Are you Cambridge Who's Who material? So are we all

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Cambridge Who's Who not too pickyPlastered across the top of LinkedIn's personal profile pages last week, in prime real estate, not hovering in the margins where other bogus offerings usually lurk, was the unlabeled but obviously paid ad:

Are You A Chief Officer? - Be part of the Cambridge Who's Who registry for distinguished persons. - From Tom Gricka
Given LinkedIn's purpose (and I've been using it myself at least a couple of years, including for hiring), the ad was probably crafted to make users think they were getting a personal invitation from Tom and Cambridge Who's Who.

I don't know Tom, but taking a look at his own LinkedIn profile page (which on Friday afternoon sported the same ad copy mentioned above, though with the slightly more believable salutation, "Chief Executive Officers. Be part of the Cambridge Who's Who...), he's a handsome young lad who lives in a nice Long Island neighborhood with his wife Robyn, a long way from Cambridge, Mass., the prestigious home of Harvard and MIT, and even further away from Cambridge, U.K., alma mater of Charles Darwin, Hugh Laurie and Sacha Baron-Cohen.

Tom might be better off putting his name behind a more credible business, even if Cambridge did manage to attract help from Donald Trump's son. Vanity publishing has a long and lucrative history -- for the publishers. The New York BBB branch wrote these tips about how to evaluate who's who scams, including: Who, exactly, is who? Everyone? Does your local library stock the directory?

Cambridge Who's Who earned a B- rating from the Better Business Bureau, which processed 396 complaints about the five-year-old company the last three years. The data protection office on the island of Guernsey warned the U.K.'s 158,000 Channel Islands residents to ignore Cambridge's e-mails. The online consumer complaint boards pop up a number of posts like this one if you go looking for Cambridge Who's Who.

As with bogus who's who operations like Princeton Premier and The Global Directory of Who's Who, it's not all that hard to spot problems with the Cambridge pitch. First of all, a) They're in Long Island, not in Cambridge. b) When you arrive at the sign-up page after clicking on the ad described above, check the "contact us" page. You'll see there's no way to reach the company other than an e-mail address. c) Go to the "about us" page and you'll find no physical address. Dig through the lengthy terms and conditions and you'll find reference to the company being in Long Island somewhere. Where? Tom Gricka's company, BabylonSolutions LLC, doesn't seem to have a physical address (though it does appear to employ a consultant named Dirk Dooling, who has no connections, so maybe he needs a directory listing). BabylonSolutions doesn't seem to have a Web site either, odd for an Internet marketing company. d) If your eyes didn't spontaneously bleed into grease after reading all the terms-of-use disclaimers, go to the privacy policy. You'll see:
Cambridge may share and disclose your personally identifiable information (with the exception of credit card information) with its (1) business partners, (2) affiliates, (3) subsidiaries, (4) legal representatives, (5) sales agents, (6) independent contractors, and (7) third-party vendors and suppliers for Cambridge' business purposes described above, across borders and from your country of residence or jurisdiction to other countries around the world. Notwithstanding anything stated to contrary herein, Cambridge will not share your personally identifiable information with third-parties for third parties' direct marketing purposes, that are unrelated to Cambridge products and services. (Italics added).
At least on the surface, this is likely how Cambridge can justify offering free listings. It will share your personal information with third parties whenever it wants. Later on, you may be asked to purchase a book with your listing in it. e) Cambridge has a corporate website with more information, including an address (though it's listed as Empire Who's Who; Googling the address produces this letter from the company), and phone number, but there's no way to get to the main site from the ad.

Empire Who's Who also has something of a history on consumer complaint boards, and indeed merged with Cambridge four years or so ago. They're also affliated with Manchester Who's Who, whose URL redirects to Cambridge's.
Kudos to Cambridge for actually having a working phone number with a human being answering it. The person I was directed to, Brian Wasserman, apparently the company's contracted accountant, has yet to return my call.
Sound like the behavior of a prestigious publication you need your name listed in?

By the way, more than 4,000 profiles on LinkedIn sport a citation in "Cambridge Who's Who." That's compared to 90 for "Princeton Premier" and 50 for "The Global Directory of Who's Who," so I suppose you could say Cambridge really is a category leader.

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