Tag Archive: Contact

Good News on Google Scams – Consumers Get Money From FTC

Google Treasure Chest Pay Back to Innocent, Duped, Scammed Consumers

FTC Issues Cheques for Google Scams

FTC Issues Cheques for People Duped by Google Scams

It was over three years ago that I first came across a scam, centred around Pacific Webworks (PWW), mainly under the Google Treasure Chest and Google Money Tree monikers.  As I delved deeper, along with other folks, we came across the true scale of the scam.  Our researches then took us into similar scams run by Jesse Willms, all using the same modus operandi of:

  • negative option marketing
  • illegal cash withdrawals from bank accounts
  • a myriad network of affiliates
  • fake or holding addresses, many in foreign countries outside the normal laws, that opened and closed rapidly allowing consumers no come-back
  • illegal medical or wealth claims
  • offshore banking, now known following the recent banking scandals to be heavily centred around the City of London

We always recommended that consumers issue a credit card charge-back against PWW and Willms.  This is the only way to stop the withdrawals and to counter the “businesses” operations at source.   And it worked!

Yesterday, the USA’s FTC issued a statement as well as money in the form of cheques to all consumers known to have been defrauded by PWW and others in the Google Treasure Chest/Money Tree scam.  Their statement is here: FTC Returns More than $2 Million to Buyers of the “Google Money Tree” Work-at-Home Scam.  They say,

Under a settlement agreement with the FTC, the defendants are banned from selling products through “negative option” transactions, in which the seller interprets consumers’ silence or inaction as permission to charge them, and are also prohibited from making misleading or unsupported claims while marketing or selling any product or service. The settlement also required the defendants to surrender cash and other assets, and these are now being used by the FTC to refund consumers who bought the “Google Money Tree,” “Google Pro,” or “Google Treasure Chest” products.

They also include instructions for people who haven’t yet claimed – so if you were conned into getting rich with Google or similar, contact them now and get at least part of your money back!  This is what they said,

The checks will be mailed by an administrator working for the FTC. Consumers who made purchases from “Google Money Tree,” “Google Pro,” or “Google Treasure Chest” will receive approximately $24.50.  Consumers who have questions, or who have not yet filed a complaint with the FTC and wish to do so, should call the Redress Administrator, Gilardi & Co. LLC, toll free, at 1-877-226-2847. Consumers seeking general information about the FTC’s redress program may visit the FTC’s refunds website.  The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide information before redress checks can be cashed.

Checks will be mailed on September 11, 2012, and must be cashed on or before November 12, 2012.

So get on in there folks!


Crime Pays, But Not Always – added on 18 Sep 2012

Here’s a reminder of how crime does not pay – the Pacific Webworks share price!

PWW 5yr share history

PWW 5yr share history

Since the successive hits on PWW following our and others’ investigations their share price has languished at around a penny for about half the past year!  Their meteoric rise, right as the depression started to hit, was entirely due to conning vulnerable people in desperate times.

  1. Then folks like me started shouting!
  2. Then Google took note and sued them.
  3. Then the FTC laid charges.
  4. Then they were found to have funny-looking accounts and changed their accountants and management.
  5. Now they’ve had to pay out to the very people who were conned.

So as I just said,

Get on in there folks!


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Victory! Or is it Victory? Jesse Willms Surrenders All to FTC Onslaught.

Jesse Willms Folds Following Consumer-Led Pressure on FTC and Other Law Agencies

Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commis...Willms et al to Pay $359,291,898

Jesse Willms, (the Canadian who set the legal dogs, financed by his scamduggery, onto me, for telling the truth about him on this website), has finally caved in to the FTC charges.  This is the full FTC judgement.

This is a  victory of sorts for the millions who have been scammed by him over the last few years.  However, what has actually happened has been a kind of plea bargaining, much favoured in the US. (Here’s his home-town take on it.)

Rotten Bad Smell

Hunstville 0, Willms 1

Instead of being stripped completely of his ill-gotten gains and being chucked in the slammer for a few years, he has reached a settlement whereby no admission of guilt has been made!

This is exactly what I suggested would happen, because the self-proclaimed philanthropist Jesse will do anything, absolutely anything, to stay in business.

To me this isn’t true victory.

