Pilant's Business Ethics

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Category: White Collar Crime (Page 1 of 9)

Banks Poor Record Keeping Strikes Again

 

Debt collectors assisted by poor bank record keeping.

Debt collectors assisted by poor bank record keeping.

Banks Poor Record Keeping Strikes Again

Big Banks Face Investigation Into Whether They Helped Debt Collectors Pursue Faulty Judgments

The largest U.S. banks face a multi-state investigation into whether they helped debt collectors pursue faulty judgments against credit card customers, according to people familiar with the matter.
At issue is whether weak record-keeping by banks or a failure to pass accurate information to collection agencies harmed consumers.
The allegations against the banks echo those central to last year’s $25 billion federal-state mortgage settlement to resolve charges that the banks “robo-signed” documents and pursued foreclosures with faulty information.
This latest probe targets the same banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are continuing.
As with the mortgage cases, the investigation focuses on the banks’ poor paperwork and their weak tracking of the debts.

Big Banks Face Investigation Into Whether They Helped Debt Collectors Pursue Faulty Judgments

The banks poor record keeping or phrasing it differently, a reckless indifference to the property rights of mortgage holders, is in the news again.  The banks originally used their record keeping to facilitate seizing properties they lacked proper title to. But that wasn’t the only damage being done. It would appear they sold to debt collectors, debts owed to them by the mortgage holders dependent on the very same records they misused for years. You would think they would have noticed there would be a problem but no, people don’t like to think about their mistakes and crimes. So, we have former bank clients who owe no money being hounded by debt collectors.

Has anything been done to discourage these practices? It seems the profit never ends and no one is penalized? Does that mean that the banks can preserve for use over the next decades? Are these going to become standard bank practices?

These practices of banks poor record keeping and lying affidavits are illegal but with scarcely any penalty imposed they are undeniably profitable.

Aren’t these what Milton Friedman referred to as the “rules of the game,” and if you play by those, isn’t everything okay, you know – free choice, freedom to choose?

I suppose the feds will follow the usual practice of fining the banks a pittance and then allowing them to choose who should receive monetary relief if anyone at all.

This may not discourage the banks from continuing these kinds of acts. Shouldn’t the practice of banks poor record keeping put up a red flag for some regulator?

James Pilant

From around the web.

From the web site, Living Lies.

http://livinglies.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/if-the-bank-filed-foreclosure-ppapers-thats-good-enough-for-me-judge-alan-schwartz-dade-countyz/

From the comments by Matthew Bavaro

So, the bank rested and I got an opportunity to cross examine the witness, or so I thought. I was barely allowed to even ask a question. He shot me down almost every time I asked something. When I went to put my position on the record, he would not allow me to open my mouth. Well, I am not a wall flower, I am going to stand up for my clients.

 The acceleration notice that Bank of America sent was invalid in my opinion and about a dozen other judges around the state have found in favor of the homeowner on this very issue with the same acceleration letter from Bank of America. When I raised this to him, he could not believe that I had the audacity to actually ask him to rule in favor of my client. He implied that he is not going to allow a homeowner to stay in their homes without paying their mortgage even if the bank screwed up. When I asked to read the appellate opinions into the record regarding the paragraph 22 defense, his response was basically that he did not care about the letter they sent and the fact that they filed a foreclosure action alone is good enough for him.

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Banks Too Big for Justice

img137Banks Too Big for Justice

Eric Holder Admits Some Banks Are Just Too Big To Prosecute

When the Attorney General of the United States admits some banks are simply too big to prosecute, it might be time to admit we have a problem — and that goes for both the financial and justice systems.

Eric Holder made this rather startling confession in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, The Hill reports. It could be a key moment in the debate over whether to do something about the size and complexity of our biggest banks, which have only gotten bigger and more systemically important since the financial crisis.

“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” Holder said, according to The Hill. “And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.”

