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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Definitions - Scam, Scammer, Shill

    This is one of two threads I have been wanting to start for a while now. After participating in a few of the more hard-core 'Scam' threads in this forum as well as a few of the non-scam threads, I have come to realise that some people seem to have a rather 'open' definition of the words scam, scammer, and shill.

    As far as I can tell, some people consider a scam to be virtually anything which may claim to be/do something, and not always achieve its promise completely. A scammer is anyone who promotes said 'scam', and a shill is anyone who supports said scam.

    While I have been a stickler for accuracy and honesty my whole life, I would like to challenge the above definitions of all of those words because I think a 'Scam' is much more serious than simply mis-representing the truth of your product/marketting methods/company.


    I think that a Scam is a very serious thing which should not have its seriousness diluted down to cover every idiot out there trying to make a buck. A scam, to me, is something which outright lies to trick people into parting with their money for nothing. And while I can see that there are just degrees of difference from a subjective point of view between the firstr definition and my defintion, I think the distance is great enough for it to be worth keeping. For instance, most MLM's are regularly called 'scams' on this forum simply because most people have trouble suceeding, and the 'scamsayers' therefore declare that the MLM 'lied' in saying that anyone could succeed. At the other end of the spectrum you have MTT and SportsArbitrageInvestor.com. MTT claims that they will guarantee $100,000 worth of sales within 68 days, you only need to give them $169. Their methods for achieving this are all lies, and they in the end basically do nothing for your money, they give you nothing, and you end up with nothing. That is clearly a scam. Similarly SportsArbitrageInvestor promises ridicules returns per day on an investment. You invest your money with them, and then you never hear from them again. That is a scam where they STEAL your money. They use lies to take your money and give you nothing. There is no grey-ness about it.

    Now, the important point here, is that by making a blanket definition of the word scam so that it covers long running legal MLM's and Out and Out money stealing opportunities like SportsArbitrageInvestor under the one term, you are not conveying accuracy to the general public who regularly lurk in these forums. To say that a company which legitimately (legally) offers an opportuinity (even if it is unlikely), is the same as a company which lies so as to blatently trick people out of money is simply wrong.


    Secondly, to say that someone who supports a scam is as bad as the creator of the also seems to be rather innacurate to my mind. I understand the rational for it: when the person knowingly promotes a scam operation they are just as bad as the originator because they are bringing people in to have their money stolen. However, when a person for instance promotes MTT because it seems like a great way for them to make money (and they have no idea that it is a scam) it is ac ompeltely different story. They are just another poor fool who has been tricked by the scam. To then call them a scammer, and punish them as if it was their idea is so wrong. Worse than that, calling people who promote businesses/opportunities/products which fall under the weaker definition of scam a 'Scammer' is even further gone. It is taking an exteme stance on something which is not itself a scam, and then treating that third party independent person the same thing that you would call the creator of MTT, the creator of SportsArbitrageInvestor, the Creator of 12DailyPro.... And that just not fair on that person.

    Remember, the internet is a great place where the most disadvantaged person finally has a chance to try to make money on a level playing field. To call those people who are trying to legitimately make money through legal means (no matter how much you as an individual disagree with the concept) the same thing that you call a complete crook is just un-ethical and inhumane. You are damaging the reputation of a struggling businessman-to-be just out of your personal prejudice.


    Thirdly, I thought a Shill was someone who operated or worked for a company, and pretended to be an independent third party giving a positive review. The purpose being obvious: An independent person giving a great review of a company/product is very very powerful, while a review by the owner of a product, or someone who might benefit from sales of the product is far less powerful. They could be just saying it because it is worth their while saying it.

    I can see how a Network Marketter could be a grey field because they use the product they are 'reviewing', but they also have a vested interest in the success of the company they represent, so that is a difficult call. But someone who uses a product and says that they think it is good is not automatically a shill. MORE IMPORTANTLY, a Network Marketter who says they use the product is indirectly telling everyone that they do have a vested interest in the company (via networking), and as such ARE NOT a shill. If a shill has to lie about their connections to a company in order to give the impression they are independent, then admitting that you are a network affiliate breaks the shill definition! It is then up to the reader to decide whether they believe the testimonial of a network marketter or not...

    I apologise in advance for the length of this initial post, but I think every one of those three points is important, and needs to be addressed for all further 'scam' 'scammer' 'shill' discussions in these forums, and I hope that people will contribue to this thread to help further define these three words to create an agreeable practical application of them. Ideally, I want this thread to be a point of reference for when someone uses one of those words innacurately.

    Last edited by aegist; 06-25-2006 at 06:36 AM.

  2. #2
    coontie is offline Vashudeva; Ferryman - doing the work... User Rank
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Re: Definitions - Scam, Scammer, Shill

    "Scape-Goat": one that leads others into peril, dishonor or disaster.

    Originally it was used to designate an animal that was trained to be used to
    lead other, otherwise wary animals of it's own kind into the slaughter house.
    It's life would be spared, but of course the others would be slaughtered.

    This particular creature would be spared as long as it did it's job! :rolleyes:

    Somewhow, "Scape-Goat" has came to be understood to mean an individual
    that gets the blame for ANYTHING that goes wrong, either genuine, or
    in some instances, intentionally fabricated, to cause disgrace or
    downfall of the individual.

    A shill is an individual that is employed by scammers and swindlers to entice
    others to enter into questionable and dishonest schemes, usually
    whereby they are relieved of money and/or other personal possesions.
    These postings on this forum of individuals appearing to support or
    attest to the workability, desirability, merit or other good qualities of
    some purported scheme are in a sense the work of a shill.

