Friday, December 27, 2013 Website Review

Recently, my dear mother went to pay a bill online to pay her internet bill and ended up on, a website that appears to pay your bills for you. Knowing that sometimes companies will intentionally redirect their eCommerce transactions to be handled by a third-party site, my mom completed their forms and supplied her credit card number. Afterward she realized that she may have made a mistake and asked me to find out more. With a little research in her browser history, I realized that she had clicked a link from a Google search page.

Looking at their cancellation policy and their BBB rating with 52 complaints in the last 12 months. I realized what this company was actually doing.

Their Game: 
This company makes their money on convenience fees and short cancellation windows. Their website is set up wizard style, where they guide you through the process one question as a time with each question asking for more and more sensitive information by asking you the billing number and then credit card information. Up until now, you don't know that they are going to want to charge you a convenience fee until the next screen which shows you the totals and payment methods. They will default select the "fastest" payment speed which costs a little more and then bill your card once you click to submit the order.

The Fine Print:
This company does not make it obvious that it is an independent third-party service not directly tied to the payee. In fact, you will only notice this if you read the fine print at the bottom of the web page or dig through pages on their website.

Cancellation Nightmare:
They don't want to refund your money so they make cancellation next-to-impossible. In fact if you don't cancel before 10:00 AM or 4:30 PM the same day (depending on the next time after completing the order), you can't cancel at all. They might say this is because your bill payment is being transacted and can't be halted, but I doubt the company has that quick of a turn-around time (hence why they have to payment speeds; neither one being same-day or next-day). With the situation with my mother, she tried to contact someone to cancel within that window and wasn't able to get a hold of anyone. I've encouraged her to talk with the credit card issuer about a reversal as they did not uphold their cancellation policy.

Honest Business? Sure, by somebody's standards...:
This site does not appear to be a scam or illegal, but I wouldn't call their practices ethical either. Just like with your bank or credit-union, it is a bill-pay service. They cut and mail the checks on your behalf and you pay a little more for it. And regardless of tactics, it is the user's responsibility to do their research when using any website including understanding their terms and conditions.

Thursday, November 7, 2013 Scam ( or

Today I learned of a web site called (server [] also hosts or which appear to be Russian and Portuguese versions of the same kind of thing). This site claims to pay you between $2 - $5 USD per article you read. There is no verification system to ensure users read the articles other than a (weak) bot protection system. They say that you must reach a minimum of $100 in order to get paid out and they will pay to a PayPal or Payza account. They claim that the site owners pay them and then they pay you 70% of what they make. Once you request your money, payments are supposed to be paid within 14 days. This has not been verified to actually happen.

A Potential Threat!
Personally, I have serious doubts about this kind of web site. Well it does not appear to be asking for more than your name (first and last), email, and your PayPal account, I speculate this is a system that provides them with a list of real PayPal (ecommerce)  accounts, emails, and possible passwords for those accounts if you use the same password for those accounts as you signed up with. In addition, providing your PayPal or Payza account information could put you at risk.

In addition, they also track referrals. This could provide them with a way to spam your email account as pretending to be someone you know since they know names and who referred who. They can also send you phishing emails pretending to be PayPal or Payza trying to get you to reveal additional important account information.

They also track IP addresses which can reveal more about you and the services you use (your general location, your Internet Service Provider).

Reasons for my distrust:
Don't provide company contact information
Servers hosted in Germany (or Ukraine)
Do not account for US tax requirements and regulations
Poor grammar used through out the site
Russian language used on the site
Fishy revenue model
The thought that Russians are going to pay you money to read English articles

Saturday, September 14, 2013

International Christian Followers Crusade Scam

Here is another old, but good example of a Craigslist rental scam.  This one is from the dear Nicholas Bailey at

Thanks for your email and interest in renting my house..I am Nicholas Bailey, the owner of the house you are making inquiry of…Actually I resided in the house with my family, my wife and my only daughter before and presently we have moved out due to my transfer from my work now in Warsaw,Poland. Presently my house is still available for rent for $1000 (rent already includes utilities).More so Now, i am currently in the (West Africa)for an international Christian follower’s crusade..Pls i want you to note that i spent a lot on my property that i want to give to you for rent,so i will solicit for your absolute maintenance of this house and want you to treat it as your own, It is not the money that is the main problem but i want you to keep it tidy all the time so that i will be glad to see it neat when i come for a check up.I also want you to let me have trust in you as i always stand on my word.
Address of the house.. (2--- W 6-- N, Layton, UT 84041)

It has a dramatic entry foyer with ceramic floor. Extremely spacious 3 bedrooms and 2 bathroom throughout with lots of big windows…nice and light! New neutral paint and some newer carpet..Very quiet, low traffic area. New fridge I believe its absolutely a perfect home for you and your family.Utilities include Water,Trash,Sewer,Gas Etc...


