Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sponsored Post Scam: How to Recognize And Deal With Brands/Companies That Won’t Show Up.

What happens of people whose ethics are not in place - Business Deals


If you don't have integrity, you have nothing. You can't buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.
― Henry Kravis.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

First things first, I don’t consider blogging to be a money making machine. For people who work on it sincerely and creatively (also some of the people I admire profusely), it is a richly nurtured work of art that has the ability, primarily, to make an impact, touch and transform.

This is one reason I have avoided writing anything about money making posts on my blog.

I find it somewhat irrelevant to what I do - travel and blog, plus I’m no expert at it either having figured everything out.

When I started blogging, making money out of my blog was not on my mind, not even in the remotest corners of it. I wasn’t even aware if it was possible. All I did was express and that expression gave my mind wings, my heart all the happiness of the world.

It wasn’t until a few years later, after I had my feet firmly planted on the blogging ground that financial opportunities started rolling in and I started exploring some of the many ways one can monetize a blog – ebooks, ads, banners, Google Adsense, affiliates, sponsored posts, etc.

Although there is a lot to learn about each of these options, today I want to share something specific to sponsored posts. 

But first - let’s understand what basically is a sponsored post:


Sponsored post is renting a space on your blog in the form of links or reviews in exchange for monetary benefits paid by brands / companies. The benefit here is of course mutual – with the brands getting a platform for promoting their goods / services / pages and we as bloggers getting an opportunity to make some money.

How this works in most cases is that brands / PR agencies contact the bloggers with the campaign they wish to collaborate on. The deliverables and the reach of the blog are taken into account, and so is the niche and following, after which the fee is decided upon.

If you can find the right balance between authenticity, staying true to your audience and marketing, sponsored posts is one way how you can make money.

As someone who has enjoyed dabbling in it from time to time, recently I had a company lie to me to get me to link their pages on my blog and once that happened, they backed out on the promised payment.

How An Online Gifts Company Conned Me in a Sponsored Deal:


1 month prior to Raksha Bandhan, the popular sibling festival in India, sometime in July, I received a request from a lady named Tara Williams (tarawilliams.tara1@gmail.com) representing winni.in, a company selling gifts online, to put up a sponsored post; of course, they were willing to pay me for the deal.

The deal was finalized and I published their article, with a month still to go for the festival.

Sounds perfect, right?

Until of course, it was payment time. Payment… which was promised within 48 hours of publishing and has still not arrived, till date.

Mail by fraudulent online gift company winni.in

The only caveat from my side was that I was travelling during this time and failed to follow it up on time.

Once I was back, and when I did confront about it, I was given a vague reply. Suddenly, she was busy with her emails lacking the promptness she showed previously.

Generally, when there is a delay of this nature, I find my solace by removing the links and often, the payment is done.

But in this case, even removing the links was of no use because it was a time bound, festival specific post and by the time I got down to it, it did not matter as the festival was already upon us and their purpose had been solved.

Although this is the first time I experienced it, this happens a lot in the blogging arena in various different ways by various different people. And frankly, it’s only going to get worse as there is no central body governing the ethics followed neither are there any set rules and regulations monitoring how it all works.

This left me wondering - how easy it is for some companies to follow unethical practices, take advantage of and blatantly get away with it? And why?

Is it because we bloggers won’t speak up? Is there any way to figure out which companies are sincere and will not back off once their job is done? And, what are the best practices we can follow when engaging in sponsored post content creation and distribution?

Beware of These Red Flags When Trying to Strike A Sponsored Post Deal:


Unfortunately, there is no sure shot way to know if a company is sincere or if it is only posing as one. But from my own experience, I would like to share a few pointers that one can keep in mind while dealing with a sponsored collaboration:

Insta-agreement - They will agree to your quote instantly!


Yes, in this age of instagram and insta-noodles, I have now discovered a new term.

These companies will immediately agree to your quote (no bargain done) and push you towards publishing the article asap.


Sponsored online scam by fraud online gift company Winni.in

This is not to say that all those who agree to your quote have to be eyed suspiciously. But that unless the other person really knows you, your worth or unless you're a celebrity or really highly famous for what you do - such instances are rare.

With Winni.in, we had just about come in contact through some random source. And, I had started out with my BEST rate (given that I wasn’t very keen to publishing it initially). When it was instantly accepted - no questions asked, no negotiation done - it did catch me by a bit of a surprise but I'd paid no attention.

They will communicate, may be even promptly BUT not clearly!

At first, this lady was very communicative, responding within minutes or a day at max. To the point of pushing me to publish the article. And then once the article was published, boom! Her emails started taking days, then weeks till they became non existent altogether.

Fraudulent companies biding time for paying due invoice
Click on the picture to enlarge.


What happened?

No, she wasn’t busy as she claimed. She had done her task. Maybe, even successfully according to the protocol followed in their work space?

