Crossing the line: Preying on the weak and gullible
“When I was younger I was taught to never talk with strangers for I was gullible and they might fool me with no apparent reason. When I was a little older, strangers turned into acquaintances, acquaintances turned into friends” – Keren, For I Was Gullible.
At which point can something be called scam? At which point does one’s “clever actions” become so malicious in their intent that it becomes clear without a doubt they prey only on the weak and gullible? I think we have found the answer.
Last night, perusing YouTube, I came across an advertisement. It had all the hallmarks of a classic. A good eye catching image, contrasting messages and a ‘click-bait’ headline. Instantly I knew this was some sort of get rich quick scheme and had an inclining it had to be FX or Binary Options.
I clicked. Instantly I found myself on a webpage that was created to mislead the viewer into thinking that the company has been featured on CNN.com. The URL is present, cleverly set up using subdomains only to solidify this intention.
Here is a link with full details: http://cnn.com.top1spot.com/Did-This-Homeless-Man-Buy-Ferrari/gm.htm?
The page layout, the logo, the top navigation, the side bar containing top stories and everything apart from the actual post itself is all an image and when clicked takes you to the intended landing page.
Whilst anyone in the marketing and advertising space will be familiar with this tactic of using reputable sites and sponsored content to help do the foreplay prior to the final sell, this is crossing the line even for someone like me who has seen everything.
Its all just a big spoof. Everything on that page is designed and “cleverly” placed in order to give the reader the impression that this is CNN. We are awaiting confirmation from CNN and the other news sources listed proudly as “featured in” for comment but on a preliminary search on their websites revealed no such endorsement or as much as two lines featured.
Then I read the story of how this homeless gentleman actually made millions trading and it got real good real fast. I know I am sceptical and already on to this by the time I got to the copy; it was well crafted and am sure has made many a gullible folk sign up.
According to the spoof page, a CNN correspondent even tested this going on to explain:
Naturally, with a story so outrageous we here at CNN thought that there was a good chance that this was just another internet prank or hoax so we sent our lead investigative reporter, Paul Donaldson, out to investigate.
Now that we had verified Josh’s claim, we wanted to take it one step further. We wanted to see if one of our employees with zero trading experience could come close to Josh’s results. We wanted to see what it was like behind the scenes with Gemini 2. So we approached Mark, who works at the mailroom here at CNN with the opportunity. Mark was eager to give it a try and was even OK with using his own money to make his first deposit with the brokerage firm since management wouldn’t let us fund his deposit for legal reasons. He said it wouldn’t be a real test if he wasn’t using his own money anyway, plus the Gemini 2 software itself was actually free. Besides we told him we had done exhaustive research on the brokerage firm and knew it was essentially like he was depositing the money into a bank. It had all the same insurances and he could withdraw his money whenever he wanted to.
If you have not already clicked the above link, I urge you to do so and read the full article before proceeding to read further here.
The copy also puts emphasis on 24Options as the preferred broker where as they carefully made sure to point out:
We saw a series of deposits from 24 Option. We looked up this company at the relative regulatory agencies, and found that they were a highly reputable options brokerage firm. This was the broker Josh had been placing his trades through, trades that were made for him by this mysterious “Gemini 2” software. 24 Option was one of the preferred brokerage firms of Gemini 2 and had all the proper authorizations, approvals and had been in good standing for 15 years.
The story is quite convincing. A rags to riches story backed by images carefully placed to get you excited to click through to the next phase in this scam, the Gemini 2 landing page.
Gemini 2 – the 100% full proof, no loosing trade trading software
Once on the Gemini 2 landing page the final sell happens. A well curated video with fast cars, money and a knack for sharing the secret to success so we can all enjoy the riches. Im being sarcastic…
According to the information on Gemini 2’s website terms and conditions, they are based in Cyprus and not affiliated with any brokers.
17. GOVERNING LAW AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION. These Terms of Service and all disputes or claims arising out of or related thereto shall be governed by the laws of Cyprus, without applying conflict of law rules. Any cause of action or claim arising out of use of the Site must be commenced within one (1) year after the claim or cause of action arises, or such claim or cause of action is barred. Claimant and Gemini 2 waive their rights to a jury trial and participation in class action litigation.
18. BROKER DISCLAIMER. Any brokers promoted, advertised or made otherwise available through Gemini 2 website, or any links contained thereon, are third party entities and not related to Gemini 2. Gemini 2 exercises no control over such brokers. Any mention or recommendation of such brokers do not represent an endorsement by Gemini 2 of the broker’s success rate, nor is it a confirmation of the broker’s compliance with any relevant licensures, rules, or regulations. Gemini 2 is not responsible for any advice, activity, damages or loss arising out of or in any way connected with the use of a broker found or advertised on Gemini 2 website and expressly disclaims any liability resulting from reliance on such broker. Gemini 2 site users choose a broker at their own risk.
A preliminary search could not find any entity called Gemini (Holdings) and nothing found with the person Brandon Lewis the claimed creator of the Gemini 2 trading software. So who are they? Why do they hide? We’d love to hear from you.
A Whois lookup reveals nothing.
24Option and their connection to this scam?
Based on the spoof CNN website and copy, we can be sure that Gemini 2 are affiliates of 24Option at the minimum. We have asked 24Option for comment and what terms in their affiliate / introducing broker agreements are in place to prevent such blatant forms of false and misleading advertising.
We approached 24Option via the firm’s corporate lawyer, asking for confirmation of any relationship between 24Option, its holdings firm Rodeler, and Gemini 2.
We requested a full breakdown of how the two are connected if at all, and if so, a copy of the affiliate license agreement if they are not the same company and are simply an affiliate that refers business to 24Option or other companies in addition.
In the event that there may be no connection whatsoever, we asked 24Option’s lawyer to specify how it can be proven that there is no connection, and what 24Option is going to do about ensuring that it is proven that there is no connection, and what 24Option propsoses to do about this kind of misleading marketing being associate with its name.
The response from the company’s lawyer stated “I have reviewed the matter below with our client. After having thoroughly reviewed the matter I can confirm that neither 24 Option nor Rodeler are in any way connected or related to the “Gemini 2” app or the entity promoting it” despite a 24Option platform being depicted on the article by CNN.
24Option’s lawyer continued “As I understand the article, the reporter used the Gemini app to execute trades on the 24 Option platform. Irrespective of whether or not this actually occurred, there is nothing in the article that indicates a link between the app and its distributor to 24 Option (indeed, such a link does not exist).”
This is something that at a minimum, a broker claiming to be reputable and definitely one of the top 5 Binary Options brokerages in the world; should be aware of and put a stop to.
Why does this all matter?
False advertising is all around us. I choose to write about this particular incident as this is not just a form of “make money online trading”, this is a blatant and malicious attempt to mislead. The use of CNN’s name, the first landing page setup, the attention to detail and even the overall look and feel to strengthen their reputation crosses a line.
Then there is the claims by Gemini 2. 100% winning trades, make millions online, buy a Ferrari and the completely fake made up names used to help sell this to you.
Know that those that fall for this aren’t people like you and I. These are the weak and gullible. Many have lost millions collectively on scams like these. They hunt, target and prey on the weak. This is the problem with the Binary Options industry today. The few that take this approach ruin it for the rest.
Moreover, this form of advertising is illegal. The claims, the false use of legitimate and reputable news sources, and the eventual financial ruin of many that fall for this, its wrong on so many levels.
We pushed CySec for clarification on the matter and will post their response. We are also in the process of finding those behind the Gemini 2 software and website.
Will update you with more information as it arrives.