investigation which acknowledged that he ‘may’ have committed an act of fraud.

All mention of the Trafficpaymaster software which led to the investigation has been removed from the internet, whilst Shapps’ two alter-egos, Michael Green and Sebastian Fox, have deleted all posts advertising the product on the Warrior Internet Forums.

According to The Guardian any allegation of criminal behaviour has been strongly denied with a spokesperson for Shapps saying: “Any suggestion of illegality would be completely improper and malicious and would be treated as such.”

Shapps’ company sold software with the express intention of it being used to breach google’s terms and conditions to generate income from google ads.  The software did this by ‘scraping’ (stealing) content from other people’s websites, spinning it – which means changing a few words round so it looks original  – and then using that content to auto-generate websites. Google’s Adsense package could then be added to the websites to make money from advertising.

This would mean that small businesses buying advertising through the Google Adsense network – who believed those ads would appear on genuine websites – would be fleeced of their cash.  This could be what the police were referring to when they said an act of fraud may have been committed. The screenshot below shows that the company explicitly advertised their software as a way to ‘build an Adsense empire’.

shapps-adsenseQuestions have also been raised about Shapps’ use of pseudonyms and the accuracy of testimonials on his website.  After all, if people were recommending this product, and those people didn’t actually exist, then that would be false advertising.  Shapps has said his use of the name Michael Green was ‘a joke’.  He has not commented on his other alter ego Sebastian Fox.  Yet here they both are, plugging his dodgy product, in what seems to be a deliberate attempt to mislead potential customers by having them appear as two different people.

shapps-foxIn what could be seen as a further attempt to deceive potential buyers, Shapps’ company strongly denied that using this software would lead to websites being blacklisted from the google network – a devastating and quite often fatal consequence for a small online business.

shapps-googleGoogle confirmed in Autumn last year that websites using Shapps’ software would be blocked.

Shapps claimed in the Sunday Times that he created Michael Green as a ‘brand name, a bit like Colonel Sanders with his chicken.’  It is unlikely however that KFC’s website is registered under the name Colonel Sanders, unlike Shapps’ company who used the name Michael Green to register trafficpaymaster.com, in direct contravention of US internet rules.

shapps-regWhilst this in itself is not a crime, it can be an aggravating factor if a website registered under a false name is used for criminal activity, such as copyright violation.  Whether spinning content in the UK would be classed as copyright violation is so far untested by the courts.  In the US, where Shapps’ website was registered, this would be considered a violation of copyright which could lead to serious criminal charges.  And were Shapps ever found guilty of this then he could have seven years added to his sentence for registering the site under a false name.

Shapps has done everything he can to hide all traces of his former online activities which also included flogging get rich quick schemes of dubious legality.  Unfortunately for him a number of posts made by Sebastian Fox are still available on the Internet Archive and provide more details of exactly what Shapps’ company was up to and how they set out to breach copyright and scam the Google Adsense network.  Read though them and see for yourself whether allegations of fraud are ‘political smears’ as Shapps recently claimed to Channel 4.

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Grant Shapps Is A Lying Bastard

Tory Party Chairman Grant Shapps pleaded in the Daily Telegraph on Friday that his use of the pseudonym Michael Green, the name he adopted to promote his get rich quick scams, was just a joke.  His justification comes after the company he established, and which is now run by his wife, is under increasing scrutiny after a complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The complaint argues that Howtocorp, the business established by Shapps,  misled the public by presenting “Michael Green” and “Sebastian Fox” as genuine businessmen who had made substantial sums of money from using the company’s software and money making guides.

Shapps has been repeatedly mocked after a picture of him posing as the imaginery online marketing guru Michael Green appeared in the media.

Shapps’ dismissal of the complaints about his multiple personalities fails to explain why he, or someone from his company, registered the trafficpaymaster.com domain under the fake name Michael Green in breach of US internet rules as recently as February last year.

(click to enlarge images)

Trafficpaymaster.com is software sold by howtocorp which automatically generates websites by stealing content from other sites.  Under US law this practice is almost certainly illegal and using a fake name to register the website which sold it would be an aggravating factor which could add seven years jail time to any sentence received.  Shapps appears to have a strange sense of humour.

Shapps’ joke also fails to explain the following post on the Warrior Internet forum where both Michael Green and Sebastian Fox appear together to promote the company’s software:

Howtocorp deleted all their posts from the Warrior Forums on the 30th September this year, shortly after news of Shapps’ online spam scam broke.  Unfortunately they missed the one above.  Posh people are never very good at crime.

All of the company’s websites and youtube channels have disappeared over the last couple of weeks.

Shapps claims in the Telegraph that he is “absolutely not embarrassed” about the activities of the company which might leave people wondering why he has decided to hide the evidence.

According to Michael Green, the company had made $28 million dollars from their assorted scams.  It does seem strange that a company raking in so much cash should suddenly shut up shop and attempt to remove any trace of their existence from the internet.

