AdSurfDaily: Revisiting Our Early Coverage

andybowdoinbw.gifIt is the story that won’t go away, driven as much by the personalities and people who support AdSurfDaily as it is by the legal issues that put the company in the national spotlight.

On Aug. 1, 2008, an ambiguous note appeared on ASD’s website. The note suggested a government investigation was under way. In the weeks and months that followed, the story grew increasingly bizarre. ASD President Andy Bowdoin likened the seizure of funds tied to his company to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, saying the government’s actions were the work of “Satan.”

Curtis Richmond, an ASD member, pro se litigant  and member of a sham Utah “Indian” tribe that once held an organizational meeting in an Arby’s restaurant and listed a meeting room attached to a doughnut shop as the address of its purported “Supreme Court,” eventually entered the fray.

There were signs at the very beginning that the ASD case would not be ordinary. Here are some snippets from our earliest reports:

ASD Cash Generator Under Scrutiny By U.S. Attorney

Aug. 2, 2008

So far the ASDCashGenerator website hasn’t gone dark, but the lights definitely are flickering . . .

At the moment the page loads with this message:

“Friday, August 1st 2008 afternoon update:

“Upon direction from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia, ASD will not be able to move funds into company accounts, or out of them. We will work to resolve this problem, and return to normal operation, as soon as we are permitted to do so.

“ASD Management.”

. . . As always is the case, sustainability is the issue. Can a company that promises a return for viewing advertisements generate enough revenue to sustain payouts? Will it have to dip into revenues from new members to pay older members, thus setting up the classic Ponzi situation?

Assertions appear online that Andy Bowdoin was accorded a presidential honor known as “The Medal Of Distinction” and has been feted by President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Read an interesting Blog post by Matt Hurley on the “Medal of Distinction” at Matt Hurley’s post isn’t about Andrew Bowdoin, but it’s still worth reading.

Bowdoin And ASD Cash Generator Investigation Still Not Clarified; Information Sketchy Across Web As ASD Members Show Signs Of Viral Nervousness

Aug 3, 2008

ASD Cash Generator (ASD) still had an ambiguous note on its website as of late morning (EDT) in the United States, Sunday, Aug. 3, 2008. Andy Bowdoin’s ASD support page and page outlining ASD as a legal business still were redirecting to a message suggesting that the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C., now was involved in ASD’s business affairs.

Today marks the third day a message that suggests an ASD investigation is under way has appeared at the Andy Bowdoin site.

Elsewhere across the web discussion about ASD Cash Generator was taking place in forum after forum, and on Blog after Blog. ASD members continue to cling to hope that the U.S. Attorney is going to give ASD Cash Generator a clean bill of health, something members appear to view as a potential new endorsement.

In essence, some ASD members are arguing that a government investigation of ASD is a good thing. Should ASD pass muster with agents from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, so the thinking goes, it can only mean good things for the company.

It’s unsettling to read these sorts of posts. One person even posted a link to an audio, claiming it was proof that all is well at ASD and that the alleged U.S. Attorney investigation is just a bump in the road. The poster talked about how negativity about any company could be found online — true enough.

The ASD audio is not proof of anything. It’s a third-party report that consists of vagaries. A speaker in the audio even made the claim that “one of the negatives of the Internet is just freedom of speech, and people can go on there and say what they want.”

Freedom of speech a negative? Hardly. The speaker at once was condemning freedom of speech and then taking advantage of his right to speak freely. It’s just another in a long line of tortured defenses of ASD Cash Generator. Some ASD members appear to want to sue anybody who dares offer an opinion contrary to their own, yet another reason why it’s a good thing that ASD is under scrutiny.

Responsible commentary on ASD is exactly what the public needs to make informed decisions. There are reports online that ASD is taking in millions of dollars and that people are writing cashier’s checks for thousands and thousands of dollars and directing money toward the program. The public has a vested interest in the outcome.

Investigation Mystery At ASD Cash Generator Remains

Aug 4, 2008

Today marks the fourth day a message that suggests federal investigators are looking into the business practices of ASD Cash Generator is posted on the ASD website.

Meanwhile, ASD members continue to wait for information to flow into the ASD information vacuum. The message on the ASD site is ambiguous, meaning it can be interpreted in multiple ways . . .

Web commentary on ASD Cash Generator continues to be active. Some of the commentary is rational and cautionary in nature. Some of it, however, is irrational. Politics and religion have entered the discussion in some places. This creates the impression that some ASD members are blind followers. It’s a nasty business problem to have because it undermines credibility.

One ASD member thought it prudent to post an ASD Affiliate link in a third-party news story about ASD. The member also posted a link to another autosurfing opportunity in the same news story. It’s being sold as ambassadorship of the opportunities, as though all news accounts and opinion pieces on ASD that are contrary to ASD sales materials are inherently fatally flawed.

Yesterday I noted that some ASD members were condemning free speech and freedom of the press, while reserving for themselves the same rights they’d deny others. If a writer suggests that people should be very cautious when considering ASD Cash Generator, some ASD members are quick to jump in with threats of ASD lawsuits and threats of litigation.

One ASD member told me yesterday that I should be writing about Social Security. The thinking was that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and that anybody who writes about ASD is giving the government a pass at the expense of continued negative publicity for ASD . . .

