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Some of Them Just Don’t Quit!

I can see that there is still at least one mentally disturbed spammer out there who continues to fool himself by believing that his pathetic attempts to attack me with e-mail viruses is going to have some effect.

Yesterday I received a fresh batch of e-mail messages with virus-infected attachments. I am also seeing some evidence that he is sending this stuff out to other people using my e-mail address as the return address.

Apparently, he wants me to be blamed for the crap he is sending out. So far, I have not heard from anyone complaining about receiving anything from me. In addition, I have been using the net a bit too long to be opening e-mail attachments sent from addresses that I do not recognize.

So, as I outlined in a recent post, be careful about what you say to a spammer because some of them are obviously a bit unbalanced.

In this case, there is no real harm done since I find this stuff interesting (from a psychological standpoint if nothing else!) and the e-mail account that is being affected is one that I no longer use.

To my spamming little friend out there if you happen to read my blog: You’re going to have to come up with something a lot better than your current bag of tricks to do any real harm . Keep it up. At least it gives me something to write about here!

Another Work-At-Home Scammer Revealed

Since I’ve been blabbing about work-at-home scams of late, I thought I’d touch on the subject again at least one more time.

I responded to another work-at-home ad on the craigslist.com web site. Again, this one was worded to sound like the person responsible for the ad was actually offering a job. And once again, this was, to put it simply, a lie.

To see the original ad, click here. I should point out that this scam stuff that is posted on craigslist.com should not be interpreted as a slam against craigslist.com, because I actually really like their site. It must be nearly impossible to keep the scammers from posting there since their system is so open and easy to use.

As I so often point out, there is always a minority of people waiting in the wings to come along and do their best to ruin a good thing for everyone else. One of the nice things about craigslist.com is that anyone who visits the site can essentially ‘vote’ on the listings there by flagging a particular listing as ‘Miscategorized,’ ‘Prohibited’ or ‘SPAM’. You can see that on the top right portion of the ad I linked to above.

I have just checked the craigslist.com site and I see that the ad in question has been removed. No doubt that is due to the number of people who have flagged it as ‘Prohibited’ or ‘SPAM,’ since that is obviously what it is.

This time the e-mail message I received in response to my inquiry was from someone claiming to be named ‘Ariel,’ but for all I know, it could be the same scammer I was in touch with a few days ago. The e-mail message was very basic and not worth posting since it was so brief, but for the record, it was from: priceprocessing@hotmail.com

The message included a link to a web site that had all the information I would need, or so I was told! I knew pretty much what to expect before I checked out the site, and sure enough, they are selling the usual ‘training’ materials, which are most likely quite useless.

If you’d like to check out this particular work-at-home scam web site, you can copy and paste this text into your browser: http://www.geocities.com/priceprocessing/

I did not make this a live link since I have no intention of providing them with a free link, which can help improve their ranking in the search engines.

I wouldn’t find these types of scams so offensive if their original advertisement was not so deceptive. As you can see, they include language like: ‘Must be serious about wanting to work from home.’ in order to lend a little credibility to the ad. Clearly, this ad was worded to make readers think it was an actual job offer.

And I must say, the free ‘GeoCities’ web site and free ‘HotMail’ e-mail address are a real professional touch. Come on, you can get your own domain and decent web hosting (with many e-mail addresses included) these days very cheaply. Perhaps they have not yet made enough money scamming people to afford their own domain and hosting package.

Seeing these free web sites and e-mail addresses is always a good indication that you are dealing with a typical work-at-home scam.

This one is very representative of the classic work-at-home scam, so it provides and excellent example of the kind of crap to avoid if you are seeking some kind of work-at-home job opportunity.

The World of Affiliate Marketing

To most Internet users, the word affiliate probably does not mean too terribly much. But whether you know it or not, you’ve been exposed to a lot of affiliate marketing if you spend any time surfing around various web sites.

Like most things in life, there are good things and bad things about affiliate marketing. Some of the good things are the informative and helpful sites that are built by honest, hard-working affiliates that make a lot of useful information available to online consumers.