Holder’s comments don’t come as a total surprise. His underlings had already made similar confessions to The New York Times last year, after they declined to prosecute HSBC for flagrant, years-long violations of money-laundering laws, out of fear that doing so would hurt the global economy. Lanny Breuer, formerly in charge of doling out the Justice Department’s wrist slaps to banks, told Frontline as much in the documentary “The Untouchables,” which aired in January.

Eric Holder Admits Some Banks Are Just Too Big To Prosecute

I have said several times before that there are two standards of justice in this country. If you had any doubts as to the truth of that statement, this should end them.

It is a sad day when certain corporations have essentially gained the powers and immunities of sovereign states.

What horrors, what crimes, are we yet to suffer, when the law cannot protect us?

James Pilant

 

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Two Standards of Justice

Two Standards of Justice

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren: Banks Get Wrist Slaps While Drug Dealers Get Jail

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing about money laundering, Warren (D-Mass.) grilled officials from the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about why HSBC, which recently paid $1.9 billion to settle money laundering charges, wasn’t criminally prosecuted and shut down in the U.S. Nor were any individuals from HSBC charged with any crimes, despite the bank confessing to laundering billions of dollars for Mexican drug cartels and rogue regimes like Iran and Libya over several years.

Defenders of the Justice Department say that a criminal conviction could have been a death penalty for the bank, causing widespread damage to the economy. Warren wanted to know why the death penalty wasn’t warranted in this case.

“They did it over and over and over again across a period of years. And they were caught doing it, warned not to do it and kept right on doing it, and evidently making profits doing it,” Warren said of HSBC. “How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”

Elizabeth Warren: Banks Get Wrist Slaps While Drug Dealers Get Jail

We could start by marveling at the idea that any rational human being could contemplate a fine as a penalty for international subversion? This subversion involved laundering money so it could be used anywhere in the economic system, thus, making it available to pay for bribes, drug smuggling, murder and kidnapping.

We could wander casually over to our second problem which is bankers, especially the international and investment variety, and wonder what made them so special? It is a simple matter to document one law for them and one law for the rest of us. That is the why Ms. Warrent’s example hits home. We are living by two sets of laws, one harsh and punitive and another for the banks.

Let us conclude with out third problem, where do get off allowing banks to attack foreign governments? Can there be any doubt in anyone’s mind that laundering billions in drug cartel money is the equivalent of a direct attack on the nation of Mexico and a more minor, by comparison, attack on this country, the United States?

It might be better if instead of thinking of the HSBC bank as a financial institution but more as a hostile foreign power willing to exploit our financial system for profit. I believe that is a more accurate reading of how it views its status in the world.

I don’t think Mexico feels safer after we fined HSBC. They may not feel that we have sent a message to those who would empower those who actively kidnap and murder in their country?

How would you feel about this if you lived in Mexico? Does it make you feel secure in American protection anywhere on earth?

James Pilant

 

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More on Aaron Swartz

More on Aaron Swartz

 

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz Laid to Rest with an Action Plan For Us | Crooks and Liars

In New York on Saturday, a public memorial was held for Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide last week. Among the remembrances of Aaron’s genius, his commitment to progressive causes, his idealistic beliefs of making this a better world, there was also an action plan laid out by his partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman:

“Aaron was targeted by the FBI,” said ThoughtWorks chairman Roy Singham, Swartz’s employer before his death. “After PACER, they targeted him. He was strip-searched. Let’s not pretend this wasn’t political,” he argued before being interrupted by applause.

Swartz’s partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman framed her call to action in terms of Swartz’s beliefs: “Aaron believed there was no shame in failure. There is deep, deep shame in caring more about believing you’re changing the world than actually changing the world.”Stinebrickner-Kauffman, also an activist, named five targets for action:

  • Hold the Massachusetts US Attorney’s office accountable for its actions in prosecuting Aaron;
  • Press MIT to ensure that it would “never be complicit in an event like this again”;
  • “All academic research for all time should be made free and open and available to anybody in the world”;
  • Pass and strengthen “Aaron’s Law,” an amendment to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that would narrow prosecutorial discretion for computer crimes;
  • Advocate for fundamental reform of the criminal justice system.

