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Unread 23rd February 2012, 05:59 PM   #1
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Default Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

I was just reading this and it absolutely blew my mind:
Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Quote:
The settlement also fines him $359 Million in cash, which will be suspended as long as Willms turns over pretty much everything that he owns. The order requires him to sell his house, close the and sell all his companies, cars, furs, and expensive artwork.
No wonder the FTC is cracking down so hard on our industry


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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:06 PM   #2
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

I spoke to a friend in the know, and they said that this includes his "hidden" bank accounts, etc. He needs to give all the money back, and if he doesn't.... I'm told as part of the deal, the Canadian Authorities are holding off a criminal prosecution.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:06 PM   #3
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

I am confused as to what he actually did?
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Yep, I'd like to know more about what he did constitutes as fraud, also.

Guess Google is my friend on this one. Maybe some reading for much later tonight when I have time.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:11 PM   #5
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

It sounds like he was an advertiser who didn't properly disclose all information.

He pushed his offers via CPA networks, and unsuspecting "leads" were charged without notice.

Long story short, of course. lol

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:19 PM   #6
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Hlatky View Post
I am confused as to what he actually did?

How about this for a starter:

Debiting consumers’ bank accounts without first obtaining their express verifiable authorization;

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:23 PM   #7
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Hlatky View Post
I am confused as to what he actually did?
Quote:
Originally Posted by redicelander View Post
Yep, I'd like to know more about what he did constitutes as fraud, also.

Guess Google is my friend on this one. Maybe some reading for much later tonight when I have time.
There are a number of issues here. These typically start with "health claims," which the medical establishment always targets. That's usually what attracts attention. A savvy copywriter can avoid crossing the line, but if you've got other issues they'll get you there.

It sounds like he was doing "negative billing subscriptions;" where your forced in and have to opt out. By the time you call and cancel, they've collected a couple of months. And of course you were required to give 30 days notice to cancel. We all hate those anyway.

Frankly, this rash of "negative opt-ins" we had for some time is why merchant banks became leery of internet marketing and recurring billing.

Nevertheless, these agencies are targeting entrepreneurs at all levels, online and offline. Some deserve it. Some don't.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Life Inc. - Con artist took in $359 million with bogus 'free-trial' offers

FTC bans 'negative option' marketing | www.kirotv.com
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:36 PM   #9
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Hlatky View Post
I am confused as to what he actually did?
Con artist took in $359 million with bogus 'free-trial' offers
Life Inc. - Con artist took in $359 million with bogus 'free-trial' offers

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 06:37 PM   #10
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

I think "bogus" is the key here.

And the debiting of bank accounts without the proper permissions. Um, yeah.

Doesn't damn the whole industry, of course. Just be ethical and do things by the book. These things don't scare me because I know I'm not going to get into anything like that.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:09 PM   #11
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

It's very usual that trial offers must be canceled when no interest in buying the full product. Health subjects are under the control of Big Pharma which operates quite like a mafia, financing governmental institutions so they prohibit alternative methods, natural remedies etc.

I'm just not buying the story presented by Canadian socialist authorities. Maybe they have a point, maybe the guy did something wrong, I have no information. But what I see on his website, gives a picture of a caring man with dozens of charity projects. Criminal minds usually do not run charities.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:13 PM   #12
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marhelper View Post
How about this for a starter:

Debiting consumers’ bank accounts without first obtaining their express verifiable authorization;

Oh yeah - that'll do it. Sorry. Not gonna shed tears for this guy. You want to do the crime, you better get used to the idea of consequences. This guy is not a victim.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:15 PM   #13
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by sunray View Post
I'm just not buying the story presented by Canadian socialist authorities. Maybe they have a point, maybe the guy did something wrong, I have no information. But what I see on his website, gives a picture of a caring man with dozens of charity projects. Criminal minds usually do not run charities.
Criminal minds who bilked people out of millions of dollars by charging them for stuff they did not want and did not order can put whatever public relations propoganda on their websites that they want to ... he's still a lowlife scam artist.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:20 PM   #14
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post
Criminal minds who bilked people out of millions of dollars by charging them for stuff they did not want and did not order can put whatever public relations propoganda on their websites that they want to ... he's still a lowlife scam artist.
As I said, it very usual that a trial offer must be canceled, and if not, it is taken as an order and the account is charged. It's SO common.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:25 PM   #15
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

