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PC Technician - discusses the tapfish game story



This month is not really a tip but an exposť on a very clever internet subterfuge.

I saw on the Daily Show an interesting interview, with the John Stewart comic overtones, dealing with an internet scam that uses a free game download to grab unsuspecting kids and eventually winds up costing the parents a lot of money. The game is called tapfish. The game is free to download and it sets up a virtual aquarium, complete with virutal fish. The idea is to care for the aquarium by "feeding", "cleaning" and "maintaining" your virtual seaworld. The kicker is - the fish most likely will die and you can purchase replacement fish.
In fact, in one family the three kids did indeed purchase new fish to the tune of $1500. Yikes! - when the father found out - well you can imagine what happened. It turns out that the tapfish website earns about $1,000,000 a month with this paradigm. In a face to face interview with the owner of tapfish, the interviewer sarcastically compared what the company was doing to the methods employed by drug dealers in building a clientele. Start out giving something for free - to hook the kids (pun intended) - and then hit them for the big bucks ( buy new fish).
Well, my curiosity got the better of me, and I attempted to download the game. To my surprise, I was stopped by my anti-virus program ( AVG Free) and could not get the game. See the message from AVG below:

tapfish error message

I was surprised by this error - as I think the paradigm used by tapfish was clever enough and they did not need to resort to using an additional exploit - the "invisible iframe injection". So, if the family had a good anti-virus program all of the agony of maxing out dad's credit card could have been avoided. As an aside, the oldest boy was quite proud of doing just that.





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