Florida AG Gunning for Affiliate Marketers

55 comments

The Office of the Attorney General for the State of Florida is knocking on lots of doors in search of shady affiliate marketers. It seems there have been some very questionable marketing efforts for ringtone offers and the perps are in the crosshairs.

Details - affiliatetip.com/blog/archives/affiliate_ringtone_scammers_in_big_trouble.html

Comments

In other news, shoemoney has

In other news, shoemoney has announced that he plans to move to Cuba. ;o)

...

Ya now that is funny news...

Go after the ring tone guys... but for god sake leave alone those 'legal' loan sharks that charge 1400% interest...

Or those, deceptive TV and radio info commercials...

Someone in the florida Attorney's office is looking towards their re-election and hoping this will get them votes... what an asshat.

Not really the same thing

Not really the same thing lots0. Have you seen some of the landing pages some of these guys put up ?

A lot of them hide the disclaimer text about the charges and market things as free.. just put in your mobile number. Some pretty scummy stuff going on there, its good he's looking into it.

> Someone in the florida

> Someone in the florida Attorney's office is looking towards their re-election

The new Gov of Fl was the Attorney General before getting elected Gov last fall. Sounds like he is anxious to go hard on Internet crime.

Is this bad?

Is it really bad that sites that are basically committing fraud get shut down? Doesn't that help build up trust for the industry and web surfers? I've seen some of those sites and see how ridiculous they are.

Depends on which side you're on

I'd love to see the dirty part of affiliate marketing prosecuted and gone from the industry.

Well Shawn,

Well Shawn,
it looks like your the ONLY one reporting this so called story.

The Florida Attorney's office said they never released any such press release about scam internet marketing ring tones. I called them because your story sounded fishy to me and you sited no sources for this story.

Shawn, the ONLY place this story appears in on your Blog... Methinks you made it all up.

By the way, the Florida Attorney Generals name is Bill McCollum and he is looking to run for US Senator for Florida in 2008.

Maybe you got confused with this story, the story about the Attorney General from Illinois (Not Florida), Attorney General Lisa Madigan who filed a lawsuit against two people in Florida for allegedly sending unwanted text messages to more than 200 Illinois cell phone customers.
Source:
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070201/BUSINESS/70201016/1003

Personally, I want to see anyone publishing an untrue story on their blog and trying to pass it off as 'true' Prosecuted to the full extent of the law or at the very least have all their links in TW no-followed.

If you want to see what concerns the Florida Attorney General check here. (Hint: Mr. McCollum is concerned about "free" credit reports...)
http://myfloridalegal.com/NewsBrie.nsf/OnlineAlerts
or
http://myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases

Please allow me one last wild shot in the dark here... Shawn I'll bet you market affiliate ring tones...

I never said I got the information from a press release

Who did you talk to over there? Have you called the person I referenced in my post: Robert Schara. You can reach him at 850-414-3300.

As far as any confusion, take a look at the following:

Case Number: L05-3-1140
http://myfloridalegal.com/__85256309005085AB.nsf/0/462A53719D556A3B85257091005E7E80

Case Number: L05-3-1142
http://myfloridalegal.com/__85256309005085AB.nsf/0/C3CCA83950C6E1F085257092004B2194

..

Shawn Collins - Please allow me to make an educated guess here... You market affiliate ringtones...

better go back to school

> Please allow me to make an educated guess here

No, I've never marketed ringtones and have plans to do so in the future.

I manage affiliate programs and run conferences - I have no horse in this race. Just want to see things cleaned up.

..

?Shawn you forgot to mention in your 'story' that these are CIVIL cases and NOT criminal... You led everyone to believe that the Florida Attorney General was charging people with crimes.

"The Office of the Attorney General for the State of Florida is knocking on lots of doors in search of shady affiliate marketers."

The law does not come knocking on doors for a civil cases... The Florida’s Attorney Generals Office does not believe that CIVIL cases are important enough to list their actions in there press releases or current activities.

So in other words you did not lie you just exaggerated the facts to make them sound far worse than they actually are. Bad example of link bate gone wrong.

The worst thing that will happen in a civil case is the bad guys will have to pay a few dollars...
Nothing more than the cost of doing business.

Maybe when you write a story like this you should make the facts clear and have sources posted.

NOTE: WHY ARE THESE POSTS ALL OUT OF ORDER???

civil cases were citations

I shared the links to the civil cases to show you that the office was looking at the issue, since you stated:

"If you want to see what concerns the Florida Attorney General check here. (Hint: Mr. McCollum is concerned about "free" credit reports...)"

