Dark Side of P2P File Sharing Programs
by Bill Paulk
P2P file sharing programs are free. Period. But
there are P2P scam sites out there that want you
to pay them instead. P2P scam sites are rogue companies
that have set up shop to fleece unsuspecting music
downloaders looking for file sharing programs by
charging a fee for an otherwise free service.
No P2P file sharing software costs money. Exceptions
would be a site asking members to make a monetary
donation to help pay for bandwidth, hosting costs,
and other administrative costs.
Some P2P file sharing programs offer "pro"
versions of their free software. But again, their
basic service is free to the public. I want you
to fully understand this, because paying a P2P scam
site money can not only make your wallet a bit lighter,
it can also make your computer vulnerable to dangerous
That's right. These scam sites are only interested
in making money off you. As well as actually taking
your money by fooling you into paying them, they'll
make money off you by installing spyware on your
PC, so that they can get paid by sharing your online
habits and personal information with others.
For music download beginners, all of this can be
very confusing. Why? Because these scam sites advertise
all over the Internet. Search engines return results
chockful of these scams alongside the real P2P file
sharing programs; their banner ads riddle the Internet
landscape; sites are promoting these scams to get
their piece of your money.
Most real P2P programs don't advertise much on the
Internet. The reason is that they're not money makers.
It takes money to advertise, and who has more money--the
free P2P file sharing programs or the scam artists?
You guessed it. P2P relies on word of mouth. The
scam sites rely primarily on advertising.
How Can I Tell a P2P Scam Site?
This is the easy part, if you know what you're looking
for. P2P scam sites often use phrases like 100%
Legal, which is absolutely untrue. This is a trick
they use to prey on people interested in P2P file
sharing programs, but who are worried (rightly)
about Recording Industry Association of America
(RIAA) lawsuits. Keep in mind that sharing and downloading
of copyrighted files is, at this moment, an illegal
Another tactic is to use fake endorsements and recommendations
from legitimate companies. Other cons are to use
phrases like Direct Downloads!, Get Access Now!,
Download Unlimited Free Music!, and other phrases
that are promising you things they absolutely CANNOT
How Does It Work & How are They Doing It?
To be honest, I do not know the ins and outs of
P2P scam sites. But I know this: all P2P file sharing
programs are free. Think about it a moment. It is
because music files are being shared free of charge
(without artists receiving royalties) that organizations
like the RIAA are mad and suing.
These P2P scam sites are merely taking your money,
downloading a little spyware to your PC, then connecting
you to one of the real P2P file sharing programs.
This is all convoluted by the nature of P2P, which
is a series of servers networking files to one another.
Unless you're buying your music MP3 downloads from
a legitimate company, either per song/album or through
a monthly subscription, you cannot be sure where
your music is coming from.
The legal status of P2P file sharing programs is
confusing. We know that MP3 files themselves are
not illegal. For example, it's legal to possess
MP3s, to rip your CDs to your hard drive, and to
burn CDs for your personal use. But, by sharing
and/or downloading these files, you are breaking
copyright laws. To my knowledge, P2P scam sites
are not actually breaking any laws. But why pay
for something you don't have to?
One of the most common techniques these scam artists
use is to set up sites that are misspellings or
derivations of popular P2P file sharing programs.
KaZaA is probably the most hijacked name being used
Other sites may not actually charge you anything
at all, but they'll "give you the software
for free" if you give them your email address.
This too is a scam. Because once again, they're
just sending you along to a proper P2P program,
but after collecting your email address, they're
selling it to third parties. Don't give these scammers
any of your personal information!
If you're on a website you trust, even this website,
you may see ads by these scam artists, preaching
their lies about 100% blah, blah, blah. For your
own security, don't click on the links. They're
still scams. (Many independent websites rely on
ads to pay the bills. We don't always have full
control over what advertisements appear on our sites.
Keep in mind that most online advertisements are
arranged and distributed by third-party companies
who pair up advertisements with appropriate keywords.
So a page that discusses "music downloads"
is likely to have an ad from a scam site singing
their own false praises.)
On this note, there are sites all over the Internet
that actually promote P2P scam sites. Why? I have
my opinions. First, these scam sites are paying
large sums of money to affiliates who promote their
sites. For example, a scam site may be charging
you .95 for their non-service. Well, they're paying
affiliates over half (I've seen the pay-out as high
as 75%) of that just for getting you, the visitor,
to their scam sites.
I Think I've Used One of these Scam Sites. What
Do I Do Now?
Stop! Right now, stop using that service. If you've
got some type of monthly payment with them, stop
paying them. Cancel your "membership,"
contact your bank or credit card company, and stop
paying them immediately! Secondly, your computer
has probably have been infected by spyware, and
you need to remove it right away. I recommend purchasing
spyware-removal software like Pest Patrol because
they do the best job at clearing out spyware parasites.
If you've been pulled into a scam site, just rack
it up to experience. Their ad copy is very convincing,
and you just wanted to "be legal" while
downloading. Take heart in knowing that you're not
alone. But you're better off now, with this information
at your disposal.
In my opinion, this is another reason to consider
not using P2P file sharing programs as a means to
get your online music. I think that these P2P scam
sites will increase in number, and will use more
clever tactics to get your money and your information.
Until the peer-to-peer communities are regulated
in some way, I fear that these types of activities
will get worse before they improve.
About the Author
A former financial advisor and NYC book editor,
Bill Paulk blends these two experiences by helping
people make sound buying decisions. His passion,
building digital music collections through MP3 downloads,
is the subject of his first website. www.mp3-music-downloads-scout.com
reviews and recommends the best in legal MP3 downloads.