PABEAVER-L ArchivesArchiver > PABEAVER > 2005-11 > 1132162277
From: "bobtodd" <>
Subject: Fake family trees - The New Internet Genealogy Scam
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 12:31:17 -0500
The following appeared on the Berks Co site last week. I feel everyone
should be aware that there is a new genealogy scam on the internet.
> This appeared in yesterday's Deseret News here in Salt Lake City. Full
> credit given to the
> Deseret Morning News, Saturday, November 12, 2005
> Fake family trees online may trip up genealogists
> By Lee Davidson <http://deseretnews.com/dn/staff/card/1,1228,34,00.html>
> Deseret Morning News
> Genealogists beware.
> A software company is marketing a new program to Internet advertisers that
> could quickly generate Web sites full of extensive, but fake, family
> Critics say the approach appears to be part of a new money-making scheme
> to lure people who search for family names on Google, Yahoo or other
> search engines to Web sites that use bogus data to help ensure they appear
> high on "hit lists." They then make money if visitors click on
> advertisers' links.
> They worry that novices might download false information that is designed
> to look real, and then corrupt others' family trees if they share that bad
> data online or through family history databases such as those offered by
> The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the commercial
> Utah-based Ancestry.com <http://Ancestry.com>
> However, Don Harrold, co-creator of a program called "Fake Family," which
> he sells for $75, says data it produces has "absolutely zero chance" of
> matching any real person or family. He says he has offered the program to
> fewer than 30 self-described Internet advertisers, so its use is not
> widespread, and he has not made money on it.
> Why make it then? "Why not? I enjoy trying to find ways to create computer
> simulations of organic life," Harrold told the Deseret Morning News.
> But online chat groups of both genealogists and Internet advertisers are
> buzzing about what the new program could do to genealogical research, and
> why Harrold is marketing it, even if, as he says, to a small group.
> Dan Eastman, author of Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter, wrote this
> past week that he believes Harrold "wants to flood the Internet with bogus
> genealogy material, all for the purpose of making easy money."
> Online information that Harrold wrote says his product can "create
> thousands of pages of unique . . . content with almost no effort. Neither
> humans nor search engines will be able to tell whether the content is
> 'real' or 'generated.' "
> How could that make money?
> Josh Anderson, an Internet advertiser from Idaho, who also is a
> genealogist concerned about the product, explains Web hosts can program
> their sites to display "sponsored links." Advertisers pay search engines
> to have these appear on screen whenever certain key words such as
> "genealogy" are part of a search.
> When such links are clicked by a visitor, the Web site host and search
> engine company split revenue from an advertiser. (Of course, Web sites can
> also offer other forms of advertising.)
> "It can be a very profitable source of income. Some people make millions
> of dollars a year doing it," Anderson said. "The whole purpose (of Fake
> Family-style sites) is to trick the search engine, so they get a top
> listing for some search words" to attract more visitors and potentially
> more revenue-producing mouse clicks.
> Search engine companies say they hunt for and remove from listings any
> sites that are bogus or that scrape content from other sites merely to act
> as a vehicle to carry advertiser links.
> But Fake Family boasts in written information that it can fool search
> engines. It does not merely produce lists of random names, but links them
> generation-to-generation with bogus birth, marriage and death dates and
> It adds that its randomly generated names "are era-specific," meaning you
> will get more names such as Orville and Bertha in the 1880s than the
> 1980s. Infant mortality, marriage rates and migration data is also
> encoded, and more. It's the rich family "experience" that Fake Family
> provides that is significant and makes the output stunning in its ability
> to look real to humans.
> Internet advertisers helped the Deseret Morning News identify a few
> genealogy sites that appeared to contain only bogus information, along
> with plenty of advertiser links. Harrold, however, said he only knows of
> one generated by Fake Family (even though he said in written information
> that he has "monetized" several family history sites).
> "This is scary to me," said Mindy Koch, an Internet advertiser from North
> Carolina and an avid genealogist. "There is a great chance that a novice
> could think this is real. If they download it, and then later upload it
> into repositories like (the LDS Church's) Ancestral File, those databases
> would include lots of people who never existed."
> Also, she added that it potentially could make search engines more
> difficult to use for genealogy if bogus sites slow them or account for all
> the "top hits."
> Harrold says such threats are imagined and not real. He said the chances
> of randomly selected first and last names, coupled with randomly selected
> places and dates, being shown as married to the same persons as people who
> actually lived "are not just slim, they are nonexistent."
> He said if someone still mistook such information as real and downloaded
> it, "that's their fault." He adds, "If you want real family information,
> why are you not looking at Census records? If you're not paying for it,
> and I didn't ask you to take it, and the name and date don't match your
> family tree, why are you taking this information? Any onus is on the
> people who take this information."
> Some in genealogy chat groups, however, complained that a name that looks
> even roughly plausible could be mistaken as real by a novice, or cause
> even a genealogy expert to spend a lot of time and money to eliminate the
> possibility it is the person for whom they are seeking.
> "Boo hoo," Harrold told the Morning News in response to such complaints.
> He said "the real story" is how Google and other search engines do not
> verify content they seek and guide others to for profit. He said databases
> by the LDS Church and Ancestry.com <http://Ancestry.com> also contain some
> incorrect information submitted by patrons. His obviously false data
> creates less threat to genealogy research than they do, he said.
> Harrold suggested in chat groups that he might sue people who referred to
> his work as a "scam." He also warned the Morning News to be careful what
> it said about him.
> In turn, makers of the Legacy Family Tree software threatened to sue
> Harrold if he did not remove from his Web site instructions about how to
> download free software from them that could assist the Fake Family
> Meanwhile, Mary Kay Evans, spokeswoman for Ancestry.com
> <http://Ancestry.com>, a Utah company that, as part of its service, offers
> a large database of names, said, "It is so unfortunate that there are
> predators on the Web who target people interested in their genealogy.
> Genealogy is such a popular hobby that predators are moving to take
> advantage of that."
> Evans, as well as many genealogists and even Harrold himself, urges
> genealogists to verify carefully all sources of information in genealogy,
> especially any obtained online from people they do not know. "That is a
> primary role of Ancestry.com <http://Ancestry.com>, to help people see
> source records," Evans said.
> Anderson, who operates a small family Web site, also encourages
> genealogists to actually talk to people operating such sites and ask for
> all source information.
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|Fake family trees - The New Internet Genealogy Scam by "bobtodd" <>|