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Thread: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

  1. #1
    Theoretical Element Spud1's Avatar
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    How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Potentially interesting question to ask...

    A major, international "deals" website which is built entirely on user contributions, has a thread/deal that pops up every few weeks with instructions on how to commit address fraud. The target varies but is usually a company like Google (Youtube premium being the most recent).

    The instructions basically tell you how to use a VPN and fake address generator to purchase the product at a local market price - e.g. £12 a year for youtube premium instead of £120 a year. Now this clearly has a moral issue but putting that to one side, there is a clear legal issue here given that the user is providing a completely fake billing & home address as part of the process, so goes far beyond the fairly grey area of faking your location with a VPN.

    The issue is that the moderation team doesn't care, with their response being that "its up to our user if they want to follow the guide and commit fraud" (word for word...), and I can't find out where to report this to Google or any other body. I am not personally affected by this and personally have not lost out, which rules out all of the usual routes. They are based in Germany.

    Any ideas of where this sort of thing could be reported? Any suitable advertising/journalistic/legal body that could deal with it? I still find it amazing that the company behind the website (who turn over millions of $) are not interested in protecting their reputation, but then they make a lot of money from referral fees on these posts to the cynic in my provides a valid reason...

  2. #2
    Senior Member SUMMONER's Avatar
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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Surely if Google was bothered enough they would simply implement some sort of geo-blocking for those paid for premium account features?

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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Tricky one.

    My first comment is in reference to
    ....
    there is a clear legal issue here given that the user is providing a completely fake billing & home address as part of the process ....
    Is that a clear legal issue, though?

    For instance, I go into a shop to buy a widget for £x.

    The shop, wanting to harvest customer data for marketing purposes, want name, address, phone numver, underwear size, etc. Basically, amything and everything they can get.

    So I hand over the required £x in cash, and give them fake details on everything else.

    Is that illegal?

    After all, we have a contract that requires offer, acceptance and exchange of consideration. And we did that, completing when I handed over £x

    I've had the argument in several sales situations about handing over such details, Screwfix (certainly my local one) being the most persistent. I have yet to provide them with any data, but have often considered just giving fake details to save the inevitable discussion, calling of msnager, etc.

    So if, in your scenario, the user giving fake billing address etc, nonetheless genuinely pays, is it illegal?

    On the overall morality and legality of selling a fraud guide, that may well depend on both the location of the seller, and that of the buyer.

    For instance, in the US, you are going to hit the horrendously complicated area of potential illegality versus freedom of speech, and an argument that has often been successful is that telling someone how to do <insert crime of choice> is not equivalent to encouraging them to do it. By and large, the courts (right to the top) have enforced the constitutionally protected right to free speech, and in some pretty obnoxious situations.

    There is a zerious point to that, too. Allow the state to chip away at free speech, a nibble here and a nibble there, and soon enough you don't have any left.

    Is it moral to sell such a guide? In my (entirely irrelevant) opinion .... hell, no. But is it actually illegal? Here (UK), very possibly. In the US .... complicated, but I doubt it. Anywhere else? Damned if I know.

    Good question, though.
    A lesson learned from PeterB about dignity in adversity, so Peter, In Memorium, "Onwards and Upwards".

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    Hexus.Jet TeePee's Avatar
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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    In the US, you have the ridiculously badly written Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

    By the ridiculous terms of the act, the false information means that you are gaining unauthorized access to a protected computer system. Because any computer connected to the internet is 'protected'. That would be Felony level.

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    root Member DanceswithUnix's Avatar
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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Read that title as in Girl Guides. Wondered, what next, Brownies doing bank jobs?

    .. I'll get me coat.

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    Senior Member spacein_vader's Avatar
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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    I used to buy my (legit, not grey market like cdkeys.com or similar,) steam keys from a website in Brazil as the exchange rate was very favourable. I don't see a problem. If a company wants to make something they often find the cheapest country to make it, why shouldn't I find the cheapest country to buy it in? I only stopped when said stores steam keys began to be Portuguese language only.

    Similarly some US websites seem to have no problem with my address being 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, Washington so they obviously don't care too much.

    On the other side I used to work for the RSPB. They had reciprocal membership with their foreign equivalents until somebody figures joining the NZ version cost circa £20 a year so loads of UK people joined it. Now the reciprocal privilege is only extended to those who can prove they reside in that country.

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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Quote Originally Posted by TeePee View Post
    In the US, you have the ridiculously badly written Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

    By the ridiculous terms of the act, the false information means that you are gaining unauthorized access to a protected computer system. Because any computer connected to the internet is 'protected'. That would be Felony level.
    Is that true? Sure? Because surely, by offering transactions, the access isn't illegal, even if data supplied is .... inaccurate?

    Does make me glad I don't live in the US, though.

    And if true, so much for "land of the free".
    A lesson learned from PeterB about dignity in adversity, so Peter, In Memorium, "Onwards and Upwards".

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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    From an ethical point of view, perhaps they need to reconsider charging ten times more in some part of the world than others?

    I get that the purchasing power of consumers vary per country, and cost of local infrastructures also vary, but once the gap becomes sufficiently great, people would be tempted to look at work around.

    And while putting an address that you have no relation to whatsoever is pretty clear cut, there are probably made shades of grey in between. Say your parents live in another country, could someone claim that to be a "home" address? And if that is okay, then how about just borrowing a friend's address? Or how about an AirBnB address of a place you are staying on a temporary basis? etc.

    Service and digital goods are simply harder to artificially restrict by geographical border. There are many things that are significantly cheaper in the US to the point that it may still be cheaper to pay the shipping and duties on it than the buy it in the UK (even with broker fees for people who do not have anyone they can ask a favour). However, even if you have friends / family you can ask, it's a bit of a hassle for everyone involved and unless the saving is really significant relative to your disposable income, people aren't going to do that each time (and there is also the issue of returns if things go wrong).

    But with service/digital products, if a mere geographical address change the price tag ten folds, I can see why some people would look for ways around it, be it by themselves or with help. I can't comment on the legality of it, but I think the companies may want to rethink their strategies (it may well be that this model still maximises their profit as most people may well not try to play the system, though it is still unfair to those paying the asking price).

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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Incidentally for all the services above I gave an accurate billing address (only the shipping address was wrong,) and didn't use a VPN.

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    Hooning about Hoonigan's Avatar
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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Why do you want to be a grass?

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    Re: How would you complain about "Guides on committing fraud"

    Quote Originally Posted by Hoonigan View Post
    Why do you want to be a grass?
    Google pays grass, usually to sheep though.

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