The bad things are, as you might expect, the unscrupulous affiliates who will do or say almost anything in order to complete a sale. A lot of the SPAM you receive hyping various products from Viagra to cheap software, is sent by affiliates. Most affiliate programs forbid the use of SPAM, however, there are those that will allow just about any method that might result in a sale.

What is an affiliate program? Basically, it is a program that is set up by someone who wants to sell something, and use other people (affiliates) to help market the product. Some of the most well-known affiliate programs were started by companies like Amazon.com and eBay.

The most basic form of affiliate marketing involves web site owners who put advertising banners on their sites. For example, if I were involved with the Amazon.com affiliate program, you might see some advertising on my site for some real estate or consumer oriented books that are for sale at Amazon.com.

If you were interested in one of these ads and clicked on it, you would arrive at the Amazon.com web site with a special code embedded in the link that was used to bring you to the store, and identify my web site as the one that hosted the ad you clicked on.

If you decided to purchase one of the books, I would get a percentage of the profits that Amazon.com has earned from that sale. It’s an ingenious way for companies to use the vast expanse of the Internet and creativity of web site owners to market their products.

Some affiliate programs also make use of ‘cookies,’ which are small snippets of code stored on your computer that tells a particular web site that you have learned about their site from a advertisement on an affiliate marketer’s site. That way, the affiliate marketer gets credit for the sale if you decide to make a purchase.

Some Internet users are a bit paranoid about cookies, and although there is cause for some concern, the majority of cookies used on web sites are harmless, and are used for things like saving your login settings for web sites that require it, and for tracking affiliate links.

Cookies can, and surely are, abused by some web site operators and are used to track what other sites people are visiting and other questionable purposes. These are most likely in use by sites that try to infect your computer with adware or spyware.

I should also mention that anyone who is buying products through an affiliate link is not charged any more than any other customer. There is no additional cost involved to pay the affiliate marketer. The affiliate marketer just gets a percentage of the usual price if the customer arrives at a site by following a link on an affiliate marketer’s site.

In case you were wondering, yes, I do a little affiliate marketing myself. There are sections of this site that are primarily for affiliate marketing purposes. However, in both cases, the products I am marketing are products that I own and use myself, and have a very high opinion of.

I would not advertise products I do not believe in on my site. Sure, I could join up with a hundred different affiliate programs (it is not difficult to do) and plaster colorful, flashing banners all over this site, but I feel a lot better about advertising a product that I use and feel good about.

In case you were wondering, one the affiliate marketing programs I am involved with is for DISH Network.

More on “SPAMIS”

It appears that the character behind these strange “SPAMIS” spam messages that have been showing up recently is indeed trolling through domain registration records for e-mail addresses as I suspected.

I have received another one of these “SPAMIS” messages on another e-mail address I have used only to register domains, and for no other purpose. That makes two of these messages I have received at two separate e-mail addresses like this.

Since this guy is a well-known professional spammer, he is most likely using some kind of automated procedure to cull the e-mail addresses from domain registration records.

I’m sure this is not a brand-new tactic on the part of the spammers. If there is an effective way to gather e-mail addresses, yo can be sure that the spammers know about it.

It looks as if I may have to start changing the e-mail addresses perodically on my domain registrations. Since my hosting account allows for hundreds of e-mail addresses, it won’t be a major problem. It will just take a little time for me to log into my hosting account and make the changes.

If you have a hosting account that allows you to set up forwarding for e-mail addresses, it will make it a lot easier than setting up a full mailbox. I do this with the addresses I use for my domain registrations and just point the forwarding to one of my “real” e-mail addresses.

This Week’s Scams

This week saw the arrival of a run-of-the-mill Bank of America phishing scam and a rather unique eBay phishing scam that I had not seen before.

In addition, I received the expected ration of 419 scams, including unoriginal (and uninspiring) works from “Khalid Ali Hassan” and “Saleem Mohd Ahmed Mohd.”