Whatever the verdict of the complaint to the ASA it is clear that Shapps and his former company are doing everything possible to hide any online evidence relating to their possibly illegal activities.  Labour MP  Steve McCabe has called for a police investigation into howtocorp’s activities.  A young man is currently facing extradition to the US for acting in similar way to howtocorp.

Shapps’ second line of defence, that he is no longer involved in the company, is perhaps most despicable of all given that it leaves his wife to face any legal fall out from the scams which made him rich.  They are playing a dangerous game.  Should a police investigation take place examining Shapps or his wife’s company,  then their orchestrated campaign of destroying any online evidence could well see an offence of ‘perverting the cause of justice’ added to the charge sheet.

The Young Man Being Extradited For What Grant Shapps Did

A 23 year old man faces extradition to the US and a possible ten year jail sentence for committing similar offences to the dodgy online company founded by Tory spiv Grant Shapps.

Richard O’Dwyer from Barnsley was just 19 when he set up tvshack.net, a website which indexed links to movies and TV shows hosted elsewhere.  Whilst O’Dwyer’s own website did not carry copyright material, he has still been charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright.  Both charges carry potential sentences of five years each.

Copyright violation is breach of criminal law in the UK, but prosecutions are rare.  This didn’t stop Theresa May agreeing to a request from the US to extradite Dwyer, despite a petition in his support which has now reached 225,000 signatures.

Grant Shapps, the new Tory party chairman, ran howtocorp, a company which sells software designed to steal content from other websites and use it to automatically generate websites.   This content is ‘spun’, meaning a few words are changed around to fool search engines into thinking that the websites are publishing original content.

It is not known whether this ‘spinning’ would allow the website owners to evade copyright legislation in the UK.  At some point a test prosecution is likely to establish to legality of the technique which allows shady online businesses quickly generate hundreds of websites based on other people’s work.  These website are used to host advertising (possibly fraudulently) such as Google Adsense.

In the US the legal situation is much clearer.  According to this lawyer, a test case has established that the practice is illegal in the US.  Shapp’s company, which largely operated in the US despite being based in the UK, sold this copyright violating software for a whopping $297.

There is also evidence that the company used the software themselves to generate Google Adsense revenue from plagiarised content. 

It is not known how much money Shapps and his company made from this copyright scam which is arguably just as serious an infringement of the law as the so called crimes that Richard O’Dwyer committed as a teenager.  O’Dwyer simply linked to copyright content.  Howtocorp not only used copyright material themselves, but made a small fortune from actively promoting copyright violation through their software.

O’Dwyer did not even host his websites in the US, unlike Shapps’ company who registered the website which promoted his software under a fake name.  Registering a domain name using a false identity is an aggravating factor in prosecutions of online scams in the US, which can see any sentence doubled or extended by 7 years.

If Grant Shapps were charged with the same offences as Richard O’Dwyer, his sentence would potentially be longer than that facing O’Dwyer.  Shapps, or his wife who now controls the company, could be looking at 15 years.

Shapps hasn’t even lost his job for committing similar offences to this young man who is staring into the abyss of the US penal system.  This follows revelations last week that two men were jailed last year for Andrew Mitchell style rants at police.  Mitchell hasn’t lost his job either.  Rarely has the double standard been so self-evident than within this Government of crooks.  It really is one rules for us and a quite different one for them.  Whilst Theresa May happily condemns a young man to brutal incarceration, Shapps’ shady online practices are swept hastily under the carpet.

Almost every website operated by howtocorp has disappeared offline in the last couple of weeks, suggesting that the company are all too aware of the potential seriousness of their money-making scams.  Perhaps most contemptuously, Shapps handed control of the company he founded in 2002 to his wife in 2008.  Shapps would far rather see his wife face any potential legal consequences for his company’s actions than have his own cheap suited image dented.

O’Dwyer is not the only person facing legal consequences for running websites which link to copyright material.  In the first verdict of it’s kind, Anton Vickerman was sentenced to four years in prison by the UK courts in August for his surfthechannel.com website.  Vickerman was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, a charge which will hopefully cause more than  a few sleepless nights in the Shapps household.

Richard O’Dwyer is appealing the extradition, you can sign the petition in his support at: http://www.change.org/petitions/ukhomeoffice-stop-the-extradition-of-richard-o-dwyer-to-the-usa-saverichard

For more details on the case visit: http://juliasblog-the-fight-of-our-lives.blogspot.co.uk/

Grant Shapps: The Not So Petty Criminal At The Heart Of Government

Grant ShappsFew people will have been happier at Andrew Mitchell’s latest outburst than online scammer Grant Shapps.  Whilst last week’s papers could have been about the shady world of Shapps’ online alter-ego Michael Green, instead an errant toff’s vile behaviour stole the front pages and obscured a far bigger scandal within this Government’s ranks.

Whilst Shapps’ dubious ‘get rich quick’ schemes reveal the character of the new Tory party chairman, they probably didn’t break the law.  And perhaps Shapps’ really can turn $500 into $20k in just 20 days as he claims – in which case we should put the fucker to work in the Treasury and let the good times roll.