I'm surprised he got away with it for as long as he did, $350 Million doesn't happen over nite.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:27 PM   #16
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post
Criminal minds who bilked people out of millions of dollars by charging them for stuff they did not want and did not order can put whatever public relations propoganda on their websites that they want to ... he's still a lowlife scam artist.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:27 PM   #17
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by HeySal View Post
Oh yeah - that'll do it. Sorry. Not gonna shed tears for this guy. You want to do the crime, you better get used to the idea of consequences. This guy is not a victim.
Yeah, it's a particularly sensitive issue to me as I have had to deal with someone just like him. I finally got my money back but only after countless hours haggling with my bank.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 07:49 PM   #18
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by r30ducez View Post
I'm surprised he got away with it for as long as he did, $350 Million doesn't happen over nite.
It really doesn't. There must have been something else that triggered it now. Maybe he decided to use his money in politics in a politically incorrect way? Or maybe some of his info-products exposed somebody?
Could a Canadian shed some light on it?
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 08:02 PM   #19
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunray View Post
It's very usual that trial offers must be canceled when no interest in buying the full product. Health subjects are under the control of Big Pharma which operates quite like a mafia, financing governmental institutions so they prohibit alternative methods, natural remedies etc.

I'm just not buying the story presented by Canadian socialist authorities. Maybe they have a point, maybe the guy did something wrong, I have no information. But what I see on his website, gives a picture of a caring man with dozens of charity projects. Criminal minds usually do not run charities.
No offense, but you're just terribly misinformed. Jesse Willms was the first guy to launch the Wu Yi Tea diet as a product back in 2006. He pushed these pills onto affiliate networks (Advaliant was the first) and then started running huge volume. He quickly switched to Acai berries + colon cleanse and was the driving force behind its surge in 2007-2009.

That's not illegal, but the rest of it is.

He sold his product as a "free" trial. You pay $5.00 shipping and get 10 days to evaluate the product. If you don't want it you must call in and cancel your subscription. This tactic is called negative option rebilling and is completely legal. What isn't legal is when you make it nearly impossible for people to cancel.

Jesse's companies would typically take 3-4 days to process your order and then it would take 3 more days for it to arrive at your house. He started your evaluation period the second you ordered the product, which means you had less than 4 days to evaluate it. Most people didn't even realize it was a rebill because they buried their terms and conditions in a tiny link at the bottom of their landers.

Anyway, that wasn't the worst part. To boost profits, Jesse would upsell customers and, at it's worst, people were getting nailed with a $400 dollar bill for a "free" product ($80 for product + $320 in automatic upsells). That's illegal.

Even if you realized you had to cancel, doing was nearly impossible. At Affiliate Summit West in 09 there was a famous meeting between people I won't name, including Jesse. They were negotiating the terms of the next series of Acai Berry offers and the networks, which were getting heat at this point for carrying these products, basically asked all the merchants to pull out their cell phones and call their call centers right there on the spot to see how long it took to get a person on the phone. Two hours later and most of the phones were still on hold.

If you got through to someone, they made your life a living hell when you tried to cancel. Cancelling online was equally as convoluted.

To add insult to injury, Jesse ran a lot of these products directly. He and two other guys were the originators of the Becky's Weight Loss style of Flog and they were the first guys to push out landers that pushed both acai and colon cleanse at the same time. The FTC has called this type of marketing, where you create fake profiles, make insane claims, and pretend to be a customer to be completely illegal.