These, and other fascinating works can be viewed on the 419 Scams and Phishing Scams pages.

Spammer Spotlight

Not long ago I started receiving what appears to be SPAM e-mail messages from someone claiming to be from an organization called ‘SPAMIS.’

They were not the typical SPAM messages I receive for penny stocks, Viagra or cheap software. These seemed to be geared more towards some kind of ’cause,’ which was not adequately explained, other than an apparent hatred for Microsoft.

These messages are also written in such a way that make me suspect that the author is not a shining example of mental and emotional stability. There is just something about them that seems a little ‘off,’ if you will.

You can read the latest version of this unusual SPAM here.

When I received this one, I decided to do a little digging and see if I could figure out what it was all about.

Apparently some mental defective by the name of Robert Soloway lost some kind of lawsuit involving Microsof,t and has taken it upon himself to dispense his own brand of revenge on the software Goliath.

Mr. Soloway, as it turns out, is uniquely qualified to spearhead this type of effort, since he is also well known as one of the world’s most prolific spammers. That, evidently, has something to do with the aforementioned lawsuit.

So why am I writing about this here? Well, just to give people on the Internet another place to read about a jackass named Robert Soloway. I figure he deserves all the fame that the Internet can provide, since he is responsible for invading the e-mail in-boxes of millions of people the world over.

By the way, the e-mail address he used to contact me was one that I set up specifically for the purpose of using as the contact address when I register a new domain. I do not use this e-mail address for any other purpose.

Be sure, when you register a new domain that you set up an alternate e-mail address to use if you want to avoid these low-life spammers like Soloway, who troll through the domain registration records for e-mail addresses.

If you are interested in reading more about this character, along with a few entertaining comments regarding the punishment he should receive in return for being a world-class spammer, take a look at this site.

My (Brief) Conversation With A Scammer

I decided to reply to the work-at-home scammer I talked about yesterday and tell her what I thought of her little scheme. I basically told her that no legitimate work-at-home job opening requires the applicant to pay, and that I wondered how she was able to sleep at night, knowing that she is taking advantage of people who are looking for work.

She replied a short time later. You can see her reply here.

Needless to say, I felt compelled to respond to her. The fact that she had the nerve to take the ‘excuse me’ approach with me for questioning her scam left me virtually no choice!

I responded and told her that she could call her scam anything she wanted, but it was still a scam. I also challenged her to tell me exactly what it was someone would get for her ‘one time fee’ of $9.95. I wanted to give her a chance to educate me about this ‘opportunity.’

I also told her that I could no longer locate her ad on the craigslist.com site, and that was probably due to the fact that too many people reported her advertisement as the scam that is obviously is. I asked her to let me know if I was mistaken, and let me know where on the site her ad currently resides, if it has not been removed.

Although she is no doubt just another scammer out to victimize people searching for work-at-home jobs, there is one thing she said that I actually believe. Towards the end of her message to me she says, ‘It might not be a real 9-5 job in an office but for me
it is a real 9-5 job at home.

I don’t doubt that at all, but unfortunately, her ‘job’ consists of scamming people out of their hard-earned money.

I have not yet heard back from her in response to my last e-mail message, and I would be surprised if I did. She’s obviously too busy regsistering new Yahoo! e-mail addresses and writing new versions of her scam ads to post on job-seeker sites to waste time arguing with someone who is obviously wise to her scam.

A Peek Under The “Work At Home” Rock

A few days ago I wrote about work-at-home scams here. After a little thought, I decided to dig up a little dirt on this subject. I turned over a few virtual rocks out on the net, and sure enough, one of the work-at-home scammers crawled out from under one of them.

I visited the popular ‘craigslist’ web site to seek out some advertisements for work-at-home jobs. If you are not familiar with craigslist, it is basically a collection of sites (grouped by geography) that reads like a gigantic classified ad section of the newspaper.

All kinds of crazy stuff is advertised, and some of it is fun just to read since it is so outside the mainstream, and you never know what you will find. I should also point out that it is a very useful site if you are looking for something, and many more typical classified ads are also found there, in addition to the unusual stuff.

