Facebook is a funny thing. You can take a semi-intelligent person and give them control of a Facebook profile, and within hours they will be genuinely sharing memes about how a blind dog from New York climbed the stairs of the North Tower on 9/11 and led 800 people to safety.
People just can’t help it. They love exposing their dumb selves online.
If you know how to leverage people’s stupidity, it can be ridiculously profitable. Such is the case for one Maryland-based 25-year-old named Ian Hawes, who has taken a bunch of unsuspecting Trump supporters on Facebook for a ride to the tune of over $1 million.
Using promoted Facebook ads, Hawes’ homemade political action committee, American Horizons, has preyed on over 20,000 donors since its inception — raising around $1.1 million. In just its first month of operation, it collected over $350,000. It has yet to spend a single dollar on Donald Trump.
The PAC entices Trump supporters on Facebook by offering a “free dinner with Trump” contest, but if donors bothered to read the fine print, they would realize that what they were eligible to win was nothing more than a pair of tickets to a Trump fundraiser.
So sleazy. It’s genius. This might be the first Trump “supporter” that Donald actually respects.
Hawes’ site doesn’t initially ask for money. First, one can enter the dinner contest simply by providing an email address. But it quickly offers a chance to “double your chances” by donating, even though the fine print states, “Contributing will not improve chances of winning.”
But the dinner scheme is just the beginning. By late July, Hawes — who in his Twitter bio calls himself a “registered genius, board certified hacker, and grape soda connoisseur” — had launched another website, crookedhillary2016.org, according to Internet domain registration records, and began promoting a contest to revoke her security clearance. The group’s Facebook page copies the “Crooked Hillary” logo that is used on Trump’s official LyingCrookedHillary.com site.
Hawes took advantage of a vacuum left by a skeletal Trump operation that had failed to activate supporters online and protect its digital turf; Hawes noted he bought Facebook ads and solicited money via email before Trump ever did, and created the dinner contest first.
Despite how shady it might sound, what he is doing is completely legal. Naturally, people who gave him money without doing any research are pissed.
“I feel ripped off and taken advantage of. This is horrible. That was not my intent,” said Mary Pat Kulina, who owns a paper-shredding company in Maryland and gave $265 to Hawes’ group. Kulina thought she had given to Trump’s campaign until told otherwise by POLITICO. “This is robbery,” she said. “I want my money back and I want them to add up what they stole from people and give it to Donald Trump.”
I doubt exposing this guy’s scam is going to make any difference in the long run. For whatever reason, people’s skepticism is non-existent on Facebook. They’ll share or post anything, no matter how ridiculous it is. It doesn’t matter if they’re a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, etc., when people — especially those in their 40s and older — are online, all absurdities are within the realm of possibility.
All in all, Hawes has collected 410,000 email addresses from interested users, which he can use to solicit money from now until the end of time. The guy is just printing money. I’m a little jealous, honestly. I wish I thought of it first.
Don’t let the world tell you trolling doesn’t pay. If you do it right, you can cash out — big time..
Image via YouTube