“His last two years were not easy. His death was not easy,” Stinebrickner-Kauffman said. Still, she urged the audience to “think big and think tiny… ‘The revolution will be A/B tested,'” referencing three of Swartz’s favorite maxims. “Look up and not down.”

Aaron Swartz Laid to Rest with an Action Plan For Us | Crooks and Liars

I continue to be outraged by the prosecutorial over reach in the Swartz case. I consider the “crime” for which he was accused to be little more than an example of trying to make public files available at no cost, something that should be policy across the United States. For instance, in Arkansas, there are fees for accessing the laws of the state online so without money I am just supposed to wonder what the law of the state are.

He was a hero in pursuit of making the Internet a source of genuine information rather than a fee making machine for public institutions to make money off public research and public scholarship. We, the people, paid for this research. We should be able to see it. Public laws should be accessible without fees. We are citizens, not turnips to be squeezed.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Playable, The Weblog of Dean Groom: (This one needs to be read in full. It’s excellent. JP)

I read that information pioneer Aaron Swartz has took his own life last week at the age of 26. Swartz helped develop RSS at the age of 14 and founded Reddit among other things. His website is still open if you want to read from the source. To me he stands no less significant in information and computing science than any working at Bletchley Park during the second world war. Certainly, his story is far more relevant in high-school classrooms than what is currently in ‘the text’ book.

From the web site, PrisonMovement’s Weblog:

The internet trailblazer and activist, who had already contributed such things to the web as an early version of the RSS feed and Reddit, stood up and joined the vanguard in this movement. He co-founded the organization, Demand Progress, which was instrumental in leading the largest online protest in the history of the Internet against SOPA and PIPA. Thanks to this effort, on January 18th, 2012, tens of thousands of websites blacked out, and ultimately, SOPA and PIPA were defeated by this online grassroots activism.

Today, that same internet is “blacked out” with remembrances and obituaries of Aaron Swartz, who took his life over the weekend. And in each of those remembrances, Aaron is described as a spark that made things happen.  And for the rest of us who still believe, as Aaron did, in a free and open internet and a compassionate and just nation (a message he often espoused on our show, The Big Picture), we can only hope he provides the same sort of spark in death that he did in life.

From the web site, Hip Is Everything:

Justice and Aaron Swartz

Justice and Aaron Swartz

 

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Lance Armstrong, American Villain

Lance Armstrong, American Villain

prologue1Lance Armstrong’s Oprah interview: His threats and bullying are the real story. – Slate Magazine

Armstrong couldn’t deny all the lawsuits he had filed and all the times he’d accused people of lying. So he attributed these intimidation tactics to fear, a rough childhood, and his cancer. He had vilified witnesses who told the truth because he saw them “as a friend turning on you.” He had attacked any threat because when he was a kid, his family “felt like we had our backs against the wall.” And, tragically, “my diagnosis … turned me into a person” who was resolved to “win at all costs,” since cancer compels you to “do anything I have to do to survive. … And I took that attitude, that ruthless and relentless and win-at-all costs attitude, and I took it right into cycling.”

That seems to be the game plan Armstrong brought to this interview. Downplay your power over others. Deny issuing explicit orders to dope. Convert any such story into a matter of setting a poor example.  Take responsibility for yourself, but suggest that others—those who claim you pressured them—must do the same. Recast your threats, retributions, and demands for silence as products of a hard life. Reduce your sins of coercion to a sin of deceit. When Winfrey asked Armstrong “what made you a bully,” he answered: “Just trying to perpetuate the story and hide the truth.”

That’s Armstrong’s message: Everything he did, no matter how domineering, menacing, or manipulative, was a desperate effort to protect a single lie. “I tried to control the narrative,” he says. And he’s still trying to control the narrative. Which is a good reason not to believe it.

