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When I saw an ad for fat loss pills on the website of Ireland’s leading newspaper, the Irish Times, I knew things had gone overboard. Adblock might be a problem for publishers It's About Ethics in Stealing Games Journalism: Why AdBlock Needs to Die It's About Ethics in Stealing Games Journalism: Why AdBlock Needs to Die A simple, free browser plugin killed Joystiq – and is ruining the Internet. Read More , but realistically they need to stop whining about it Publishers Need to Stop Whining About Adblock Publishers Need to Stop Whining About Adblock Ad-blocking seems like a natural option for any consumer because of a simple reason: it's an easy way to get rid of an annoyance. Read More  because things are getting ridiculous. I decided to find out more, by doing what no one actually does: click the ads.

Related Articles and Trending Topics

As well as the more traditional sidebar, and banner stuff, over the last few years grids of Related Articles or Content from Around the Web have started to pop up at the end of articles. They first appeared on fairly spammy sites but now they’re just about everwhere. The quality of these links varies wildly – some are genuinely just links to other articles around the web.

goodads

Often these articles are typical listicles 5 Reasons Listicles are Bad For You: So Stop Reading Them! 5 Reasons Listicles are Bad For You: So Stop Reading Them! Let's understand the dangers of listicles for your brain, and how you can and should avoid them. Read More — 5 Celebrities with Ugly Babies, Look at What These Child Stars are Doing Now, 15 Amazing Photos You Just Must See — but they can also be poorly disguised marketing efforts — How This Housewife Shocked the Medical Community, Earn $1,000,000 a Year Working From Home, Doctors Hate this Liposuction Pill — and everything in between.

Most of the time, I just ignore these ads, but lately I’ve been curious. So you never have to, I decided to see what was on the other side. I dug deep into the social web How Facebook is Killing the Open Web How Facebook is Killing the Open Web Google, for the most part, helps you find out what's on other sites. Facebook isn't content to do that. Read More and found a suitably clickbait-y article. Beneath it lay exactly what I was looking for, links to nine “articles”, almost all of which looked like scams.

badads

Ads by Google

I followed each one and this is what I found.

Dublin, Ireland : Discover a Weird Trick To Make Over $3,500 Today!

One weird trick to make over $3,500 dollars? Wow that sounds amazing! Click.

freemoney

I was taken to a relatively slick looking page where a video auto-played. In it, an older gentleman, Walter Green, in soothing tones talks about how he’s going to personally make me a millionaire with the Free Money System. This isn’t a scam like Binary Options Trading Why You Shouldn't Take Investment Advice from The Pirate Bay Why You Shouldn't Take Investment Advice from The Pirate Bay It's almost a rule. The shadier the site you visit, the shadier the advertising will be. Ergo, you should never use the Pirate Bay's ads for planning your financial future. Read More , oh no, this was for real. Walter said so.

The video was everything you’d expect it to be. Hard sells, satisfied customers, “proof” that our hero has earned his millions, and the promise that he can do it for you too. A little digging revealed that the video was over thirty minutes long so there was no way I was sitting through all of it. I skipped ahead and clicked on the Free Download link fully expecting it to give my Mac a virus I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell I Think My Mac Has A Virus! 3 Ways You Can Tell Is your Mac acting kind of... weird? Whether you're seeing adverts you can't explain, or your system is unreasonably slow, you might think the problem is malware. But you're probably wrong. Read More .

Instead, I was taken to a page with yet another video playing, encouraging me to sign up for a free account. The selling continued and I was assured I was definitely going to make money. 100 per cent. Walter was going to do it all for me.

Signing up for an account was a step too far, but I clicked the Can’t Register link and was taken to OneTwoTrade, a binary options site — Walter, you liar! It seems he was just another affiliate marketer How to Set Up an Affiliate Program on a New Blog or Website How to Set Up an Affiliate Program on a New Blog or Website Read More .

This was the end of the line for me on this one.

People Become Millionaires With This Simple Manipulation Isn’t It What You W (sic)

What I “W”? With a headline like that, how could I not click.

secretmillionaires

This time I was offered a chance to join a “Secret Millionaire Society” in yet another auto-playing video. This video is much the same as the previous one, although they really make a huge deal about how super secret the club is, and how I’m the only person they’re going to let in for the incredible price of FREE — all this, despite the fact I got there via an ad on a fairly popular site.

This site doesn’t even hide the sign-up form and it’s right there from the get go. I obviously didn’t fill it in, but the content from the 20-minute long video makes me suspect it was another Binary Options affiliate.

You Won’t Believe How Members Of This Society Are Making $55,000 Per Hour!

After clicking on the headline, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of familiarity… I was back on the Secret Millionaire Society page. I hadn’t even clicked the wrong headline, they just had two ads in the same block.

I wasn’t going to suffer through the video again so I navigated on to the next link…

Get Paid $875 Everyday From Home in Dublin ! (sic)

…which brought me back to the Free Money System…

Watch how to make lucrative money before it’s too late!

