opinion

Temptation & Trustworthiness

Stephen Yagielowicz
Trust: it is the foundation of so much of the online adult entertainment business and transaction cycle, yet it is seemingly an increasingly elusive quality, as times get tougher and bottom lines plummet — a situation which can easily bring out the worst in people.

Take for example the typical paysite. Its owner needs to trust that its hosting provider will keep the site up and running; that the payment processor will allow good transactions to go through while blocking fraud (and payout those revenues honestly and promptly); that the content licensor did in fact check those IDs and that the '2257 info is legitimate — and that the licensor indeed holds the license to that material.

The site owner also needs to trust that the customer won't try to sell or otherwise spread its content; that the affiliate that sent the sale didn't use a stolen credit card or other criminal activity to send it; and that the customer won't later deny the charge — thus incurring an expensive (and business harming) chargeback against the site's account.

Trust, or the lack of it, plays an integral role in the operations of many businesses, including adult websites — but there is something "more acceptable" about stealing from "a porn company" than from a "real company" — or so it may seem at times.

While some of these trust issues can be mitigated through due diligence, both prior to forging a new partnership, such as with a billing company or advertising broker; and later by using digital protection mechanisms to prevent piracy, among other responses; trying to avoid the negative consequences resulting from fraud, or even simple incompetence, is not always possible — and can even literally break the bank.

For example, criminals might seek to take advantage of vulnerable or unsophisticated webmasters reeling from the recent ePassporte meltdown — offering a new P2P payment system tailored for the needs of adult webmasters, sponsors and affiliates. Free from the cumbersome banking and disclosure regulations that government puts in place to protect consumers from the inevitable outcome of these schemes, the new "TrustworthyPay" or whatever "too good to be true" incarnation comes along could seem like a Godsend as its coffers become bloated — until reaching a tipping point, where the real backers abscond with all the funds — accompanied by a chorus of message board posts claiming surprise.

Adult operators being a predictable (and these days, desperate) lot, there is no limit to the number of times that some folks will willingly waltz into the arms of such schemers, who will simply come back under a new name after burning out their latest scam, or shift their criminal creativity elsewhere.

Such as launching a campaign of bogus piracy claims.

Recently, legitimate adult entertainment companies have been increasing the scope and seriousness of their antipiracy efforts, emulating the music industry's approach of targeting individual file sharers. This of course has made headlines in mainstream media and may prove to be more effective for adult than it did for music, simply because of the continued controversy surrounding the "acceptability" of adult entertainment, which may lead many to quickly settle instead of engaging in a public fight.

This of course could become an easy lure for scammers: just as "card bangers" will use stolen credit cards to fraudulently process porn site transactions, "letter fakers" will prey on consumers with fraudulent claims of porn site content theft.

These letters could run the range from a simple fishing expedition, blindly sent to as many people as possible in hopes of receiving a high enough percentage of "settlements" to make the process worthwhile; to more sophisticated approaches, where dummy sites or other traps could be set, gathering a surfer's IP and email address — along with as much other info as possible. The letters generated from this data (especially coming from a site that the surfer might recognize) will doubtless "pull" even better.

It won't take too many reports of such scams to further dry up the visits to adult sites.

This then, is the most important trust of all — consumers need to trust that the sites they visit are legitimate, safe and will not try to rip them off; and if they do not find that trustworthiness, sales won't follow. Remember this, not only in how you deal with your site's visitors — but in whom else you are dealing with.

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