It’s been a tough few months for Canada’s online ad industry, but a new scamster has managed to make millions off ad networks.
A report by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission found that the industry is at risk of losing $1 billion in the next few years.
The commission has identified more than 50 online ad networks, which is a lot of money for Canadian companies, said Mark Thompson, the commission’s chief economist.
“We are not sure if this is a new phenomenon or if it’s just a phenomenon we’ve seen before.
I suspect the latter, given the number of networks involved,” Thompson said.
The scammer, known only as “Tobias” or “J.T.,” uses an online forum to advertise for “sales” at ad networks such as Craigslist and MySpace.
The site, which appears to be run by Tobias, advertises the services of “joint sales team” and offers “a variety of services” such as shipping, billing, and insurance.
“Tobies” offers free shipping for orders made by mail, but also promises to pay for a “service fee” if the shipment is returned to him or her.
“If I’m not satisfied with the package and don’t like it, I can return it to you free of charge,” he writes.
“You may also have the opportunity to get a refund.
If you are unable to return the product for a refund, you may choose to accept the return on the spot or have it shipped to you.
The refund is to be used to purchase a new product.
You can choose either a return or return fee.”
He then offers to sell his services for a fee of about $150 per transaction.
“I’m also offering to pay a fee for a commission,” he says.
“For a first sale price of $200 per transaction, I’ll make $100 per sale.
For a second sale price, I will make $150.”
After receiving a $150 commission, he makes a payment of $50 to his first seller, and another $50 per transaction for each subsequent sale.
Tobys’ account balance ballooned from $1,200 to $6,000 in about two weeks, with his initial $50 payment making him $1.3 million in a matter of days.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation says the scam is one of the biggest scam cases it’s ever seen.
“In the last two years, the number and the number [of scams] has grown exponentially,” said CBC News investigative correspondent Dave Smith.
“It’s certainly the largest number of scams that we’ve ever dealt with.”
The scamster is also a self-described “junkie,” and is willing to sell himself to a buyer.
“There are many more, many more people out there,” he said.
“The only way to get into the [advertising] business is to sell yourself.”
While he’s the largest single offender, Tobias says he’s only made $1 million in his first month.
He says he made $500,000 over the course of a year, and says he hopes to expand his business into the US and Europe.
He also told CBC News that his business has grown to include a “business consulting” company that works with ad companies to make more money.