As I understand it, they are working to build a criminal case, which is why they have asked for people to come forward with information.

Not sure why the comments

Not sure why the comments appear out of order (it looks like your comment is dated for tommorrow Lots0...not sure WTF happened there), but I trust you Lots0, and I removed the story link since it appears self promotional and not backed by any evidence, as you noted.

I've been seeing all sorts

I've been seeing all sorts of fucked up dating on the comments here for the last few days.

I will vouch for Shawn Collins

Lots0, do some homework of your own instead of taking uninformed cheap shots at others whom you clearly don't know.

I have known Shawn Collins online for several years and also met him in person when we made a shared presentation at a conference. Shawn is well respected in legitimate affiliate marketing circles and is extremely knowledgeable about the space. If he says something about affiliate marketing it ought to be taken seriously.

>>>"Still think I made it

>>>"Still think I made it up?"
YES!

?That forum post you reference was dated today (this morning at 5:24 am)...some time AFTER this thread appeared.

Not to mention... The FACT that no legitimate news agency has reported anything of the kind.

Not to mention... That I thought everyone knows that forum posts are not proof of anything.

Now ask yourself, why would the Florida Attorney Generals office show up and ask questions of a person in New York... When there are lots of affiliate ringtone marketers in Florida???

Complete Bull Shit...

Buckworks - sorry about your friend, but he got caught telling "stories" and now it looks like he is trying to cover his ass.

Monday I will be asking the Florida Attorneys office for a written comment about this, we'll see what the source has to say about all this...

brick wall

> ?That forum post you reference was dated today (this morning at 5:24 am)...some time AFTER this thread appeared.

Exactly - after I reported that they were visiting people, Jon from WickedFire detailed that he was visited. I didn't cite that post as a source, rather to illustrate that I was correct.

> Now ask yourself, why would the Florida Attorney Generals office show up and ask questions of a person in New York... When there are lots of affiliate ringtone marketers in Florida???

They are going after the biggest players. I don't have a roadmap of their targets, but apparently some live in the northeast.

> Monday I will be asking the Florida Attorneys office for a written comment about this, we'll see what the source has to say about all this...

Here is the guy to contact: Robert Schara, 850-414-3300 or

Florida Currently Lists Two Ringtone Investigations

The Florida Attorney General's web site currently notes two ringtone specific investigations:

L05-3-1140:
Buongiorno USA, Inc., d/b/a Dirty Hippo and www[dot]dirtyhippo.com and Blinko
http://myfloridalegal.com/lit_ec.nsf/investigations/462A53719D556A3B85257091005E7E80

L05-3-1142:
Verisign, Inc., and Jamster International Sarl, d/b/a Jamster and www[dot]Jamster.com
http://myfloridalegal.com/lit_ec.nsf/investigations/C3CCA83950C6E1F085257092004B2194

They may follow from last summers investigation into unauthorised third party phone charges:
http://myfloridalegal.com/NewsBrie.nsf/OnlineAlerts/161942AB26A9BB86852571700058C70C
The list of current investigations also includes two (non-ringtone) cramming cases.

..

>>>"The Florida Attorney General's web site currently notes two ringtone specific investigations:"

Both of these Civil cases have alread been mentioned in this thread.

It has also been mentioned that, the Attorney Generals office does not place any priority on CIVIL cases and is not going to be knocking on doors in New York in the wee hours over a CIVIL case in Florida.

"The case file cited below relates to a civil -- not a criminal -- investigation. The existence of an investigation does not constitute proof of any violation of law."

Shawn does know the

Shawn does know the underbelly of the industry very well. So I don't see why people are surprised he has the jump on the story of bad affiliates being busted. Probably some of his best friends, conference speakers, etc if not business associates.

Shawn does anyone get a smaller fine for you spreading the word?

I know it exists - it's not where I play

> Shawn does anyone get a smaller fine for you spreading the word?

Since I was spreading the word to encourage people to reveal whom is cheating, that would not make a whole lot of sense.

I didn't name names to them, because frankly I couldn't do it if I wanted to - I haven't been involved in ringtones in any way, nor have I worked at a cpa network.

Sure it would make sense.

Sure it would make sense. If you knew someone who got caught already and they needed help to soften the fine, you know maybe someone who told you the story before it broke? Not saying it is true, just that it "would make a whole lot of sense". Considering the people you deal with for your conference, I don't think it would be surprising you know these people.

I know it would be a lot

I know it would be a lot more sexy if your scenario was reality. I'm afraid it's far more mundane. I was asked by the FL AG office to provide a sworn affidavit on the mechanics of affiliate marketing. That's how I found out about the whole thing and wrote about it in my blog with their permission.