The Return of Fu Manchu

He’s not been punished by the law which explains the lingering smell I have, possibly due to his key lawyers having previously worked at the FTC.  Maybe it is the old boy network?  Whatever.

The millions (yes, millions the FTC say) of people scammed may be temporarily amazed at the $359-million judgement, but seeing as how the original complaint was for over $450m they’ll soon realise that he’s got off with $100m!  However it’s worded, Willms has weaselled out of any admission of guilt, which means he’s still in business.

What cunning plans could now be afoot, with $100m to back them up, they’ll wonder?  It’s like The Return of Fu Manchu.

Almost 4 Million Questions

jessewillms.com-2012-02-24-12h-20m-30s

Willms’ Blog Release – notice how he promotes the $25k ‘gift’, but not his $359m settlement?

Like me, the millions scammed by him will be questioning how he isn’t, right now, being butt-plugged in Huntsville, instead of having 7 days to calmly surrender his bank accounts to prove that he can stump up the $359m negotiated, meanwhile making gratuitous comments about better business practices in future whilst still singing the praises of his $1000 philanthropic gestures.

  • True, Willms et al have to hand over all their money and have promised as much under sufferance of perjury.
  • True, they all have to notify the FTC of their whereabouts for the next 20 years and all their business proceeds.  They have to keep compliance records for 5 years.
  • True, Willms must tell the FTC his jobs, phone numbers, businesses in which he’s involved etc
  • True, Willms et al have 180 days to hand over all details of all their businesses and contacts within those businesses.
  • True, Willms for the next five years must give a copy of the FTC order (the pdf attached) to each person he does business with and that they have 30 days to sign and return it to the FTC.

True for all of that, but, Willms can still do business and who knows if any of his victims will get recompensed.  A lot of the order’s wording is to ensure that the US & Canadian Inland Revenue get their taxes from Willms et al for the last three years.  What about the little people?

This article guesses that victims won’t see any of the cash.  My guess is that only those people that actually complained to the FTC will get cash, which is why it’s so important to complain, as I’ve suggested for years.

The Return of Fu Manchu

This article thinks that he’s had to hand over everything (though I can’t see how they justify that, given what we know about business secrecy in Nicosia, Cyprus), yet it also points out that the bans that Willms has had to acquiesce to only apply to the USA!  That is, there’s nothing at all saying Willms can’t set up anywhere else, like Korea say, and hammer the world from there!

MSNBC opinionate that Jesse Willms will need to look for a new line of work…..

I, of course, beg to differ, because:

  • He settled with Microsoft, yet carried on trading as usual.
  • He settled with Symantech, yet carried on trading as usual.
  • He settled with Oprah Winfrey, yet carried on trading as usual.
  • He settled with Dr Oz, yet carried on trading as usual.
  • He settled with Google yet carried on trading as usual.
  • Now he has settled with the FTC. I’d be amazed (yet obviously pleased) if he changed the patterns of a lifetime. Only time will tell.

On top of this, Willms himself states on his blog entry (see screenshot above);

We are working to resolve issues relating to past marketing practices for products that our company no longer sells. Through this process, we have taken steps to assure(sic) that our business practices are in full compliance with the law. We are excited by the opportunity to continue giving customers access to a variety of products and services at significant savings. – n.b.  the emphasis is mine.

…..which looks to me that it’s more web business, not a change in business type.

It’s a victory, but not the one the whole world wants.  It all leaves a bad, lingering, smell…..

 Affected Businesses

Apart from Willms, Sechrist and others, the business entities that we’ve come across in our investigations here, are all in the judgement.  It writes that “Corporate Defendants” means:

  • 1021018 Alberta Ltd, also d..b.a. Just Think Media, Credit Report America, Wulongsource, and Wuyi Source;
  • 1016363 Alberta Ltd also d.b.a. eDirect Software;
  • 1524948 Alberta Ltd, also d.b.a. Terra Marketing Group, Swipe.Bids.com, and SwipeAuctions.com;
  • Circle Media Bids Limited, also d.b.a. SwipeBids.com SwipeAuctions.com, and SellofAuctions.com;
  • Coastwest Holdings Limited;
  • Farend Services Ltd;
  • JDW Media, LLC;
  • Net Soft Media, LLC, also d.b.a. SwipeBids.com;
  • Sphere Media, LLC, also d.b,a SwipeBids.com and SwipeAuctions.com;

I’ve listed these so that they appear in search engines and so that people realise the lengths of obfuscation that Willms has used in his activities.

