Be on the wave or under it
The News – 05/13/03
The eBay Suspension Fraud
I recently became aware of yet another email fraud scam,
although I don’t quite know the point, as the fraudster bolted
and took down their Web site before I could go there.
Over the last few years, a popular method of separating
Web users from their money has been to set up Web sites with names
that look very similar to legitimate businesses’ and then get
unsuspecting users to enter their passwords or credit card numbers.
Apparently this ruse was used recently in conjunction with an
email that informed an eBay user that his or her account has been
suspended “due to concerns we have for the safety and integrity
of the eBay community.”
The official-looking email, reported by John Audette,
moderator of the I-Sales email list, ends by saying, “To update your member
profile copy and paste the following link in your web browser,
after you pass the account verification process, your account
will be enabled for further use.” The link now turns up a not
found error, but there’s no telling how many people gave up sensitive
details before the miscreants moved on.
This fraud is somewhat similar to another eBay-related
fraud I wrote
about in SNS about a year ago. In that one, the user gets a “receipt”
for an eBay purchase that they, of course, did not make. The email
says, “If you feel that your credit card has been billed wrongly,
please visit http://ebayservices-cancelorder.cjb.net and fill
out all the needed information to cancel the following order.”
Of course, one of the bits of “needed information” is the user’s
credit card number. Gotcha!
It’s important whenever you are entering sensitive information
to not only check for the little lock symbol at the bottom of
your browser window (which indicates a secure connection) but
also to check the URL itself. If it looks even the least bit fishy
(www.eebay.com or ebay.imabadguy.com, for example) go to the real
site and post a query or call the business for confirmation. I
almost didn’t complete signing up for Sprint wireless because
during the process, I got sent to a site called sprintspectrum.com.
Turns out that site is OK and handled Sprint equipment sales.
But it’s not always OK. For example, can you tell which
of the following Sprint-like domain names are owned by Sprint,
and which are owned by others?
These are just a few of the hundreds of domain names that begin with the word sprint.
You’d think there’d be a law against this sort of thing, but apparently
trademark owners need a bit of luck on their side to prevail against
I recently researched a domain name that was the name
of a client prospect, but which the prospect did not own. The
domain was registered to a company called Ultimate Search out
of Hong Kong. These guys have been on the wrong side of domain disputes
for a while. Their business model appears to be to register domains
that would otherwise belong to legitimate businesses and then
point them to porn sites.
Check out this bit of editorializing in an article
about the company:
Ultimate Search's claimed business practice is the registration
of short, generic or otherwise useful domain names for development
in its searching service. Unsurprisingly, given this activity,
Ultimate is no stranger to UDRP [Uniform
Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy] proceedings. It was involved
in a famous case against PriceWaterhouseCoopers
in which it successfully defended its registration of pwc.com
(see: PriceWaterhouseCoopers loses domain
name challenge - 27th May, 2002) and also successfully managed
to obtain a finding of reverse domain name hijacking against a
Brazilian company who tried to claim its domain name paparazzo.com.
I remember that PWC fight and was astonished at the
time that, a) PriceWaterhouse was too
lame to have beaten anyone to the punch – after all they had to
be the first to know that they were intending to merge with Coopers
& Lybrand – and b) a judge actually sided with a shady company
against a big, powerful, rich one.
All of this underscores the need for your business to
do defensive registration – the registering of dozens or hundreds
of domain names similar to your own to prevent confusion and fraud
in the marketplace. This practice shouldn’t be limited to the
registering of yournamehere-sucks.com and the like. It should
encompass sound-alike names and misspellings as well.
I-Sales Discussion List
- Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: My article, “Innovative Marketers
Target Unwired Customers” was published in the NetSuds newsletter.
Coming Soon: A new eBook, Be On
the Wave Or Under It™ will collect the best of SNS’ insights
over the last couple of years, along with additional material
from CTOMentor white papers and new
material. It will make a great gift (Father’s Day?) for associates
and friends in need of a guide to the latest and greatest technology.
Watch for more information in upcoming SNS issues.
I was quoted extensively on eLearning
in a recent issue of the Minneapolis magazine, Upsize, which is aimed at growing businesses.
A couple issues ago I debuted SNS Begware,
an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation
by tipping your server via PayPal.
See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $43.48.