Here is the bulk of the complaint:

Quote:
-debiting consumers' bank accounts without first obtaining their express verifiable authorization;
-misrepresenting any product or service or the terms and conditions associated with any offer, specifically including claims of "free," "risk-free," or "trial offer;"
-failing to clearly disclose the terms and conditions of any offer, including refund terms, before requesting consumers' payment information;
-making misleading or unsubstantiated disease-prevention, weight-loss, and other health-related claims;
-using false or deceptive endorsements and testimonials;
-failing to monitor the activities of marketing affiliates and affiliate networks involved in the marketing of any Willms product or service; and
-making misrepresentations in order to obtain services from payment processors, banks, and other third parties.
Oh and Jesse got sued out of the ass by Microsoft a few years earlier for buying education versions of software in Canada and then reselling it in the US at retail price. I can't post links yet, so the complaint is titled:

Microsoft Corp. v. eDirectSoftware, Jesse Willms, Linda Willms, Dave Willms, 1016363 Alberta Ltd., 1021018 Alberta Ltd. and John Does 1–10

Edit: I just want to add that he scammed upwards of 4 million people with the acai / colon cleanse combo.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 08:25 PM   #20
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Quote:
It really doesn't. There must have been something else that triggered it now. Maybe he decided to use his money in politics in a politically incorrect way? Or maybe some of his info-products exposed somebody?
Investigations like this don't happen overnight either. And there has to be some time involved in the selling before they start.

I understand skepticism. Really, I do. But why would you need to reach for conspiracy theories in a case like this? If he did what they say, he was way over the line.

I don't know this guy's business practices. I do know that the things they're describing are disturbingly common in the CPA end of online advertising. Enough so that I feel dirty even going into the CPA sub-forum of this forum to deal with a reported spam there.

Wouldn't hurt my feelings if Allen just deleted the whole section.


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Unread 23rd February 2012, 08:33 PM   #21
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

mightiest,

I see. Well, yes, what you have described seems indeed over the line, as Paul said. Thank you taking the time to explain it to me :-)
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 09:12 PM   #22
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post
I do know that the things they're describing are disturbingly common in the CPA end of online advertising. Enough so that I feel dirty even going into the CPA sub-forum of this forum to deal with a reported spam there.

Wouldn't hurt my feelings if Allen just deleted the whole section.
I thought that forum was to discuss advertising methods and not end offers. CPC, CPM, CPV, CPA and CPL are all valid ways to advertise an affiliate offer and generate traffic to your own site/product. There is some real gold in that forum for people who like paid traffic.

Dodgey rebills, products, and low-life scum are the problem and they can't be isolated to one advertising method.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 09:14 PM   #23
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 09:26 PM   #24
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Troy,
Quote:
There is some real gold in that forum for people who like paid traffic.
Yep. And you're right in saying those methods can all be used in legitimate ways.

Let's just say that the things I see in the CPA industry don't lead me to a good opinion of it as a whole.


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Unread 23rd February 2012, 09:57 PM   #25
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

If those claims are true, the guy is not really an honest person. Good to know that the problem here is the person, not the industry.

It should not be that difficult to not commit a fraud.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 10:10 PM   #26
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

This guy is talented, he just misused his talent. He saw openings in the market and went for them to make some quick bucks; typical action that young marketers make. Honestly, he definitely deserves the punishment and I totally agree with what the FTC is doing, but he's going to get his money back and probably start business again in another niche. We just have to beware of these kinds of business practices and not encourage them.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 10:26 PM   #27
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

He had it coming...these kind of people need to be stopped and reap what they sow...I'm glad I never promoted such offers...

edit: Let's hope Ben Gordon is wrong and that he'll never start business again!
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 10:40 PM   #28
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by sunray View Post
As I said, it very usual that a trial offer must be canceled, and if not, it is taken as an order and the account is charged. It's SO common.
it doesn't make it right just because it's so common.

trial offers are one thing...but you know the ones that you pay for the trial offer, and within a few hours you're charged for the full price which is often not even disclosed, or if it was disclosed, it was very very fine print, that is often unreadable.

