Tag Archives: how-it-works

How to fix the scamming of #Kindle Unlimited

Since I first read about the scammers undermining the Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription service, [here] I’ve read a lot of comments about what’s wrong with the system and how it should be fixed.

Some people think Kindle Unlimited was broken from the start and should be killed off entirely. Others believe Amazon will make incremental changes to the system until it finally gets things right.

I believe the ‘system’ cannot be fixed until the Kindle itself is changed. So yes, I see this as mostly a hardware problem. At the moment, Amazon cannot gauge page reads by page ‘turns’ – i.e. that moment when a real reader flips the page over. Because of that hardware limitation, Amazon has to fudge page reads and that allows scammers to game the system as well.

Imagine, however, if Amazon could detect actual page turns, and only counted them when it came to payments…

-imagines a scammer sitting there, manually turning page after page after page after page after page after page after page after page….-

cat eye spinning kindle

cross-eyed cat courtesy of http://www.leelofland.com

My Kinde Fire sometimes ‘loses’ my place in a novel, forcing me to manually page through until I find my spot again. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, so anyone desperate enough to do that for a living deserves every cent they get.

So my solution? Innovate the hardware. Make it possible for Amazon’s gremlins to count actual page turns, and pay on the basis of those ‘pages read’.

No system is perfect, and there will always be what we gamers call gold farmers – players paid to farm terribly boring things over and over again so their employers can sell said things to real players too lazy to farm for themselves. But in the case of the Kindle Unlimited subscription service, scammers want to make big money in the fastest, easiest way possible. They don’t want to become readers, they just want to simulate reading, so let’s not make things too easy for them.

Unfortunately, the rankings scam cannot be fixed by hardware. You can read about how the Amazon rankings and bestseller lists have been scammed here. Even if Amazon managed to create a software algorithm that scanned each and every sentence of a book for grammatical errors, for example, I doubt that any algorithm could scan for ‘sense’ so the scammers could still fill these books with perfectly grammatical nonsense.

The problem with Amazon rankings is that they are determined by software, and anything one software program can do, another software program, or a clever human, can scam. It’s as simple as that.

But if you take away the automation you’re left with just humans, and how would that work?

Amazon’s review system is already notorious for being gamed by account holders with an axe to grin, or who just enjoy being trolls. They may not be gaming the system for profit, but they are ruining it for normal customers, so basing rankings, bestseller lists, and most importantly recommendations on reviews won’t work, unless…those reviewers are vetted somehow.

Unfortunately, if you vet reviewers then you are simply returning to the old system of so-called professionals gatekeeping the system.

The worst consequence of having professional reviewers, however, would be in the backlash from normal customers. I enjoy having my say when a book or some other product is either very good or very bad, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that. I would not be happy if I could not read genuine reviews of the books I want to read.

-throws hands up in the air-

So…I haven’t got a clue how to fix the bigger problem of rankings, but I do believe the page turn idea will happen, one day. Until then, we’ll just have to sit back and watch this grand experiment in democracy unfold.



Phishing in 2014

cat burglar picDon’t worry, I haven’t taken up creative spelling!

‘Phishing’ describes a process whereby hackers ‘fish’ for information by sending bogus emails to unsuspecting netizens. These emails purport to come from legitimate companies, and are designed to scare netizens into divulging their Account IDs, and passwords.

Rather than trying to describe the process in detail, I have an example to show you. I received the email below just today. The nasty bits have been taken out.

From : Blizzard Entertainment <tvestt@gmail.com>

[The email reply-to is the first big giveaway. Blizzard Entertainment is a legitimate gaming company, and produced the highly successful MMO – World of Warcraft. BUT! All official Blizzard emails use email addresses linked to their website, NOT gmail!]


An investigation of your World of Warcraft account has found strong evidence

that the account in question is being sold or traded.

[I did have a World of Warcraft account – about five years ago. Oddly, I didn’t start receiving these emails until a year or so after I stopped playing.]

As you may not be aware of,

[Awkward grammar and sentence construction can often be a dead giveaway as well]

this conflicts with Blizzard’s EULA under section 4 Paragraph B which can

be found here:

WoW -> Legal -> End User License Agreement

and Section 8 of the Terms of Use found here:

WoW -> Legal -> Terms of Use

[The email references genuine, Blizzard Entertainment web pages, but does not actually link to them]

The investigation will be continued by Blizzard administration to determine the

action to be taken against your account. If your account is found violating the

EULA and Terms of Use, your account can, and will be suspended/closed/or


[This is the big stick designed to scare players into quickly clicking on the link provided]

In order to keep this from occurring, you should immediately verify that you are

the original owner of the account.

To verify your identity please visit the following webpage:

[To verify your identity, you will be asked to enter your Account ID and password. The minute you do that, the hackers will have all your account information and will be able to enter World of Warcraft as youThe consequences can range from annoying to devastating.]


[Look carefully at web site name. ‘baltte’ is NOT a typo. URLs with typos do not work. Blizzard does have an account with ‘battle’ in the address, but this is definitely not it.]

Only Account Administration will be able to assist with account retrieval

issues. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and your

continued interest in World of Warcraft.


Account Administration

Blizzard Entertainment


The above example is actually a rather amateurish job, with fairly obvious clues to its origins – if you know what to look for, and don’t panic. The problem is, most normal netizens don’t know what to look for, and phishing is not restricted to online games.

In the past couple of years, I’ve received more than one phishing email – supposedly from my bank – with the right logos and graphics etc, and no easy giveaways. In fact, the only thing these highly professional phishing emails had in common with the example above was that they required me to follow a link and SIGN IN.

Now, if you don’t use internet banking, this warning probably doesn’t apply to you. However if you do use internet banking, then please understand that once you follow one of these bogus links, and sign in to your banking account, your money will be gone in minutes.That is how serious phishing can be.

So, two very important facts to learn and remember :

1. If you get an email from your bank telling you there is a problem, and asking you to login to your account via a link in the email – DON’T DO IT!

2. Always login to your account via the normal, legitimate web address. Having to type in the URL may not be as convenient as clicking on a link, but it is far, far safer. If there is a genuine problem with your account, it will show up once you are safely logged in to your account. 99.99999% of the time, however, there won’t be a problem, and the email you received will have been bogus.

The internet is a wonderful place, but even the best anti-virus software cannot protect you from hackers if you aren’t aware of the danger, and don’t exercise some common sense.

Play safe, bank safe!



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