Just like this one…

How Does This Dublin Housewife Make $1420 Per Day?

…and this one. I was beginning to get worried I’d just be bounced around the same two sites for the next four hours.

Woman Loses 37.5 kg Before Her Wedding! Here’s How She Did It – Watch The Video

Fortunately, with my next click we were away from the get-rich-quick schemes and onto the lose-weight-quick schemes.

The headline ended up having nothing to do with the “article” I actually found. Someone’s genuine weight loss story appears to have been hijacked to sell a product.

amanda

What starts with a video taken from ABC News (and it appears genuine) about Amanda’s amazing weight loss, quickly turns into a work of fiction. The article breaks down exactly how Amanda did it with special weight loss pills (get your 30 day free trial now!) without actually supporting anything.

This one annoyed me far more than the get rich quick schemes, because Amanda seems like a real person whose story has been coopted by scammers. I wasn’t going to sign up for a free trial, so onto the next one.

Revealed: Controversial ‘Skinny Pill’ Shocks The Irish Market For Only 8 (sic)

Shockingly, this site was actually tailored for the Irish market. Rather than claiming to have been featured on various US TV networks, they claimed to have been featured on Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, a fact I very much doubted.

irish

This site was much the same as the previous weight loss one, all “just pay the postage” free trials, money-back guarantees, and shady promises. Thankfully, rather than stealing someone’s story they just used headless or poorly lit before and after pictures so there’s no telling if the models were the same in both shots.

I definitely wasn’t providing these people with my credit card details so it was time for the final link.

Liposuction in A Bottle Revealed in Ireland!: Zero Exercise ‘Skinny Pill&# (sic)

Once again I’m hit with duplicate content — we’re back to Amanda’s story. I quickly closed the tab, thankful that my brief dig into the scammier side of the Internet was over.

Wrapping Up

So that is what’s on the other side of bad Internet ads with click bait “get rich quick” or “lose weight fast” headlines. I was surprised that out of nine ads, only four led to unique sites; the rest were duplicates.

All of the sites I found appeared to make money through affiliate schemes for either Binary Trading sites or dodgy fat loss pills. They also all used the same tactics: hard sells, exclusive offers, free trials, and broken promises. Now that I’ve seen what’s behind these ads, I won’t be clicking on them again.

  1. Sweety
    July 29, 2016 at 7:33 am

    I am from India, these ads are same on my browser. They change the location to nearest capital city and use familiar names.

  2. AANickFan
    January 11, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    YES. I see these ads all the time. And the weird thing is, I've seen one of those ads before. Wonder what was different? They replaced Dublin, Ireland with Stockholm, Sweden, where I live. So they find out where you are located and change the text to trick you even more.

  3. Itechno
    November 12, 2015 at 8:54 am

    I hope you used a virtual machine for this experiment ... not only advertisers make money, they infect your compiter to gain access to more cash leaking info..

  4. Colonel Angus
    November 11, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    And people wonder why ad blockers are so popular...

    • Károly Németh
      November 11, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      And companies wonder why we hate (flood of) their advertisements...
      On TV, YouTube and most sites you can't watching anything without ad.
      Nowadays there are more ad then real content. It's so sad :/

    • Harry Guinness
      November 11, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      In fairness, these are amongst the worst of the worst. I'm not against advertising, I'm against _bad_ advertising. I love the ads in magazines like Esquire or the John Lewis Christmas ad.

      • Colonel Angus
        November 11, 2015 at 5:10 pm

        Sure, unobtrusive ads are no problem. I don't begrudge a site trying to make a little scratch. However, I put click bait in a different category. The examples given in the article border on being fraudulent.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 11, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      Definitely. But I went out and found the worst. But there's a reasonable level to these things, and click bait isn't inherently wrong as long as the final site isn't a scam.

  5. hazfam
    November 10, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Just curious, is all make money online websites or links are scam? I am eager to know if there are legit and real thing out there. I am not referring to MLM.

    Thank you

    • Ben Stutts
      November 11, 2015 at 11:53 am

      If some one actually has a system to make lots of money, they are going to be using it to make lots of money for themselves. Not selling or giving it to competitors like you would become if it was real The actual way they make lots of money is by finding suckers that they can convince to send them money for their bogus system.

      • Harry Guinness
        November 11, 2015 at 1:29 pm

        Yeah, the best way to make money online is to teach people how to make money online. There are legitimate ways to do it—hell, I make money online writing—but you won't find them in the ad section of a crappy site.

  6. Read and Share
    November 10, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    What a cowardly article!! Howard should have gone all the way. It's not difficult to get one-use credit card numbers - so order the damn products - try them - and report back! :)

    • Thomas
      November 11, 2015 at 11:59 am

      I second this! Really?! You didn't go all the way, come on!

    • Harry Guinness
      November 11, 2015 at 1:30 pm

      Tell ya what, lend me yours and I'll happily do it! And I promise there'll be no suspicious charges...

  7. likefun butnot
    November 10, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Properly configured internet browsers don't display ads. They're a security risk. They should not be tolerated.