Office Politics

I say Willms, because he is recognised in the judgement as the prime mover in the scams.  He has been pinched for hundreds of millions – the others have been collared for a few tens of thousands at most each, some, for nothing, because (how embarrassing is that for them?), they have nothing – yes really!

  • How annoying for the two Gravers that their payments are about the same as young Jesse Wilms’ fish tank!  ($30,000 in 2010 he paid for it)
  • I wonder how the Children’s Hospital Boston and the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund both realise that they’ve got less from philanthropic Jesse than he’s spent on his fish tank?  ($25k each)  I wonder how they feel now, knowing that this money was stolen from ordinary consumers, people like themselves?
  • Or how do Canadian veterans feel about Willms plugging his $1k donation to the poppy fund, while spending $5000 on a pool table?

How galling for Sechrist, Callister, and Milne.  They can pay nothing, Willms can pay $359m!  If they’re still working for him I bet that that’s fun in the office!

This is a local copy of the full FTC Judgement Against Wills et al  I suggest everyone read it – it’s riveting.

 

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Fabian Tactics of Google Work At Home Scam Legal Team

Pacific Webworks / Quad Try and Dodge the Issue

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave...

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave...

Back in 2009 I stumbled upon a negative option scam for which those involved were sued by Google (and folded with an out-of-court settlement) and were prosecuted by Uncle Sam, losing again.  Initially, I was completely unaware of the depths of deception to which these people would stoop, but then I rapidly discovered the nightmare web that they’d constructed and how difficult it was for ordinary people, duped by slick honest-looking promises, to un-pick themselves from it.

Not only that, I quickly realised that PWW weren’t the only spawn of the devil and that others, like Jesse Willms, were up to very similar tricks.  See:

Methods

The above list of links more-or-less shows how we found out the Pacific Webworks (PWW) story.  They’re by no means the only set of devils in the world trying to scam people, but they’re the one’s I stumbled upon first.  That’s all.

Their business was to set up website templates that their “customers” could use to extract money from their customers by use of the negative option scam.  In effect, they were selling the tools to steal to people, who then had the option of calling it a day or selling the tools to steal on themselves, thus stealing.

To promote it they used mass advertising through paid ads on Google (using the Google and others’ trademarks to make it appear that these offers were endorsed by those referenced), through Quad, which they owned, and fake news or personal information websites (flogs) loaded with follow up ads.  The promotions could be their own, but for the most part it was all done by “affiliates” (their customers) that all took varying degrees of commission for follow-through clicks.

The advertising was managed by Bloosky Interactive that also operated through 3rd parties unsolicited email adverts, spam to you and me.

Underlying it all was the credit card processing business which they also owned (Intellipay) usually through the securecart domain.

All parties involved, except the final folk who didn’t really understand how bent this whole operation was, fully understood the nature of this business.  How could they not? – when they were selling “services” for $1.95 for which they’d get $30 commission!!!

Turn of the Screw

In another twist of deviousness, PWW (run by Bell, Bell, Larsen & Larsen at the time) set up The Quad Group (geddit?) to avoid creditors.  This is how they themselves described it:

In June 2009 we experienced limited merchant account processing capabilities which created a situation where we could not satisfy payables to marketing partners. To generate needed cash in the 2009 second quarter we sold a portion of our hosting portfolio that was in excess of merchant account limitations to The Quad Group, LLC, a related party (the “Quad Group”) for $157,786. Quad Group is owned and managed by current directors, officers and an employee of Pacific WebWorks. We may periodically be required to enter into sale transactions with Quad Group to properly manage our merchant account processing requirements.

Neat huh?

Cuts and Thrusts

So that’s about it, as I currently understand it.  PWW’s managers/owners had customers on two levels, that is;

  1. The direct affiliates and associated advertisers who were enticed into the operation or migrated from other similar schemes via the lure of easy money.  These people used the templates to lure others with promises of easy money, paid as commission for attracting others to run the same schemes.  The schemes didn’t sell anything – except the scheme!  A true pyramid scam!
  2. Duped suckers.  These, numerically the vast majority, soon realised after one or two mysterious withdrawals from their account of amounts around the $79 mark, that it was a scam.

