RealClearPolitics.com is taking the low road when it comes to treating their readers right.
A Consumer Press investigation has found that RealClearPolitics.com loads its website with dozens of low-quality ad networks and outright fraudulent, browser-freezing, pop-up ads that mislead and scam its readership.
We were assisted in our investigation by Jack Martin, a professional software developer and the CEO/Founder of TechnologyJobs.nyc. Martin found more than 60 different sources networked into RealClearPolitics.com.
“The majority of these sources are made up of complex ad-networks and ways to harvest web data from users,” said Martin. “Using manipulative tactics like this enable websites to steal the personal data of the individual visiting them. These tactics are dangerous and can be harmful to the general public.”
“They (the networks) refresh every few minutes and entirely new networks can be put in their place. Though it is impossible to tell for sure, I suspect that there are far more than 60 data networks, all designed to manipulate and harvest user information.”
The pop-up ads we found loaded by RealClearPolitics.com include ‘surveys’ that offer a free ‘prize’. At the end of the survey, participants are asked for their credit card number to pay for “shipping”.
Far worse is a frequent pop-up ad loaded by RealClearPolitics.com that – freezes – a reader’s browser on that ad. A tricky code embedded in the ad prevents the reader from closing the ad, closing the browser tab, or even closing the browser itself.
The ad claims the browser has detected security errors, and that the computer is infected with a virus. The ad says “It is strongly advised” to call 1-888-711-5651 to have the computer fixed by “Certified Live Windows Technicians”.
With the browser frozen, and warnings of a virus being found on the computer, it would be extremely tempting for a non-tech savvy user to call the number for help.
Consumer Press took the bait and called the number. We reached what sounded like a busy call center. The person answering the call identified themselves as “Windows Technical Support… (something mumbled here)”.
Asked (three times) to slow down and say the name very clearly, so we would know exactly who we had called, the name finally came out as “Windows Technical Support… from Yoda Care.”
Continuing on, our ‘tech’ provided step by step instructions on how to edit our Windows Registry. The instructions, if followed, would provide the ‘tech’ complete remote access to our computer.
We stopped the tech at this point, and asked that, once he has access to our computer, what will it cost us for him to fix the problem? “One seventy” he replied. “$170 dollars?” we clarified. “Yes, $170 dollars”.
It should be noted that, if we had followed his instructions, he would have had access to our computer whether we paid him or not.
We ended the call at that point, not bothering to tell the tech that we knew the computer didn’t really have a virus…. and that we knew we could get out of the frozen ad – for free – by clicking ctrl+alt+del and closing the browser using the Windows Task Manager.
As a side note – the instructions the tech gave us to give him remote access to our computer included using the site http://www.support.me with the ID number: 653305. Support.me is owned by a publicly traded company named LogMeIn, Inc (ticker symbol LOGM).
We contacted LogMeIn Inc, which stated that Yoda Care is not affiliated with their company. “What appears to be happening here is that this Yoda Care entity is using our product, LogMeIn Rescue, to offer remote support, and it appears they are doing so in a way that is potentially unethical,” said a company spokesman.
“The good news,” he went on to say, “is you’ve not only reported the entity but also an exact pin code. This can be used as finger prints for specific sessions which makes an investigation into both this account and the individual session. I’ve already passed this info to our security and support teams.”
We hope they do pursue their own investigation of this company. However, it’s been four days since we received that message, and the same pop-up ads continue to run on RealClearPolitics.com at publication time.
RealClearPolitics.com is an aggregator of political news articles and polling data. They have a number of sister sites, including RealClearMarkets.com, RealClearWorld.com, RealClearSports.com, RealClearScience.com, RealClearReligion.com, RealClearHistory.com and RealClearDefense.com.
While these sister sites load some of the same networked resources, they do not appear to load as many. And during our testing, none of them triggered the fraudulent pop-up ads.
If you visit RealClearPolitics.com, your results may vary based on your OS, browser, pop-up blocker, adware programs, and any cookies set during previous visits.
We want to make it clear that we are not saying that RealClearPolitics.com is directly scamming their readers.
But by loading ad networks that trigger fraudulent ads, scams, and use other manipulative tactics, RealClearPolitics.com is enabling and profiting from these bad actors and doing a tremendous disservice to their readers.
We contacted RealClearPolitics.com and asked for their comments on this issue. They have not replied.
The video below includes some of the ads that were loaded during our testing.
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