Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Fraud, Big and Little

The human world is so thick with fraud that we have to be suspicious of everything we see. There are countless ways in which evil people can get money or, even more valuable, identity and reputation from us.

But there are little kinds of fraud that do not cost us anything but which can be used to deceive third parties.

One example is free magazines. I received a phone call from the publisher of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, asking me if I wanted a free subscription. My own work does not overlap this field in any way, so I said no. The person then said they would send it to me anyway.

And they did. It is a very slick publication, nearly as nice as Science, one of the world’s major scientific journals. Nearly every third page is a full page, very slick advertisements that are as high quality as those in Science. And there is no question that the articles and news items are very well done, also.

It is also apparent that this publisher (Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. Publishers) gets a lot of income from the advertisements. I am sure that their very large list of subscribers is part of the attraction for the advertisers. But if the advertisers think that the subscription list reflects possible customers, they are wrong. I believe that this is a deliberate strategy by the publisher to entice corporations to pay for more expensive ads than they otherwise might choose. To this extent, it is fraudulent. I am a partner to this process, and cannot do anything about it. I have no time to pursue this matter, and since I am losing no money, I have no legal interest in a case against them. It is not victimless, but I am not the victim.

If you visit the Mary Ann Liebert home page, you will find a link to Journal Collections. But this publisher does not publish these journals. The link to Biomedical Research, for example, leads to the journal home page; the journal is published by Elsevier. If you click on their publications A-Z, you find such journals as Advances in Wound Care, published by the Wound Healing Society of Beverly, Massachusetts, not by Mary Ann Liebert.

It is apparent that this “publisher’ is parasitic upon many other publishers. Maybe it matters and maybe it doesn’t, but I am a partner to this parasitism and there is nothing I can do about it. I will probably continue to be a “subscriber” even after I retire or even after I die.

Another example of “victimless” fraud is IHG (International Hotel Group). I stayed at a Candlewood Suites hotel last summer. They enrolled me in their email feed, and would not let me unsubscribe; the unsubscribe button apparently does nothing, nor did a personal phone request. Because my stay at this hotel was deeply unsatisfying (a feeling shared by other reviewers on, I told them I would not stay at an IHG hotel again. (Before staying, I called them with a question, and instead of answering the question they insisted that I rent a car from them. I hung up.) The point is that IHG has a very long list of email recipients, and they can tell advertisers that this is the case. But the advertisers may not realize that the list may consist mostly of dissatisfied customers. IHG appears to me to be a parasitic corporation that uses former customers like me to lure others. I dislike this even though I am not losing any money to them.

Parasites can live anywhere. In 1990, nobody imagined that parasites could live in what we then called cyberspace. On a Star Trek episode, a parasite lived inside of transporter beams. And you are part of the resource space that these parasites use, even if you are not a direct victim.

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