Filthy abuse of iFXEXPO database exposed by FinanceFeeds

FinanceFeeds looks at how a fraudulent attempt to sell an attendee list for iFXEXPO is being sent to industry executives. We also look at the lead stealing/recycling/affiliate marketing scams that exist, largely on Israeli soil and surrounding Israeli companies. Our advice: Do not buy it.

The levels of depravity displayed by those to whom a decent day’s work is an alien concept has today reached new depths as the barrel that has had its bottom scraped for several years has now demonstrated itself to be at a lower height than it may have appeared for so long.

Whilst the barnyard mentality on the sales floors of unregulated and offshore retail FX brokers and Israeli binary options chop-shops has long since manifested itself in not only the flagrant theft of deposited funds from unsuspecting would-be traders who thought (quite incorrectly) that they were placing trades on the financial markets but also in the theft of leads and databases by sales staff who then go on to found affiliate marketing networks and in even worse scenarios, opportunist enterprises which hawk recycled leads which belong to their employers.

Ethics, it seems, is a place next to Thuffolk.

The prevalent opportunism has now stepped one stage further, and as the most well attended and widely respected FX industry B2B expo in Cyprus approaches, hosting the world’s largest number of electronic trading industry executives under its longstanding and widely renowned moniker iFXEXPO, as disingenuous intellectual property trolls are now attempting to sell the entire attendee and sponsor list of the iFXEXPO.

The seller, who claims to operate a company under the domain name “tradeshowsleads.com” (which in itself is grammatically incorrect) is claiming to be able to sell the entire database under an equally false name “Christina MacKay” who is probably more likely to be Einav from Ramat Gan attempting to shape-shift by using a more plausible ‘western’ name.

The email, that has been sent to a vast array of FX industry vendors, brokerages, service providers, prime brokerages and liquidity providers reads:

I am writing to see if you would be interested in acquiring the complete contact details of confirmed attendees from “IFX Expo International 2018”.

Each information includes Full Contact Name, Email address, Phone number, mailing address etc.

Let me know if you are interested in purchasing this attendee list?

Regards

Christina McKay

Demand Generation Manager

FinanceFeeds has today spoken to the organizers and directors of iFXEXPO, who have categorically confirmed that this is absolutely false and that brokerages should not pay these individuals any money at all. The directors and organizers of iFXEXPO are fully aware of this attempt to dupe attendees and sponsors and are indeed equally opposed to it as we are.

Unfortunately, this tactic along with the accuracy at which it has been sent to a specific cross section of industry executives in what is a niche and specialist industry – ie no generic marketing firm would understand our complex industry and its structure well enough to direct such a ruse at the exact audience unless they had a special insight into these events and into our industry’s structure, perhaps indicating that this has been done by the same types of low-intellect, badly raised crooks as those who steal the aforementioned customer lists and then recycle them.

Most of this behavior is well documented by FinanceFeeds.

Recently, many lead buying advertisements have proliferated LinkedIn, which is intended to be a business networking site, not a place to peddle recycled customer data for which the vendor has no intellectual property rights.

My experience of explaining the rules of intellectual property to many binary brand owners has resembled attempting to explain to a hedgehog how a hot film mass airflow sensor works. The answer, and I quote verbatim, from one particular large binary options brand that also has a lead buying and gaming business was “We target people who are addicted to gambling. We look to get leads from all sources and funnels, and if people working here can bring leads then this is better.”

What this particular binary options brand owner was alluding to was that they like to employ people who have worked at another binary firm, who before leaving, have copied the database onto a memory stick in order to bring it to another firm.

If the internal procedures do not respect the intellectual property of other businesses, legitimate or not, then there is little hope for any morality toward product or customers.

Another nasty trap is the plethora of entities now selling leads on the internet, with very garish marketing campaigns aimed at attracting the attention of hungry binary options brand owners.

Affiliate marketers – likely ex-binary options sales staff – selling stolen leads

As part of our research, FinanceFeeds approached three of these entities, however we believe that they are all connected and that it is a band of former binary options salespeople who have stolen leads and are now offering them on the open market. “Ping Me For Leads” stated the front page slogan on the messenger used by one particular entity. Hmm, how inviting. I might just do that….

Our conversation began with one particular sales person stating “Let me explain how we qualify leads. We have a call center in house, where we qualify leads, and for each lead you get fully verified details, (no wrong numbers, duplicates etc.), they will be all in a position to invest, they expect to get a call and to be made an offer to trade from your sales team, and all leads are qualified in an individual campaign for each client and are branded (we introduce your brand, promotions etc.)”