I began my search in the jobs section of a craigslist site, and did my best to filter out the obvious work-at-home scam ads, and see if I could ferret out some legitimate work-at-home opportunities.

Some of them seem to actually be legitimate work-at-home job openings, but I have had only one of them respond to my inquiry after making at least 10 inquiries. I suspect that the reason is that any legitimate work-at-home job opportunity results in a tidal wave of e-mail messages from people who want to work at home, and it becomes somewhat of an unmanageable task to answer all of them.

One way to tell the scams from the legitimate work-at-home opportunities is the speed of the response you receive. The scammers will most often answer your e-mail quickly, and be quite anxious to provide you with all the information you need to get scammed.

I responded to a few of these ads last night before going to bed, and I awoke to discover that one of them had responded. Keep in mind, I was trying to filter out the obvious scams, and was responding only to ads that looked like they may have been legitimate.

The scammer that responded to me was advertising a ‘Data Entry/Typist’ work-at-home job. I now wish I had saved the original ad, but it is no longer available on the craigslist site. Most likely because of the number of complaints the craigslist web site operators received from people reporting the ad as the scam that it obviously turned out to be.

The ad was written quite cleverly, and did indeed give the impression that it was a ‘real’ work-at-home job opening. The response I received revealed it as just another work-at-home scam however.

I would imagine it is very hard to keep the scam under wraps when you come down to the part of your message where you have to attempt to scam money out of people. That’s the real weakness in these scams. As soon as they start asking for money, the cat is out of the bag, and careening across the room in a frenzy as if its tail were on fire!

Here is a link to the actual e-mail message I received in response to my inquiry. I don’t normally do this, but in this case, I am leaving the e-mail message intact (except for my e-mail address), including the e-mail address of the person who sent it. I think she (or he ‘ who knows?) deserves full credit for their little scam.

I had originally intended to leave the full name that this person used (who knows if it is genuine) intact, but then decided to use the first initial of the last name instead. This is because I did a little Internet research and discovered that there are a number of real people with this name in the U.S. alone, and I don’t want to be associating the names of good people with some low-life like this who is attempting to scam money from people.

It’s possible that the e-mail address this scammer used may be just a ‘throw away’ address that was set up for the duration of this scam. The Yahoo! e-mail addresses are very popular tools of the ‘419 scammers’ and others who intend to send out e-mail messages for purposes that are somewhere south of ethical.

I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, but where these work-at-home ‘opportunities’ are concerned, you need to remember just one thing. If anyone asks you to pay for anything involving a work-at-home job, it is extraordinarily likely that it is a scam, and the information you receive in return for your payment will be worthless.

Some of these work-at-home scammers offer access to a web site that supposedly contains legitimate work-at-home job openings from mainstream companies. Others offer you the ‘training’ you need for the job, like the one I received last night.

It’s all about scamming people out of their money and making a quick buck. And to think that some of the people responding to these ads may be having financial hardships (like someone who recently advertised on craigslist looking for a work-at-home job) or may be disabled and unable to work outside their home reveals these scammers as the true low-life scum that they really are.

This information applies to any work-at-home job opportunities you see advertised anywhere — and I do mean anywhere. No exceptions! So be careful and don’t let the work-at-home scammers make you another victim.

Stop The Pop-Ups, Pop-Unders, Slide-Ins And Other Crap

I’ve always hated pop-up advertising with a passion. I find it hard to imagine anything more annoying than these pop-up and slide-in (my name for them) ads that jump in front of you when you visit a site.

Yes, I do believe in right of web site owners to put anything they want on their site (excluding illegal stuff, of course), but I also believe in my right to restrict certain unwanted things from invading my computer screen.

If you dislike these kinds of obnoxious ads as much as I do, you are probably already using the pop-up stopper features of your web browser or a third-party pop-up blocker. I’ve been using them as long as they have been available.