..

?I have contacted the Florida's AG's office.

They told me they would reply in writing to my queries and that it would take about ten days to two weeks to receive their statement.

I will say the Florida AG media contact I used was surprised that anyone would be interested in CIVIL cases.

I was also told that the Florida's AG budget did not "have room" for any type of travel outside of Florida by investigators, so that any report of Florida AG Investigators traveling outside of Florida especially for an investigation on a low level Civil Matter was "Highly Unlikely and HIGHLY SUSPECT".

(I should note that when the subject of Florida AG Investigators traveling to New York came up I got a real big belly laugh from the media contact.)

I will post in full the response I get from the AG's office.

> I will say the Florida AG

> I will say the Florida AG media contact I used was surprised that anyone would be interested in CIVIL cases.

I'm surprised you are interested in the civil cases, as well. Perhaps you didn't see my comment from a few days ago at http://www.threadwatch.org/node/11998#comment-51655

> I will say the Florida AG media contact I used...

I would suggest (again) contacting the actual investigator, whose name and contact information were in my blog, as well as this thread.

Here - I'll save you the scroll effort and put it right in front of you:

Robert Schara, 850-414-3300 or

No reason to obfuscate the issue by contacting a media person when there hasn't, yet, been media. Contact the investigator on the case if you really want to confirm this whole thing.

I gave them a call as I do

I gave them a call as I do have some information that would be helpful in the event they go after them. The number was a general one and not a direct line. The lady seemed a bit confused when asked to speak directly to the guy and insisted she could help.

Nonetheless, she was very confused. She didn't have any knowledge of it but did take down what information I had. She said I would be contacted in the coming weeks. I did mention that they had been going door to door talking to affiliate marketers and she denied it. She said their office would not have done that and I may be confused with something else. I even mentioned that they came with two people from the New York Attorney General's office and she said that would not have happened.

The lady was real nice though. She seems to think that I was confused with a different department or that someone was playing a prank on these people. Either way, I do hope they are going after some of these companies, some of the crap out there is just bad for the industry.

Direct line to the investigators

As some people have noted, the phone number previously mentioned is the general line for the Florida Attorney General, Bill McCollum.

The direct line for people to share information on this issue is (850) 766-2889. Ask for either Robert Schara or Jon Gillman.

..

Shawn said;
>>>"I would suggest (again) contacting the actual investigator, whose name and contact information were in my blog, as well as this thread."

Ya, well I directed my questions to and requested a response from Mr. Schara and Mr. Gillman's direct supervisor. I'm perdy sure their supervisor will know what is going on.

Shawn said;
>>>"I'm surprised you are interested in the civil cases..."
Not the civil case I am interested in... It is the reporting of this 'issue' that interests me.

> They told me they would

> They told me they would reply in writing to my queries and that it would take about ten days to two weeks to receive their statement.

Hi lots0 -

Did that statement ever arrive?

..

>>"Did that statement ever arrive?"

Nope not yet.

In my experience, when a government worker says 10 days to two weeks... it usually means a month or more.

The Government has already said on more than two occasions and to people other than myself, that the idea the Florida Attorneys Office sending people to New York or knocking on peoples doors over this issue was out of the question and would NEVER happen.

I'll go ahead and publish what they send me, But I do believe the main question has already been answered.

The gist of the story, Florida Attorney ?investigators going to New York and knocking on peoples doors over a Civil online marketing ?investigation... Has been shown (at least to my satisfaction) as being without any merit what so ever. In other words, the story as reported is just not true.

Call the investigators

> the story as reported is just not true

It must have been a mirage when they sat in my living room. A fantastic plan to generate link bait, right?

Once again, the direct line for the investigators is (850) 766-2889. Ask for either Robert Schara or Jon Gillman.

...

So now they were sitting in your living room... Ya Whatever...

What happened to all the doors these guys were supposed to be knocking on (according to you)?

Shawn, I also noticed that you removed your ?original story from the url in your first post in this thread, I had a hard time finding that article on your blog. Now why would you want to go and do that?

> So now they were sitting

> So now they were sitting in your living room... Ya Whatever...

Yes, and I am in NJ. So they didn't just go to NY, they came here, too.

> What happened to all the doors these guys were supposed to be knocking on (according to you)?

I am afraid I have no power over the speed in which they conduct their investigations. If you have information on the perpetrators of ringtone scams, please be sure to call (850) 766-2889 for either Robert Schara or Jon Gillman. That could certainly expedite things.