(Editor’s note. I had to straighten the English out here. Normally, the addition of the abbreviation sic. would be enough, but to comprehend what was an incoherent written sales pitch, I needed to adjust the English significantly. John Smith, my foot.)

The salesman was then asked by FinanceFeeds how the leads are acquired. “We get them from our funnels – financially related seminars, webinars, e-books etc”. I would love to know what the “etc” is. Sounds fascinating. Perhaps it is an acronym for ‘entirely, totally corrupt’.

When asked how lead sales people safeguard the leads that they are selling to ensure that they are not stolen, the salesperson backtracked, admitting “We target all of the regions that are popular, however these leads are not fresh and this is the main issue.”

We asked if they had been used by other binary options brands, to which the answer was “Yes exactly.” Make of that what you will.

The price we were offered was 22 euros per lead, and were asked how many we would like to start with.

The company maintained that “Every lead that you receive will speak to our call operators, who will introduce your brand, promotions, offer etc (more etc, interesting) and we will explain the next step which is a sales call from your sales team. Only if they agree this is counted as a lead and we set up a time-slot for the phone call.”

This practice has become so widespread that the platform providers are aware of it. One particular executive within a platform firm once explained that automation is perhaps a means of removing the high pressure sales from the binary options business, a question that FinanceFeeds posed to CySec Chairman Demetra Kalogerou in the summer of this year, her having concurred with this line of thinking.

However, this particular platform developer explained that it is not only the high pressure sales that could be rooted out by automating platforms and removing staff from offices, but the theft of leads by employees in binary options brand call centers and resale of such leads to other brands using the same platforms and selling the same ‘product’.

As the binary options fraudsters managed to sway the Israeli government in their direction and are now busily working on pretending to stop their operations, when in actual reality, their offices are now being re-branded to remove the word ‘binary’ and replace it with ‘crypto’ yet still carry on doing the same thing which is stealing money from unsuspecting people worldwide who wrongly think they are investing in something when in fact there is no underlying asset at all, the affiliate networks that brought them a vast number of their leads and victims are now approaching brokerages promising them incredible returns on crypto and ICO leads.

FinanceFeeds has been researching this closely, and has been targeted by some of these networks, all of whom have been working in the binary options business.

One example this week reads:

Dear…..

This is Chaya from Affiliate Partners Ltd. and I have a great cooperation offer for you. I know you are busy but please give me one second and read how I can help you to monetize your website.  We are Europe’s leading Affiliate Network for the financial sector and we have offers for Forex, CFD, Crypto, Health Products and many more offers.

For new customers you can earn up to $600, depending on the offer and the country. You could promote these in example with banners on your website or by buying media traffic – there are infinite possibilities.

Let me offer you an amazing deal when you decide to start with us. Take a look and sign-up for free: http://join.affiliate-partners.net/signup_affiliate/14

Please feel free to write me an Email or in Skype, to discuss great earning opportunities for you.

Sincerely

Europe? Seriously? It would be of interest to see what the FCA or ESMA thinks of affiliate networks that provide zero-sum traffic to companies that will remunerate them from client losses which have arisen from ponzi schemes such as ICOs in which the token or the product will never come to fruition and was never intended to, hence the absolutely fraudulent nature of this.

Other such affiliate networks are attempting to partner with reputable news and information portals and websites, so that they can place not only banners which drive traffic on a CPA (Cost per Aquisition) basis which is very common among affiliate marketing networks, but also to generate generic content containing specific keywords about ICO, cryptocurrency and other such buzzwords that create strong SEO and then use that to generate leads for fraudsters.

One example we encountered, also emanating from a former binary options salesman in Israel was “We’re currently focusing on the blockchain and cryptocurrency and fintech niche, outreaching to top writers, bloggers, influencers and publications such as yourself for collaboration. Some of our clients are NEO, Qtum, Cryptopay, Datum, LAToken, Everex, Agrello, ATLANT, ELOPlay and many others.”

“To cut to the chase, I came across your website today and I’d like to work with you. We are partnering up with publications that cover Fintech, Bitcoin, Ethereum and Blockchain news and tips as we work very extensively with a few blockchain and ICO clients that we have. We’d like to work together on featuring brands through quality content (informational contributed articles, interviews, quotes or mentions) in articles or sponsored posts which are on-topic for your site. We’re also aiming long term. We might also be interested in other types of advertising (ICO listing and banners)” boasted the marketing spiel.

On close inspection, this came from a company which is an affiliate network based in Ramat Gan, and is absolutely in no way whatsoever connected with news, research or editorial matters relating to the financial markets or financial technology. In short, they generate revenue by conducting content marketing to increase the profile and drive traffic to crypto and ICO scammers, hence a massive conflict of interest. When realizing that FinanceFeeds was investigating, they resorted to aggressive attempts to silence us.