It’s no secret that there is a war of sorts — not unlike the war between the spammers and the anti-spam companies — raging between the pop-up ad designers and the pop-up stopper software applications. When the pop-up stoppers successfully stop a certain type of pop-up ad, the pop-up ad designers get to work on a way to beat it and sneak their ads past the blocker.

I’ve noticed an increasing number of these pop-up and slide-in ads sneaking past my blocker lately. You know the ones I mean. Despite your best efforts to stop them, they still manage to invade your screen. The slide-ins, as I call them, are particularly notorious, and since they don’t “pop up” they easily slip by pop-up blockers.

There are some steps you can take to defeat these intrusive advertising methods. The method I use is probably only useful for sites you plan to visit more than once. If it is a site you will probably not visit again, it isn’t really worth the effort of changing the settings for that site in your browser.

I normally use Internet Explorer and it is still the most popular browser in use, so this article relates only to that particular browser. I’m sure there are similar settings available on most of the other popular browsers.

When you come across a sneaky pop-up, pop-under or slide-in ad on a site you will likely want to visit again, you can add that site to your restricted sites list. This prevents the site from executing certain types of code on your PC and since most of these sneaky pop-ups and slide-in ads require that code to function, they will be disabled.

Keep in mind that other functions may also be disabled when you add a site to the restricted sites list, so in some cases, this will not be practical if you need access to those functions for other things. I have found, however, that it seems to be a perfectly resonable solution for sites I visit once in a while just to read a news story or something simple like that.

To add a site to your Internet Explorer restricted sites list, follow these instructions on the Microsoft web site.

Once you have added a particular site to the restricted sites list, you should not be bothered with intrusive advertising methods like pop-ups, pop-unders and slide-ins from that site again. Until the ad designers figure out a way around it, that is.

To Read This Story Please Register: It’s FREE!

I tend to read a lot of news on the net. I’m always following links on various sites that link to news stories on other sites. The Drudge Report is one of the best examples of this.

I don’t know how many times I have followed a link to a news site (usually a web site belonging to a newspaper) only to be greeted by a message similar to this:

‘To access this story, you need to register. It’s free and it’s easy!’

Want to know how many times I have registered after being presented with a message like this? Exactly zero. The last thing I want to see when I am trying to get access a news story that looks interesting is a big fat roadblock.

Some of them are less obnoxious than others. For example, one of them that I regularly run into (can’t recall exactly which one) asks for your zip code, your gender and the year of your birth. That is still a bit of a pain, but I normally input the info since it can be done pretty quickly.

What I don’t want to see is a screen-full of information they want me to fill out to ‘register.’ Many of them want your name, your e-mail address, your street address, telephone number, your gender and your year or birth.

A good example of one of these more obnoxious registration requirements is the web site for the Charlotte Observer newspaper. Just check out www.charlotteobserver.com and click one of the stories on their front page to see how far you get.

I never took the time to think much about why it is they want you to register, but looking at the Charlotte Observer registration form, it is becoming a bit more clear.

As you can see at the bottom of the form, they are presenting a number of ‘offers.’ Things they call ‘Newsletters’ and ‘Email Deals.’ Near the top of the form, where they tout the benefits of registration, they mention ‘offers from our partner CoolSavings.’ There’s a big hint as to why they are requiring registration to access their site.

‘CoolSavings’ is a company that will use the registration information you enter to present targeted advertising to you as you access the newspaper’s web site. They don’t say whether these ‘CoolSavings’ ads will also show up as you surf other sites as well, but if another site you visit also uses ‘CoolSavings’ ad-serving technology, I strongly suspect you will see their ads there also.

The advantages to this kind of targeted advertising are obvious. For example, if I fill out the registration form and sign myself up a male that was born in 1989, I will likely see advertising targeted at 16-year-old boys. Probably ads for the latest video games and other stuff that is likely to be of interest to the average 16-year-old boy.

Each time one of these targeted ads is displayed, the newspaper is likely getting paid by ‘CoolSavings’ for displaying the ad. It’s also possible that the newspaper gets paid only when someone actually clicks on the ad to get more information about that particular offer.