    I would also like to mention that I've encountered OSX software, while probably not meeting the technical definition of malware as its removal was very straightforward, did install a toolbar in Safari and generate pop-ups outside of a browser. It was bundled with a copy of PopcornTime for OSX that one of my Mac users got from I-don't-know-where.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 11, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      You sound like a Dalek! Ads shall be EXTERMINATED.

      And yeah, I got hit with a toolbar by UTorrent. Was not a happy bunny.

  8. Maryon Jeane
    November 10, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    What worries me is that I've noticed the region information is always very specific - like here with the Irish/Dublin information. For example 'my' ads are headlined such as: 'XX [my nearest town] Housewife loses 180 in three weeks', even when I'm meant to be behind software hiding any personalised information. How does that happen?

    • Harry Guinness
      November 10, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      It's because of your IP address. They can't place you exactly with it, but they know that I'm in Dublin from mine. You can always use a VPN and then they'll think you're somewhere entirely different.

      • Maryon Jeane
        November 10, 2015 at 9:04 pm

        That's the problem: even though I'm using ZenMate, they're coming up with my nearest town and my county!

        • Harry Guinness
          November 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm

          Hmmmm. They could also be using cookies. If you visited once without ZenMate they might have your location saved in a cookie. That's all I can think of! Your location is leaking somewhere anyway.

        • Maryon Jeane
          November 10, 2015 at 9:20 pm

          Yes, it's definitely leaking somewhere - but I'm really straining to find out where because it matters in terms of what other information is being logged/left in the same way. I've got all my browsers set to clear cookies at the end of each session, I've got filters for cookies anyway, and I do an automated clearout of cookies overnight. I don't much care about the location thing (although, interestingly, other places show that the ZenMate shield is working, for example on Amazon UK I get alerts that an item I'm looking at isn't available in Germany, or the US or whatever). If I did once click on an ad without using a secured browser (possible as I'm prone to poor clicking, not being a mouse user except where strictly necessary), how is it that the information is still extant after all my (rather paranoid) care?

          Maybe MUO could address this issue?

        • Shawn Wayne
          November 10, 2015 at 9:23 pm

          I used the Ghostery extension in Chrome for a while. It tells you what trackers are loading on a page, and you can selectively block them https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ghostery/mlomiejdfkolichcflejclcbmpeaniij?utm_source=chrome-app-launcher-info-dialog

        • Richard Allen
          November 11, 2015 at 2:13 am

          A couple ideas. WebRTC leaking IP address when using a VPN? Test site: https://diafygi.github.io/webrtc-ips/

          Also, HTTP Strict Transport (HSTS) and HTTP Public Key Pinning (HPKP) can both be used to track users. Some articles that can be searched for and found easily;
          Unpatched browser weaknesses can be exploited to track millions of Web users.
          New Browser security features have tracking side-effects
          RadicalResearch HSTS Super Cookies, test site.

          In Chrome HSTS and HPKP info can be cleared by deleting 'cookie and other site and plugin data' from inside settings, manually. In FF you need to clear 'site preferences.' I have Chrome, FF ESR, Chromodo and Pale Moon installed. I switched from FF to Pale Moon a few years ago and PM is my default browser. PM by the way does not use WebRTC, HSTS or HPKP.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 11, 2015 at 1:32 pm

      I'd suggest doing what Richard Allen says (mainly because he just used a load of words I barely understand!) You could also submit it as a question to Answers but I'm not sure they'll cover it. It's more of a trouble shooting thing for your specific setup than a general tool.

      • MaryonJeane
        November 11, 2015 at 4:45 pm

        Thanks folks - lots of suggestions here and I'll get busy (it's going to take a while to work through these one by one!). Very helpful.

  9. Shawn Wayne
    November 10, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    But, but, but... what about all those ads to make all women fall head over heels for you and get laid in minutes with this one simple trick? Exactly what system am I handing my credit card info over for this one? LOL :P.

    • Harry Guinness
      November 10, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Oh those ones totally work!

    • Maryon Jeane
      November 10, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Would anyone like the female take on this?...

      • Harry Guinness
        November 11, 2015 at 1:34 pm

        As long as the female take is "yes boys, of course they work"! Otherwise I'm going to have to ask for a refund. I can't believe someone would lie about all those horny singles.

        • MaryonJeane
          November 11, 2015 at 4:46 pm

          Of course they do, Harry. And there is a Father Christmas. And an Easter Bunny. And a Tooth Fairy...

        • Harry Guinness
          November 11, 2015 at 10:44 pm

          Oh, I knew about them already!

        • Colonel Angus
          November 16, 2015 at 2:36 pm

          Wait a minute... are you insinuating that someone other than the Tooth Fairy slipped those quarters under my pillow when I was a kid? (The fact that I only got a quarter should tell you a bit about my age!)

        • Maryon Jeane
          November 16, 2015 at 2:56 pm

          Perhaps you could get your mother to give me a ring as a matter of some urgency, Colonel? I need to have a little word with her...

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