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Real Life Case Study: The Most Extreme Plagiarism, and Acts of Dishonesty I've Experienced Online

Michelle Dale - Wednesday, December 03, 2014



I honestly thought I would never - ever - need to be in a position to have to do a post like this, I really hate the fact that I have to do it, but seriously this needs to be addressed, not just for me, but for VA's and their clients everywhere. Tragically, in order to get my point fully across I need to make a video, this video will expose some of the worst plagiarism, or 'content-lifting' as I tend to call it, and blatant acts of dishonesty I have ever seen online. It's not pretty - here goes...

(Please note this post and video is for educational purposes and to protect my intellectual copyright.)

Last week I was logging into my Clickbank account to work on some Black Friday Sale links, I was shocked to see that one of my products, the 3-for-2 Service Course Bundle had 3 payments reimbursed back to the client - after the  Clickbank refund period had ended, the money was claimed back by their credit card company after receiving reports of fraudulence and/or misrepresentation - on my part!

I was completely devastated, I take so much pride in my work and my programmes and courses and the help I provide VA's in their own businesses, in fact I rarely even get a refund request, so what I saw was really personally very disturbing for me.

I had to investigate further, so I went and looked up the person who had reported me, obviously she was in my system as a customer, so I was going to try and find out from her why she would do such a thing, was it something in the courses that upset her, or maybe she felt the training wasn't up to par, maybe I could get some constructive criticism out of this - and I went and looked at her website - nothing could have prepared me for what I saw...


This is no ordinary copy cat

Okay so first of all, I have been in this industry many years, and in fact I started training and teaching people what I do in VMF because that's what was asked of me from fellow VA's. I love my service business, but I was getting so many questions on how I was doing it, getting clients, processing tasks, developing a team etc... I decided to share with anyone who was interested in my work, step-by-step how I do it. This then created a lot of exposure for my business among other VA's and in turn this then created a lot of 'copy cats' - basically people trying to build their own business and they have an idea that if they copy some of my stuff that will somehow turn them into an overnight success. 

If you ever take any of my programmes, you'll know I handover the business model I have created, but I always strongly encourage people to dress the business model with their own unique style and voice, because it's what is going to serve them best.

So I often see pieces of content, my blog posts and other various bits and bobs I have created copied onto other peoples sites where they try and emulate my brand...

When I saw this trend happening, I even started a content store to provide PLR (Private Label Rights) articles and content for VA's to freely (and legally - there's no copyright on my PLR content) use on their blogs and websites - the perp "perpetrator" I'm exposing in this post had also purchased PLR from me, so she knew it was available, but she nevertheless still felt the need to go ahead with a number of highly questionable pursuits.

For the most part I ignore small time copy cats, however this is the first time someone copied my stuff (literally page by page on their website), and then basically reported ME to their credit card company!


Who could ignore this...

When I visited the site of the customer in question, my mouth was hanging open for like 20 minutes while I surfed her website - approximately 95% of the website (maybe more or less), from the pages, to the navigation menu, was a direct "copy and paste" from my site - even down to stealing the words out of a client's mouth on a testimonial and inserting a picture and name of another person in there. Now I'm generally a very easy going person, but that really upset me, I mean I worked hard over the years on my site and to achieve such testimonials... 




How would you feel about that if someone did it to you? I only found one direct copy of a testimonial from my site, however I took the liberty of checking the others and found the original sources - there are 3 other service providers (that I can find, there could be others where the pages haven't yet been indexed) out there who she 'acquired' testimonials from, as follows...

If you're any of the ladies mentioned below, it's up to you what you'd like to do, I just felt if it was me, I'd like to know about this...

Shannon Davis of Atlas Admin Support.




Marie Fitzgibbons of Deadline Met



Katrina Chesney of Portable Hands



The Swipe Files

There's one thing I should note, in the courses she signed up for there are "swipe files" of web copy detailing offerings for packages and guides for clients, (there's no copyright on my swipe files) - I provide re-written versions of my own guides as part of the course for people to use freely on their websites, because these are more information based and often used as links for further client information. I'm fine with these being used on VA sites, but the kicker is, she had also used those on her website, they are from the same paid programme she reported as "fraudulent and/or misrepresented" in some way.

I mean seriously - who does that?

The ironic thing is, if she hadn't gone ahead and reported the payment transactions from the programme to her credit card company, I probably never would have discovered what she was doing. She did me a favour in a way.


Notifying Clickbank

So I took it upon myself to see if I could redeem myself with my payment processor, and sent this message to them:


Hello Support,

Coming in this morning and seeing 3 chargebacks in a row, for 3 months of payments, I've looked into the matter further. I'm quite confident in this instance the chargebacks are fraudulent.

2014-11-27 13:00 N/A xxxxxxxx 3for287 ($129.32) Chargeback VISA USD
VALIVE US GA PICKETT TRACI Traci Pickett
Send customer an email. pdf
2014-11-27 13:00 N/A xxxxxxxx-xxxx 3for287 ($129.32) Chargeback VISA
USD VALIVE US GA PICKETT TRACI Traci Pickett
Send customer an email. pdf
2014-11-27 13:00 N/A xxxxxxxx-xxxx 3for287 ($129.32) Chargeback VISA
USD VALIVE US GA PICKETT TRACI Traci Pickett

* The individual in question has in detail reviewed and implemented my course materials. Additionally, they have plagiarised quite large sections of my own website, including the content, the internal menu structure and even going so far as to take one of my client testimonials (and putting a picture of someone else's head on it, calling it one of her client testimonials). The woman's (fraudulent customer's) website is:

http://www.icartvirtual.com/

My own website is:

http://www.virtualmissfriday.com/

The real issue I have with this chargeback(s) is the extensive plagiarism and deceptive practises engaged in with the individual in question. It's very frustrating that someone can make a purchase of my programmes/courses, spend months reviewing said material, implement what is learned, copy my website content, deceptively infringe on numerous areas of my online presence and then even go so far as to force chargeback the associated monthly payment for my products...