That is a scummy way to do business, in my humble opinion.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 10:53 PM   #29
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by sbucciarel View Post
Criminal minds who bilked people out of millions of dollars by charging them for stuff they did not want and did not order can put whatever public relations propoganda on their websites that they want to ... he's still a lowlife scam artist.
Granted, I'm extremely cynical, but how many people "rich" people don't donate? If nothing but PR, they do.

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Unread 23rd February 2012, 11:07 PM   #30
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Sounds like he didn't know how to protect himself.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 11:15 PM   #31
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Here's the problem - this wasn't just "trial offer".

The ads were "FREE trial offer".

I'm surprised at the number of consumers who will give credit card info to obtain a "free" offer. If it's free - why would anyone need your credit card?


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Unread 23rd February 2012, 11:26 PM   #32
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Here's the problem - this wasn't just "trial offer".

The ads were "FREE trial offer".

I'm surprised at the number of consumers who will give credit card info to obtain a "free" offer. If it's free - why would anyone need your credit card?
"shipping and handling"
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 11:29 PM   #33
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

The FTC should mandate that no business may ask for CC info for a 'free trial offer.'

Re Paul Myers' comments about CPA...

I got burned so badly by CPA networks back in 06 that it cured me of them. Many of them are just as sleazy and criminal as the guy talked about in the OP.

I was acquainted with someone years ago who walked out of a CPA network, well known at the time, over things she thought were highly improper and wrong (on the part of the network house). She was an account manager.

Then there's this article that arrived in my inbox just this morning.

Is Epic the Next COPEAC? Non-Payment Stories Grow.

I think those who are serious and professional in the CPA industry should form an oversight group or watchdog group to whom all networks should be accountable. It's like this... if there is no internal oversight within an industry with chronic and visible problems, rest assured some other agency will do it for them.


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Unread 23rd February 2012, 11:35 PM   #34
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by nickdamodda View Post
"shipping and handling"
Yes... S & H...

I frequently receive free samples in the mail for things I never asked for. So I will not necessarily agree with the S&H thing. I guess it all depends on the particulars, maybe.
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Unread 23rd February 2012, 11:38 PM   #35
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

How does a man loose something that was never his in the first place ?

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Unread 24th February 2012, 12:45 AM   #36
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by KenThompson View Post

I think those who are serious and professional in the CPA industry should form an oversight group or watchdog group to whom all networks should be accountable. It's like this... if there is no internal oversight within an industry with chronic and visible problems, rest assured some other agency will do it for them.


Ken
It certainly makes sense to take control of your own industry rather then to have controls forced onto you from the outside.

Also I have to wonder who gets the "everything" he is losing any of it going to the "victims?"

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Unread 24th February 2012, 03:48 AM   #37
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by Paul Myers View Post
Troy,Yep. And you're right in saying those methods can all be used in legitimate ways.

Let's just say that the things I see in the CPA industry don't lead me to a good opinion of it as a whole.


Paul
LOL! I second your opinion Paul.

Personally, I have found that you can make money using every single method discussed here at WF because I have done it myself...with the exception of CPA...something about that whole process never sat right with me.

I always felt like it was tricking people or forcing them in some way...just my opinion.

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Unread 24th February 2012, 03:57 AM   #38
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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It certainly makes sense to take control of your own industry rather then to have controls forced onto you from the outside.

Also I have to wonder who gets the "everything" he is losing any of it going to the "victims?"
I would think his victims would have to sue him seperately to get any money back.

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Unread 24th February 2012, 04:02 AM   #39
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

I must say, he is a freaking genius though. Evil, but simply genius. One-third of a billion dollars through online marketing is something to be proud of.
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Unread 24th February 2012, 04:30 AM   #40
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Freaking genius?