I’ve reworked the TrendSpot and Opinion
sections, adding a Prediction
Tracking page to track the various predictions I’ve made,
and also added a Stuff I Said page with some quotes of things I said a
decade or so ago on the Net.
I repurposed and adapted an article about the wireless service
known as Short Messaging Service (SMS) for the Reside newsletter.
It’s entitled, Wherever they go, there you are
and it points out how marketers can use – carefully – this new
way to contact their customers.
I’m featured in Manyworlds’ Thought Leader Showcase, which lists a few of the white
papers I’ve done. I’ve also added their fancy icon to the StratVantage
- Qurb Your Enthusiasm! If you want to wage war against
the spam in your inbox, one way to do it is to install a filtering
program on your computer. While no email filter is perfect –
most either have problems with false positives (blocking mail
you want) and false negatives (letting spam through) – Qurb
stops 100 percent of spam, according to a review on C|Net. It does this by taking
the whitelist approach: The software
examines your contact list and email folders and permits only
those email addresses it finds there to communicate with you.
Naturally, anyone legitimate who emails you before you can scan
their business card into your system (you do have a business card scanner, don’t you?) gets dumped into the
spambox. If a spam message gets through,
you can tag it so it is blocked the next time.
One downside to the whitelist method
comes into play if you ever send yourself a message. Qurb
then adds your email address to the whitelist,
and any spammer out there who is spoofing your email address
(changing the From field to make it
look like the email is coming from somewhere else) will make
it into your Inbox. Qurb is only available for Outlook 2000 or 2002 so those
of you with a real email client will have to look elsewhere.
Qurb has a free download, or you can buy it for $24.95.
Other PC-resident spam filters include McAfee’s SpamKiller, which I bought for my mom. I didn’t like
it because it doesn’t work within the actual Outlook Express
or Outlook programs. You review and approve/deny potential spam
in a separate program. That seems a bit kludgy
to me. YMMV.
Thanks to Prospective SNS Reader Kyle Stotz
for the pointer.
- The Business Case for Wireless Access: Regular SNS Readers know I’m
a bit ambivalent about whether there’s money to be made by providing
Wi-Fi (wireless LAN) access points (see my NetSuds article for example). Well the Old Gray Lady
– you know, the All the News That’s Fit to Print people – seems
to agree that the value of Wi-Fi access may be in its ability
to attract customers to unrelated businesses. Witness their
interview with Joan Griffith, owner of the Wild Wood art café
in Austin, Texas (the country’s most unwired city). Ms. Griffith
“said she offered free Wi-Fi access because it was far more
important to her to increase the number of customers than to
make a little bit of money from an access surcharge. Besides,
she said, free access breeds good will, which in turn breeds
Bingo! The Times continues on to predict that “wireless carriers
are perhaps taking in a nice sum now, but as competition increases,
prices will fall, and the margins will narrow to the point where
it makes little or no point to charge for the access.” Indeed,
after an initial few-hundred-dollar cash outlay, Ms. Griffith
is paying only an additional $40 a month for the extra bandwidth
her customers use. That’s pretty cheap advertising if it brings
in a few extra customers.
But you have to ask yourself what will happen when every Tom,
Dick & Starbucks is offering free Wi-Fi access. Wi-Fi at
that point becomes the ante, and you offer it to retain customers,
not attract new ones. That’s my prediction, and I think it will
play out over the next couple of years, at most. Could this
finally be the driver that revitalizes the telecom industry?
New York Times (registration required)
- Taking Hot Pix: Through a bit of serendipity while
researching the lead article this issue
I found a site hawking a “Precise Fever Screening Camera.” This
device, seemingly rushed to market to capitalize on the SARS
epidemic, triggers an alarm if the subject’s temperature is
above 37.5°C (99.5 F, the rather bizarre threshold medical authorities
are using to diagnose the disease). The device claims a resolution of less
than 0.12°C and takes pictures at 30 frames per second. Sounds
way too good to be true, and the site name, Sprint-asia.com
also sounds like a scam.
Turns out, however, that this device may in fact be real, and
is manufactured by the apparently reputable Land
Instruments International. So what is this camera doing
being shilled on a possibly-fraudulent Web site out of Singapore with the shady-sounding name Sprint-asia.com?
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