The last thing the sports betting media needs is yet another fraud. But it turns out we have one.
This time, ¬†it’s “Sarah Phillips.” Ms. Phillips, in case you’re not aware, is a writer for Covers.com and ESPN. When she’s not writing for these media outlets, she’s entering into shady “business” deals with bloggers and hijacking their content.
Deadspin exposed most of the Sarah Phillips story. They revealed what many in the industry already knew but didn’t quite have the evidence to prove: that Phillips operates in tandem with someone named Nilesh Prasad. And that Phillips and Prasad have attempted to scam money out of people (and seemingly succeeded in some cases.)
As Deadspin notes, Phillips started as someone posting in the forums on Covers.com. From there, Covers hired her as a columnist. Keep in mind, it appears the¬†hiring practices at Covers aren’t terribly rigorous. And from Covers, Phillips made her way to ESPN as a Page 2 columnist. Most of her writing was mediocre. So why did Covers and ESPN hire her?
It’s simple. She’s a seemingly attractive girl who bets on sports (and knows about sports betting.) That’s a character that the 18-35 year old male demographic would gravitate to. And gravitate they did. Phillips developed a decent following on Twitter.
How do we know? It’s simple, really.
She writes for Covers but has more followers than the official Covers Twitter account. Does that make sense? Of course not.
But there’s more than that. Phillips started her Twitter account in April 2009. From April 2009 until October 2011, she had just a handful of followers. Then, in October 2011, her followers started to climb. She had about 5,000 followers in early December 2011.
Then the follower count grew fast. Really fast. Unnaturally fast.
Yes, writing for ESPN helped. But it was ESPN Page 2 and that doesn’t give you 60,000 followers. But a few hundred bucks can get you that many followers as you can see from one Twitter spam site:
And buying followers is the route that that Phillips went.
We analyzed her followers and found an enormous percentage of her followers are paid-for spam accounts. We noticed this in December 2011 when Phillips was regularly adding thousands of followers a day – a feat usually reserved for major celebrities. As we watched the follower count climb, we checked out the quality of the followers. And this is what you’ll generally find:
Lots of locked accounts that follow hundreds of people but have very few followers. That is the classic structure of a spam Twitter account that has been purchased. And Phillips has thousands of these accounts “following” her.
Of course, buying Twitter followers isn’t the worse thing she (or he) has done. But that the person behind the Sarah Phillips online persona would resort to this sort of widespread Twitter spam reveals a lot about the illegitimacy of their motives.