A Look into Google Knowledge Panel Scams
What would you do if you paid someone thousands of dollars for a service and they didn’t deliver? You’d probably want a refund right? After 9 months you’d expect something. In this case, the only thing Dennis Yu received was a lot of wasted time and ultimately getting blocked by the person who took his cash and ran.
On September 15th, 2022 Dennis paid internet influencer and At A Glance Media owner Brandon Deboer $2,500 for two tasks. One, to help him with his Google Knowledge Panel, and two, to help him create a Wikipedia page. Dennis understood that it would take time to get both of these, but he didn’t expect to be taken on a 9-month run around without anything to show for it. At A Glance Media, or AAGM for short according to their website ataglancemedia.com is “a full service communications agency that specializes in Media Relations, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Content Management, and more.”
Typically, when you pay a professional, they keep you updated. They check in with you regarding their progress, and what they’re doing, and have something to validate their initial selling point. With Brandon? Unfortunately, not so much. Dennis, as you will see in this article, had to be the one to follow up and even then was met with things like “Sorry for the delayed response” and “I’ll check in with the team” numerous times.
The day he paid, Dennis sent the following email, enthusiastic for the work to begin and asking for clarification on if he had the agency’s continued support if issues arose.
Brandon, the founder replied with, “Yes absolutely, We will make sure everything stays intact for you” giving a guarantee of confidence and outcome.
A week went by of no contact. Dennis in the early morning sent a quick email “Yo Brandon, No rush. How are things coming along?” — In the evening he received the following:
Another week of no contact. September 30th, 8 days later Dennis asks “Any update?” Nothing. October 11th Dennis tried yet again with “Hello?” Jump to October 16th Brandon says:
When someone says I’ll get back to you, you anticipate a follow-up! Nothing. “Any luck?” Dennis asked on October 20th. A “?” on October 25th. Finally on the same day as the question mark Brandon replied with:
“Good morning Dennis,
I have been away from the office my apologies for the late response.
Will follow up with my team today and get back to you shortly!”
Once more, a day of no contact.
“Another 4 days.
Maybe time for a refund?”
Dennis asked on November 14th. Anyone who runs a business knows that when someone inquires or even hints at a refund you put things in motion and perform at whatever level you can in order to salvage that relationship. Dennis looking for a drop of clarity is sending quick question marks in search of some sort of reply. On November 22nd Brandon replied with:
It’s important to note the email they communicated through was the email Brandon put in his email signature. His reply makes it reasonable to assume that he acted like the email didn’t work, hence he never got the refund request and was looking to go about their lives as before. This went on for months. More excuses and more distance.
By Dennis’ calculations, he made 97 attempts to contact Brandon Deboer, all very reasonable and simple things to boost the email thread in his inbox.
A Deeper Dive Into Knowledge Panels
In March, Yu brought me into the mix to show me what he’d been dealing with. I specialize in personal branding and Public Relations, and we’ve had some overlap in dealing with scammers and trying to show the dark side of the industry. I’ve filled out my own knowledge panels and know what goes into them. I figured I’d just help Dennis do what Brandon was paid to achieve.
For context, a Google Knowledge Panel is an information-rich box that shows up when a notable entity, person, or topic is searched. Take Sir. Richard Branson’s “KP” as an example. It contains his age, biography, net worth, photos, social media accounts, and more. Google maintains control over what appears based on authenticity and relevancy.
Already helping Dennis, on March 25th I tweeted the following:
Dennis replied to my tweet with “love to hear what @bjdnet thinks about this” — I.e Brandon. He came back with this response in which he says that he will follow up with Dennis via email.
The following morning, he did in fact send an email.
After Dennis sent the following reply, a follow-up was nonexistent.
If you know about knowledge panels you would know everything I said was accurate. They can’t be bought or guaranteed, and can only be directed and influenced. Dennis and I both agreed that his response was defensive because he knew that he was backed against a wall of his own making. To further the deceptive practice, back in December Brandon sent Dennis an email in which he claims he was waiting for Google to index his panel and would for the second time follow up with his “rep.”
According to Google’s Support page on Knowledge Panels, “Knowledge panels are automatically generated, and information that appears in a knowledge panel comes from various sources across the web.” When talking to potential “service providers” RUN if they say that they have a “representative” who helps them with services that are typically hard to get. This has been especially prominent in recent years with verification services and getting article placements in high-level publications like Forbes, and Entrepreneur. These practices rely on shady employees, are unethical, and almost always go against the terms of service of businesses. Dennis goes more in-depth on personal branding and Knowledge Panels in this blog post from last year.
By April 10th, not only was I blocked, but Brandon blocked Dennis as well. I checked and he blocked 4 of my separate accounts on Instagram. I did not reach out to Brandon at this point. Never talked to him directly. Was he offended that within two weeks of me working with Dennis on his panel, it began to show up?
I had no issues with being blocked, but the fact he blocked the client who paid him a significant payment for services never rendered, cemented his “authority.” On April 11th I emailed Brandon in search of a solution.
As of today no reply has been received, we are still blocked, and he had previously put his Twitter on private.
Being treated like this is all too common in the world of internet businesses and no attempt for Dennis’ Wikipedia page was even made.
If Brandon Debeor made any attempt to deliver, this conversation would be entirely different, but the lack of documentation and effort is disheartening, and as Dennis said he will take this “Loss as a lesson in trying to help a guy in need in the influencer space” and that “The influencer, PR, AI, and social media agency space is rife with eager young males hoping to generate instant wealth. Aggressive and ambitious, they say anything to feel the adrenaline hit of closing a deal, then share each kill on social media, blowing that paycheck on immediate celebration. Though admirable, this leads to one man sales shop like Brandon Deboer who has no delivery and no support– since it’s just him selling.
There are so many young males glorifying this fabricated lifestyle to each other that entire communities have popped up around it, such as ‘Money Twitter.’
So the Gavin Liras, Brandon Deboers, and Tristan Parmleys of the world find reinforcement of their dishonest behaviors, since they’re all glamorizing it together. And this sucks in more young males who don’t know any better, getting them to use the same techniques of overpromising and only focusing on selling. That’s why so many founders say they’ve been “burned before” by their last 3 digital agencies.”
Our hope is that this serves as a friendly warning to service providers to ensure deliverables and purchasers do their research. Look for video testimonials and reviews, and never be afraid to ask for case studies. If you are going to take lavish business trips, associate yourself with figureheads, and get invitations to exclusive events, you should at least have the ethicality to deliver the bare minimum.
We’re also proud to say that Dennis Yu’s Knowledge Panel has begun showing up and is looking great, without the help of Brandon Deboer.
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