FYI>>Internet ScamBusters #42
carl william spitzer iv
cwsiv_2nd at JUNO.COM
Sat Feb 24 19:00:18 MST 2001
Internet ScamBusters (tm)
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud
By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright (c) 2001 Audri and Jim Lanford
Issue #42 February 23, 2001
We've got a great issue for you this week -- some very
important Internet ScamBusters snippets.
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we'd like to pass the 100,000 mark as quickly as possible.
If you have any friends or colleagues who would benefit from
Internet ScamBusters, please either forward them this issue
or email them to subscribe at http://www.scambusters.org/
Just please don't spam.
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you do so now (especially after you read this issue).
Xcleaner is an anti-spyware and surfing history eraser
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Let's get started...
Internet ScamBusters Snippets
A Consumer Watchdog With Teeth
In an effort to keep fraudsters from slipping through the
cracks, the US government has created The Sentinel. It's an
online database of all sorts of information regarding Inter-
net scams and fraud.
Sentinel is accessible by every law enforcement agency in
the US, as well as a number in Canada and Australia. The
ability to coordinate information and enforcement efforts is
expected to go a long way to making it harder for the crooks
to get away with their evil deeds.
In addition to making it easy for people to file complaints
with the appropriate agencies, Sentinel provides a great
deal of useful information for consumers.
For example, they provide a lot of information that can be
helpful in protecting yourself from identity theft, a major
concern among Internet users.
They also offer some interesting statistics on the number of
complaints, and the impact of the various types of fraud.
The "Top 10 Categories" by number of complaints are:
23% Identity Theft
11% Internet Services and Computers
9% Prizes/Sweepstakes and Lotteries
8% Internet Auctions
7% Advance Fee Loans and Credit Repair Offers
6% Magazine Subscription Offers and Buyers Clubs
6% Telephone: Pay-per-call/Information Services
5% Business Opportunities and Work-at-Home Plans
5% Charitable Solicitations
5% Travel, Vacation and Timeshare Plans
All remaining categories totaled only 15%.
While investment fraud was only a very small percentage of
complaints filed, it was right up there with business oppor-
tunity scams at the top of the list in terms of cost to the
These are perennially among the most damaging types of
scams, so this isn't a surprise.
Buyer Beware With Domain Registration Companies
To say that we've been VERY concerned with some of what
we've been seeing from the companies that handle domain
registrations is a huge understatement.
Here are two examples:
One very major company has started sending out "Notices" to
domain holders who have registered their domains with other
These notices look remarkably like invoices, and if "paid,"
result in your domain(s) being switched to this company's
system. Often at much higher prices than their competitors.
Recipients who have transferred domains from them to other
registrars have received letters marked "FINAL NOTICE." It's
safe to assume that a large number of people will panic and
pay that "bill," for fear their domains will be de-regis-
tered and they'll lose them.
Each notice does bear a statement that it's not an invoice.
It's in small print, and likely to be missed.
If you registered your domain with one company and get one
of these "Notices" from a different company, don't pay it.
Carefully check any such notices you receive to see if they
Another example is a policy by a different domain registra-
tion company that now automatically renews domain names by
charging your credit card unless you specifically opt out.
In other words, even if you move your domain name (as we
did), your credit card will be charged for the domain you
had registered with this company unless you explicitly opt
out of this service. (The default is opt-in, but you're
never told about this.) And, it's hard to find where to opt
out -- it's completely buried on their site. They do eventu-
ally let you opt out if you can find and fill out their
We received an extremely disturbing report just as this
issue was being readied for sending. The report alleges that
a new and very popular online voice chat program is actually
using a virus-like system to get people to spam their
The way it's said to work is this: In the program is a
screen that encourages you to tell a friend about the pro-
gram and get chances to win a prize. The problem is, if you
enter one address and hit Send, the program allegedly will
grab your Outlook or Outlook Express address book and send
the contest promotion to every address in it!
(This type of problem is one of the reasons we don't use
Microsoft email software.)
We do encourage you to be extremely careful before using
referral systems that are built into any program on your
computer. This would not be a difficult trick to pull off.