These are just two examples of how this type of entity operates, however FinanceFeeds is aware of several networks of this nature now jumping on the completely false crypto and ICO bandwagon, all of which are Israeli and if reproached, accuse anyone who questions them of being ‘anti-semitic’ (even though I approached them to ask serious questions and was accused of that, and I am Jewish myself – Ed) hence the forceful sales tactics are present from the affiliate marketers to the boiler room sales floors of Ramat Gan’s former binary options entities which now peddle the modern falsehoods.

A common practice among Israel’s binary options and b-book unregulated FX fraudsters has been to pretend to be based in a more bona fide location and use names that sound less Israeli, a shapeshifting tactic that has duped millions of people out of their money by falsely gaining their trust, and then when it goes wrong, leaving them with nowhere to turn as “Steven” from “Ireland” does not actually exist.

This practice has now found its way into the lead generation tactics for crypto and ICO, as we were contacted by an Israeli entity claiming to be based in California, and having a UK division for lead generation.

Their falsely named representative wrote

Hello ….

We help businesses across the Internet Software & Services industry identify their B2B website visitors. This will provide FinanceFeeds with a substantial database of high-quality lead generation opportunities which your sales team can follow up with. Would love to give you a Free 14-days full access trial to unlimited website visitor data and steamline it for maximum crypto ROI. Are you the most appropriate person to pass this information on to?

Erm, no thank you.

When looking at the modus operandi of such schemes, it becomes very clear as to why they should be avoided.

During 2016, there was a surge in the number of such ‘make-money affiliate networks’ which began aiming their services directly and solely at retail FX brokerages, however absolutely all of them without exception are operated by former binary options and warehouse FX figures in Israel, many of whom are now under the investigation of the FBI, which has been in Israel during the last few weeks feeling the collars of some very senior binary options and warehouse FX brokerages owners.

FinanceFeeds investigation involved speaking to the affiliate marketing departments among many retail FX firms, and in particular with executives who have a detailed understanding of how traffic buying and conversion works within an online FX business.

One particular executive explained “I realized quite early on what this is about. Most of these networks boast that they can bring several thousand FTDs (first time deposits) to brokerages, however the FTDs never go to the actual platform. Instead they stay within some kind of designed website, which is operated and owned by the make-money affiliate marketing network itself. It then connects via an API connection to the FX company’s system, and even regulated binary options firms are asking customers to bring FTDs via these networks, saying things like bring $250 and you can be a millionaire. This is absolutely crazy.”

Indeed, such a system is encouraging brokerages to cause their clients to be involved in a semi-pyramid scheme, by asking customers to make a deposit into a live account, then connecting the make-money affiliate marketing system to their own real trading platform and telling the client that he can be an affiliate by bringing leads from these make-money affiliate networks, all of which never deliver.

One particular example of this is a network called BOA Elite, which according to our sources, is owned and operated by Leon Okun, a co-founder of SpotOption and former senior executive at the company.

Research into this matter by FinanceFeeds shows that BOA is charging $500 CPA on each, and is operating in this particular fashion.

BOA Elite boasts that it is “the largest affiliate network for financial products” and that it can “invite you to gain access to over 60 binary options and FX brands promoted under one roof.”

Affiliate marketing departments within FX firms could easily be taken in by this, and according to our research some already have been, which is concerning.

FastCash.biz is another example, which makes claims t bring $10,000 in first time deposits per month for retail traders that want to become affiliates of brokerages. This is known as a ‘converting funnel’ by those who orchestrate it, and is indeed the same principle as BOA Elite’s ‘make-money affiliate’ system, also operated by former binary options employees from Israel.

Clicksure, also operated from Israel, makes a claim that “advertisers receive access to a powerful SaaS solution (software as a service), which gives them insights to optimize their campaigns and helps them make more intelligent marketing decisions.”

The company claims that it has the technology to allow advertisers to gain access to over 400,000 affiliates without needing to manage affiliate payments, and that it allows firms to promote high converting products with weekly payouts.

The two caveats to bear in mind with regard to these systems are that brokers could fall foul of these tactics, sign up to this type of network, and lose money yet gain no new clients, and that retail customers of brokerages could be persuaded to become ‘affiliates’ in their own right, to find that actually they have money taken off them and no deposits from the network would arise.

It is very clear that these entities along with many others which now are setting themselves up from the money stealing methods they learned whilst in the binary options business will now look to aggressively peddle crypto and ICO leads.

Our advice: Go to the iFXEXPO and meet face to face, and do NOT buy from fraudsters such as ‘Christine MacKay’ or whatever her real name is.

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