A new scam is on the Internet: a piece of software that will create bogus family trees to be uploaded to your web site. Why would anyone want to do that? The complete answer is a bit convoluted, but the short answer is to boost your web site higher in the search engine ratings so that gullible people will see the ads on your site. In fact, the program's advertising boasts that you can "create unique, non-duplicate content that millions of people search for, AND that neither humans nor search engines can tell is 'real' or not."
FakeFamily.com is very open about its purpose. After purchasing this software for $75, you are advised to create a bogus genealogy site and put affiliate ads on it to defray the expenses. Then you upload fantasy family trees created by the FakeFamily.com software. As the web site says:
Fake Family will generate content that is 100% unique. The content created is seen by people as being REAL. There is no dispute about that. And, SO WILL THE SEARCH ENGINES.
The same web page also says:
Yeah, this is an unusual take on content. But you need to THINK unusual to beat the engines. Let this soak in and you'll find that we're speaking the truth.
On another page, the web site states:
Fake Family creates gedcom files that fit the standard gedcom format. This is the file format that allows interfacing with any standard "gedcom to html" program. The thing about a family tree created with Fake Family is that the data all fits. For example, names are "era specific" - meaning, you will get more "Orville" and "Bertha" names in the 1880s than the 1980s. Infant mortality, marriage rates, migration data is also encoded (and more).
You import the GEDCOM file created by the FakeFamily software into almost any genealogy program and tell that program to create HTML files. You then upload those HTML files to your web site that contains advertisements. Google, Yahoo, and the other search engines will eventually discover the site and decide that it is unique content. The site's bogus content will be added to the search engines.
If someone in the future searches for "John Brown" and you have a person on your fake genealogy web site named John Brown, the search engine will point the gullible searcher to your site, where he or she will see your ads. You then hope that they will click on an ad and buy something, and then you get paid. Not a bad scam: using fake data to entice people to buy something!
The owner of FakeFamily.com obviously feels no remorse and even brags:
Which is more important: Verifying that the "mesothelioma" information on your scraped page is "valid" or that some person is really your great great grandpa? Come on. I've NEVER seen anyone (certainly not "black hat") have an issue with the validity of any other content.
When I first read the information on this web site, I thought it was someone's idea of a practical joke. After re-reading several times, I have changed my mind. There seems to be no humor and no punch line. Apparently this fast buck artist really wants to flood the Internet with bogus genealogy material, all for the purpose of making easy money.
I tried to see who registered the domain name of FakeFamily.com but found it registered to Domains by Proxy, Inc., a company that specializes in registering domain names by proxy in order to hide the names and addresses of the true owner(s).
I normally take new programs and web sites for a "test drive" and use them myself before writing about them. However, I am not going to do that this time. I'll save my $75.00, the price to obtain the software that generates bogus family trees. If you decide to waste your money on this scheme, please let me know how you make out.
To get a feel for the purpose of this FakeFamily.com site, read this page first: http://fakefamily.com/reply.htm
Then read these pages:
So, let me ask a couple of questions:
1. Are you willing to be known as someone who places bogus information on the Internet?
2. Are you willing to be known as someone who is gullible enough to pay $75 for this software?
Serious genealogists have always preached, "Verify your sources!" If this software gets loose on the Internet, the need to verify every piece of information will be more important than ever.
As always, let the buyer - and the genealogist - beware!
UPDATE: A few hours after posting this article on the daily newsletter web site, I was contacted by one of the developers of FakeFamily.com. As you might imagine, he was not happy with my article. He disputes several of my assumptions and is adamant that this program is no scam. I suggested that he post his explanation for all to read. After an exchange of e-mails, he has done so on his own web site.
There is a new and rather detailed explanation of the purpose of fakefamily.com available now at http://www.FakeFamily.com. I would invite you to read that information now before making any assumptions about this program.
He also pointed out that there is a larger reply written to someone else at: http://www.fakefamily.com/reply2.htm. I would invite you to read that page as well.
Please read both of those pages and then make up your own mind as to the intent of this program.