Lance Armstrong’s Oprah interview: His threats and bullying are the real story. – Slate Magazine

Armstrong seemed to be exposing himself the most when he confessed to bullying Emma O’Reilly, the former massage therapist who tried to expose Armstrong’s doping in 2003. “We ran over her, we bullied her,” he said. But then when Oprah asked if he’d sued O’Reilly, he couldn’t remember even the basic details—who he’d sued, for example. His admissions stopped exactly at the point when it turned from a character trait to real adult, legal action, which caused actual measurable harm in another person’s life. Yes, sure, we agree with Lance Armstrong he was a bully. As team leader and megastar cyclist, he had far more power than the people around him, and he used it to make their lives miserable when they did things he didn’t like, especially exposing the cheating and lying that allowed him to build his own myth and stay on top. But bullying hardly covers it. More like, “he assaulted people with intent to absolutely destroy,” as a Twitter user named Brian G. Fay wrote to me last night.

Lance Armstrong was a bully, but that hardly covers it. – Slate Magazine

Yes, cycling is corrupt. If there is any one individual who made it impossible to compete without cheating, it’s Lance Armstrong.

I don’t think, people are getting the picture here of a long term criminal conspiracy to subvert a sport. Yet, that is exactly what was going here. Armstrong is the Bernie Madoff of cycling. He didn’t just cheat, he used such a wide variety of banned substances, the only way he could’ve broken the rules further was by riding a motorcycle, or putting in a double.

He didn’t just steal money. He stole our ideal of what a sports figure should be. He cheapened heroism, and made a world of high athleticism, cheap and tawdry.

His victims include those who deserved those medals, those endorsements, the keys to the city and the honorary degree. We’ll never know their names or respect their accomplishments because he stole their glory.

He’s a villain, and he deserves to be treated like one.

James Pilant

From around the web –

From the web site, Poems and Sundry Writings by Rebekka Roderick:

Just go away and shut up already. You have done more than enough damage. Just fuck off. Everybody is tired of your BS. Just go. We know you don’t mean what you say. We know you’re just a liar who kept lying right up until the entire house of cards was pulled down, torn up and set on fire. I know this because I was a similar person the last few years, lying to and cheating on and not appreciating the man that loved me unconditionally. I was not a tad bit remorseful, contrite or altruistic about it at all until the ultimate realization of all the pain I had caused him and the awareness that I had let go of somebody that I was important to, a once in a lifetime thing, hit me in the face.

From the web site, Live STRONG Blog:

We expect Lance to be completely truthful and forthcoming in his interview and with all of us in the cancer community. We expect we will have more to say at that time. Regardless, we are charting a strong, independent course forward that is focused on helping people overcome financial, emotional and physical challenges related to cancer. Inspired by the people with cancer whom we serve, we feel confident and optimistic about the Foundation’s future and welcome an end to speculation.”

From the web site, Growing Dogwood:

I never bought the fact that he was not using. Call me a skeptic if you must, but it never made sense that that these athletes could do what they did and then turn around and do more the next day – for three weeks. Sorry, I think they’re all using. With that said, what’s the problem? How different is the use of PED’s from say the actress that has plastic surgery to enhance her performance? I would never endorse or do either, but I guess I just don’t want success that badly. At the same time I am not in any position to judge anyone’s decision on what they do.

As far as I care what he did is still a great accomplishment. Like I said, everyone was cheating and he was clearly the best cheater. So hats off to Mr Armstrong on those seven yellow jerseys.

From the web site, [un]-conscious stream- [ing]:

Meaning that to look at the whole picture of a person is to see the truth about their material reality. Peter used the idea that behind closed doors, Hitler may well have been a ‘really nice guy’, when he was playing the piano and people were drinking tea and having dinner with the polite house painter. But the material reality of Hitler – the totality of his existence, the big, whole picture was that he sanctioned and ordered the ethnic and elitist ‘cleansing’ of Germany and the killing of over six million Jews.

Which led me to the thought that, if Lance does admit to the doping allegations, then no matter who interviews him, we have already seen the ‘real Armstrong’. The ‘real Armstrong’ is in the totality of his material reality, not in the soft, contrite and repentant man that we might see on a tv screen attempting to win back the favour of the public.

