Thursday, November 3, 2011

Australian Property Forum - Troll/Scam Site Exposed

Back in June I made note that trolls from Australian Property Forum were impersonating me online:
It was bought to my attention by an anonymous commenter on my blog (thanks again for the heads up!) that I had recently been impersonated by the devious owner/s of the (APF) in an attempt to draw traffic to their website.  Bullion Baron impersonated by APF
I pointed out that a person (or persons) were signing up using my online identities at multiple forums and using my handle on blog and news comments in most cases (where they could get away with it) attracting clicks back to the APF website.

There seemed to be some interest in this story and the impersonation of my online identity didn't stop so over the last couple of days I typed up a brief history of the beginnings of this site and the devious tactics they are now up to.

Rather than have the story stretch down the entire front page of my site in a post format I thought I would save any uninterested readers the hassle and have rather set it up on a separate page which won't otherwise be linked to from elsewhere other than this post. You can access it here: 

Australian Property Forum - Troll/Scam Site Exposed >> (Click Me) <<

Honestly it reads somewhat like a conspiracy, but as an interested (often silent) onlooker over the way trolls have attempted to and in many cases have been successful in disrupting sites which present a bearish case for property... there is certainly the possibility that it is those with a vested interest who are causing the problems. If interested then read the page for yourself and make up your own mind.

The page is still a work in progress, if you have any additional information that might help then feel free to drop me a comment or email.



  1. Yes, it is me not some troll. :)

    That's some impressive research. The whole thing is so bizarre, isn't it? I arrived on the CC scene late so wasn't aware of the GHPC shenanigans. I assumed people were being melodramatic. As time went on, some of the tricks became clear, but I was truly astounded at what went on.

    I hate using the term conspiracy, due to the negative connotations, but it sure looks organised to me at this point. I really can't come up with any other credible explanation. My guess is a small group, not just one person. I've observed them closely and think there is more than one personality although they clearly have many puppets each.

    If it is organised, it's clearly to keep sentiment up regarding the very fragile property market. To disrupt every other viable forum, including MB it seems, and have everyone come to a "fair" forum where information can be managed. Where it appears on the surface to be both points of view, but really isn't. Fox's motto of "Fair And Balanced" comes to mind. These guys are smart and know the art of propaganda.

  2. Well put hawkeye, agree with your conclusions.

    It is very bizarre! The GHPC attacks were a lot more elaborate than what I ever saw on CC, some of the huge PMs were very bizarre with aztec like images and full of elaborate stories (can't recall the exact details of what the stories were about, but as I recall they were generally targeting others users in an inflammatory manner).

    They are definitely smart. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the clues I've stumbled across were left intentionally to mislead.

  3. Well, my amateur psychoanalysis of Shadow tells me he shows all the attributes of psychopathy. He is cool and calm and never lets anything ruffle him. He's smart and methodical. You can see he enjoys tormenting others.

    As for leaving the clues, I'm doubtful it was deliberate. They are just too obscure. The vast majority of people on these forums don't even pick up a fraction of what you have. All criminals make mistakes at some point. Even the best ones.

    Another possibility is they think they are so smart that they can leave a few clues and still not be caught. I get the impression from them that for the most part they have a very low opinion of their prey. It might be they have over-estimated their own abilities.

  4. it's probably no different to bears on SS, except for the fact that no-one was impersonating you.

    it's very clever i'll admit, but really wierd.

  5. I came in fairly late in the game on the old GHPC site. Oddly enough it was the shannanigans going on there that kept me interested and posting. There was a lot of trolling etc happening on that site from the vested interests clearly aimed at disrupting discussions about the negative aspects of the Australian Housing market. While i was there the "bull" posters were getting banned and were setting up the alternate invisionboard site called Australian Property Forum. They kept spamming GHPC with links to this invisionbard forum. Despite claiming to be for bulls and bears the site was a scam and some of the "bears" that signed up there had a negative experience with accounts being hacked etc. Oddly enough some serious commentators like Chris Joye had links to this site from their blogs. I found that surprising.

    A few months after i joined the GHPC site went down and everyone began migrating to The bulls who had been trying to get the alternate invisionboard troll site going came to creditcrunch also. Although it was supposed to be a fresh start for everyone it was old fights from day 1. The invisionboard APF site went quiet and it was bull v bear war again on creditcrunch. At the time some posters also signed in to the simplesustainable forum after the GHPC collapse. However most of the bulls posters either got banned by the moderators there or left after having dummy spits about moderation.

    Needless to say creditcrunch decended into a brawl and after a while the owner there started banning people. Those that got banned migrated back to the old APF invisionboard site. I think given the reputation that the invisionboard site had the operator/s decided to start afresh with the new (current) APF site. They also began promoting it on places like creditcrunch.

    I dont know how geniune the Australian Property Forum site is but I avoid it given its history and the fact that nobody knows who runs it. The epic saga continues....

  6. Yep good post Anon, your version of the events closely reflect those that I recall and have posted.

  7. Wow, now there is a second australian property forum. I just followed a link from there back to here. Im the same anon as above.

  8. So I see ;)

    It is not me, but it is a trustworthy site, unlike the .com equivalent.

  9. APF looks like a 'honeypot' to me. A place that a vested interest group can draw people to who are seeking information, views and discussion on property and then control those same discussions, views and information. I've been watching them through GHPC, CC, S&S, etc as well and that seems a certainty to me.

    They probably also have some 'hangers-on' who aren't aware (or don't care) that they're assisting a bunch of pro's. Maybe some bulls who are knee-deep in property leverage, or just some cranky old boomers who don't like people talking down their nest egg. Or a real estate agent or two.

    In terms of the 'rabbit hole', the questions are pretty simple -
    1.Who funds it?
    2.Who resources it? (like, do PR agencies provide this kind of service? who does?)
    3.What 'tools' do they use? Shadow slipped up once as I recall and talked about the fact that the forum admin (on CC?) was 'ok with my use of the software'. What software? They're not just using a browser and broadband connection like the rest of us.

  10. I think you are exactly right. The APF site appears to be about information management and controlling dissenting views. It is probably professionally or semi professionally run.

    The key issue for the characters involved appears to be to disrupt the free flow of "bearish" information on matters relating to the Australian Real Estate market. It seems to drive them to the point of insanity when they are prevented from commenting after being removed from a site by being banned.

    Their objective seems to be - information control, or at the very least information management.

    Part of the strategy appears to be to attack dissenting sites that do not co- operate with their need to manage, control or comment on information.

  11. How can you say APF suppresses bearish views? I don't get that. There are more bears on APF than any site I can think of, with the exception maybe of Macrobusiness. Probably 70-80% of the threads are bearish IMO. I follow OzPropertyForum on twitter and most of Alex's tweets (I'd say 75%) are bearish. There is virtually no 'management and control' of information. I rarely see Alex moderate or delete anything a bear (or bull) posts. Anything goes there, the bears can post whatever we like. It seems like a decent balanced site to me. If you want to know why it's so popular I'd say that's the reason - it's a good forum, nothing to do with these 'unethical practices' you talk about.