Scamming as an Art Form: Ed Magedson and Ripoff Report
To be a brilliant artist, you don’t necessarily need to use paints, clay or any other traditional artistic tools. You apparently don’t need to have morals or a conscience either.
Ed Magedson is a name well known throughout the internet as a scam artist and the man behind Ripoff Report. The website claims to serve as a consumer advocacy forum: “By Consumers, For Consumers”. But if you believe the many, many reports from other sources, the website is merely a blackmail scam to con businesses into paying Ed Magedson.
The site claims to offer the consumer a chance for retribution or justice for being ripped off by a business, but there is some evidence that many of the posts are written by Magedson or employees. Ripoff Report says it has won numerous legal battles over the legitimacy of the reports, and it has appeared to find a large degree of protection from the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. Magedson himself has been in court and if you’d like an idea of how slippery a character he is, you can read the court transcript here.
I’m not saying that a site that legitimately warns consumers of potential scams aren’t good for business. The internet has provided a means for consumers to voice their concerns and complaints when they’ve been slighted. But what about businesses who are targeted for no apparent reason?
If Ripoff Report is to be believed, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google harassed a couple of 16-year-old girls in a Santa Monica coffee shop and attempted to get them to go to a hotel room (link). I don’t know Page or Brin personally, but I don’t really need to. The two founders of the largest and most successful search engine in the world weren’t drunk in a Santa Monica coffee shop picking up 16-year-old girls. The claim is ridiculous. **It appears that the name has been changed from the original post to now read Soney Bonoi.
Unfortunately outrageous claims are all the norm on Ripoff Report, and your average business can be targeted with little to no substantiation. The worst part about Magedson’s site is that Google has continued to rank the reports exceptionally well. Search for a given business, and if there is a report written on it, chances are the link will appear on the first page.
Yahoo and Microsoft’s Live search engine have begun handling the reports differently. MSN won’t list Rip-Off Report at all in its listings, and the visibility on Yahoo is a mere five percent. Compare that to 91 percent visibility on Google and you can see why Rip-Off Report gets the traffic that it does.
According to results culled from Compete.com on April 14, 2009, Rip-Off Report receives nearly 3 million unique visitors a month! To put it in comparison, Fox.com gets 3.36 million unique visits a month. That means nearly as many people are viewing the company-bashing reports on Magedson’s site as they are catching up on the latest episodes of House, Family Guy and American Idol.
This kind of traffic is what continues to give Rip-Off Report “relevance”. How much relevance can be gleaned from learning about a supposed case of adultery in Minneapolis is to be determined (link). The company openly states they will not investigate the validity of the claims – unless you want to join their “corporate advocacy program” and pay a hefty fee.
I suppose you can call this something other than extortion, but I’m afraid my antonym finder is broken at the moment. Until the laws are changed or Magedson slips up, the only thing to do if you find your business on the site is to create your own quality content and hope Google sees the error of their ways. At least you won’t find much about R.O.R. on Yahoo or MSN.
**All of the links to mentioned Ripoff Reports are nofollows.