An Alternative to Annoying Ads (Is there one?)

I often have brilliant ideas (for websites) while trying to get back to sleep in the early hours of the morning.

If I can still remember them I do a little research, only to discover that the idea has been done, and often done to death and there is now a website listing all the websites that have successfully implemented “My Big Idea” (MBI).

Scamdex/Scamalot uses online ads to generate income to pay for the hosting etc and to give it’s owners a trickle of income to compensate for the significant effort in keeping the sites running.

No one likes ads on websites. It’s a fact, proven by the enormous popularity of ‘Ad Blockers’. This is made worse by deceptive, loud, fraudulent, offensive etc ads that make your browsing experience unpleasant.

Scamdex/Scamalot uses Google Adsense mainly, this is because I trust them not to try to trick my visitors, they use their vast databases to attempt to tailor ads to the visitor’s interest and also because they pay ‘per click’ – so if someone clicks on an ad on my site, I get a couple of cents (the amount varies widely). This isn’t exactly a quid pro quo – I have a Click Rate of around 1% – so for every 100 visitors, one person will click on an ad that they see there.  I also use a couple of other ‘Affiliate’ ads, one for a respectable on-line lottery and one for, oh and one for, a search engine for people. I am not making much, let me tell you!

So, ads are annoying and they bring in a pittance – what alternatives are there?

Well, there’s only one – a ‘Paywall’ – You need to signup and pay to get into the website. Like the newspapers do. But everyone hates that idea. We all visit hundreds of websites and only the very big/popular sites (Think ‘New York Times’) can possibly expect to get signups (and even they struggle!). A low-volume website like Scamdex would simply not get enough visitors to justify the implementation.

Anyway, you see the problem now?

Back to my early-morning “Eureka” moment – I was thinking of a way for public websites to generate incremental income without showing ads and I came up with this:

  1. Create a website called ‘Pennies from Heaven’ (PFH) or somesuch that allows people to click a link and automatically credit a website that they are visiting and appreciate with a penny (or more), from their account.
  2. PFH would aggregate these micro-donations and, assuming a certain threshold, pay out monthly.
  3. The websites would be free from annoying ad clutter and be free to fill in the gaps with more content.
  4. People would become members of PFH and set a monthly maximum amount to donate. At the end of the month, that amount would be billed to them.
  5. A discrete button on PFH-affiliated pages would invite the visitor to contribute, ostensibly to support the site financially and to thank the site for not showing ads.
  6. Another option would allow visitors to websites to automatically contribute based on page views or some other scheme – monthly, perhaps.

Sounds good eh? A Win-win as far as I can see – except perhaps for the ad companies (and the ad-blocker companies )

Well I went to a website last week and saw a button that just said ‘Flattr us’ –  Flattr this – and knew immediately what it was – My Big Idea! (MBI)

I signed up and you’ll see the button on a couple of pages.

They implemented MBI in a slightly different method, probably due to some major brainstorming sessions and logistics (I’m guessing some thresholds to do with payment processors).

So How does Flattr work?

  1. After signing up, you choose a monthly budget – say $20
  2. Every website you visit (that’s part of the scheme), you can click on the Flattr button and make it a recipient of part of your budget (for that month).
  3. At the end of the month, your budget is divided up between all the websites that you’ve ‘Flattr-ed’
  4. 90+% goes to the website(s) and the remaining 10% is split among the Flattr website and to pay Payment Processing fees.
  5. You can be a Contributor and a Recipient of Flattr income – as I am.

Ok, so it’s not MBI, but it’s close and I can see a great future. I think Micro-donations (and Micro-payments generally) are the way forward. aggregating is (currently) the only way to achieve this, mainly due to minimum charges made by payment processors – I think it’s around 30-75c per transaction.

I haven’t looked around to see if/how other micro-donation sites are doing, but if you know of one, please feel free to let me know – and your views on this subject


Violet and Allen Large – Lottery Windfall Scam

I’ve seen hundreds of spam emails, for a year or more, that reference the Canadian couple, Violet and Allen Large.

The Story
The elderly couple, who lived in Nova Scotia, won $11.2 million in a Lotto 6/49 jackpot in July 2010. They decided, due to the fact hat they were retired and had plenty of savings to continue to live comfortably, to give away the bulk of their winnings to family, local churches and various charities.

The Scam
Almost immediately, the scammers started sending out emails containing details of this true story. Typically, the pitch goes like this:

My wife Violet and I Allen Large won $11.3 million in a lottery 6-49 in July, 2010 and we have decided to donate the sum of $2,000,000.00 USD to you. Contact us via our personal email for more details ( You can verify our story by visiting the web page below.

The link, which is usually to a worldwide news website article about the story, gives the scam bona fides. The amount ‘won’ is generally $2,000,000.
Violet and Allen Large

How it works
The scam is the typical ‘Advance Fee Fraud’ (aka Nigerian or 419), where a large sum of money can only be released by submitting a relatively smaller amount. This takes the form of taxes, bribes, customs, shipping, security, courier, lawyers and any other fees the scammer can think of. A check may arrive in the post, but it’ll be fake or stolen so don’t order your new Porsche just yet.