Of… luring a blogger with her masked authenticity to rent their valuable space, efforts and time. Of establishing a trust that was soon to be shattered. Of striking a deal that was never to materialize.

They will try too hard to convince you of their ‘noble’ intentions.


To bide away more time and to garner more exposure for the company, this lady introduced me to her ‘accounts manager’ – someone named jazz.smith (funds.jazz@gmail.com) who shared with me screenshots of an excel sheet which had my name squeezed in between the columns on a day that was just 2 days before the festival.

Fraudulent online gift company Winni.in

The excel sheet made my head spin – who makes so many email id’s public with a stranger? I mean isn’t this information meant to be confidential?

But, I still believed. The optimist in me chose to believe the lies these people were feeding me on the crux of the goodness that lies in humanity.

Until… the date my payment was due came and went away without any luck.

At this moment, I realized what a sham it had all been.

So what could be done, now that the company had succeeded in their not so noble endeavors and probably having a laugh about all of it?

1. Removal of Links:


I wrote to them about removing the links from the article but alas! it was too late.

Since, it was a time-specific post which was no longer relevant, at least for the year, removing the links didn’t matter now.

Being conned is never a good feeling. Ask me.

When I finally realized all that had transpired in the past few days and how this was nothing but a scam – I was infuriated!

2. Try Communicating.


I tried repeatedly to communicate with them over the payment but when all my attempts started to fall in the void, I felt disappointed.

Eventually though, I felt sorry for them for I wondered where such kind of work ethics were going to take them anywhere or how their business model was to sustain on such blatant farce in the long run.

Time would tell.

For now, there had to be another way to get this angst out of my system and what better way than to blog?

3. Speak Your Truth and Empower Yourself while Educating Other Bloggers.

We cannot change others. The only thing we have control over is our own self.

And that’s when I decided I need to get this out of my system. I needed to use my power. I needed to speak my truth.

There are all kinds of interesting people in the world. People who will go out of their way to make an experience memorable for you and people who will go out of way to make an experience horrible for you.

Tara Williams doing business on behalf of fraud online company winni.in
Bloggers Beware!

But, an experience is still an experience. Each gives us something and hence, both are equally deserving of a celebration.

In hindsight, I can see a few things I could have done to handle this case better.

And yet, I don’t blame myself.

Because what they did was deceitful and no wrong action done can ever be justified.

Every person is responsible for their own actions.

Some have to repay it by speaking their truth while others by facing it in their own time.

The Bottom Line: Going Forward.


Taking an advance payment is one way to counter the fraudulent intentions of some of the companies. But I can’t see how this practice can be a norm in this B2B industry any time soon which is long habituated into taking bloggers for granted.

The only way then, is to be alert and watch out for the red flags that pop up from time to time. And as soon as you see one, taking prompt action is the key.

Other than that, in such an arrangement, as things now stand, the risk factor will always be there and speaking up against any experienced anarchy will be our most powerful weapon.


Have you ever faced a similar experience where a brand / company backed out from the payment once their job was done leaving you in a quandary?
Do you have tips on what can be done or how to tackle such cases?
Do share your experiences and suggestions in the comments sections.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Liked reading the post?
PIN IT for later!


What happens of people whose ethics are not in place - Business Deals




Would you like to share this article with your friends?



6 comments:

  1. Glad that you have put this out in public, Arti. I haven't faced such a situation where payment wasn't done at all. However, have faced a couple of issues where payment was delayed for a very long time and I had to chase them almost everyday.
    The only way is to be wary and careful about PRs and brands.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Arti, so sorry that you've gone through this and I agree it's never a good thing. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

    Here are some tips going forward (from my personal experience): Never take a deal or offer from companies which have 'gmail' accounts. Always ask them to mail you from their registered company accounts. That way if there is any defaulting on an agreement, you can reach out to the company directly and CC them on the mail thread.

    When accepting a sponsored post, always always mention that the link you give them will be a no-follow link. This is mandated as per Google's TOS. Else, you will be in violation of it. The minute you say 'no-follow' link, watch how many of them disappear. It's a known fact that they want a paid link to be inserted with a do-follow format. That's not allowed as per Google's terms.

    All said, I am sorry you had to go through this and thank you for letting others know about it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So sorry that you had to go through this. I had a similar experience with a Diwali post last year. This lady got the article published by me. I waited for the payment. She got slow and then stopped responding. I removed the links but by then the damage was done. I felt so sad. I can't believe that brands are using this conning as a strategy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Removing of link ...mostly works, Thanks for sharing this new kind of scam

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow! That's quite a lot to take it. Interesting reading though, thank you for this insight.

    ReplyDelete
  6. unfortunately, we were scammed by this person as well....never got paid. they are radio silence now.

    ReplyDelete

Delighted you stopped by... Your suggestions, feedback are really appreciated. Thanks a lot :) Hope you visit again!

If you have asked a question, please give me at least 2 days to reply back. Thank you :)