> Shawn, I also noticed that you removed your original story from the url in your first post in this thread, I had a hard time finding that article on your blog. Now why would you want to go and do that?

I switched from MT to WordPress a week ago and haven't found an optimal solution for redirecting all the old links.

The post is alive and well at http://blog.affiliatetip.com/archives/affiliate-ringtone-scammers-in-big-trouble/

If you know of a good plugin to solve this problem for WP 2.1, I'd love to hear about it.

Detective 101

Quote:
The Government has already said on more than two occasions and to people other than myself, that the idea the Florida Attorneys Office sending people to New York or knocking on peoples doors over this issue was out of the question and would NEVER happen.

I don't know who you talked to, Lots0, but it was clearly not a knowledgeable source.

I just talked to Robert Schara in the Florida Attorney-General's office and he confirmed for me that everything Shawn has said both in this thread and on his blog is accurate. Among other things he confirmed the fact that they did indeed visit Shawn in person in his home ... and the reason they interviewed him is because he is widely respected as an expert resource in the affiliate industry. Mr. Schara also said the report of a visit on WickedFire (referenced above) is accurate. They made both visits on the same trip.

He called me back on the speaker phone so that Jon Gilman, the other investigator, could join the conversation, and they described the case in more detail. In a nutshell, it's about investigating deceptive marketing practices.

Lots0, Mr, Schara said that they have received a number of phone calls as a result of publicity for the case, but none from you. I repeat, whoever you talked to was not a knowledgeable source.

Lots0, I'm astounded that you would question Shawn's integrity the way you're doing when you didn't bother to check the story with the primary source. Both your detective skills and your intellectual honesty leave much to be desired.

What's your agenda here, Lots0?

>>>"Lots0, Mr, Schara said

>>>"Lots0, Mr, Schara said that they have received a number of phone calls as a result of publicity for the case, but none from you."

Really, no calls from me... and they told you that did they? Now since you don't know what name I used (I did not call using my internet nickname lots0.) I do believe your completly full of shit. I also know for a fact that State Attorneys would NEVER reveal the names of people that called asking for information about a case.

So what is your agenda? You interested in accurate reporting too? Or do you have some money involved in this?

I called that number, All I got was an answering machine. It is more than amazing that you spoke to both attorneys and on a speaker phone no less...

This is getting interesting... You turn over a rock and look what crawls out...

So

So, now you're calling me a liar too. Interesting.

What IS your agenda here, Lots0?

..

OK, I'll give you the ?benefit of the doubt.

You asked the State Attorneys if lots0 called and they said, "No he/she ?didn’t..."

You want to know what my agenda is... Truth, Justice and the American Way (Hokey I know, but it's the truth.) I also have an intense interest in how false stories, rumors and myths get spread thru the www.

Never heard of this Shawn or his blog before I first saw this thread. I could not care less about this guy or his blog.

However, I have become interested in finding out what the truth here really is. In my opinion too many things in this story just do not add up.

> Never heard of this Shawn

> Never heard of this Shawn or his blog before I first saw this thread. I could not care less about this guy or his blog.

Makes us even, I never heard of this "lots0".

> However, I have become interested in finding out what the truth here really is. In my opinion too many things in this story just do not add up.

I've repeatedly provided the name and contact information of the investigator to satiate your hunger for the truth.

When you do find the truth, you now know where my blog is, so feel free to post your mea culpa there.

Never heard of this Shawn

Quote:
Never heard of this Shawn or his blog before I first saw this thread.

That's obvious. And it's also obvious you haven't done any quality research to find out much.

When I called the investigators they asked quite a few questions to establish who I was, where I had learned about the case, and what my interest was. If you had talked to them you'd have been asked similar questions, and they'd have established quite quickly that you were a participant in this thread.

Quote:
I also know for a fact that State Attorneys would NEVER reveal the names of people that called asking for information about a case

That may be true, but it doesn't apply. They said they had NOT talked to you, and your own words support that. Whoever you did talk to was not a knowledgeable source.

I'd have thought that truth, justice and the American way would insist on checking your facts with the primary source!

..

Ok Shawn you did talk to them, Ive confirmed that now.

However, they did not select you and come uninvited knocking on your door. You came foward and offered the info to them uninvited... a slight bit different story than I understood you to first report.

sheesh

> However, they did not select you and come uninvited knocking on your door.

You are incorrect. They came to me in suburban NJ and there was no invitation - I had no idea they were looking for information until they came to me.

ownage

How would you like your crow done?

..

Thanks but I'll wait on that crow for a while.