FIRST NAME:__________?
MIDDLE NAME:__________?
LAST NAME:__________?
KIDS_____ (YES/NO), HOW MANY________
PRESENT ADDRESS: _____________________
CITY: _______________
ZIP CODE: ____________
NAME OF PET: _____________?
KIND OF PETS: _____________?
DO YOU SMOKE ______________ ?
DO YOU DRINK ______________?

Looking forward to hearing from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file in case of issuing the receipt for you and contacting you…Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the document and the keys to you,please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i will want you to stick to your words,you know that we have not seen yet and only putting everything into Gods hands,so please do not let us down in this our property and God bless you more as you do this…The house is available for rent at the moment so you are free to move in as soon as you wish to my number..(+23480-2971-7275).…A Deposit of $700 (which happens to be the security deposit) is required before moving in…Feel free to call me for more information and arrangements on how to get the keys and other necessary documents delivered to you...The house will be available for rent for a period of 4 years so you have a choice of deciding how long you intend staying there…

Rent:  $1000 Deposit: $700
3 Bedroom 2 Bathroom
Pet Allowed.

God Bless,

Nicholas Bailey 

Remember to look for a key few points in determining a rental scam:  
  • Are they answering your questions that you've asked in a previous email?
  • Do they only leave an email address (usually Hotmail or Yahoo) to contact them about the rental in the original ad?
  • Do they give you an out-of-the-United-States phone number to contact them at?
  • Do they clearly state that they are not even in the United States right now?
Usually one yes to any of these questions can guarantee that you are dealing with someone who is working on a scam.

Dove Christian Fellowship International Scam

As I have been looking for a new place to rent, I have come across an interesting group that people are referring to as "Dove International" or "Dove Christian Fellowship."

Originally I had found this cute little home and the price seemed about right for the area so I emailed right away as they had only left an email address for contacting about renting.  That should have been my first hint that it was a scam.

This is a little odd, but I have noticed that a lot of scammers have email addresses that end in or  Yahoo seems to be more popular for scams so if yous see only an email address for contact and a Yahoo email address, be weary.   This email address was

As I have come across various scams through renting before, I am always cautious when writing my emails.  I keep them short and sweet and ask very specific questions:

I am very interested in this home.  How much are utilities each month and would it be possible to see this home in person?  I know this area well and love that cute little house.

The lady named "Anne" wrote back:

Thanks for your interest and inquiries about our home. The house is still
available for rent and we are looking for a responsible person/family
to occupy and maintain the house. The house is available for short
and long term lease. My husband and I travelled down to Arizona, for a
program Empowering Youth to Fight Racism, HIV/AIDS, Poverty
and Lack of Education with Dove Christian Fellowship International.
The program is taking place in Many Countries. Later my husband was
transferred to West Africa for the same program. you can email my husband
for more information about our home, email my husband on or

At first I was confused because the first part of the email seemed legitimate.  They had also left a phone number which made it seem real.  However, upon further thinking about it, the email just sounded strange and unnatural for an owner who is renting their place to say so I marked it as spam.  Curious as to what would happen next, I decided to email her "husband" just to see what would happen.  I assumed that they would want my information and wired money so I made sure to keep my email short and sweet again:


Anne said I could email you about your Orem home rental.

Is the home internet ready?  Do the renters pay all utilities?  Also, I am interested in walking through the house with my family, so I'd like to be able to set up a time with you to do that.

The husband's email was exactly as I expected:

Hello Kim,

It great to hear from you, i got your email earlier from my wife about

you making inquiry of our home, 

Due to these program, we are unavailable to take care of our home
for now, We will be away for a while that is the reason why we made up
our mind to put up our home for lease to whom ever that will take good
care of it. Please i want you to note that we really spent a lot on
our property, so i will solicit for you absolute maintenance of this house
and want you to treat it as your own. , Deposit fee is $500.
you can call me on (+234) 809-755-0043.

The Utilities include Water, Trash, Sewer, Gas and Electricity, and it has been
included with the month rent.

Below is the house description:

Accommodation Features
.................................................. .
Wood Floor :
Heater :
Central Heating :
Equipped Kitchen :
Tv: Cable/Satellite TV:
Internet :
Air Conditioning:
• Full Kitchen
• Refrigerator:
• Garage/Car park
• pets allowed.