The thrust of the plan was the hope that most people wouldn’t do anything, wouldn’t investigate much and wouldn’t associate with other suckers through embarrassment or whatever, just writing off the episode as one of life’s bad judgements.  Thus PWW would make say, $200 from which all the ads and affiliates would get their cut.

Just Desserts

Statue of Justice

Statue of Justice

Unfortunately for PWW, it didn’t work out quite like that.  Sure they made pots of money for a few years, but they upset too many people and eventually, through the power of communication via the very internet which was their arena,  news of what they were doing became so much that first Google, then Uncle Sam had to act.

Black September

But still the shit kept coming their way.  Just as I’d predicted in my postings (see list above), karma would get them.  On 19 September 2011 this year a class action was brought against the three main bodies behind the scam – Booth Ford v PWW et al – Barbara Ford is to be commended for her patience.  It was 2009 when she first filed for a class action!

In it, we see just how badly PWW have been acting for years.  Section 11, for me, sums it up perfectly!

Booth Ford v PWW et al Section 11

Booth Ford v PWW et al Section 11

So there we have it!  Now where’s the problem?

Rip-off Too Big!!

On 1 December 2011, Quad (who are actually essentially the same people as PWW with an almost similar board make-up – in fact the Google settlement made it plain that wives of the directors had been roped in as well), filed to be removed from the Class Action because they might have ripped off too much from people!  eh??  See QUAD_GROUP_NOTICE_OF_REMOVAL

The essence of their legal Fabian tactic (as I see it) is that:

  1. They scammed people from all over, not just Illinois, so it’s not a valid class action.
  2. They scammed people so much (by over $5m they say), that it’s the wrong court in which they should be tried, so ditch your claim against us!
  3. They scammed people by so much that the class action lawyer’s fees alone will be $9m so same reasoning as point 2!
Quad Group Sums

Quad Group Sums

Their sums in the above court removal document are in this screenshot.  There are others as well.  Of course, Quad (PWW with a different hat on remember) aren’t admitting any liability at all with this, so my use of the words scamming bastards reflects my personal opinions, not a statement of fact.  These opinions are based on the facts that:

  1. Pacific Webworks acquiesced to all of Google’s demands when sued for illegal trademark usage.
  2. Eborn and others lost their case when sued by the Texas AG when using PWW’s templates*, finance processing and networks to scam folks for millions of dollars.
  3. PWW lost their case when sued by Uncle Sam.
  4. PWW admitted filing untrue SEC accounts and changed accountants twice because of this.
  5. One of the accountants was directly related to a PWW director.

It’s noteworthy that the sum of $43m is derived from one “illegal” charge of ~$80 plus one subsequent charge of ~$25 multiplied across the claimed customer count of ~455,000 persons – because I have evidence from people who’ve contacted this site and others that some people had up to half a dozen illegal account withdrawals before they could put on a stop, which implies that the allegedly scammed amount could be much, much higher.

It’s also noteworthy that Quad’s own suppositional sums show high value amounts from this “business” yet for all this time, no dividends were paid and the only way investors in the company could make money was through share price changes.  If you tie this information to the incorrect accounting and familial accountant/director relationships, plus the fact that PWW is largely the same people as Quad, then collusion looks highly likely over this time period and the SEC will quite possibly be knocking following the conclusion to this class action.

With regard to the SEC, the same SEC filing that revealed Quad’s dubious formation also reveals that;

Our client base includes approximately 30,000 active customer accounts. We rely on the efforts of our internal marketing staff and on third party resellers, including our wholly-owned reseller, TradeWorks Marketing, to add accounts to our customer base. – see SEC Link

Well they can’t both be right, can they, Quad?  Is it 455,892 customers in your sums or is it 30,000 in the SEC filing?

Linkages

Copious links are included in the articles referenced by the site references at the beginning of this article so I haven’t had time to re-reference all the above statements.  But they’re there should you wish to look.

I certainly hope that the Fabian tactics don’t work and that people see them for what they are.