There are many types of advertising in use on the Internet. Some of them are referred to in the industry as CPM ads. In other words, the advertiser pays a fixed amount for each one thousand times the ads is displayed. Other ads called PPC or pay-per-click, are paid for by the advertiser each time someone clicks on the ad.

Getting back to the ‘offers’ at the bottom of the page, these allow you to opt-in to various e-mail subscriptions that the newspaper has agreed to offer up for the purpose of sending out more advertising, so be prepared to be bombarded with lot’s of SPAM if you sign up for these. Oh, I know, technically, it is not SPAM if you signed up for it, but if it walks like a duck’

You might get the impression that I have a problem with Internet advertising, and I can understand how that might happen. The fact is, however, that I have no problem with it at all. What I have a problem with is advertising that makes me feel like it is being forced on me. Like when I am forced to register to view the content of a site.

I am not saying, however, that we should pass any laws or create any new rules regarding advertising on the Internet. I have very strong feelings about the Internet, and believe everyone has a right to run their web site the way they want. This, of course, does not apply to anyone trying to take advantage of others, like the operators of ‘phishing‘ sites or anyone else attempting to scam or otherwise harm other people.

What I am saying is, back off a little will you? I don’t think I have ever visited a newspaper’s web site and failed to find advertising on it. And that’s just fine with me. That’s how newspapers have been making money for a very long time, and it is only logical to see it continue on the Internet.

My point is that the newspapers already have their ads in front of us. We see them! Why make me jump through hoops (register) to see them? I understand that they want to make more money using targeted ads, but by doing so, they are causing many people to click that ‘Back’ button as soon as the registration page shows up. Who the heck wants to type in a username and password just to access a news story?

Yes, I know you can probably just hit the little ‘Remember Me’ check box to store your username and password on your computer and avoid typing it in each time, but then there is the feeling someone is ‘tracking’ you when you log in to read a story. I sure never got that feeling sitting down to read the traditional hard copy version of the newspaper!

I don’t know anything about the statistics which tell these newspapers just how many people leave their site as soon as the registration page appears, but I suspect it is a very significant percentage. You can be sure they are very well aware of exactly what these numbers are. I can only assume that the results they are getting from targeted advertising and other ‘offers’ must make up for the people who refuse to register.

I am noticing a new approach to this issue in use by at least one newspaper. The New York Times was one of the first papers I ran into that demanded registration in order to access their site. Now, it appears, that many be changing.

This morning I clicked a link on a web site that lead to a story on the New York Times web site. Instead of being presented with a registration page, I was presented with a full-page advertisement for a Dell computer. I also find this type of in-your-face advertising rather annoying, but I did find it less annoying than forced registration.

It took me a few seconds of scanning the screen, but I did find the ‘Skip This Ad’ link in tiny print near the upper right corner of the ad. This will shut the ad down and bring you right to the news story. If left alone, the ad will display for a few seconds and then close down and display the news story.

There’s no way I can be sure, but I suspect the New York Times is testing this or has decided to use this in favor the forced registration. This is probably due to the number of people clicking away from their site as soon as the registration page is displayed, or due to sites like ‘Bug Me Not.’

If you are one of those people (like me) who is always becoming annoyed with these forced registration pages you keep running into while attempting to access a news story, ‘Bug Me Not’ may be just what you need.

Simply go to BugMeNot.com and enter the site you are trying to access and you will be presented with a number of username/password combinations that have been set up by other people and shared with the ‘Bug Me Not’ web site. In most cases, these username/password combinations will allow you to access the site without registering yourself.

I’m sure the newspapers were not happy to see that site come online, but that is what makes the net so great. When there is a problem, there is usually some clever, resourceful people that come up with a nice solution.

I wish more newspaper sites would take a hint from the New York Times and explore some less obnoxious methods to boost their advertising revenue. Users love the speed and immediacy of the net, and slowing us down with forced registration schemes is not the way to develop a loyal readership.