This is NOT a test. DO NOT EVER sign up for AdSense!!! This is a warning about a product that is not worth your time or agony. Please read.
Like most people with some kind of Google product, I fell for the AdSense story. You know the one.
"Monetize your _________________ account and start earning money when people click on ads!"
And true, I've already blogged about the myriad of gripes I have with AdSense but the one thing I never banked on was that it would lead to a major scam artist.
It's been more than a year since that last blog, and Google still owes me $34. They claim I won't see one red cent, until I accumulate $100 AND they can prove that I "earned" my clicks. For the record, I never touch the ads on my own accounts, but they still have to treat me as a fraud before I earn this mystical $34.
And contrary to popular fiction, it won't let me monetize more than one of each account. It says I can post the ad link onto anything, BUT if I post that link onto (let's say) a YouTube video, I'll be flagged for spam. Ergo the link I post to the ads is not a link I can use without gaining a strike on my account. These are Google/YouTube's own rules by the way, against my using a Google link on a YouTube video.
So I'm just allowed ONE YouTube. But that seems to be a blessing.
I recently got two, fraudulent copyright strikes against anti-bullying videos I made last year. Puzzled, I checked the video files out, and found nothing in them I didn't make by myself. So I look at the claimant.
Furthermore, the two strikes aren't even written the same. The Kanji is all over the place, for all anybody at Google knows, these could be random words from a dictionary.
These were two videos I animated (CGI, using MMD) using text I programmed and songs I put together by myself. If there is a copyright issue with anything I posted, I would imagine it coming from Crypton ~ and those people don't seem to mind what I post. In fact, the last few times I emailed them, I got friendly responses and encouragement to fight any claims like this ~ because it ain't them.
I've disputed the claims, and so far I have two strikes on that account. I don't even care at this point if they made good on their daily threat to shut it down (yes, YouTube has a habit of sending daily or bi-daily threats) because I can always find a better website.
So as I'm trying to fill out the dispute form, I notice a little glitch at the bottom that catches my eye:
What the yellow box says is that they will forward my personal information to this man/woman, and allow them to decide where to go from there.
Let's back this up.
You let a known SPAMMER make two fraudulent claims against me.
Then, you tell me to send him/her my personal address, phone number and other contact information.
Then you threaten me by stating that if he chooses to keep the strike against me, or you otherwise are not "happy" with my response that you will shut down my account, and let this guy/girl keep my data?
This is a known SPAMMER. You are going to let a SPAMMER have my personal information?
Do you understand what Phishing and Identity Theft mean???
Of course, I didn't finish filling out the form.
Furious, I started looking around for help. I came across a few email addresses, designed to stop phishers in their tracks, and I reported this individual and made it clear the abuse was happening on YouTube. For your sake, please keep a record of the following anti-phishing addresses:
email@example.com ~ They have helped me in the past & I stand behind them.
firstname.lastname@example.org ~ This is YouTube/Google's legal team. Don't expect help.
Now calling YouTube/Google's first number got me nowhere fast:
901 Cherry Ave.
San Bruno, CA 94066
Phone: +1 650-253-0000
Fax: +1 650-253-0001
So I tried the second number:
And for the second time, I spoke to "Google Lisa". It's the same snarky woman I've blogged about before, she kept trying to hang up on me. Never took my information, didn't even ask my name. Just told me "Yeah like ahhhh *sigh* just email the Legal Department. That's ALL the information they gave me. GAWD!"
So what does this have to do with AdSense? Read on.
After curing the existence of Lisa, I stumbled onto a news story from last year from Wired. Get this!
This whole story? It's not special to me. In fact, I'm one of over 2 million people dealing with the same crap.
Every one of us has had people make fake claims against our accounts, and 2 thirds of us lose said accounts through zero fault of our own.
The one common factor?
The account that this has happened to is linked to my AdSense. The harassment, bullying, trolling, death threats and fake claims all started when I linked it to AdSense.
The first YouTube channel I ever had dealt with this too. My CodenameSailorEarth channel. As soon as I linked it to AdSense, I got copyright claims galore, and mass amounts of trolling from all kinds of psychos I don't even know!
The trolling stopped when the account was shut down. But as soon as it went to CodenameSailorEarth2, it started up again. I was hacked, attacked, and now this copyright issue is back.
There are multiple groups who post fraudulent copyright claims on all types of videos. Everything from kittens to vlogs to cheap animations. Names such as "The Orchard Group" and random names from Malaysia, China, Korea and Japan crop up with no legit businesses behind them constantly permeate my inbox. And all of them target videos linked to AdSense.
And worse, there are NO people running the Google/YouTube pages anymore.
Oh sure, they employ thousands of developers, but the websites themselves are run by bots, tiny programs designed to police itself. It's old coding from the 90's, used for sites such as Pandorabots, but the problem is that they haven't really evolved to a point where they can work alone.
Here's how it works.
1. You post a video to YouTube.
2. The bot recognizes that the video is or is not linked with AdSense.
3. The bot scans the video for a melody or sound pattern that mimics already copyrighted data.
4. Whether or not the video has the same data, it's flagged anyway.
This is how it works for most videos. In my case:
1. Random phisher runs a search on AdSense videos. My name comes up at random.
2. Phisher makes a claim against my video. He does NOT need proof that his claim is valid, as there is NO bot to check for this. As long as the address is not from Gmail or Mail.com, the bot proceeds.
3. I get the "red screen of death" copyright notice.
4. I fill out the form.
5. YouTube sends the data to the Phisher.
6. He now has access to my information. Meaning that he can obtain all he needs to steal my I.D.
7. If he continues, I lose the account, and he gets a chunk of my AdSense revenue.
7.a. The video stays up, but the ad revenue goes to his account, not mine, and a link to an Amazon or iTunes product appears on the right side of the "read more" screen, with sales going to him.
Nobody at YouTube is required to check claims for phishing nor are the bots trained to discern fake from real claims.
This is how many Toei Animation, Capcom and Crypton fans have lost their videos. While these three companies have nothing to do with the take-downs 98% of the time, anybody can pretend to be their representative take your video down, and YouTube will not stand in their way.
Justin Bieber, OK GO and even the guy who invented Nyan Cat have all had the exact same thing happen to them in recent years. Lady Gaga even took to court a crazy man, who falsely claimed ownership of a song on her own YouTube account that she herself wrote and sang. All of these known celebrities have had to take YouTube/Google to task for people posting fake claims against them, and still, YouTube/Google refuses to fix the problem.
The answer is simple. Take the people you already have on payroll, and re-enlist them as the tech support you hired them as. Have them reprogram the broken page and help people over the phone. It's a free option. But of course, they won't do it.
My advice to you? Avoid AdSense like the plague it is. Don't put your identity at risk.
Also, file a report with the BBB if this has already happened to you. They already have a mile-long file on Google/YouTube so the proper address should auto-pop up.
It just did for me.