Notes & Addendum

*     Eborn et al used website designs very similar to those provided by PWW.   Whether they were exactly the same is a moot point in my view, because like a burglar who learns to house-break from another burglar, the crow-bar used will not be exactly the same crow bar, but it’s the idea of using a crowbar that’s important to the final act of theft.  In other words templates, like crowbars, are just tools.  Eborn’s websites were almost carbon-copies of those from PWW using all the Visual “tools”, the money processing and the affiliate networks that they “employed”.   Many sites (I had a huge list of them and copied images directly from the site before they locked it down) were partly or wholly hosted on pantherssl.com  via Bloosky.  These co-incidences didn’t happen by chance and show intelligent design behind their purpose.  (Thanks Paul!)

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From Google Treasure Chest to Sun Tan Scam in Nevis on the BBC?

From Google Treasure Chest to Ubertan Sun Tan Scam in Nevis on the BBC?

A.  yes it’s true!

Ubertan On BBC

Ubertan On BBC

An article on the BBC website today highlighted the dangers of a tanning products called Ubertan.  On reading it, and following up with a simple Google search, the way it is portrayed in forums immediately set off warning bells because of its similarity to other scams I’ve seen.

Ubertan

Ubertan Search

Ubertan Search

A simple Google search showed that warnings about Ubertan have been going on for some time.  This website warned way back in April 2011 and here we have a Mens’s Health forum being shilled by Ubertanners with a post starting in Jan 2011…  The first even shows that the Ubertan website changed it’s copy when folks started complaining.

The Ubertan website is currently ‘live’ however, it is showing no content!  At all!  The Google cache is interesting though (more on that later)…

WHOIS Ubertan

Ubertan WHOIS

Ubertan WHOIS

Who is Ubertan indeed?  !!

WarningBell

Warning Bell

What we see is that “Manufacturers Direct” owns several domains and one Vernon Veira is the contact on the dual island nation of Kitts-Nevis.

10 Solomons Arcade
Charlestown,  00000
KN
+1.3057484919

This is when the warning bells started ringing….

Doing The Charlestown in Nevis

It’s two years ago that I started looking at the now seriously-discredited Google Treasure Chest scam (see http://strangelyperfect.tv/3099/google-treasure-chest-its-a-scam-and-a-half/).  the amount of information I had, meant I had to post over several different postings, and it was during these later investigations that a Post Office address (P.O. Box) came up on Nevis.  In Charlestown.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember exactly what address it was.  But it’s easily found here a comment from @NotKevin.  I think it’s the first time we saw the address, although it has since popped up many times when checking out folks that would be preferred to be known as “online marketeers” but we like to call scammers.  This is on the posting,

This is the address.

New Online Systems Ltd.
P.O. Box 642, Main Street
Charlestown, Nevis, West Indies

Google Cache

Ubertan Google Cache

Ubertan Google Cache

Ubertan may be silent, but the Google Cache is active and shows this address down at the bottom of the first cached page:

Ubertan.com +44 161 408 5816
Subertan Ltd 642 Main Street, Charlestown, Nevis

 

Uber morphs into Suber, and because the Post Office on Charlestown is one of the few buildings on Main  Street, Charlestown; a whole host of P.O. Boxes exist inside.

P.O. Box 642 means 642 Main Street!

Who are these people using 642?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that the domains listed by @NotKevin, although not exactly the same,  bear a shocking similarity to those domains used by people like Jesse Willms (say) before he decided to turn into a saint-like activist and Pacific WebWorks (say) before they got their pants sued off them.  This is what @NotKevin said:

That West Indies address is also linked with porn:
http://www.highdefriches.com/contact.php
http://www.eshspt.com/
(another Co Durham address on that one too!)
“health products”:
http://hiltonhg.com/
Colon cleansing:
http://www.colocleansemax.com/contact-us.php
Acai:
http://acaidetoxmaxx.com/
and Govt Grants:
http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/government-grants-avaliable-cd-c116063.html

Now compare and contrast those domains and businesses with the very large list to be found here on WebCops – the plethora of time-limited similarly-named domains means tracking them is an onerous task, well beyond my spare time.

However, yet again, we have seen the same address appear when dealing with dodgy ego-massaging products.

Phoenix-Like TryUbertan

Ubertan may be dead, but it doesn’t take long to find son-of-Ubertan when looking at the decidedly un-Caribbean telephone number for Ubertan.