    So are a lot of the commercials on the television, radio, magazines
    and papers.

    How many ever think of why these people are lauding and
    praising and promoting these products? Would they do this if they
    were NOT paid to do so?

    After all, the saying goes, and how true: many people will do ANYTHING
    for money, including lieing through their teeth! :eek:

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Re: Definitions - Scam, Scammer, Shill

    The dictionary defines a shill as: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=shill&db=*
    One who poses as a satisfied customer or an enthusiastic gambler to dupe bystanders into participating in a swindle.

    a decoy who acts as an enthusiastic customer in order to stimulate the participation of others
    IMO, those are the correct definitions although I don't think it needs to involve a swindle. Anyone who has a vested or monetary interest in promoting something but doesn't declare that fact, is a shill.

    A scam: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/scam
    the act of swindling by some fraudulent scheme

    deprive somebody of something by deceit

    Rip off: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/rip+off
    To exploit, swindle, cheat, or defraud: a false advertising campaign that ripped off consumers.
    The definition of RIP OFF is my interpretation of a scam. False advertising definitely falls into that category as does making promises with no intention of following through. Also, deprive of by deceit.

    A Scammer is someone who engages in any of the above definitions of scam. I absolutely believe that anyone who promotes a scam and encourages others to join is as guilty as the creator of the scam. This is the main reason I detest viral marketing and most affiliate programs. More people should try selling something that they actually OWN instead of hawking someone else's stuff. At the very least, they should thoroughly check out the program and it's owner before they start blasting links all over the internet.

    There's one you didn't mention which often accompanies the categories above and that's SPAM. Scammers and spammers are of the same ilk.


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

    Re: Definitions - Scam, Scammer, Shill

    Quote Originally Posted by bhearsch
    IMO, those are the correct definitions although I don't think it needs to involve a swindle. Anyone who has a vested or monetary interest in promoting something but doesn't declare that fact, is a shill.
    I agree completely. And someone who DOES declare the fact that they do therefore cannot be a shill.

    Quote Originally Posted by bhearsch
    The definition of RIP OFF is my interpretation of a scam. False advertising definitely falls into that category as does making promises with no intention of following through. Also, deprive of by deceit.
    I think the common ground between Scam and Rip Off which is the bit that I think is important, and I think most would agree on, is that it is the Lying in order to profit (usually via someone elses loss). So False Advertising is clearly 'lying' in order to make money, just as making a promise to pay out with no intention to actually do so is lying to make money.

    I do however have trouble connecting 'Exploit' to scam. I can see how exploit may be just as 'bad' as Scam, but I do not think they are the same thing in any regard. The archetype exploitation is the child factory workers in poor asian countries: They are being exploited, but they are most certainly not being scammed. Their employees could tell them exactly what the conditions of their employment are, and the employees will accept them because they have no choice: They need SOME money, no matter how little it is. As such, exploitation is a different evil to scamming completely.

    Quote Originally Posted by bhearsch
    A Scammer is someone who engages in any of the above definitions of scam. I absolutely believe that anyone who promotes a scam and encourages others to join is as guilty as the creator of the scam.
    Even if they think it isn't a scam?

    If you take that stance, you are setting yourself up with a lot of rocks in a glass house....You better not have made a mistake in your past, because not everyone is as 'clued in' as some of us here.

    To say that anyone who ignorantly supports a scam is the same as someone who systematically puts a lot of their time, efforts, and money into setting up a scam is really....really..something. I can't think of a descriptive word for it, but I am sure you get my point.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006

    Re: Definitions - Scam, Scammer, Shill


    I do however have trouble connecting 'Exploit' to scam
    I'm with you there. Someone who sells free ebooks for $20 to people who don't know the ebooks are free are being exploited (or rather, their ignorance is). It's not the same thing as MTT, which promises to deliver something but doesn't. Theformer ought *not* be able to sleep at night because of what he does, and the latter doesn't give a crap because he hasn't any morals.


    I absolutely believe that anyone who promotes a scam and encourages others to join is as guilty as the creator of the scam.
    I'm not with you there. There're plenty of foolish people who don't realize that what they're participating in is a scam. Examples from my traffic exchange: people pushing randomizers, doublers, bubbles, and that kinda thing who don't know that it's wrong, and when you inform them that they're illegal come screeching to a halt. They didn't know they were doing something wrong.

    Then there are the folks who you tell 'em it's wrong and show 'em where it's against the law, and they spout a bunch stuff they've been trained to say by the owner of the scam ('cause he *knows* people are gonna come at him with "It's illegal because ..."), and they *still* believe what they're doing is okay because the owner gave 'em a buncha different defenses. I still don't think these people are "scammers"; they're simply stupid sheep, and they ain't gonna be getting any smarter unless/until the authorities come to them wanting their ill-gotten gains.

    (Yeah, I know; how stupid does someone hafta be to partipate in something in which he's paid in CASH sent to him every day? He hasn't seen enough TV to know what tax evasion is?)

    Scammers and spammers are of the same ilk
    I'm not so sure. The former is trying to cheat people; the latter is performing a service. Well, wait: I guess we need a definition of "spammer" because it's kinda broad. There're folks who exploit open relays so they can send out ads for Viagra because (I assume) they're affiliates who stand to profit if the recipient buys using thelink in the spam. Then there are companies who send mail out for third parties to mailing lists and who offer a way to get off the mailing list. As much as we sometimes may dislike the stuff that comes in the latter way ("You've just won a free cell phone!/refridgerator!/ringtone!/home mortgage!"), it's not as evil as the former.

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