I took my family to visit PT Barnum’s Cardiff Giant this past Sunday. Do you remember him? It all started when some scam artists planted a 9 foot tall stone statue of a man in a farmer’s field in New York. When it was “discovered” by farm hands it turned into an overnight sensation. It went on the road in a dimly lit rail car. People streamed though the display for a glimpse of this biblical marvel paying 50 cents a peek. The scam artists who pulled this off worked long and hard at it. They had the giant carved in Chicago and transported to New York. The conspiracy included the farmer, archeologists, and publicists.
PT Barnum, always on the lookout for a new scam, made them an offer for the giant but they turned it down. So, not to be out done, he manufactured a copy of the Cardiff Giant and put it on display in his museum in New York City. He took money from people to see a counterfeit scam! Barnum’s Giant is on display in the back of Marvin’s MarvelousMechanicalMuseum in Farmington Hills, Michigan. (If you want the story of how it got there you are going to have to visit Marvin and ask him. He will show you the letter he got from the grandson of one of the original Cardif Giant scammers). The original is hidden away in a museum in Cooperstown, NY.
Scams are of course interesting because there are so many of them on the Internet. From the harmless “Modem tax” or “business card boy” to the Nigerian 419 scam mentioned last week, to scam websites, to pure and simple social engineering as practiced by the Private Investigators in Israel (see below).
And then there is adware. This is software that typically rides along on an application such as Kazaa, or a search tool bar, or a screen saver, or “smiley’s for your email”. The scam artists that defend their business model claim that they “make free software possible.” I think of the “free software” they make possible as Trojan horses that carry a payload that slows your computer, monitors your browsing behavior, and redirects your searches and browsing to advertiser’s sites.
I know which side of the line adware vendors belong on. Do you?