Ethics January 21, 2021

What should I do? I've debunked another Indie Hacker as a fraud? 😳 🚫

Derek @derek

Ok ,

Long story short is that I recently listened to a podcast episode and the guest (who's also active here on Indie Hackers) makes a lot of claims that were very easy to debunk with publicly available data. Even their posts all over the Internet (social media, blog, etc.) are just all suspicious.

The claims are far from the truth and it's a shame because it's misleading anyone who listens to the podcast. I feel like we have a moral responsibility to help each other here and it feels wrong to know something that's false and harmful to people and not do anything about it.

What do you think I should do?

  1. 13

    Name and shame

    (So long as your facts are indeed facts)

    1. 7

      Well, I've made a Google Doc and so far only shared it with the host of the podcast. Surprisingly, he responded within an hour and is going to ask his guest about this. He's very well known and has a huge following so this should get interesting.

      I'll post updates, but I'd consider writing an article about the full debunk.

      1. 5

        Have some conversations with the host and go back and forth. Seems you're going about this in a responsible manner by being somewhat cautious. It probably would be good to have people fact check what you're doing or found out. Honestly, I would love to take a peek at such a document.

        1. 2

          Sure thing. My email is now in my bio so I'd be glad to share some insight.

  2. 13

    Gonna go zen here: Focus on your own happiness and don’t worry about others. The world is full of unscrupulous characters and its def not your job to be the police of them all.

  3. 7

    I think it basically comes down to the question of "Is it actively going to harm or disadvantage some people?".

    If it is a matter of them being a blowhard and artificially inflating their sales figures or number of users etc., then I would just leave it as there is little to be done about it, and they will probably just refute your claims and suck up a lot of your energy going back and forth for no real gain.

    However, if they are doing something like peddling a course for $1000 that you know is full of baloney, or non existent, then that is likely to cause financial hardship and problems for people who shell out the $ on the course. So it needs to be stopped in its tracks.

    1. 3

      Yeah I agree with you there.

      Funny enough... this person is literally pitching a course that's $697 and $2,997.

      1. 3

        Yeah, that can be a whole other Pandora's box. If you know the course doesn't even exist then it is a no brainer, however if all he is doing is repackaging some common parables into a "course", i.e. "Always work hard, sleep less, watch less TV and charge for your time in order to make money" then all he is guilty of is misrepresentation, selling common knowledge as something "insightful" and peddling snake oil.

        If however he has blatantly stolen his course content word for word from another teacher, then it is a problem. Same if he doling out unhealthy advice like "Make $1000 bucks in 2 hours today by going down to the park with a toy gun and mugging 10 people for $100 each", then you've got a good case.

  4. 2

    I'm just in the middle of reading The Leader in You and the first recommendation is "Don't criticize, condemn, or complain". Of course, these few words must not be taken to the letter, but it points to a deeper reflection.

    By engaging in this activity you'll antagonize with this person, the question is whether it's the best course of action or not. There are many charlatans around. Like people saying I'm building 12 startups in 12 months, while the only thing they do is (at best) set up a website (and at worst only a landing page). But they just want to grab someone's attention, they are, in the end, not doing any harm.

    On the other hand, if you feel this person is scamming others and therefore doing harm, then they must be stopped. How to do it will depend on you. Publicly shaming them may or may not be the best approach, especially when they have a large following and the potential to get sanguineous. What you mention of contacting the podcast host is a good approach, I think, because it also allows to measure whether others think like you or not.

    I would say that you must prioritize your own health and well-being (if you engage in a feud and receive attacks, it won't be energy-neutral). And put into the balance how you deliver the greater good to a community (I presume) you care about. Whatever you decide, wish you well.

    1. 1

      Thanks. I have a similar mindset and it's definitely an interesting learning experience here.

      I've always maintained the philosophy that "honesty is the best policy" and these shady shortcuts some people will try to take is really just the wrong approach in the long run.

  5. 2

    If they're getting benefit by lying while pretending to build in public on platforms like this, they are diluting the value of everyone else who does it earnestly. What if it blows up spectacularly later on, and that winds up being many people's first exposure to Indie Hackers?

    1. 1

      So true, that would not be a good first impression. It would have to be something well thought out. Not something you would post outta nowhere.

  6. 1

    Sounds like that person is on the edge of marketing.

    I personally thank you for your concerns yet from what I've read it seems fine. If they repurpose a content and put a price tag of 3K and people are okay with it. There is nothing to do. They may want to hear, listen or read it through them.

    Their public data may not match what they say and it's possible that public data might be wrongly put or it's easy to disprove any claims with another screenshot of their analytics, dashboard or whatever.

    Also people willingly pay for lies. In the end you'll be the bad guy for pointing out these. Ethically we should all fight against it, as I read on the other comments many people aware of these charlatans. But those who'll fight should keep that in mind, you're not gonna get a medal or appreciation in the end.

    “It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”

  7. 1

    ***Update: I'm working it out with the host of the podcast and I'll reach out to the guest and explain the situation too (potentially with an article for future use). If anyone here wants to do a double-check, I'll share some of my findings. I've just put my email in my bio so you can email me there.

  8. 1

    You better be really sure that you're right before tarnishing someone's reputation, because it could just come back to you if they show that they're actually not misrepresenting their claims.

  9. 1

    Also, how big would you say their following is? Like 100+ followers? 1k+?

    1. 1

      It's orders of magnitude larger than that and the podcast host is known to millions. So the theoretical exposure is pretty large, but I'm trying to determine whether or not it would be financially damaging to some people.

      1. 1

        Well, continue to talk it out with the host and if letting the public know, than that’s that. If not necessary, than I would keep it to yourselves.

  10. 1

    Get it out there as soon as possible. They should face the consequences for their actions so others can be benifit from the truth and that indie hackers can learn from their mistakes.

  11. 1

    Internet is full of scammers, fake gurus and ex google tech leads. Most people are not stupid, and they see right through it. It's been just a matter of time that someone similar shows up in the indie hacking community. If you think it's not obvious that this guy is not real, you can expose him. But to be honest I don't think it will make some difference.

    Tren Black was exposing some "Tai Lopez" of YT, and they are still popular and making more money than they should.
    https://www.youtube.com/c/TrenBlack/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid

    The best way to spot a scammer is to read through their refund policy. Or to see their reaction when you actually ask for a refund

    1. 1

      Oh shit the lambo books guy! Oh man I remember that youtube ad haha. I gotta watch that video and figure out his grift. Guilty pleasure but it's Friday haha, so ¯\(ツ)/¯ .

  12. 1

    How do you know that their claims are false? Is it something that anyone could verify or do you need specific technical skills? What do you mean by publicly available data?

  13. 1

    It is what it is, you should feel empathy for the person, because the worst thing about this is that they're lying to themselves

  14. 1

    I would try explaining one-on-one that his behavior is unethical. Most humans would get the hint and self regulate.
    If that doesn’t work, I would warn him about going public with the accusation.
    This is one way of saving the community and saving your own sanity.

    1. 1

      Right on. That's the approach I'm going to take. If it's a matter of "fake it, 'till you make it" then although I really disagree with that tactic and any tactic that's dishonest, it's what that entrepreneur has chosen to do.

  15. 1

    If they are going to any harm, call them out.

  16. -1

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