How could you not trust a face like that? I’m sure his story is 100% legit!
Self-proclaimed South African Prophet and founder of the Incredible Happenings church, Pastor Mboro (real name: Paseka Motsoeneng), claims that on Easter Sunday he ascended physically to Heaven for a guided tour from Jesus and his (Jesus’ not Pastor Mboro’s) “hot, young wife”. Best of all, he had his Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone on hand to document it all with pictures! Which he is TOTALLY going to share with anyone and everyone… who makes a small donation of 5,000 South African Rand (about $351.43 USD) to his church.
Needless to say, some folks have a problem with these claims. Especially the whole making-money-off-pics-of-Heaven thing. This has left Pastor Mboro both confused and sad. He’s especially unhappy with the folks who took to social media to mock him with a number of memes like the ones below:
So, being the amazingly Godly man that he is, he announced that he would release the pictures for FREE on his Facebook page on Sunday! At last we’ll have real, photographic proof of the existence of Heaven along with Jesus and his hot, young wife!
He was facing extortion charges for offering the photos for a price, before he claims his Galaxy S5 was stolen.
“The pictures were really there, I saw them. We suspect one of the boys washing the Prophet’s car took the phone. But they all denied taking it, even after we threatened them,” one of Mboro’s bodyguards told reporters. “All those who have deposited money will be refunded.”
Oh, that’s a tough break! Apparently he wasn’t aware that he could set up his phone, which runs on the Android platform, to automatically back up any pictures he took to his Google account which would’ve mitigated the tragedy of having his phone stolen. You’d think he would’ve put that phone in a safety deposit box or a safe or something.
Surely getting a selfie with Jesus and his hot, young wife is a once-in-a-lifetime experience he is unlikely to see again. Not to mention all those amazing vistas obscured by countless numbers of souls milling about praising God 24/7. This could’ve been something to finally shut all us dumb atheists up with all our dumb requests for stupid “evidence.”
Oh well, I suppose it’s a lesson learned for next time. Turn on that automatic backup feature, folks! You’ll never know when Jesus might invite you up for a tour of his crib!
There’s been a rather nasty meme going around on Facebook recently that suggests there’s an easter egg in iOS that will give your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch a retro looking original Macintosh theme if you set it’s clock back to January 1st, 1970:
NOTE: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS!
What really happens if you do the above is you’ll end up with an essentially bricked iPhone that isn’t able to get past the boot screen. The reason why has to do with how dates and times are stored in most operating systems these days and a bug someplace in iOS. YouTuber Tom Scott has put together a handy little explanation on what is probably happening and why:
So, as a PSA to those folks out there who have one of these devices, don’t try to set the clock back to January 1st, 1970 unless you want a very expensive paperweight. Presumably Apple will get around to patching this bug at some point, but even when they do there’s not a good reason to do it anyway as there is no easter egg associated with that date.
Being a famous and world renowned blogger such as I am I tend to get a lot of phishing emails where the authors attempt to convince me to send them money. This time out it arrived in the form of yet another letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard from the “FBI.” I got twoemails from them just days apart back in 2008. Back then they contained offers to help me acquire money that I had inherited in another country.
This one is a different story. This one is a threat to ruin my life. Well, it starts that way at least. Then it suggests that the sender knows I wasn’t the person who engaged in the illegal activity because my identity had been used by someone else, but I could still face the consequences unless this person helps me because he’s a Good Christian® and would hate to see me go to jail. (You gotta love how they toss some religion in there.) So if I wire some dude in some other country who doesn’t even have an FBI mailing address $250 he’ll get the whole thing straightened out for me PLUS I’ll get the $10.5 million that I was promised in the previous emails that got me in this mess to begin with! This guy is all over the place and can’t decide which route he should go to convince me to send some money. If one approach is good then all of them must be better, right?
Here’s the hilarious email complete with spelling and grammar errors:
From: “Federal Bureau Of Investigation”<firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: Final Warning From FBI.
FBI headquarters in Washington, d.c.
Federal bureau of investigation
J. Edgar Hoover building
935 Pennsylvania avenue,
NW Washington, d.c. 20535-0001
Federal bureau of investigation (FBI)
Attention to you. This is the final warning you are going to receive from me do you get me????
I hope your understand how many times this message has been sent to you?.
We have warned you so many times and you have decided to ignore our e-mails or because you believe we have not been instructed to get you arrested, and today if you fail to respond back to us with the payment then, we would first send a letter to the mayor of the city where you reside and direct them to close your bank account until you have been jailed and all your properties will be confiscated by the FBI. We would also send a letter to the company/agency that you are working for so that they could get you fired until we are through with our investigations because a suspect is not suppose to be working for the government or any private organization.