Application form has been attached with Agreement form, You can

download and fill it out, and email it back to me for Approval.

So get back to me when you get the done okay

I did not write back after that because they were not answering my questions and because I now had two telephone numbers for him and neither were the same - in fact, one was not even in the United States.  It also seemed to not be real because the last email I received was written in very poor English with odd wording.
Not all of these reasons as to why this Dove Christian Fellowship International is a scam will fit all emails - some may actually be legit.  Unfortunately, however, this one is a scam. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013 - Text Message Scam

Recently I received a text message from an unknown number (18324646571), saying it was from a friend of mine and that I should click a link. The link alone is a dead giveaway that I should be concerned. I decided to trace the request path to see how the link resolved and what would be waiting on the other end. This meant I would have to see where the link took me (this was done in a controlled environment to prevent against possible viruses and trojans). I watched as the domain resolve against several other servers and eventually ended up at the homepage.

Some people online have said this is a virus, but the truth is, that's wrong. This is a simple (and exploited) marketing tactic someone is trying to use to make some money. Basically here is what is happening.

A company obtained names and numbers with the knowledge of who has who as contacts. This could be obtained using a virus or trojan but some people have stated that it was stolen from mobile carriers (which I think is more likely). The company connects to a advertising network as a publisher (someone who sends out spam, advertisements, or displays advertisements on their website). They assigned each person a unique code to track which users click and to control the tracking data associated with the click.

If you click your link it resolves against a page that converts this code into tracking data, like this.

The people publishing this link are going to get a kick back from for all traffic that is referred there. And probably even more if the person downloads their software. Looking at the link, you can see that they  track the site that sent it out, the offer/advertisement (i.e. "Hey buddy, check out this link! - Your friend"), the mobile sites connected, and how the user interacted with the offer (SMS).

Well this isn't a virus or a scam necessarily, it is spam and an exploitation of user data. Basically this is the text message version of junk mail.

Tariff DNS Scam Email - DreamHost Phishing Scam

Recently, I received an email that was supposed to have come from my hosting company. It said I needed to confirm a request for changing of a tariff plan. Although, the wording was awful and it was very non-specific as to the recipient. The email I got was as follows:

Dear DreamHost client,

In your account has been created request for changing of a tariff plan. 
It is necessary confirmation of this request. 
You can do it in the section (Change tariff) Virtual Offices :


DreamHost hosting Team.

Someone who is rushing may not read the contents of this email and just click link. This clever scammer set up a catch-all subdomain so that the link would even appear to be directing to dreamhost. The link would take you here:

At first glance, this appears to go to, but notice that it is really all part of a complex sub-domain meant to confuse the recipient. The root domain is actually:

Looking at the whois record for this domain we can find out the following information.

This domain is hosted by and resolves with domain servers to by a company with the following registration record:

XOL Holding
Beirut, Beirut xxxxx

The technical contact information for this domain is:
Nassar Center
5th Floor
Charles El-Helou Avenue, Rmeil
Beirut,  20727508

This happens to be the ISP end point, a company in Lebanon called Terra Net. This company has chosen to not disclose more information about the scammers.

So looking at the main website for, we find out some interesting information. One, that they used a company called art-promotion to build and design their site. This company happens to also be in Lebanon, so I looked up their whois and found that they were also hosted on and contact information.

Saab, Jean
Art Promotion
Nahr el Mot
Beirut, -

So I went to look closer at and found that this might be a cover site (or some poor site that got hacked). The poor design and lack of ecommerce functionality is what seem to indicate that there was more than what meets the eye.You can't checkout with any of the items they sell. It's difficult to think that isn't part of the scam.

Regardless of who this phishing scam came from, be sure to take the time to read your emails before you go clicking links and signing in.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

RX Relief Pharmacy Discount Card - Healthcare Alliance (Script Relief, LLC) Scam?

Recently we received the RXrelief Pharmacy Discount Cards from a company called Healthcare Alliance (or Script Relief, LLC) in the mail. We we're going to toss it in the trash and then I noticed the simple letter that accompanied them and what it said. Was it true? Could I really save money on prescription drugs for nothing? I decided I needed to figure out if this was a scam.

Who is Healthcare Alliance? I've never heard of Healthcare Alliance before. They're name and logo look pretty generic, too. Who are these guys? Where did they get my information? What is their angle? Like every business they have to make money to stay in business. In the letter they talk about providing discounts for over 50,000 medicines.

Other Speculations
Other users online have worried that using these cards will provide the company with your personal information. If you got the cards in the mail with your name on the envelope, then they already have all that information and it seems like it would be in dangerous territory to violate HIPAA laws which protects confidential medical information. One user said they make their profit from networking with drug manufacturers.

