Shocker: A Company Called I’m Shmacked Ripped Off College Kids
I'm Shmacked capitalized on the college party experience and students' desire for going viral
For many potential college students, the allure of higher education lies not in the attainment of a degree but in the promise of gratuitous partying. Forget post-grad employability — when it comes to choosing which school to attend, the party scene offered is often the foremost deciding factor. The digital media company I’m Shmacked has been instrumental in helping prospective students determine which institution will best fulfill their partying needs by posting scenes from actual college parties.
Founded in 2011 by Jeffrie Ray and Arya Toufanian, the two would attend and film college parties across the country, for the sole purpose of uploading the footage to YouTube. The videos immediately gained popularity, and in order to keep content coming, Ray and Toufanian enlisted people to throw parties at various colleges and film the results.
In 2016, these small groups of people eventually evolved into the “college ambassador program,” in which students pay anywhere from $45 to $500 to become the I’m Shmacked representative of their school. As a designated representative, students are responsible for managing their school’s I’m Shmacked account. Those who initially signed up for the program, of which there were at least 3,600 according to a company spreadsheet from 2017, were told their positions as representatives would earn them money. This money would either come from online merchandise stores, ads, or having fellow students pay to be featured on the account.
But there were early signs that something was amiss with the company. In 2013, I’m Shmacked sold hundreds of tickets to students at the University of Delaware for a party without a venue. Three years later, the company raised more than $30,000 to go towards a concert and party at Santa Clara University, neither of which occurred. In addition to these failed events, Toufanian threatened a Business Insider reporter in 2014 (Ray left the company by 2016).
It wasn’t long before I’m Shmacked ambassadors realized they were being scammed. Many noted that once they paid the required fee to become an ambassador, the company ceased contact. Others found that they weren’t the only ambassadors at their schools, and that several “offical” I’m Shmacked accounts existed and were active. Any efforts on the part of these ambassadors to speak out about their experience or mistreatment were usually met with threats of legal action from Toufanian.
Despite being duped by Toufanian, many are still running their I’m Shmacked accounts. “I keep it because everyone knows the name,” Bradley Gasparovich, the owner of @ImSchmacked_MSU (Michigan State University), told theNew York Times. He also uses the account to warn other students of falling for Toufanian’s schemes, although Toufanian’s verified I’m Shmacked Instagram handle disappeared in early October (much to his distress).
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