It is his former company’s spam website generating software however that will be the focus of any police investigation.  Sadly most coppers are not the sharpest tools particularly when it comes to the internet.  So in simple language, here’s an explanation of what Shapps and his company did, why it was wrong and more importantly why it was probably illegal.

Shapps company, Howtocorp, produced a piece of software which automatically generates websites.  Website owners can then place advertising, such as Google Adsense on the site and generate income.

The software works by ‘scraping’ content from other websites.  So for example, if you wanted to run a website about posh cars, which may attract significant advertising cash, you would simply type some keywords into the software such as Mercedes, luxury cars, Jaguar etc.

The software will then search for online content on other people’s websites which matches the keywords you’ve chosen and automatically publish the content on your own website.  This means that hundreds of websites can be generated very quickly.  You can then add Google Adsense or other advertising networks to your websites.   Even if each site only generates a small amount of advertising cash it all adds up.  Grant Shapps is a very rich man and unlike most Tories he didn’t inherit his wealth.  How much of his cash came from activities of dubious legality may never be known.

Google Adsense works by scanning the content on your website and attempting to match it with appropriate advertising.  In the above example a luxury car showroom may use Adsense to have their business advertised on websites about posh cars.

The businesses who use Adsense and other ad networks either pay each time someone clicks on their advert or in some cases according to how many times the advert is seen ie the number of hits on the website which displays the ad.

These type of websites are banned by google’s terms and conditions and despised by most internet users who would far rather see quality websites with original content than endless spammy sites which exist purely to generate advertising revenue.

In a crude attempt to get round google’s terms and conditions, Shapps’ software automatically spun the content.  This just means changing a few words around so that google is tricked into thinking it is original content.

Copyright violation is both a criminal and a civil offence.  Whether ‘spun’ content is a violation of copyright under UK law would require a test case.  Under US law the situation is a little clearer according to this lawyer who confirms that the practice would be illegal.  As Shapps (or his wife) registered their website in the US under a fake name, this would be an aggravating factor which could lead to up to seven years in prison. 

Theresa May recently approved US attempts to extradite Richard O’Dwyer to the US on charges of copyright violation.  O’Dwyer is appealing.  His lawyers could do worse than point out that the Tory party chairman acted in much the same way.

It will be down to the CPS ultimately to decide whether they wish to pursue Shapps or the company, which is now controlled by his wife. Don’t hold your breath. It’s only a matter of time before someone is hauled before the courts to establish the legality of ‘spun content’  but the CPS are unlikely to make a government minister, no matter how crooked, the first offender.

Of equal interest to the CPS should be the question of fraud.  Every website who signs up to Google Adsense agrees to abide by the Terms and Conditions.  A business contract is created, one that Shapps and his company have clearly breached.  More importantly the company always intended to be in breach of these terms & conditions.  The was a deliberate and systematic attempt to generate revenue from Google Adsense – and by proxy the many small businesses who use the service – by thoroughly  dishonest means.

Imagine this took place offline.  A shady publisher claims to advertisers that they intend to publish a magazine featuring original content from up and coming writers.  Instead they simply steal previously published content from other magazines.  Their magazine, and their whole sales pitch, would be just as much of a fraud as someone promising you a genuine Rolex whist actually flogging you something from Argos with Rolex scrawled across the front in Tippex.

This is what Shapps and his former company have done and they are no different to the geezer knocking out fake DVDs down the market.

There is no question that Shapps’ company employed these dodgy methods to make cash themselves, as this blogpost (now cached after the original blog ‘disappeared’ last week) easily establishes.  They also not only incited this behaviour in others but arguably aided and abetted it.

Shapps sold this software for $297 promising untold wealth to gullible purchasers.  When questioned about whether this software was in breach of google rules the company attempted to vehemently deny it.  The truth is any website using this software, however naively, is likely to find themselves not just banned from the google advertising networks, but also delisted from google search results.  Once again Howtocorp knowingly misled customers about what they were actually buying.

It is hard to argue that Shapps and his company acted within the law. Unfortunately it is not in google’s interests to bring a prosecution.  They would far rather that the many businesses who use Google Adsense were unaware of the number of spammy fake websites that trick google into hosting ads with them.

Whether the police investigation which has been called for by the Labour MP Steve McCabe results in charges remains to be seen.  But if it doesn’t it is really only down to a lack of knowledge about how the internet actually works amongst coppers and prosecutors than any true exoneration of Shapps and his sleazy online scam.

Howtocorp’s websites are currently disappearing from the internet faster than the Lib Dem’s electoral prospects. The company’s Google Adsense accounts will reveal a wealth of information and Shapps can’t hide those.

And if all that’s not enough, Grant Shapps just knocked down Ringo Starr’s house.

Did Grant Shapps’ Spam Scam Break the Law?

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:

  1. You can use these pages to promote your own product or service.
  2. You can use these pages to promote something that you’re affiliated to.
  3. 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.