No tax angle here, just a warning about a businesses that spams Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram users, and engages in deceptive advertising practices that may be illegal in the UK, EU and US.
In November 2023, I received a Twitter direct message:
I sent a polite response that we’re a non-profit and have a PR budget of £0.
Over the next few weeks I received three more identical messages:
That was weird enough to pique my interest. I particularly liked the claim from an outfit without a Wikipedia page that they can get you a Wikipedia page.
I asked PR/media contacts – nobody had heard of Mogul Press.
The Mogul Press website (I won’t link) didn’t inspire confidence:
The case studies are all a bit odd – Mogul adds a reassuring caveat that they’re “derived from actual clients”:
So I asked the helpful Mogul people if this was a scam, and received three identical responses assuring me that it wasn’t:
Being the suspicious type, I then ran some reverse-image searches on the profile photos. They’ve been stolen from stock image libraries and from real peoples’ Twitter and LinkedIn profiles:
I asked Agatha, Ana, Verna and Polly about this, and didn’t receive a reply.
I’m guessing their names are fake too – they don’t show up as Mogul employees on LinkedIn. There are some Mogul employees on LinkedIn but, inevitably, the first two I checked also have fake profile photos:
At which point I called it a day.
If I’d done some research first, I would have found that lots of other people on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram have received similar messages. Some subsequently received threats of dire consequences for being mean about Mogul (the force of such threats being slightly blunted by coming from gmail accounts).
I gave Mogul the opportunity to respond. They sent me a strange answer which fails to explain why all their employees have fake profiles, and offers the odd defence that the fake pictures “can be found on Google”. They assured me the photos would be taken down – they haven’t been.
Needless to say, normal people working for normal businesses don’t use stolen profile photos, or send threats from gmail accounts. My assumption was that Mogul Press was some kind of scam, and I thought it would be helpful to put a page up to assist anyone else who runs across them.
January 2024 update
On 26 December 2023 I received an email from the CEO of Mogul Press, Nabeel Ahmad, asking me to take down this article, and then eventually threatening me with UK libel proceedings if I don’t.
He said he would tell his team to stop using pictures of real people, and only fake AI generated images (which is apparently “common practice”. He said “You have my word that I will be strictly enforcing this going forward.”
So I was amused to see that, on that day, the first LinkedIn profile I found of a Mogul Press employee:
stole a photo from this very real UK tax adviser:
The rest of the correspondence isn’t very interesting. In short, Ahmad:
- Admits that his employees use fake names and fake photos on social media, with some photos AI generated, some stolen from real people. He can’t explain why this continued after I called them on this in November. He says they won’t steal photos again, but it’s clear they will continue to use fake names and AI generated photos. He thinks that is fine and “common practice”.
- Admits to spamming users on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. He says this practice “can be breaking laws of specific regions” which is correct, if “can” means “is definitely” and “specific regions” means the US, EU and UK.
- Admits to renting fake LinkedIn profiles with fake names for “mass outreach”, including from a business called Akountify (which has also been criticised for their business practice). He says this is “common practice”. Akountify, in the comments below, claim that they told Mogul Press to stop using fake profile photos, and sacked them as a client when they kept doing it.
- Admits that all of this breaks the terms of service of LinkedIn etc, but says that’s between him and LinkedIn. The use of fake sender names in marketing messages is specifically outlawed in the US, EU and UK.
- Didn’t respond when I asked if his business was really a PR business, or a mostly automated business which spams people to get clients, and then charges them to place paid advertorials in poor quality media.
- Didn’t respond when I suggested this was a very different proposition from the story told on their website and in their marketing messages.
Ahmad is adamant that his business is genuine and not a scam, and claims that this article is costing him $450k in lost revenue per month. He says I have “no real proof” Mogul is a scam, and that “just because you think we are one does not give you the right to publicly declare us as a scam, and damage our business this way.”
I’m afraid Ahmad is wrong. It’s my opinion that spamming2 people with deceptive marketing, allowing your staff to steal photos from real people, and pretending to be one kind of business when you’re actually something different, is somewhere between “deeply shady” and “scam”. That is legally protected speech in the UK and the US. And it’s an opinion that seems fairly widely held.
Suing me for libel would be entertaining for everyone involved, but I’ve suggested to Ahmad that he may wish to obtain legal advice on some other points first:
- I’m not a US-qualified lawyer, but I spoke to a couple this morning who suggested that marketing cross-border using fake identities may amount to “obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises”, and therefore constitute the Federal crime of “mail fraud“.
- I’m also not an EU/UK privacy law specialist, so I asked one what the EU/UK GDPR consequences would be for a business stealing profile photos of multiple individuals and using those photos in fake profiles for approaching potential customers. The answer was “hilariously bad”.
I’ve told Ahmad I’ll be happy to change my mind if he stops spamming people, stops using fake profiles, and starts accurately describing his business in his marketing. I’m optimistic I’ll hear back from him on this soon.
Another January 2024 update
Mogul have revamped their website, and it now gives the game away that this isn’t PR at all – it’s paid placements in low media outlets:
That is not at all what their direct marketing says.
Mogul’s response to this article wasn’t to contest any of its factual content, but to file a DCMA takedown request on the basis that the article breaches their copyright. Given that “fair use” for the purposes of criticism is protected by US copyright law, this was clearly in bad faith. We’ve filed a “counter-notice“; in principle I could claim damages against them.
February 2024 update
Shortly after publishing this article, The Tribune Post website suffered a substantial “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attack – using hacked servers from around the world to overload our website:
We expect this attack was initiated by Mogul Press – thanks to technical help from T Star Tech and others, this was easily overcome.
- The original title of this post said Mogul Press “appears to be a scam”. I have now replaced that tentative conclusion.
- This is the first TikTok link on The Tribune Post website