+44 161 408 5816 is actually a Manchester, UK number!!

TryUbertan Contact Page

TryUbertan Contact Page

A quick search pulls out…..

Beginnings

Now I know they’re trying to hide!!!

TryUbertan.net on the T&C page now shows the address of Ubertan to be:

Ubertan Sunless Tanning System
c/o Toocoo Media Inc.
39555 Orchard Hill Place
Suite 600
Novi, Michigan
48375

Although it’s supposed to be available from ” high end salons in the U.K, France, Germany, Spain and North America” from their FAQ page, these stores will be doing so ILLEGALLY!  The UK government has officially banned it (as per the UK news item) and is EXPLICITLY ISSUING DANGER WARNINGS about its usage!

Still, TryUbertan (WHOIS is Pennsylvania USA) don’t care.  They’ll just grab the cash and morph into something else.

TooCoo Media CEO

TooCoo Media CEO

The decidedly minimalist website of Toocoo Media Inc, http://www.toocoomedia.com, throws up some interesting conundrums, if that really is their mailing address.  There are two LinkedIn links:

  • http://www.linkedin.com/company/toocoo-media-inc.
  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/jumanok

The latter is for the CEO, a Peter B. Lee whose 3 website links at the bottom of his profile point to the totally and bizarrely un-related websites of:

  • http://www.viafoura.com/
  • https://www.netiq.com/products/migrate/ which then redirects to novell.com as Novell has bought them out
  • http://www.oracle.com/index.html

Mr Lee, who claims to be Canadian from the LinkedIn profile, also has a poetry blog on blogger assuming the same quite distinct user name is being re-used, which is for invited guests only!!!  See The Poetry of Peter B. Lee with the url of http://jumanok.blogspot.com/  I’ve highlighted his key username as it matches the LinkedIn profile.  I don’t think that this Peter Lee (interestingly, a place name in County Durham of all places!) is the same who’s name is used in some recent versions of the classic 419 scam.  Try these examples for a start:

To add to the surreal mix that I’m uncovering, there are also two videos on YouTube uploaded by a “jumanok”!!  One of half a minute looks very much like Mr Lee, doing  some testing thing in Nov 2008 here:

This is a screenshot in case it’s pulled:

Jumanok YouTube

Jumanok YouTube

This is Jumanok from LinkedIn:

Jumanok LinkedIn LargePic

Jumanok LinkedIn LargePic

And here is “Crystal” telling us how her life state has improved after seeing something on OPRAH (down below she says) – except there’s nothing below!!  It appears to be a video plug for something intended to include Oprah in the spiel, except it never happened as there’s nowt to see.  This was uploaded in May, 2009.  The termination of Oprah-related plans may or may not have had something to do with the legal action, taken in May 2009, by Oprah, and reported here on her website;

http://www.oprah.com/health/The-Truth-About-Oprah-Dr-Oz-Acai-Resveratrol-and-Colon-Cleanse

Of course, Oprah sued and won damages against a host of scammers, one of which was Jesse Willms.

Conclusion

  • Time and again we come across scams that are based on a business with a very flakey base (here it’s a banned tanning product with government issued health warnings).  Usually, they are about improving one’s body or finances via unproven “new” medicines or foodstuffs, or get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Time and again we find a myriad of international contact phone numbers & addresses, for businesses that are very minor and specialist yet feel the need to spread themselves to the far corners of the globe.  Q. Why?  A.  Avoidance of easy scrutiny.
  • Time and again, we trace these businesses via LinkedIn (a bit like Jonathon Eborn, say) and other social networks high and wide.  They all start off appearing very legitimate.   As an aside, the Eborn results show a consulting website of http://www.jonathanebornconsulting.com/ and another of http://www.jonathandeborn.com/ which have both been hacked and defaced!  Made my day that!
  • Many businesses have a very public website, of minimalist design and content.  It’s very hard to discern exactly what they’re doing.  Compare these “online marketeers” to the website of Ford or Esso, say?  Now can you tell the difference?

Finally, (and very importantly for your health).  Don’t shove dodgy untested stuff of unknown provender up your nose.  Simple eh?

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How WordPress Spam Works

WordPress Comment Spam

The plague of all blogs is spam, mainly comment spam, by sheer numerical superiority.

