FX and binary affiliate lead stealing con investigation – Part 2
“Web marketing companies that offer binary and FX marketing due to their established SEO or web marketing business are very attractive to young people wanting to make money. Why market $10 Dead Sea cosmetics in shopping malls abroad when you can market binary options accounts and get commissions ranging from $250-500 per deposit or revenue share of up to 40%?”
Affiliate programs and introducing broker networks have become very much an instrumental part of the sales and distribution channel for many retail FX brokerages over the past few years, as acquiring clients via this method has been considered to be a relatively cost effective and efficient means of onboarding customers from various regions without having to have the organic sales and retention desks in-house, as well as removing the need to buy expensive media and attempt to generate leads via methods with low conversion rates.
Whilst most certainly gaining a good relationship with introducing brokers is very much a vital part of today’s retail sales channel, the affiliate network business is a veritable minefield, fraught with uncertainty and often operated by less than reputable personnel.
During the latter part of 2016, FinanceFeeds, in the interests of ensuring that our esteemed audience does not fall foul of affiliate marketing scams, conducted substantial research into this matter, and as this new year begins, we will continue to do so in order to ensure that the best interests of the brokerage industry are preserved.
Unfortunately, as with many competitive sectors, there is always a new scheme which sets out to dupe those wishing to maximize their business, however this week, FinanceFeeds has conducted substantial research into the latest of such schemes, that being fraudulent affiliate marketing networks which make claims of bringing qualified new customers as ‘first time deposits’ (often referred to as FTDs), under what is known as ‘make-money affiliate networks’.
There has recently been a surge in the number of such ‘make-money affiliate networks’ which are 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.
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.
Binary options brand 24Option has been one of the first firms to stand firm against this, having in September issued a notice to all existing affiliates that there will be no use of ‘make-money funnels’ anymore, which is a good step in the right direction, however as with many relatively new schemes, it can take a few bad experiences before this comes to light, thus it is important to know this information in order that brokerages can protect themselves, their existing affiliates, and their retail customers. (not that I approve of any aspect of 24Option’s business ethic – Ed).
Today, FinanceFeeds conducted further research by speaking in detail to two former affiliates (both from Israel and very familiar with the entire structure of the grubby sector of the sales and affiliate marketing business that eminates like a rat from a sewer in the sordid binary Israeli options and closed-system ‘FX’ brokerages that operate their business like a gambling site and have no place on the world stage.
The affiliates that we spoke to personally know every owner of every brand in Israel, including some of the firms that are being investigated via a joint investigation with the Israeli and French police for stealing a fortune from customers in France, and the information is categorically accurate.
One particular affiliate explained to FinanceFeeds “With regard to retention, clients are sold. So let’s say I work at Banc de Binary and get 5% comission and my guy had $10,000 in his account and I know he has another $50,000. His info will be provided to a partner at another company who will then contact that particular client and arrange for the $50,000 to go there. Instead of getting 5% you can get whatever you negotiate, and that could be a fixed fee of $10,000, or a revenue share especially if you agree to continue working with the client.”
Another former affiliate explained “One common ruse is to tell the customer to send the larger deposit to xxx company since they specialize in retirement accounts and you don’t want to mix your day trading with your retirement. This works every time.”
“Lastly” he said, “you have hackers who target companies and then sell their datases to other companies. This takes place at the biggest brands because they have the manpower to call hundreds of thousands of people a month. The smaller companies are usually targeted because they have no recourse. Platform providers don’t care because the company they complain about is 20 times bigger and thus 20 times more valuable to them.”
“Some companies that are big enough, mainly in Romania where labor is cheap, cold call the phone book starting st page one. The idea is that they can choose to pay people $2 an hour to call 500 people a day than pay $500 for one depositor as the cost of acquisition via the ordinary means is now too high” said another former affiliate.
FinanceFeeds understands that many companies, when they recruit people encourage them to bring them entire portfolio or leads will consider that if a firm has 300 clients in their CRM, they can move them to any company they want since they will listen to them, as the affiliate is their ‘broker’, and therefore is the point of contact they trust.”
We spoke to an Israeli affiliate who has now left the industry who said “Legitimate web marketing companies that offer binary and FX marketing due to their established SEO or web marketing business are very attractive to young people wanting to make money. Why market $10 Dead Sea cosmetics in shopping malls abroad when you can market binary options accounts and get commissions ranging from $250-500 per deposit or revenue share of up to 40%?”
Being aware of freelance operators is also vital.
According to many sources, these entities are usually one-man-bands that operate blogs, email servers (for spam campaigns), paid advertisements (Adsense/Ppc landing page traffic), paid press releases (Banc de Binary is notorious for this as most of their press releases are actually affiliate marketeers and have affiliate links in the text and it is very easy to rank on Google with a legitimate press release.
These freelancers are often former binary options sales people who steal leads from their former employer.
Just last week, FinanceFeeds observed a group of four unpleasant individuals getting out of a taxi, all of whom used to work on sales floors in binary options firms, using fake names and lying about their location, all of whom pretend to despise each other, yet are working together now doing exactly as described above. When approached in the street and asked by FinanceFeeds what the nature of their business is, the answer was “we are all involved here, and there, and its all, you know, hush hush.”
These particular entities operate around the very binary options businesses that international governments and law enforcers are attempting to stamp out, and they cling to them like a sort of mafia which operates as a cartel.
Many affiliates have told us that a lot of former sales staff quit their job from a brand and then realize they have a notebook or file on their computer of leads form the computer they used whilst there. Many try to sell them.
Some people work at one company in order to access their lead feeds and send clients to other companies, which is a common practice in First Time Deposit departments of low grade b book FX firms and at all of the binary options brands.
It is widely recognized that many binary options brands have also interests in poker and gaming sites, and then when the gambler has lost enough money, the brands transfer the lead to their binary options desk and try to convince the gambler that he should not gamble, but instead trade the financial markets, which is a blatant and outright attempt to mislead. The likelihood of the client being offered a live trading market is as likely as the binary options salesman’s real name is John Smith from London.
In fact, geographical knowledge appears to be something of a challenge for many of these representatives, which is interesting considering that they profess to be in an international business. One particular binary options brand was recently encouraging its sales team – all of whom had fake names – to explain that they were calling from Dublin, Ireland, UK. Unless I have missed some very important geopolitical news, Ireland has never been in the United Kingdom. We must have all been wrong about the difficulties associated with the reign of William of Orange dating back to 1672.
Lying to customers about the actual product, disguising a gaming platform which is weighted in favor of the house as a financial markets system, about the names and location of the firm and other important matters is one thing, but stealing leads from each other demonstrates the lack of moral standards which run deep.
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.
Recently, 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.)
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’.
Our advice to all brokerages in the retail sector is to avoid these affiliate networks and lead sales entities at all costs. They are operated by very unpleasant people indeed and will relieve you of your cash, and probably your hard-earned client database.