Stealing from people while you hide from contact doesn't make you a genius. It makes you a thief - that got caught. Hardly smart!

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Unread 24th February 2012, 04:53 AM   #41
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by wizzard74 View Post
I would think his victims would have to sue him seperately to get any money back.
Yes probably. Which still leaves the question what will happen to the money they take off him?

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Unread 24th February 2012, 05:02 AM   #42
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Luke, was this advertiser a part of the Peerfly network? If any networks allow this person to be a customer, then they should accept some of the consequences. Just sayin...

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Unread 24th February 2012, 05:32 AM   #43
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Originally Posted by skagenweb View Post
I must say, he is a freaking genius though. Evil, but simply genius. One-third of a billion dollars through online marketing is something to be proud of.

Yeah, the genius can be very proud of himself for bilking millions out of unsuspecting customers and having the law remove everything he owns from him. Pure genius. Seriously. :rolleyes:

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Unread 24th February 2012, 05:36 AM   #44
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Freaking genius?

Stealing from people while you hide from contact doesn't make you a genius. It makes you a thief - that got caught. Hardly smart!
I agree with you. Thiefs are disgusting.

But like said, not many people can make this kind of money through online marketing. He was smart, just not smart enough to not get caught.


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Unread 24th February 2012, 05:39 AM   #45
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Here's the problem - this wasn't just "trial offer".

The ads were "FREE trial offer".

I'm surprised at the number of consumers who will give credit card info to obtain a "free" offer. If it's free - why would anyone need your credit card?
I did and nowhere on the site that was visible to me could I find anything about automatically being enrolled to receive more crap every month. The credit card was supposed to be for a $4.95 shipping and handling fee. I was then charged $90/mnth for something I never ordered or knowingly authorized for three months and the only way to get rid of it was to get rid of my credit card that I used. Suffice it to say that I have a very low opinion of this type of "marketing."

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Unread 24th February 2012, 05:59 AM   #46
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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The Willms settlement order also permanently prohibits Willms from ever engaging in any business that works by:
  • debiting consumers’ bank accounts without first obtaining their express verifiable authorization;
  • misrepresenting any product or service or the terms and conditions associated with any offer, specifically including claims of “free,” “risk-free,” or “trial offer;”
  • failing to clearly disclose the terms and conditions of any offer, including refund terms, before requesting consumers’ payment information;
  • making misleading or unsubstantiated disease-prevention, weight-loss, and other health-related claims;
  • using false or deceptive endorsements and testimonials;
  • failing to monitor the activities of marketing affiliates and affiliate networks involved in the marketing of any Willms product or service; and
  • making misrepresentations in order to obtain services from payment processors, banks, and other third parties.
Wasn't he (along with everyone else) already permanently prohibited from doing this? :confused:
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Unread 24th February 2012, 06:35 AM   #47
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

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Wasn't he (along with everyone else) already permanently prohibited from doing this? :confused:
Yes of course, but there's plenty of people who don't abide by the law, particularly when they think they can make millions.

This kind of marketing is precisely why the FTC has deemed it necessary to create more rules and oversight of the industry. We can all thank criminals like him for that.

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Unread 24th February 2012, 07:22 AM   #48
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

I think for Jesse, he saw it coming. But the only irony is where it says he failed to monitor the activities of his affiliates and how they were promoting his services.

I think we need to pay attention to that. Do you monitor the way your affiliates market your products? And how they represent it to the prospective customers?

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Unread 24th February 2012, 07:32 AM   #49
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Unfortunately when one guy does something deemed illegal and is exposed, it affects the other good guys in the same niche.

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Unread 24th February 2012, 07:34 AM   #50
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Default Re: Jesse Willms Loses Everything to FTC

Just another example of why IM has such a bad name. I started an SEO company but have been unable to take orders by phone because no processor including PayPal will do business with an SEO firm that has recurring billing. A few bad apples really does spoil the barrel....

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