* Is there any protection from such fraudulent, criminal activity on the part of individuals such as the person above? Is there any recourse - anything whatsoever, from the merchant's standpoint?

Thank you for reviewing my comments and please log this reply in the interests of my account's good standing. Please see 2 screenshots attached where you can see the extent of the plagiarism (99% as indicated via Copyscape when compared to my webpage) on the page(s) in question, and note it's the same throughout the individual's site.

If you (Clickbank) have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. My interest is in protecting the good standing of my account and it's very frustrating to me to have to defend my account's good standing against criminal activities and/or fraud to whatever degree from conscienceless people.

I look forward to any comments you have, much appreciated.

All the best,
Michelle.


I got a reply...


Hello Michelle,

Thank you for your inquiry! I'm afraid chargebacks are issued directly by the bank when a customer files a dispute. Often times ClickBank is also not made aware of the pending chargeback. We also lose money and chargebacks are very damaging to our reputation. There is nothing we can do to recapture the funds or remove the chargeback. It is not in our control. The only action we can take is to block the customer from being able to purchase with ClickBank in the future.

CHARGEBACK INFO.

What is a chargeback?

According to the definition in Google it's "a demand by a credit-card provider for a retailer to make good the loss on a fraudulent or disputed transaction."

When can someone request a chargeback?

According to Money.co.uk "A Chargeback can be used to get your money back if an order you make fails to arrive, the company you buy from goes bust, or if goods or services you receive are not as described or are in an unsatisfactory condition. But it can only be called upon if the retailer can’t or won’t help."

None of these are applicable, and at no point in this was I or my payment processor (Clickbank) contacted for help by the customer, so essentially the credit card company was also mislead.


So here's why this is really not cool

So, here's why (apart from obvious reasons!) this is really not cool.

It hurts both of us.

This is serious and detrimental from an SEO standpoint. There are potential issues with precisely duplicate content in Google, it's possible Google won't index pages on my site and hers - some may get completely ignored.

Telling fibs is taking business from those who deserve it.

It's doesn't serve your clients to essentially lie to them and mislead them. Particularly stealing other people's client testimonials and passing them off as your own.

This site also offers content creation - who's going to want content creation services from someone who goes and copies and pastes from other people's websites? I've even now had to disable the copy-paste function on my own website.

Fraudulence is a serious accusation.

Reporting fraudulent activity on a business is a very serious accusation. Not to mention against a business that the person obviously found to be very helpful indeed.

It doesn't make good business sense.

I want to help people, I have a membership site where VA's can email me weekly, and talk to me on a call once a month - I do this so I can offer my support, creativity and suggestions, so I can basically give VA's the opportunity to create a unique business that will serve both them and their clients, this subscription is £17 a month or £37 a quarter, (I love [LOVE] helping VA's, and if I was independently wealthy I would do this for free, but I have to charge a small fee because I have clients to service too, and I need some sort of compensation to give my attention elsewhere), there's no obligation, join and leave as you please - would it not have been easier to just pay a tiny fee for my direct help to create something unique?

If you're a VA and you've plagiarised my content or you're considering doing so - don't, it's not the answer, nor is it what's best for you - join my site and schedule an appointment with me, let me work with you so you can (with a clear conscience) find your own authentic voice.

What about all the awesome, honest fellow VA's?

This is basically sticking the middle finger up at other virtual assistants in the industry who are legitimate and have paid for my training - we need to have each others' backs here, not tread on each other.

PLAGIARISM INFO.

So I thought I'd answer a couple of questions on how to find plagiarism of your content and what can be done about it if you do.

What is plagiarism?

They have a really good description on Plagiarism.org, which explains it fully. They say in a nutshell "plagiarism is an act of fraud. It involves both stealing someone else's work and lying about it afterward."

How do you find a plagiarism perp?

You can run searches on tools like Copyscape or Grammerly - I have a paid premium account in Copyscape because I provide content creation services, and I run every piece that goes back to the client through this system as I obviously want to make sure it's 100% unique. When I noticed a lot of the content on the perps site was my own words, I ran it through, and discovered 97%-99% of the perps content on some pages was identical to mine. The perp had changed words like, my name, and company and changed my UK english words into USA English words, so they had gone through my content in detail to adjust it.

COPYSCAPE HIGHLIGHTS THE CONTENT THAT IS DUPLICATE:



YOU CAN THEN SEE WHAT HAS BEEN COPIED:


What do you do once you find the perp?

Well for me this case is extreme, so I have no choice but to report the owner of the site to the DMCA, it's the first time I have ever done this, they are a regulatory body who handles this kind of thing, and they can get the copied text taken down - you can learn more about that here: http://www.dmca.com/FAQ/Can-DMCA-remove-Plagiarism

You have to weigh up yourself what you consider is worth your time and if it's for a paragraph or two are you really going to bother? If it's your entire (or majority) of your website, you will probably want to take action. For example, if I was to report every instance of plagiarism on my site it would be a full time endeavour, personally, I'd rather spend my time creating content or helping the people who don't copy my stuff.

Where can I learn more about plagiarism?

I'd check out these sites I found:

A message for Traci...

Take heed of the advice you posted onto your own Twitter account: 



There aren't any 'plagiarism anonymous' groups for the victims (LMAO I'm just kidding) but if you have something to say about this, I really want to know in the comments.

  • Have you had this happen to you?
  • How do you feel about this when you read it?
  • Any stories, questions or comments, totally welcome, just head on down to the comment box now, and start typing!


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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.



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