Should the Beijing Olympics Committee protect us from Scammers?

Mikey 6 comments
  • Legal and Law
  • Cyber Crime
  • Consumerism
Should the Beijing Olympics Committee protect us from Scammers?

Today I read an interesting story about some Aussie's who have been ripped off in an online ticketing scam while trying to purchase tickets for the Beijing Olympics.

While some people lost a few hundred dollars, some have lost thousands, with one man in particular losing $27,000.

So how were they scammed? By simply Googling for the term "Beijing Olympic tickets" the first web site to show up in the results is, which is ranked higher than the official Beijing Olympic web site. To average Joe, this is all the authentication they need to enter their credit card details. Curiously and - thankfully now though, that search query shows a different first result, a .

That site is dead now, but there is still some confusion as to which site out of the other two that are in the top results - if either - is the real deal. Have a look at and and tell me which one you trust more.

Even if both are legitimate, then the Olympic Committee have done something really dumb by creating this confusion. But if one of these sites is a scam, then efforts should be made to get it taken down, even if that is something as simple as contacting Google to get the scam site removed from their index.

So how is average Joe supposed to know which is the real thing?

It's sad that so many people were ripped off in this way, and I have a couple of questions which I think warrants some discussion.

My first question...

Does the Beijing Olympic committee, who are in charge of the web site, have a duty of care to look out for potential scammers, especially ones that rank above them in search engine results?

I would say 'yes', especially when the offending scam site has been operating for at least 11 months. It's unavoidable that scam sites will surface, but spotting them is easy - they usually appear right above or below you on a search engine results page. If the scam site was running for as long as it has been suggested it was (11 months) and no action was taken, or at least the public warned, then I reckon the Olympic Committee should be held accountable and be refunding the people who were scammed.

My next question is...

Does a web site with such a high profile (one that is in the public eye) have an obligation to be the first on a search result?

That's a tricky one to answer, but if people are assuming a web site with 1st place ranking isn't going to scam them, then maybe the answer is 'yes'.

It still blows my mind that people still fall victim to online scams these days, so maybe the real answer is just more public awareness and education.

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Tuesday 5th August 2008 | 09:00 AM

See, I would have thought that the words 'olympic games', and 'beijing olympics', would have been trademarked and closed the second something illigitimate popped up.

Isn't that something a metacrawler would pickup?

I think that the liability lies on Forbes and Microsoft who both did reviews on the site, thereby boosting it's reputability and making it legitimate.

Google was doing what it was supposed to do, the site looked reputable so the phishing filter would have left it alone.

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Nate >.>

Tuesday 5th August 2008 | 09:09 AM

Getting 1st result on Google isn't as hard as you might think.

I worked in a job a few months back that involved writing Google ads (those 'sponsored links' you see on the right and sometimes up the top) and it taught me a lot I didn't know about how Google works.

Basically, the more keywords you have in your ad, the more relevant it is, and therefore has a better chance of getting up the top, for the lowest cost-per-click. (There are other factors that I won't go into because I may just bore a few people to death)

Well this concept works very similarly with what is called an 'organic search' which is just a straight search result, no ads, bidding etc.

So you would just need to have enough relevant keywords in your website title, as well as plenty of phrases like "Beijing Olympic Tickets" on there to bring your site up to the top. Then it's up to the designers to make it look legit.

So there you go, something you didn't know before, but may not really help you...still, it's an interesting fact which I thought I would share.

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Tuesday 5th August 2008 | 09:29 AM response to this comment by Nate >.>. At risk of venturing off-topic, as SEO is one of my fields of expertise, keywords are the lest important part of a good SEO strategy. In fact you don't even need them at all - meta robots and meta description are all you need - Google doesn't care for the others. And the title is important, it needs to be relevant - not spammed with 'Beijing Olympic Tickets' and similar.

Content is king, as they say, and a good document structure with semantically written code and proper XHTML/CSS structure is the most important thing.

That said, looking at the source code of the Beijing Olympics site, it's rather poor in terms of SEO and they use some very dated methods.

In fact I am going to try a little experiment. Do a search for 'Beijing Olympic tickets' in a few days and the little page I am about to make will be the 1st result :-)

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Tuesday 5th August 2008 | 09:48 AM

I don't know that there is a duty of care on the games organisers themselves. I am sure, if you look into it, they advertised official places to buy tickets and people who went elsewhere did so at their own risk.

Expecting the Chinese to crack down on internet scammery is ludicrous, as the .cn domain is the source of about 90% (that's a made up statistic btw but not far from the truth) of the spam and malware.

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Tuesday 5th August 2008 | 02:19 PM

It's such a high profile event, you would think only reputable sites with high pageranks would come up first for searches. Maybe Google are caught between the need to provide the most obvious results and the need to provide results from the "long tail" of the web, that is, all those lesser known sites that may be perfectly relevant.

It will be interesting to see how the experiment goes. Now there are so many news sites clogging the results it might be hard.

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Tuesday 5th August 2008 | 05:16 PM

So how is average Joe supposed to know which is the real thing? what is the answer to this question. i was under the impression that web sites that had the lock located in bottom corner were usually safe..

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