(I wrote this article a year ago, but I think its message is still relevant).
Of all the sub-species that constitute the human race, probably the most despicable is the one that attempts to make a profit from a very real human tragedy. Unfortunately, a lot of these abound as became evident from the extremely sad Madeleine McCann case.
Almost everyone who reads a newspaper, or watches the news on television, would be aware that three-year old McCann was abducted on May 3 from a holiday resort in Portugal and has not been heard of since. Her parents have received tremendous moral and financial support from celebrities and ordinary citizens, enabling them to post a reward of several million dollars. A website www.bringmadeleinehome.com has been set up, asking the general public to donate funds towards the rescue attempts. It received more than five million hits in the first 24 hours; and visits have multiplied several fold since.
In a sickening ploy, a series of internet sites with similar names have been created to exploit its high profile. Some of them are filled with adverts, while others even
divert users to gambling or pornographic websites.
It would be bad enough if the people perpetrating this scam were doing this to derive some perverse pleasure. These are normal' intelligent persons, whose only motive is pure greed. Every time someone clicks on, one of the spurious internet links, the person who set up the web site is paid a fee by an advertising agency. It is feared that hundreds of thousands of genuine well-wishers have inadvertently visited the fake "typosquatting" web sites simply by misspelling Madeleine's name.
So-called typosquatting' is a growing menace on the internet; and involves registering domain names similar to those of popular websites. Some bogus sites are set up to imitate the original, with the intention of fraudulently obtaining personal details, such as bank account numbers. Others simply take advantage of gullible visitors to increase traffic to their site; and thereby generate additional advertising revenue. Internet expert Colin Sweetman says typosquatting could be extremely lucrative. "If you misspell any well known company's website address you are likely to end up on a typosquatting site."
Not surprisingly, the McCanns have reacted with anger and disbelief that their campaign should be so cynically exploited. "We are incredibly disappointed that people are taking advantage of peoples' generosity and using it for commercial gain, rather than for charitable purposes. It's a shame that people behave like this and they exploit the generosity of the general population."
A shame indeed; which is a delicious irony, because make-a-quick-buckers doing this obviously possess no shame nor a conscience either.