Rogue Wikipedia Editors Blackmail Small Businesses

Sep 02, 15 Rogue Wikipedia Editors Blackmail Small Businesses

Blogs have become so much more than online rants. A study from ContentPLUS found that blogs are 63% more likely to influence the purchasing decisions of consumers than magazines are, while HubSpot discovered that companies that blog also get 55% more traffic, and have 434% more pages indexed in search engines.

This means that bloggers can increase a site’s revenue, get it more visitors, and even boost its search engine ranking. They can also apparently blackmail small businesses.

The Independent reports that “rogue editors” at Wikipedia have been targeting hundreds of small businesses and minor celebrities in Britain in an intricate blackmail scam, charging them money to create positive Wikipedia entries.

The victims, which range from a wedding photographer to a former Britain’s Got Talent star to a high-end jewelry store in East London, faced demands for hundreds of pounds to “protect” or update their businesses’ Wiki pages.

Dan Thompson, the general manager of British holiday company Quality Villas, said that he’d tried to set up a Wikipedia page for the company earlier this year, but received a message from someone whom he believed to be associated with Wikipedia. They told him that his company’s page had been “declined because of lack of notability and the content up there did not meet Wiki requirements.”

The sender then offered to rewrite the content, and use their own “privileges” to publish it. The rhetoric led Thompson to fall for the scam. He was even grateful that someone would do that for him. Shortly after, a new version of his post was up, and the “editor” sent him a charge for $400 [£260], which he duly paid.

Wikipedia has already blocked 381 accounts in an action against the “co-ordinated group” of con artists, and deleted 210 articles they created. Many of these articles were promotional, and typically included biased or skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations. They were also similar enough for investigators to suspect that they’d been made by the same person or persons.

A two-month investigation, which was dubbed “Orangemoody” after the first suspicious account was found, revealed that users were exploiting these now blocked accounts to change entries in exchange for pay. It’s believed that many of these accounts were “sock puppets,” that the same person was controlling them.

The scammers’ — or scammer’s — true identity is still unknown.

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