Who is Who, Who are you?

(Going through my assignments when I found this little gem I wrote for my business class last year. I love little essays like this)

Who is Who, Who are you?

A Who’s Who scam is a fraudulent Who’s Who biographical directory. Who’s Who scams involve the selling of “memberships” in fraudulent directories that are created online or through instant publishing services. These fraudulent directories represent thinly veiled moneymaking scams.

A scam may begin with a telephone interview or online questionnaire to validate a potential target’s personal information. This information can be included in the fraudulent directory, sold to other marketing firms, or used in future attacks such as phishing emails. Once the personal information has been gathered, the target is congratulated as having passed the interview and is asked to provide a credit card number to finalize the process. Upon further inquiry, the target may be told that a credit card payment is required to receive a certificate and copy of the directory.

Recently incorporated companies are often behind these scams. The few individuals listed in such directories often have themselves included as a marketing tactic. The result is that these directories become a simple form of vanity publishing. One known problem is that people’s credentials sometimes list their online directory memberships long after such fraudulent directories disappear from the web.

There are numerous variations of these practices. In former European monarchies, publishers compile volumes listing “noblemen” (such as dukes, counts and barons) who are often little more than fantasists who paid large sums to have their names inscribed in these books. Even high school students are not immune to such ploys; for many years a now-defunct company based in Texas published a Who’s Who Among High School Students which justified its activities by offering (at random) a few scholarships, usually for $200.

Who’s Who companies that adequately filter their entries and provide value to the people listed in them are hard to identify. A & C Black’s Who’s Who is the canonical example of a Who’s Who reference work, being the first to use the name and establish the approach in print. However, the longevity of the publication itself is not a guarantee. In 1999 Tucker Carlson alleged in Forbes magazine that the long-lived Marquis Who’s Who adopted practices of address harvesting as a revenue stream, undermining its claim to legitimacy as a reference work listing people of merit. However, Forbes currently bases 10 percent of the methodology for its America’s Best Colleges list on alumni listings in Who’s Who in America, the flagship title of Marquis Who’s Who.

(of course it got an A…)

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