My Theory: Not a Scam
In order to give you a discount on your medicine, the company providing the discount has to know what "member" used the card and for what. This means that they can track you (the information they already have on your or the information from the pharmacist) and what you buy (birth control, antibiotics, etc.). Then they go to companies that manufacture drugs for those kinds of symptoms. This information could be sold to all those groups or just to the highest bidder. By using the card, you agree to be a member of their network meaning they aren't violating any HIPAA laws by getting your information.

You can get a card right now without providing any of your personal information immediately.

If a company can already provide proof that a person has some association with an illness or disease or that they repeatedly buy a specific medicine, then they have reduced the amount of work the pharmaceutical sales reps would have to do just to find qualified/interested individuals. This means they could turn around and sell a lead for what could be a lot of money.

I spoke with a Hospital Pharmacist who confirmed my theory that information is shared with the discount provider when you use the card.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2 Free Southwest Tickets: Scam?

The Gig

On Facebook (and other websites) there have been links flying around that tell people you can get 2 Free Southwest Tickets.

The Truth

This isn't a scam but an incentivized offer. There are many rewards companies that do similar things to this, offering "free" things for only a little information and "participation".

Why Information?

These companies do several things to try and make money. First, they want to acquire as much information as they can about you (for this offer, they have you give up your Facebook info and then ask you for more). They do this so they can turn around and sell that information. Your information is referred to as a lead and will generally sell anywhere from $0.10 to several dollars. The buyers of this information are generally salespeople who want to sell you something.

What is "Participation"?

Generally in these cases, "participation" means that you have to be a part of one or more offers. These offers are products or services that you buy and by purchasing/subscribing to these (and keeping them for at least a specified amount of time) you are then qualified for 2 free Southwest Tickets.

In the case of 2 Free Southwest Tickets, you are required to:

  • 18 years old
  • Legal US resident
  • Provide Valid email
  • Provide Valid Mailing Address
  • Cannot live in Washington State, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands or  non-contiguous boundaries of the US
  • Provide Zip Code
  • More contact information
  • Demographic information
  • Acquire two sponsor action points from the Top Offers Group (buy 2 things from this product list)
  • Acquire two offers from the Prime Offers Group (buy 2 more things from this product list)
  • Acquire 9 offers from the Premium Offers Group (buy 9 things from this product list)
  • Refer three friends to register and complete the required number of sponsor offers
  • If there is a credit card offer, you must use the card,  balance transfer or cash advance, AND keep it for 60 days
  • Retails offers must not be returned or canceled
  • Billing information on all purchases must be exactly the same
  • All this must be completed in 90 days
  • After everything above is done, you have to log in and print a certificate which is mailed in
  • Your 2 "Free" Southwest Tickets will be sent in 30 days
After you meet eligibility, have given all your information, purchased 13 different products/services, and spammed your friends to do the same and they complete it, then you have to jump through half a dozen more hoops and you will get 2 Southwest Airline Tickets 30 days later.


You don't get something for nothing.

Gephardt Approved Scam?

The Skinny

In Utah, there is a company called Gephardt Approved. As I understand, other companies pay them to get reviewed and "approved" all based on the name of Bill Gephardt, a man who claims to be honest and respectable. When someone I know had a bad experience with one of their "approved" companies and emailed Gephardt about it, the Gephardt Approved team emailed his complaint on to the "approved" company with an added message to something to the effect of: "here, you deal with this".

The Problem

The "approved" company my friend had been dealing with was small and his complaints were first given to the head of the "approved" company, but when they rudely argued that they had done nothing wrong, he reached out to the Gephardt team to do what they promise on their website:

Seeing as to how Gephardt handled this complaint and my friend hoping they would be his advocate, I began to wonder why they did absolutely nothing about his issue. I couldn't help but feel that they are a company that is just worried about getting paid by businesses regardless of customer complaints. It doesn't help their case when this isn't the first time a company has continued to be Gephardt Approved despite other customer complaints. The question to ask is: Why would a company that gets paid by businesses, fire his own customers? That is bad business and doesn't make sense. Gephardt Approved is not even approved by the Better Business Bureau.

To be Fair

OK, so maybe it was an uneducated employee who handled my friend's request and maybe Bill Gephardt himself would have handled it differently, but in the end my friend was rudely treated by both the "approved" company and Gephardt Approved.


I now avoid businesses that say "Gephardt Approved" because to me, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As we all get to do, you get to decide what this means to you.

Thankfully, this blog is NOT Gephardt Approved and never will be.

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