We'll let you know what the results of our test were in the
We're not optimistic about this being a hoax, for several
reasons. The biggest one being that the company admits in
addresses with third parties.
We suspect that they're counting on people not reading the
will be used before you give it to anyone.
This tactic is particularly distressing to us (and I'm sure
to other companies) that run legitimate tell-a-friend pro-
grams, because legitimate tell-a-friend programs are a great
way to spread the word. You can check out our legitimate
tell-a-friend program at
More Problems For Users Of MS Emailers
There have been reports in the news lately of a virus that
spreads like any trojan, and also sends the originator
copies of all emails sent by infected parties. It's called
an email "wiretap." (Not to be confused with the FBI's
There have been resurgences of a number of past viruses and
trojans, as well as porn spams that will open your browser
to pages you might not like to read. Ones you certainly
don't want your kids reading.
Some of these are said to email password and/or credit card
info, or copies of your address book itself, to some other
person. Someone who is surely not on the right side of the
And then there's the recent outbreak of the "Anna Kourniko-
va" trojan. It's pretty unremarkable as viruses and trojans
go. Except for one detail...
The guy who wrote it can't program a lick. He put it togeth-
er using a "Do it yourself" virus kit.
Yep. Hundreds of thousands of computers infected by a pro-
gram that could have been constructed by anyone who can
point and click.
That should scare you.
There are serious privacy issues that go beyond just the
problems of viruses. Because so many people have poor secur-
ity on their systems, these things spread fast. And they can
take down whole ISPs with the loads they create. To under-
stand how this happens, picture every person in your Outlook
or Outlook Express address book getting a 30 kilobyte or
larger email from you. Then picture them sending the same
thing to everyone in their address books. Etc.
That's what happens with these. They're almost all targeted
to take advantage of security problems with those email
Maybe you have the posting address for an unmoderated list
in your address book, and every member gets a copy of the
email. Or maybe it hits the central person in your company.
Or... You get the picture.
The way to stop this is to make sure you:
especially applies to Outlook and Outlook Express.
B. Use a good anti-virus program, and keep it updated.
C. Never run attachments you get by email.
D. Consider using a non-Microsoft email program.
We've recommended these steps before. Nothing new there.
Except that the problems are escalating. And they're having
some serious side effects. See the next snippet for more...
Which Is Worse: The Disease Or The Cure?
A recent outcome of all this is that a lot of ISPs and web
hosts are filtering incoming email, and removing anything
with a .exe attachment. Some are refusing even Word docs.
(!) Others have taken to scanning and refusing emails based
on the content of the message itself.
This raises important privacy concerns. Once they start
filtering their customers' email based on what they think is
appropriate, it's a slippery slope to tread. What *should*
they filter on? Dirty words? Business phrases that the ISP
thinks are common in spams? Combinations of words and/or
phrases the ISP thinks would be bad for business?
We know of one person who can't send email OUT with his
domain name in it because it contains a phrase his ISP has
decided is a sign of spam. A publisher we know had a copy of
his ezine returned undelivered because it contained a phrase
the ISP thought was a problem.
The phrase? "Search engine."
Hotmail has started dropping any bulk email (which includes
all newsletters and discussion list posts) into a separate
folder that many of their members think is only for spam.
Between spam and viruses, we are creating the very real risk
of legitimate email being refused automatically. That's a
very big problem.
How an ISP handles its own servers is its own business. But
they should inform their customers about any filtering they
do of incoming email. You need to know if these things are
going to affect you.
Ask your ISP and your web host if they do any type of fil-
tering of inbound email. Get the specifics if they do. Then
decide for yourself if you're willing to take the potential
risk of lost emails due to their policies.
If not, tell them. And spread the word among other users of
the service. If they continue to use policies that you feel
might interfere with your business, don't make an issue of
it. Just change ISPs.
And tell them why.
In the meantime, make sure you're not contributing to the
problem. Never buy from spammers, and never allow yourself
to pass on viruses to other users.
Online, as off, there's a price for freedom. Vigilance and
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