ntelius is the market-leader in online people searches, trawling public records for information. It's headed for a $143m initial public offering. The problem? Its revenue growth is powered by deceptively signing customers up for a useless third party service which bills monthly until you notice it and cancel.
Every time a customer buys a product at Intelius, they are shown a page telling them “Take our 2008 Consumer Credit Survey and claim $10.00 CASH BACK with Privacy Matters Identity.” ... Undoubtedly a lot of consumers do the survey and move forward to the next page - it only takes a second. But what most people don’t do is read the fine print ... in light gray small text, users are told that by taking the survey they are really signing up to a $20/month subscription.
It's the way it's put in hard-to-read gray on gray text that makes it so great—a confession encoded in design principles? Arrington runs the numbers and calculates that without the scam's revenues, Intelius' would barely be growing at all. Why aren't the IPO's organizers noticing this? Would they care if they do?