Inside a multimillion dollar fake Kindle book scam


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/28/inside-a-multimillion-dollar-f.html


#2

Maybe he earned enough to go into banking where the real profit is for scammers.


#3

I feel like this guy is getting a bum rap.

A bunch of people paid for his shitty books, and they received them. Some were unhappy with his shitty book, and of those some requested refunds, and received them. Who was scammed?


#4

This is why I don’t buy books. Well, that and this TV isn’t going to watch itself.


#5

Depending on whether he also had his books on Kindle Unlimited, plenty of little known authors who didn’t even know their payment share went down, probably. And just because someone could get a refund doesn’t mean they weren’t scammed.


#6

It’s that they received what they paid for that means they weren’t scammed.

Gaming Amazon’s ranking system definitely feels icky, and I would hope Amazon changed their system so it can’t be exploited that way.


#7

Is this actually illegal in Russia?


#8

.[quote=“Vert, post:6, topic:86381”]
It’s that they received what they paid for that means they weren’t scammed
[/quote]

That’s a hard call without knowing the actual contents of the books. Crappy book with typos? ok, maybe.

But what about “professional” speakers out of the back of the white van, battery packs weighted with sand, or external hdd that are sd cards? If it’s advertised as one thing and the contents are another, I’d say that’s a scam.

If this is explained in the original article, then please excuse me, I can’t open it right now.

If he was smart enough to list them as contemporary poetry though, well…


#9

Agreed! If the contents of a book were just unintelligible strings of characters, it would be a scam to advertise it as, say, a Dan Brown thriller.

But it sounds like they were just shitty books, hastily written: “Shershnyov paid people a few dollars to write his books through services like Fiverr.”


#10

Its more than Icky, as the ranking is perceived to be because of feedback from real users, and as buyers relied on (unbeknownst to them) doctored data to buy said books, it can be argued that it is a scam, even if the books were any good.

If no real effort was made to offer good books in bad faith, then that just compounds the underlying problem doesn’t it?


#11

To clarify: he primarily scammed Amazon. If he took part in Kindle Unlimited, he scammed Amazon AND hurt other authors because his share of the pot (it’s a set amount each month divvied out to all in the program based on how much of their stuff is read) went up which caused their share to go down.

He also scammed many of his customers who expected a good book and could not get a refund for one reason or another (there are rules around refunding kindle book purchases: you have seven days, but if you return too many Amazon takes away your ability to get a refund). If you buy a book based on its ranking, which is a fair enough idea of if its good enough to read, and it’s utter rubbish but you can’t get a refund… you were scammed.


#12

I remember going to VHS rental places, and seeing shelves and shelves of movies with cover art clearly intended to be mistaken for big-budget Hollywood stuff- so you’d forget the exact name of the thing you were looking for, see something that looks “close enough?” and take it home, only to be disappointed by whatever third-rate dreck it actually was.
This seems basically like the same thing. (with the addition, obviously, of gaming the Amazon rankings and whatnot…)


#13

He should receive some stuff for his unbiased reviews.


#14

“Shershnyov was so successful with his scheme that he created near-identical databases for his girlfriend, Anna Mandryko, a former investment advisor.”

I’m guessing she got ejected from even the Bankers club for malaction.


#15

They didn’t receive what they paid for. That’s the point.

They bought what were presented as quality books that were highly popular and well reviewed. What they received was utter crap that was created as part of a multi-million dollar scam, which used shill fake accounts and shill buyers to falsely inflate purchase numbers and popularity, and used scam reviews. The scheme was against the Amazon TOS, and was designed from the ground up. Buyers did not get what they paid for.


#16

Have you seen the Redlettermedia Best of the worst reviews?

I LOVE that schlock.

Don’t even compare the two! Bad movies are still legitimate content, even if it’s Robert Cop.

And some of those movies have transcended the originals, too! Who needs budget when you’ve got plucky can-do?


#17

Or, in other words, not the same thing.

Unlike the videos you refer to, the scam wasn’t creating fake media that could be accidentally mistaken for quality. That’s not what earned him multiple millions of dollars. The scam was the fake purchases, the fake rankings and fake reviews.

But, I do think you are right, that tricking people is at the heart of both.


#18

I guess I give Amazon rankings less credence than you all do. (And I missed the part where he fabricated reviews. That’s fraudulent; no doubt!)

Look, this isn’t a hill I wanted to die on. Shershnyov should be ashamed. I just see gaming Amazon rankings as cheating, not a scam. Is it a scam to to boost your Google page rank with linkspam? To boost your app’s rank in the iTunes store by releasing nonessential updates every week?


#19

If the product you’re selling is a scam, the tactics you use are a part of the scam.

This is holistic, the concern is not the SEO.


#20

The article only implies it - but it is, to my mind, a pretty strong implication:

I don’t think his shill buying scheme would, on its own, generate the positive reviews needed for the scheme to continue to work.