Build a $1 Billion Scam Machine In Three Easy Steps

It's been seen tens of billions of times on countless websites and Facebook. Thanks to credit card fraud, it's generated more revenue than most tech startups. Meet the "1 Tip for a Tiny Belly" con, if you haven't already.

The Federal Trade Commission, via the Washington Post, said the scam worked like this:

  • An animated ad, featuring an inflating and defalting stomach, catches your eye, and you click through, landing on a site called ConsumerOnlineTips.com or WeeklyHealthNews.com or something like that.
  • You are presented with glowing testimonials falsely attributed to ABC, CNN and USA Today. A fake TV hottie from "Channel 7" might pretend to "investigate" the product in question (her initial skepticism is quickly overcome!).
  • You are sent to a third site and asked for a credit card number to order "free" or trial samples. The number is presumably solicited for shipping costs or a nominal cost. The scammers then go to town on your card with bogus charges, according to a lawsuit filed by the FTC. In at least some cases, there was very fine print warning you that you were agreeing to a "free" sample followed by two $80 samples. Ha.

The FTC is going after small time affiliates who funneled traffic to this alleged scam. Which is great. Meanwhile, multi-billion dollar companies like Twitter and Facebook have faced no real punishment for their sloppy user security, or for quite possibly violating federal privacy and consumer protection laws. We're sure the limp agency will eventually get around to nailing a large corporation, once it finds one that hasn't hired away one of its directors as a lobbyist.