Who's Who scam
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A Who's Who scam is a fraudulent Who's Who biographical directory. While there are many legitimate Who's Who directories, Who's Who scams involve the selling of "memberships" in fraudulent directories that are created online or through instant publishing services. These fraudulent directories represent thinly veiled moneymaking scams.
A scam may begin with a telephone interview or online questionnaire to validate a potential target's personal information. This information can be included in the fraudulent directory, sold to other marketing firms, or used in future attacks such as phishing emails. Once the personal information has been gathered, the target is congratulated as having passed the interview and is asked to provide a credit card number to finalize the process. Upon further inquiry, the target may be told that a credit card payment is required to receive a certificate and copy of the directory.
Recently incorporated companies are often behind these scams. The few individuals listed in such directories often have themselves included as a marketing tactic. The result is that these directories become a simple form of vanity publishing. One known problem is that people's credentials sometimes list their online directory memberships long after such fraudulent directories disappear from the web.
There are numerous variations of these practices. In former European monarchies, publishers compile volumes listing "noblemen" (such as dukes, counts and barons) who are often little more than fantasists who paid large sums to have their names inscribed in these books. Even high school students are not immune to such ploys; for many years a now-defunct company based in Texas published a Who's Who Among American High School Students which justified its activities by offering (at random) a few scholarships, usually for $200.
Who's Who companies that adequately filter their entries and provide value to the people listed in them are hard to identify. A & C Black's Who's Who is the canonical example of a Who's Who reference work, being the first to use the name and establish the approach in print. However, the longevity of the publication itself is not a guarantee. In 1999 Tucker Carlson alleged in Forbes magazine that the long-lived Marquis Who's Who adopted practices of address harvesting as a revenue stream, undermining its claim to legitimacy as a reference work listing people of merit. However, Forbes currently bases 10% of the methodology for its America's Best Colleges list on alumni listings in Who's Who in America, the flagship title of Marquis Who's Who.
- American Biographical Institute
- Author mill
- Cambridge Who's Who
- Diploma mill
- Employment scams
- International Biographical Centre
- What Price Fame? Be a Very Important Person - all it takes is money, David Vernon, The Skeptic, 2007, Vol. 27, No. 2, p. 16
- Hall of Lame, Forbes, August 3, 1999, "Who's Who in America ... appears to contain a lot of relatively unaccomplished people who simply nominated themselves. To make the process of self-promotion easier, Reed Elsevier, the publication's parent company and the owner of Lexis-Nexis, now has a site on the Internet where would-be biographees can complete a 'biographical data form.'"
- Compiling the Forbes/CCAP Rankings
- About the International Biographical Centre, on the ScamNet's website
- What's with the Who's Who?, Who would be so foolish as to pay for inclusion in a Who's Who book that no one reads? CSO Online
- Tucker Carlson, The Hall of Lame Forbes, 03.08.99
- Vanity Publishing, guide against fraud by Connecticut State Attorney General
- Vanity Publishing, consumer protection fact sheet list by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
- Who's Who Scam, on Everything2
- Who's Who Directories and Biographical Works, New York Better Business Bureau