It probably is. One of the things that, after quite a few years doing marketing is to realise that there is no free lunch. And that if some product, service and/or idea seems too good; it probably is a scam. So this rather lengthy post is about Hoopha! and TOSBOWNER and a potential scam.
Recently, we were added to the e-mail marketing list of TOSBOWNER (The Online Small business Owner’s of America). It seemed we had been recommended to the list by one of our customers. Strange, but okay, especially since we weren’t American as we pointed out. It wasn’t a concern as far as they were concerned, so off we go. After all, you never know what networking with other people might bring – from information to recommendations to potential customers.
At first, the e-mails seems innocuous enough. A lot of personal information, some innocent questions, etc. We were even contacted by some of the business owners in-person. However, soon enough a name of an advertising agency/service started popping up a lot – Hoopha! It seemed that Hoopha! had created a new form of traffic generating service called HSPPS (highly specialised pinointing service).
The reviews on the service were incredible – 5-25% conversion rates, a couple of hundred additional visitors each day. A very small pricing amount of $500 a month for that kind of result.
My first thought was, “Wow! That sounds incredible. How come I haven’t heard of them before?”
Well, that’s because no one has ever written about them. Hoopha! to Google and Yahoo! and MSN was non-existent. I could not find a single article about them, not one blog post; news report or forum post. And these guys have supposedly been giving out these results for over a year now.
Yes, you can see why I’m suspicious. Any reputable company in the advertising side, within a few months, gets some buzz. If nothing more than to generate new customers for themselves.
The next flag was when I started pushing for additional information on how Hoopha generated these results. No one, even the people who were signed up to the service, could explain it to me in any detail, beyond the fact that they drew traffic from a variety of sources, and using some sophisticated technology and algororythm, manage to stream that traffic to you. And that results took a varying number of months to occur.
After this had happened a few times, with a few people, and nearly every other e-mail was concerning these guys (in one way or the other); I decided to do one last search. And I eventually came across a brief tweet, mentioning the fact that both domain names (TOSBOWNER’s and Hoopha!) were registered to the same company.
Interesting. I did some verification of my own and what do you know? It’s true. Well, that was the last straw and I requested removal from the group. And I haven’t heard from them since then.
So was it a scam? I don’t know. I have no hard evidence. Quite often in the e-mails it was mentioned that Hoopha! was not taking any additional clients, so I was never asked for money. Hoopha!’s website is for authorised users only. And the people (unless it was a really, really elaborate scam) seemed genuine and nice. But with so little information given out, it just seems way too fishy for me. I guess I’ll never know for certain.
EDIT : Link to an off-site post which includes research by people who actually did some homework and realised it really was a scam. And worst, someone’s started name calling us on that thread. Guess we’re hurting their little HSPPS scam.