A rake of energy storage startups, from giant batteries to molten salt to cranes and barrels
Since 2015, Ads Inc. has made money — lots of it — by executing one of the internet’s most persistent, lucrative, and sophisticated scams: the subscription trap. The subscription trap works by tricking people into buying what they think is a single free trial of a celebrity-endorsed product. Although the customers would receive the product — which in most cases was not made by Ads Inc. itself — in reality, the celebrity has nothing to do with the offer. And in purchasing the free trial, the customer unwittingly commits to a pricey monthly subscription designed to be hard to cancel. As for the products, a current employee described the diet and male enhancement offerings as, “the worst of the worst … China-made sawdust in a capsule.” But the subscription trap was just one part of Ads Inc.’s shady business practices. Burke’s genius was in fusing the scam with a boiler room–style operation that relied on convincing thousands of average people to rent their personal Facebook accounts to the company, which Ads Inc. then used to place ads for its deceptive free trial offers. That strategy enabled his company to run a huge volume of misleading Facebook ads, targeting consumers all around the world in a lucrative and sophisticated enterprise, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.