You are being conned.

Beware the little “offers” which get you in-game perks on social games like the ones on Facebook and MySpace: most of them are scams.

The above-linked article has been popping up from a few different news sources today, one of which was The Escapist. Here is my response to that article:


I’m all for protecting the public from predators, but when it comes to protecting people from their own stupidity I tend to be a little less generous. There’s no doubt that these offers absolutely push the ethical envelope if not the legal one and on a personal level I find it a despicable practice, but the question remains: How far are we willing to go to protect people from themselves? Fine print exists precisely because of various industry regulations; are we now admitting that we as a society have grown so lazy, indifferent and/or stupid that we need these warnings spoon-fed to us in monosyllabic 24-point boldface?

We as a society shouldn’t be allowing this sort of deception to happen in the first place. Fine print is in itself a deception (or, if you prefer, misdirection). It doesn’t directly exist because of regulations; those regulations require that information to be provided but they do not require it to be provided in fine print. That is done to quite intentionally make it more difficult and tedious for people to read, thus reducing the likelihood that they will.

Sure, maybe legal details of offers won’t fit in the main body of an ad or whatever, but the basic premise should be spelled out clearly in the main copy.

But attitudes like the above, attributing it all to people’s “stupidity,” “laziness,” and “indifference” are what enable such scams to continue. Seems more like ignorance than any of those things, but calling it that makes it a little more difficult to defend the position that it’s all the fault of the person clicking that link. Then it becomes a question of whether that person is responsible for not knowing they’re being conned. Are we as a society providing adequate resources out there to inform them, then, and in places they are at least as likely to notice as the scams themselves? If not, how are we supposed to expect them to know? They aren’t born with that knowledge.

But, of course, all of that is avoiding the real issue: it is blatantly obvious that the people running these “ads” are intentionally tricking people out of money. The question of who is responsible for preventing this sort of thing (answer: every single one of us) would be moot if we as a society would recognize that it’s counterproductive to keep scamming each other left and right. Of course, that would require people to realize that money is not the most important thing in the universe.

Until such a collective epiphany materializes, we have to each take responsibility for our part and do what we can right now to make “we as a society” more in line with what works (actually, that is the collective epiphany, just on an individual level). Personally, with regard to this particular issue, I will be spreading the link to that TechCrunch article around on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog, and warning people to avoid those offers.

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