Beware of what appears to be a “free book scam” that I’m seeing more and more each day as I read through my Google Alerts. One of the alerts is for the term “genealogy” and believe me, Google Alerts seems to find anything and everything. What I am finding are posts for genealogy and history book titles such as “Genealogical and Family History of Central New York.” Here’s the story behind what I found and how this “free” book could lead to lots of trouble including unwanted charges on your credit card!
It’s Only a Link . . . .
So I’m reviewing recent Google Alerts and I see an article that catches my eye:
The article appears to focus on Central New York genealogy research – an area where most of my ancestors lived. Okay, so I figured, “I’ll bite.” I clicked the “post” heading (which by the way is this link) and the next window appears on my screen:
It is a Google Drive document and as I scrolled down I could see the cover for the book:
Scrolling further revealed a download button:
Now I’m familiar with this author, William Richard Cutter, and most of his works are in the public domain (meaning published in the United States prior to 1923). But I also knew that this book could prove helpful to my genealogy research. Yes, I could go to Google Books and search for the title, but perhaps this is a reprint or an edition with other information. So with “Reasonably exhaustive search” as my mantra, I click the download button which took me here:
A site called Download Genius. I selected my Server location and the next click brought up this screen:
Okay. So then I had to create an account to proceed. No problem, right? I clicked Sign Up Now and then . . .
I found another screen with more info to provide. I really didn’t see anything out of the ordinary . . . until the next screen.
So I would have to pay a “small fee” and if you read the fine print, once payment is received, you then get billed $39.95 monthly for this “service.”
Who is Download Genius?
Or Downloads Expert? Or Downloads Paradise? I ask, because every time I went back to test, these sites seemed interchangeable. Did I make a mistake the first time and perhaps I was downgraded from “Genius” to “Expert?” And I finally reached Paradise on my third attempt?
According to reputation ratings sites, Download Genius and its affiliates such as Download Experts and Download Paradise have poor ratings in terms of trustworthiness, privacy and more:
Always Try Google Books BEFORE You Download
If I had followed my instincts, I should have gone to Google Books and entered the title in the search field.
And I would have found Genealogical and Family History of Central New York by William R. Cutter available for FREE.
Not only free, but I’d have all the great Google Books tools to use as well!
* * *
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But in this case, with so many books legitimately available for free, it wasn’t easy to determine if the offer was real or a scam.
Here are some warning signs I should have noted:
- Why is the information including the download button in a Google Drive document? Probably because if it were on a website, complaints to the host for that site would have resulted in a “take down” of the page or the entire site.
- Providing a name and email is common for many sites that want to offer a “freebie” in exchange for adding you to their mailing list. I do it here at GeneaBloggers and it is a common marketing technique. However, not many of these offers ask you to create an account and a password. You shouldn’t have to create or submit login credentials to get something that is truly free.
- Sloppy text and bad formatting should have been a clue as well. Many of these offers are created by those outside of the United States or in non-English speaking countries. If the offer looks messy with bad grammar and use of language, then you might want to avoid clicking that download button.
©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.