Q.  Why Do They Do It?

A. As a minimum, they do it to open a back-door into your blog that allows the perpetrator to place reverse linkages to another website to increase that website’s visibility in search engine results (so called “Search Engine Optimisation” – SEO ).  This back-linkage they use to increase website search hits, which they can charge an ignorant website beginner big money for.

At the worst, the culprit would gain full access to the blog allowing free posting and deletions or even the complete removal of your website content.

Today’s Example

Today, I got a comment that made me check further as notionally, it looked okay-ish. These are the details (click image for full-size view of the comment as it appears in the WordPress admin section):

Comment Spam Example

Comment Spam Example

The Jacksonville lawyer is in Florida and has this website; http://www.divorceyes.com/index.html, and the actual comment is pretty kosher, although brief, saying;

Strangely you have made an awesome post and i appreciate your work and keep it up. Thanks for sharing this with us.

This is all very nice, but check out the IP address….

WHOIS 113.203.135.140

By checking the WHOIS for this, we see that the IP Address for this supposedly reputable Florida lawyer (Divorce Yes) is in Karachi, Pakistan!  Well are they?  My guess, given the cheap web costs in the USA, is that Divorce Yes is in the US and that they wouldn’t for an instant even consider anywhere else!

And so it is!  The actual WHOIS for Divorce Yes is in Florida!  (The actual WHOIS for the web-hosting, fortehosting.com is in Illinois).  The registrant’s name (Miller) also agrees with the Divorce Yes’s contact details here, but note; the email address in the comment, [email protected], is not the same as the email address on the contact page, which is [email protected]

Registrant:

jeff miller

1019 grand court

highland beach, Florida 33487

United States

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. https://uk.godaddy.com/)

Domain Name: DIVORCEYES.COM

Created on: 07-Jun-05

Expires on: 07-Jun-16

Last Updated on: 17-Feb-07

Administrative Contact:

miller, jeff [email protected]

1019 grand court

highland beach, Florida 33487

United States

(561) 445-6962 Fax — (561) 347-7588

Technical Contact:

miller, jeff [email protected]

1019 grand court

highland beach, Florida 33487

United States

(561) 445-6962 Fax — (561) 347-7588

Domain servers in listed order:

NS1.FORTEHOSTING.COM

NS2.FORTEHOSTING.COM

Conclusion

There isn’t a conclusion really.  This is just an example of the way that text harvesting is being used to make seemingly intelligent comments slip past the comment filters on a WordPress blog.

As many of these filters rely on an IP address, if the webmaster lets a dodgy IP address through just once then it’ll be marked as “good” by the filters which will then allow the spammer to post even more comments, all for the various nefarious reasons that I mentioned first.

This is why I use a plugin like WP-SpamFree, and using it I can block all incoming pings from a given IP address, in this case, 113.203.135.140!

For interest, I’ve edited out the back-link from the spam comment above and you can find it on this post, Pacific Webworks, Lawyers and Social Networking, here.

Alternative Conclusion

This isn’t a conclusion again, but my examination of alternative possibilities, but note the following:

  • The Divorce Yes website is made and SEO’d by http://enettechnologies.com/.
  • WordPress is used on the website.
  • Many WordPress plugins exist to “improve” the SEO of a website.  (I use some!)
    • Some do it by ensuring meta and other data is added if it’s missing.
    • Others have sprung up over the last few years that “intelligently” link to other websites….  they harvest websites for text and linkages for later use, much like email spammers scan websites for email addresses to spam.  [n.b.  I use PHPEnkoder from Michael Greenberg to hide email addresses on this site from email address harvesters.]

It could be, although I cannot prove or disprove it, but because some of this spam I receive is now pretty readable as with this one above, that plugins are being used for much of the hits I get.  This comment  could be such an example, or the law website name is being used textually as a smokescreen for the Pakistani spammer.  I see lots of adverts along these lines that couldn’t possibly rely on manual  human link placements for their effectiveness….

I’d be interested to hear from Miller Law or their website designer on this one.  It’s not the first time that I’ve had reputable businesses appear on my website like this and I’d like to know what it appears like at their end, if at all.  It does make me wonder if this very website is being used to cloak spam at other websites in the same manner.

This is why I’ve left all URL back-links to the parties in place so that they’ll see them in their logs.

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