Careful observers to this website may have (but more probably not) discovered a tiny little link on random pages, which includes the main page. The link is there to trap spammers. Spammers of all kinds really, because once email addresses are skimmed, then they’re in the wild, but initially I trap comment spammers along with address harvesters. At the end of this post you can see the spammers and scammers that I’ve help trap so far which means that they’re added to block lists thus saving internet users just a wee bit of trouble.
For me, as a webmaster, it’s no trouble to install and I urge others to do the same. It’s called Project Honey Pot.
How it Works
For your interest, a file is served to a spammer which anyone can view should they click the tiny link. The file is different on each website. It’s actually human readable but is constructed as two columns with no space, plus a few invisible characters. Copying and pasting aren’t straightforward!
In it, are a perfectly readable set of Terms & Conditions which are broadly similar to those on all my websites, except they’re a lot more formal! Buried in this formality is the statement that anyone who uses an email address sourced from this website is liable to a fee of $50!
This is the full content that (usually) only automated bots will find. Enjoy!
Project Honey Pot Site Terms
And yes, naturally, being a webmaster, I record IP addresses for all visitors for a variety of reasons. Everyone does! Below is my Spam Honey Pot page.
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:
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!!!
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.
Cuts and Thrusts
So that’s about it, as I currently understand it. PWW’s managers/owners had customers on two levels, that is;
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!
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.
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.
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
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:
They scammed people from all over, not just Illinois, so it’s not a valid class action.
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!
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
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:
Pacific Webworks acquiesced to all of Google’s demands when sued for illegal trademark usage.
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.
PWW lost their case when sued by Uncle Sam.
PWW admitted filing untrue SEC accounts and changed accountants twice because of this.
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?
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!)