Thursday, 6 March 2008

Hustled

I really don't watch that much television but there are a few programmes that try not to miss. One of my favourites is The Real Hustle on BBC3.

Whilst the programme is targeted at warning consumers of the threats they face from scam artists, the main reason I enjoy so much is the ingenious ideas that fraudsters devise in order to make a quick buck.

The online world is densely populated with scams ranging from rogue traders on
e-bay to parked domains designed to gather clicks from content networks. A lot of these are very crude and as I am in the business, I like to think I can spot them a mile off. However I have to admit, I was recently hustled. I was left slightly annoyed but a part of me really admired it's simplicity and effectiveness of the scam.

Anyone that has purchased an iPhone will accept that one of the current limitations is the inability to set mp3 songs as your ringtone. Whilst this functionality exists in the US, like many iTunes facilities it is yet to be launched in the UK.

Therefore, last week I embarked into the world of shareware to try and find another solution. After trying a number of methods dicovered in pseudo-apple forums, I stumbled across a site that claimed to be able to convert MP3s to iPhone ringtones. All I had to do was upload my MP3 file and it would convert it into a ringtone file that I could download.

When I uploaded my file, I found that the site did nothing. I tried again, switched browsers and tried different files but there the page simpley refreshed.

After a bit of digging I uncovered that another site owned by the same company sold mp3 files for £0.50p per track. Of course, then the penny dropped. By promising to convert files into other formats, the website was merely gathering a large library of mp3 files, that could be sold by the site. There was never any intention to convert the file.

Am I as naive as some of the 'marks' on the Real hustle? I haven't lost anything, so realistically am not going to pursue the company. Most users would simply presume that the function has not worked properly. Few would suspect foul play. The fact is that this company can now sell my MP3 track as a real ringtone with my permission (which I found in the terms and conditions)

As unethical and as the site is, I have to applaud it.

1 comment:

Jess Townsend said...

Touche, dodgy scam site. Touche.

Quite brilliant actually! You're right - nobody really loses anything, and if the injured party manages to work it out (well done, incidently), they learn a valuable lesson and feel a little bit more clever for it. You've had a win really.