I wonder why Shawn would deny contacting the Florida AG office first and coming forward with information all on his own...

Like I said this has all been very interesting. My posts being deleted from this thread by an "unknown editor" (gee I wonder which one it was?) until I complained about it.

Also about my doing "research" on this story. I don't remember anyone paying me to do 'research'.

I had some questions and concerns about the accuracy of the story this shawn guy published, because it sounded fishy to me (and it still does)...

I still have some concerns about how truthful some of the claims are, but in the big picture it really does not matter to me one way or the other if there is another blog puppie out their that ?exaggerates, over hypes and over sells a story, just one more blog in a very long list of blogs I don't trust or believe.

> I wonder why Shawn would

> I wonder why Shawn would deny contacting the Florida AG office first and coming forward with information all on his own...

No reason to wonder - I'm happy to tell you. I denied contacting them first, because it didn't happen that way. Plain and simple - I received an unsolicited visit and agreed to spread the word to help them.

Your insinuations and ad hominem attacks are just embarrassing.

One thing I'd like to note - the folks in the Florida AG office are well aware of my post - the one that you think is fishy.

Since they're in touch with me, you'd think they'd ask me to edit it if there was something incorrect. That hasn't happened.

... but in the big picture

... but in the big picture it really does not matter to me one way or the other if there is another blog puppie out their that ?exaggerates, over hypes and over sells a story...

So you spent nearly a month yapping about this and you didn't care about it to begin with ?

That statement makes you a liar or a troll take your pick.

..

Nope, I don't have to pick one and neither does anyone else.

Just to set the record straight, you know get rid of all the bull shit... I did not spend a month, I did not even spend two weeks on this, just a few minutes here and there.

And I do care about truth in reporting.

WP - if you would have read the thread you would have seen where I said I before I did not care about this guy or his blog... I was just interested in how false stories get spread through the internet.

Now before I quit this thread, are there any more 'old friends' that want to show up and call me names?

>>>Added
(Because WP can be kinda thick sometimes - I thought I had better point out that the reference to 'old friends' was sarcastic.)

This is not a false story,

It was not a false story, Lots0.

Shawn reported an event certain to be of interest in affiliate circles and you could have verified it easily if you had been honest enough to do so.

Instead, for unknown reasons you cast aspersions on someone you do not know when it's YOU who had the facts wrong.

Lots0, whatever your agenda is here it certainly doesn't look like truth or justice to me!

..

NO agenda BW. I wonder how many times I will have to say this. No agenda, no agenda, no agenda. Is that enough or do I need to say it some more?

You never did answer the question about YOUR agenda...

I also still have a question about why some of my posts disapeared from this thread in the first place...

Maybe if my posts would not have 'disapeared' like they did in the first place, I would not have become so 'interested' in this issue.

"If I had been honest"... Well I am still waiting for the letter from the AG's office (I will publish it when I get it) and I called the florida AGs office several times.

I guess I could have stopped work and drove to florida and spoke to them in person, but that would have taken more than the few minutes I thought this issue was worth.

My agenda

My agenda is truth and justice.

You slandered someone I respect and I thought it was important to set the record straight.

..

"You slandered someone..."

You have gone over the edge now BW, you are accusing me of a crime.

I hope you can back your statement up, because you may need too, I am getting angry.

lots0 - There are a number

lots0 -

There are a number of instances in this thread that a lawyer may well consider to be libelous. Some of your choice words...

"Complete Bull Shit..."

"Methinks you made it all up."

"In other words, the story as reported is just not true."

"So now they were sitting in your living room... Ya Whatever..."

"However, they did not select you and come uninvited knocking on your door. You came foward and offered the info to them uninvited... a slight bit different story than I understood you to first report."

..

Shawn you should ask your buddies at the florida AGs office what the legal definition of slander is, because you obviously have no idea what slander or libel is (they are different by the way).

Now Im done...

> Shawn you should ask your

> Shawn you should ask your buddies at the florida AGs office what the legal definition of slander is, because you obviously have no idea what slander or libel is (they are different by the way).

I didn't mention slander. Here's a legal definition of libel: defamation by written or printed words, pictures, or in any form other than by spoken words or gestures.

IANAL, but as I said, a lawyer may well consider some of your comments to be libelous.

> Now Im done...

How convenient. You realize that everything I posted was true, so you slither away without as much as an apology.

Hi All I am closing this

Hi All
I am closing this thread because...well it sucks.

and FYI, stuff like

>"Methinks you made it all up."

That is not slander. That is one person stating what they think...their opinion.

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