If the allegations are true, the ‘real Armstrong’ has already revealed his hand and shown his true colours: someone who is ruthless, prepared to systematically cheat his way to the top of a sport, push others out, lie repeatedly about it, bully his way through to rule the peloton and bully a number of journalists on the way as he churned out untruth after obfuscated distraction over and over again (I’ve heard many of the interviews over the years). Someone who has to be in control and on top and will stop at nothing to get there.

And finally, from the web site, Getting Back in Shape:

That pretty much sums up my feelings towards this whole confession. He sued dozens and dozens of people that said he was doping. Test after test proved without a doubt he was doping all those years. Eventually once the USADA took all his Tour De France wins away, banned him from the sport for life, and all his sponsors dropped him, did he finally admit his guilt. Really, what choice did he have? That is as rock bottom as one can get. Some might commit suicide, others might just live in a cave the rest of their life. He obviously is the type that wants to move on, and this was the only thing that could be done. If not, he would be treated horribly anytime he was seen in public, I’m sure of that. Disgraced is a good word I would use. But on the flip side, he did play a part in raising millions and millions for cancer research. And if so many other people are doping just like he was, it still shows his performance was superior to theirs. Coming back from being diagnosed and treated for cancer, that is very impressive.

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Will the Government Ever Attempt to Enforce the Law Against the Bank of America?

 Will the Government Ever Attempt to Enforce the Law Against the Bank of America?

Bank of America is teetering on the edge of collapse. It has received enormous aid from the federal government in bailouts, loans and preferential treatment to the tune of trillions of dollars of government guarantees. To add further injury to the insults already suffered, the federal government, that is, the Obama Justice Department has okayed a settlement protecting Bank of America from lawsuits for its practice of filing false affidavits and inventing ownership of property in American Courts. Yet even with this help, the bank is run so badly that it is still failing.

How long does this go on?

Is the government going to bailout this bank one more time?

What crimes do they have to commit? What incompetence do they have to display? What greed in the form of enormous executive bonuses do they have to display? – before enough is enough and they are allowed to perish?

James Pilant

Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail | Politics News | Rolling Stone

In a pure capitalist system, an institution as moronic and corrupt as Bank of America would be swiftly punished by the market – the executives would get to loot their own firms once, then they’d be looking for jobs again. But with the limitless government support of Too Big to Fail, these failing financial giants get to stay undead forever, continually looting the taxpayer, their depositors, their shareholders and anyone else they can get their hands on. The threat posed by Bank of America isn’t just financial – it’s a full-blown assault on the American dream. Where’s the incentive to play fair and do well, when what we see rewarded at the highest levels of society is failure, stupidity, incompetence and meanness? If this is what winning in our system looks like, who doesn’t want to be a loser? Throughout history, it’s precisely this kind of corrupt perversion that has given birth to countercultural revolutions. If failure can’t fail, the rest of us can never succeed.

Bank of America: Too Crooked to Fail | Politics News | Rolling Stone

 

 

 

Another White House Sell Out on the Big Banks

Another White House Sell Out on the Big Banks

Shouldn’t bankers be held to the same laws the rest of Americans have to obey? This is a no-brainer except in the Washington beltway where banks are considered the basis of the Republic rather than the modern equivalent of train robbing Western desperados. I don’t understand. Why is no one being prosecuted? I once lied to a judge. I didn’t know it was a lie until later. When I found out, I called him up (I was working for the state and dealt with the judge regularly) and explained and apologized. He reminded me that I could have gone to jail for that. I told I was well aware of it. And yet here, banks who lied to the judge, to the courts of the United States, are simply walking away. Unlike me, they knew they weren’t telling truth and unlike me, they were making enormous sums of money by lying, and they are not apologizing. Do you see anywhere in the agreement that they have to say, “I’m sorry.” I don’t see it.

There is a dual system of justice in this country, one for me and you, and one for the 1%. It’s very sad. We have been told that we live in a nation of laws, not of men. But the fact is we live in a nation of men, where one class is better than another in the eyes of the law.