The amazing thing about these scams, which more usually are about Deposed Dictators’ fortunes, is how long they last. Scamdex has emails and Scam Tip submissions going back years and yet the scam must still have legs, judging by the continuing flow. Scamdex continues to collect, index, and publish information on these scams but …

Scammers have always relied on and profited from P.T Barnum’s famous maxim, “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

Read more:

Swoopo, BidRivals (and other Penny Auction sites) – Are they a Scam?

My answer is ‘Probably Yes‘!

These sites (and there are plenty of copycats) appear to operate as eBay-type auctions, but they have several important differences which people need to be aware of: The main one being, unlike eBay, when the auction ends, it doesn’t!

These are not real, fair auctions like you’d expect – you bid in tiny increments, say a penny – but, every penny costs you around 60 cents (or equivalent local currency) and every bid costs money so the more bids that are made on an item, the more money the ‘house’ gets. Everyone pays, not just the winner and simple math shows that the company nearly always equals or exceeds the value of the item in bids.

It’s obviously a huge money spinner – a few ordinary goods seem to be going for $5, when in reality they can be paid for many times over by the losing-but-paying other bidders. (more…)

The Microsoft Lottery – NOT!

All my troubles are over… I’ve won the Microsoft Lottery. But I wonder – Does Bill know?

Microsoft Lottery Ticket

A Votre Amaible Attention ,


Nous Avons Le Plaisir De Vous Annoncer Que Vous Etes L’un Des Heureux Gagnants De La Bill Gates Foundation Lotery For Internet Expansion In The World Dont Le Siège Social Ce Trouve à LONDRES. Une Loterie Portant Sur Les Adresses Email Des Internautes. La Valeur Totale En Jeu Est De 50.000 000 Millions d’Euros Et Votre Adresse a été Tiré Au Sort Par Sélection Informatique Lors De Notre Premier Tirage Annuel Effectué La Semaine Dernière Au Siége Mondial Sis A DETROIT. Vous Faites Donc Partis Des Heureux Gagnants Et Votre Gain Est De 100.000 Euros.

Pour Entrer En Possession De Votre Lot, Veuillez Adressez Exclusivement Par email Au siège Social De La Bill Gates Foundation Lottery for Internet Expansion In the world UN un Courrier Comportant :

Votre Nom, Prénoms, Adresse Complète, Numéro De Téléphone, Fax, email Ainsi Qu’une Copie De Votre Carte Nationale D’identité Ou Passeport. Apres Quoi Il Vous Sera Explique Comment Entre En Possession De Votre Lot. Recevez Encore Toutes Nos Félicitations.

Directrice des operations: Mme ISABELLE CHEVALIER Sec Coordinatrice Zonale: De M. Rudolf P. Coordinateur Zonal: Markhams De M. James Nkomo

Membre du conseil : Caro malandji

Garantissez les droits d’auteur Le © 1994-2006 BILL GATES FOUNDATION LOTERY

Tous droits r̩serv̩s. Limites de service Рdirective 100860 8556 2548 9576 Mme ISABELLE CHEVALIER Directrice Des Op̩rations.

Richard and Judy – Cheesy Competition Scam

UK Broadcaster Channel 4 faces damaging allegations that the Richard And Judy show is systematically cheating viewers out of tens of thousands of pounds in a premium-rate phone quiz scam.

The phone in number goes up and thousands of people call in on a premium rate phone number, paying £1.00 ($2.00) to enter the competition. Within 7 minutes, the winners have already been chosen and their details sent on to the show. But then, a few minutes later, a second on-screen solicitation goes out and thousands more phone in, unaware that they have no chance of winning.

The daily competition makes a healthy profit of around £1 million/year. It will be nice to see them paying all that money back.

Not Cricket, Richard!

Update Feb 24 2007

Channel 4 was warned more than two years ago in a devastating email that the Richard And Judy phone-in competition was ‘unfair’, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The correspondence, which implicates the broadcaster in the scandal for the first time, was sent on September 15, 2004, by telephone service provider Eckoh after it won the contract to run the You Say, We Pay quiz.

read more | digg story

Green Card Lottery Scam (DV-2006-2007)

Here’s the latest example of this nasty scam preying,as usual, on those members of society with probably the least to lose. The US Government, as you may not be aware, makes available 50,000 permanent resident visas annually, drawn from random selection among all entries to persons who meet strict eligibility requirements from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The following warning is on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website (

Please Note: There have been instances of fraudulent websites posing as official U.S. Government sites. Some companies posing as the U.S. Government have sought money in order to “complete” lottery entry forms. There is no charge to download and complete the Electronic Diversity Visa Entry Form. The Department of State notifies successful Diversity Visa applicants by letter, and NOT by email. To learn more see the Department of State Warning and the Federal Trade Commission Warning. (more…)