That represents fusing the ubiquity of the cell phone with the reality that few consumers check their cell phone bills. In a complaint filed December 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleged that two tech entrepreneurs extracted millions from careless mobile phone users. Here is that complaint against Andrew Bachman and Lin Miao. Here is the press release in which the FTC summarizes the accusations.
The game goes like this. On websites connected with companies they are associated with, alleged miscreants provide everything from love tips to a chance to win ticket to a Justin Beiber concert. During the process, those clicking on the sites get enmeshed in a subscription to services they aren't aware they agreed to. The bill for that, which runs about $9.99 monthy, they might not notice. If they do, good luck struggling to have it stopped.
Obviously, this is low-lying fruit for criminals. Yes, it's easy for someone with just a bit of tech knowledge and awareness of the epidemic of mainstream attention-deficit disorder.
But, the question arises: Why would an entrepreneur such as Bachman who has already achieved wealth, standing in a number of professional and social circles and even a job heading a public company (Game Plan Holdings) allegedly decide to enter into this risky illegal activity. After all, the FTC is an alert watchdog on the kinds of scams made possible by technology.
As this backgrounder on Backman chronicles, by 30 he was a sort of celebrity among entrepreneurs. While an undergraduate at Babson he put together Tatto Media, later selling it to Ozura World for $60 million. He had created a $50,000 scholarship for his alma mater. The media such as the Boston Globe featured him and Game Plan in a front page story.
The interesting part of the story, which the backgrounder doesn't cover, is that this was no rags to riches saga. When I spent time at his home office in Boston, he talked a lot about his physican mom, dad and sister. The kid had an upper middle class childhood. That was 2013 and I was there assisting him with writing. He had it all, even before the tech boom. This was no hungry animal.
So, why did aomeone like Bachman allegedly cross the line from the heady experiences of entrepreneurship and establishment leadership to scamming unsophisticated consumers? When it comes to motivation, the best even the experts can do is create a causal explanation which is not much more than an abstraction. If we believe in the existence of the unconscious, we also recognize that those who risk much for not so much (Bachman already had millions) likely don't understand why.
Bachman lost his job at Game Plan. Babson rescinded the scholarship. The communications I assisted him with will not be published, as planned. The FTC seized his assets.
Is the lesson here to the ambitious, including lawyers, to monitor professional risk-taking, both illegal and legal. Often, we do not know what we are doing or why we are doing it. A plug for the Humanities, more strivers might check out the history plays of William Shakespeare. The message is human myopia or how mankind is "cankered in the grain." The Roman Catholic Church calls that "original sin."