James Pilant

Robo-Signing Bank Settlement is a Criminal Sell Out | Better Markets

“Let me help a few victims I created by ripping them off and illegally throwing them out of their homes by false court filings that I swore were true.”  That’s what the so-called mortgage settlement talks are really all about:  fraud, perjury and crimes.  That’s what these banks did and that’s what they are trying to buy their way out of.

The settlement discussions are the same: eliminate all or almost all liability for the bank and, most importantly, all bank officers and employees in exchange for a loan forgiveness or modification program.  Think about this:  the banks engaged in a years-long pattern and practice of what can only be described as fraudulent if not criminal conduct that would put anyone else in prison for years if not decades, yet banks get to buy off the cops with some money to help the victims they created.

Robo-Signing Bank Settlement is a Criminal Sell Out | Better Markets

Mortgage Settlement Is Great – For Big Banks

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FAA probing News Corp.’s use of drones (via Yahoo! News)

From Yahoo! News

With the newsgathering techniques of its sister publications in Britain under fire, News Corp. is facing a probe into the use of drones by its U.S.-based digital publication, The Daily.

They have their own drones? And then they didn’t get permission to use them.

Here’s more –

Flight of the Paparazzi Drone (from the article which appears in Forbes)

In thinking about news organizations’ uses of drones, there are a variety of potential applications. News Corp’s The Daily used a drone to gather footage of disaster areas in Mississippi and North Dakota. While unobjectionable journalistically, it may have violated FAA regulations in doing so, as the agency currently prohibits strictly commercial use of drones. I asked the Daily about the FAA investigation and whether they had legal certification for use of their MicroDrone MD4-1000. “We’re not going to comment on our newsgathering,” said a spokesperson.

This is a you tube video of this model drone –

Microdrones MD4-1000 behind the scenes (real live footage- not stabilized by software)

Here’s another video –

Orbit MD4-1000 Microdrones filming Super Bikers From Above

 

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Coakley Steps up Probe into Foreclosure Fraud (via Marshfield Real Estate)

The mortgage foreclosure crisis continues to grow. We are not talking about just the number of foreclosures. We are discussing active serious wrong doing on the part of banks and foreclosure companies. The use of the MERS electronic system to determine property ownership outside the States’ legal rules is a particularly egregious situation. A number of financial institutions on their own decided to dispense with hundreds of years of property law and create a system that passed title electronically. They did this without legislative or court approval and then proceeded to use it on millions of properties. We should not allow banking institutions to create law on the spur of the moment for their own benefit.

There is plenty of evidence that properties were foreclosed on that banks did not own. I call for justice. I call for a return of these properties to their rightful owners.

James Pilant

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is beefing up her investigation into foreclosure fraud, targeting a powerful lender-created company in Virginia that claims to be the official owner of tens of millions of mortgages nationwide. Yesterday, Coakley said she will ask county registers to provide information to see if Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., known as MERS, is violating Massachusetts laws related to property seizures. … Read More

via Marshfield Real Estate

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What is SEO, Search Engine Optimization, and could you do SEO? Either way, avoid scammers. Part II (via Social Media Directors)

Not only are his views on blog success excellent, he is a fan of net neutrality. in my judgment, he is an ally. Search engine optimization is not just hot topic, it’s a controversial one with many companies selling software and advice.

Best paragraph – Well-written, original and researched material with relevant, high-quality content that is rich, but not over-saturated, with properly researched keywords and is linked to content-related sites – both yours and others – is the type of copy that works best. Though it requires more effort and time, it is the fastest, longest-lasting and certainly most profitable way to get ranked high on Google and stay there. Some people call it White Hat SEO. I call it honesty.

Good stuff.

James Pilant

What is SEO and could you do SEO? Either way, avoid scammers. Part II In the offline world starting small makes sense. You start small and try to grow. But this is the Internet. It is not yet completely governed by politics. There are computers involved, and computers work using logic. Simple, reason-based logic. Often, these SEO experts who are trying to sell you their strategy will convince you to not even try to go for the big keywords. They attempt to make, and often succeed in making us pay for not trying. It … Read More

via Social Media Directors

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