David Arnett has taken some more heat for his Tulsa Today reporting on ASD.

It’s impossible to imagine that some people actually believe the best way to make their “value case” for ASD is to pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel. There are threats of multimillion dollar lawsuits and rumors of multimillion dollar lawsuits. Meanwhile, the ASD Cash Generator website continues to beam the ambiguous message suggesting a federal investigation is under way.

Hey, companies are entitled to have cheerleaders. When the cheerleading takes on a cult-like appearance, however, the public should ask some very tough questions.

Right now some ASD devotees are making the Andy Bowdoin company look very bad indeed.

Autosurfing Programs: Why The Feds And Investigators Have An Interest, And Why The Public Does, Too

Aug. 4, 2008

People seem very willing to throw money at autosurfs. The appeal is a high return on investment with minimal responsibility and virtually no work. Buy advertising credits, view ads by others, and get paid.

Life is not that simple. Business is not that simple. It’s easy for well-intentioned people to believe that it is — at least at first. The lure of easy money is as old as commerce itself.

Spend a few minutes peeling back layers of the autosurf onion if you’re contemplating joining one. Federal investigators, regulatory agencies and state attorneys general have an interest in monitoring the autosurf business. So does the public at large.

People have “invested” millions of dollars in autosurf companies. Some of them have taken on a cult-like following. People are fascinated by the idea of “earning” money by viewing ads. Some people “invest” their life savings in autosurfs . . .

At what price to individuals, families and society as a whole?

The mere fact the technology to create an autosurf advertising program is readily available should be of great concern to law-enforcement agencies and regulatory authorities such as the SEC and FTC.

Some people view autosurfs as a license to print money. News about a new autosurf program can help the program go viral. It’s easy to imagine teams of MLMers, for example, spreading the word about new autosurf programs to downline members. And it’s easy to imagine those downline members spreading the autosurf news to even more people.

It is possible for millions of dollars to pour into an autosurf site. The SEC cautions against autosurfs. Accounts aren’t insured or protected. Beyond that, however, there are very good reasons for the government to investigate and monitor autosurfing. What if the autosurf “opportunity” is offshore and exists as a means of escaping taxation? Want to be part of that?

And there is a “worst-case scenario,” too. Criminals and terrorists do exist in this world. They pay close attention to the U.S. culture and have access to technology that can be used in ruinous ways.

Think it hasn’t occurred to people who are criminally or terroristically inclined that they could use autosurfs to fund enterprises that would bring harm to a great number of people? . . .

But this theory doesn’t address the core problem with autosurfing: the classic Ponzi set-up. New money is being used to pay old members, a shell game. People are very susceptible to the argument that autosurfing is nothing more than a new advertising model and is in no way connected to the sale of securities.

Prodigious, unfettered income streams are needed to make an autosurf “work” mathematically, if a percentage of revenue is returned to members in the form of a “rebate.” Some autosurfs advertise returns that are unsustainable on the face of the promise. Secondary revenue streams can’t be mythological or exist only in theory.

Phrases such as “We’re working to create revenue streams,” for example, is one of the possible signposts for failure.

Plenty of laws of math — as well of laws of the land — apply to insurance companies and investment companies. They have to demonstrate through public filings that they are able to absorb losses and continue as ongoing concerns.

Many autosurf opportunities are do different than an insurance company that would advertise hurricane protection and not have the means actually to protect customers in the event a hurricane actually flattened their homes.

There are good reasons for the government to scrutinize autosurfs and monitor them with the same sort of zealousness directed at insurance and securities firms. The public interest is huge.

ASD Cash, Golden Panda Investigations Enter 5th Day

Aug. 5, 2008

. . . All is not well in the autosurf business. Some members of ASD even are trying to quash forum and Blog discussions by threatening lawsuits. They’re making themselves look silly, like members of a cult. It’s understandable that some people are trying to find a silver lining in all of this, but many of the ruminations are just clutching at straws.

No U.S. Attorney or member of an investigative agency is going to appear at a lectern and give any autosurf program that pays a rebate or dividend a clean bill of health. To do so would be to endorse a business model that has the capacity to do great harm.

Even if a program owner’s motives are entirely pure, it is inconceivable that the government is going to endorse the paid-to-surf model — tacitly or explicitly. Advertising is a cost center, not a profit center. The argument that autosurfs are the equivalent of Google Adwords or newspaper classified ads is a loser. One of the problems with autosurfs is that the “opportunity” is more valuable than the advertising itself.

Here you have a captive audience, one that wasn’t lured by the chance to see exciting new products scroll across the page, but by the opportunity to become part of the members’ pool and earn payouts over and above the actual cost of advertising.

Golden Panda Ad Builder yesterday was urging members to send in reports that they actually bought some products as a result of viewing the ads. This, presumably, will become fodder to show to investigators to demonstrate once and for all that the products themselves are the attraction and not the rebate opportunity.

It is an argument that seems destined to fall on deaf ears — in other words, clutching at straws.

Florida TV Station Reports Agents Executing Search Warrant At ASD Cash Generator In Quincy; Details Unclear

Aug. 5, 2008

WCTV is reporting that agents are executing a search warrant at ASD Cash Generator headquarters in Quincy, Florida.

Details are sketchy. WCTV serves Tallahassee, Thomasville and Valdosta., and is a CBS affiliate.

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