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Gawker Duped Into Running Fake And Malicious Ads

fYesterday, we wondered about the future of newspaper advertising and a move toward the internet, but acknowledged that bloggers face a new predicament of impossibly low rates. But there are other technological pitfalls — just ask Gawker Media, who was scammed by a client pretending to be Suzuki into running ads that crashed readers’ browsers and even installed malware onto their systems.

Business Insider is reporting that Gawker’s ad sales unit believed it was negotiating ad placement with a man from the Starcom MediaVest Group — “one of the largest and most celebrated global brand communications and consumer contact organizations,” according to the shyster’s email  — but it was all an attempt to infiltrate reader computers. Gawker Media shared their entire email correspondence with Business Insider. Here is a portion of the fake query letter:

First and foremost, we want to run a performance campaign for Suzuki across your network. Our budget to start is $25k+. Campaign should be live by the end of the month. We can also run on moviefone and/or entertainment verticals.

Please let me know your rates, inventory and volume so we can include > you in our upcoming media plans.

Twenty-five thousand dollars by the end of the month sounds pretty good! And after numerous emails of insider shop talk, Gawker was fooled. Upon realizing the ads were not only fake, but dangerous, a Gawker sales employee was incredulous at how thorough the scam was: “Look at how together this guy was! Corporate politics, eCPM, premium branding, IAB sizes, re-evaluating rates! Outrageous.” Gawker then shared the following warning:

From: GAWKER SALES GUY

  • Someone is approaching publishers as a representative of Spark-SMG on the Suzuki account, even though Suzuki very recently switched agencies.
  • George Delarosa and his accomplice Douglas Velez claim that there’s a limited amount of money left in the Suzuki account for them to spend, and they need to spend it quickly.
  • They have intimate knowledge of online ad sales, including terms like eCPM, roadblocking, RON, IAB sizes, lead generation, traffic coordinators, etc.
  • Email comes from @spark-smg.com instead of @sparksmg.com, though the who-is for their spoof domain is very close to the actual domain (Erin has links in her original email)
  • They maintain a Chicago area code (where Spark is based) but claim to be in London, even though they couldn’t give us the actual time in London when asked.
  • Unlike most spammers, these guys were happy to jump on the phone to get ads back up and running.
  • Clue that should have tipped us off was that we had to use our IO template…most major agencies like Spark have their own IO template.

But as far as malware distributors go, this guy is easily one of the most convincing I’ve ever seen. I doubt George is his real name, but whoever it is definitely worked in online ad sales at some point.

(pic via)

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