Your id which we have in our database been sent to all the crimes agencies in (USA) for them to insert you in their website as an internet fraudsters and to warn people from having any deals with you. This would have been solved all this while if you had gotten the certificate signed, endorsed and stamped as you where instructed in the e-mail below. this is the federal bureau of investigation (FBI) am writing in response to the e-mail you sent to us and am using this medium to inform you that there is no more time left to waste because you have been given from the 13th of January. As stated earlier to have the document endorsed, signed and stamped without failure and you must adhere to this directives to avoid you blaming yourself at last when we must have arrested and jailed you for life and all your properties confiscated.
You failed to comply with our directives and that was the reason why we didn’t hear from you on the 13th as our director has already been notified about you get the process completed yesterday and right now the warrant of arrest has been signed against you and it will be carried out in the next 48hours as strictly signed by the FBI director. We have investigated and found out that you didn’t have any idea when the fraudulent deal was committed with your information’s/identity and right now if you id is placed on our website as a wanted person, i believe you know that it will be a shame to you and your entire family because after then it will be announce in all the local channels that you are wanted by the FBI.
As a good Christian and a honest man, I decided to see how i could be of help to you because i would not be happy to see you end up in jail and all your properties confiscated all because your information’s was used to carry out a fraudulent transactions, i called the efcc and they directed me to a private attorney who could help you get the process done and he stated that he will endorse, sign and stamp the document at the sum of $250.00 usd only and i believe this process is cheaper for you. You need to do everything possible within today and tomorrow to get this process done because our director has called to inform me that the warrant of arrest has been signed against you and once it has been approved, then the arrest will be carried out, and from our investigations we learn that you were the person that forwarded your identity to one impostor/fraudsters in Benin Republic last year when he had a deal with you about the transfer of some illegal funds into your bank account
which is valued at the sum of la
I pleaded on your behalf so that this agency could give from tomorrow on,so that you could get this process done because i learn that you were sent several e-mails without getting a response from you, please bear it in mind that this is the only way that i can be able to help you at this moment or you would have to face the law and its consequences once it has befall on you. You would make the payment through western union money transfer with the below details.
Receiver name: Okagbue Christian
Country: Republic Nigeria
Text question: You
Text answer: Me
Send the payment details to me which are senders name and address, mtcn number, text question and answer used and the amount sent. Make sure that you didn’t hesitate making the payment down to the agency by today or tomorrow so that they could have the certificate endorsed, signed and stamped immediately without any further delay. After all this process has been carried out, then we would have to proceed to the bank for the transfer of your compensation funds which is valued at the sum of $10,500.000.00 MILLION U.S. Dollars which was suppose to have been transferred to you all this while.
Note/ all the crimes agencies have been contacted on this regards and we shall trace and arrest you if you disregard this instructions. You are given a grace tomorrow to make the payment for the document after which your failure to do that will attract a maximum arrest and finally you will be appearing in court for act of terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking charges, so be warned not to try any thing funny because you are been watched.
Thanks as i wait for your response
Agent Norman Wood.
Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI)
Seems there’s a new scam making the rounds where someone calls you up and says that President Obama has just signed a law that created a grant to help folks pay their utility bills and all you need to do to qualify for it is to provide the caller with your social security number and your bank’s routing number.
Channel 2s Tony Thomas spoke to a Griffin woman who fell for the scam. Loneiyce Washington even introduced her friends to what she thought was a legitimate offer. They ended up getting scammed, too.
Washington said she thought Obama passed a law that provided credits to help her and others pay their utility bills, she told Thomas.
Investigators said the scammers ask for peoples Social Security numbers and bank routing numbers. The victims are then given a fake routing number to a bank and the money routed will go toward paying their utility bills. Washington thought after the money had been routed, her bills had been paid. But that wasnt the case and she said she didnt have to give out her private information.
“I didnt think it was a scam because they are not asking for personal information,” Washington said.
Apparently these folks don’t consider their Social Security number to be a form of personal information.
The story doesn’t say, but I’d hope that these were older folks who could be excused for being a little slow on the uptake. If it was anyone under 70, though, then they need a swift slap up the side of their head. Do not hand out your Social Security and bank routing numbers to strangers on the phone pushing too-good-to-be-true offers.
Sometimes I despair over the huge number of people who have no ethical issues with latching onto the latest buzzword to try and scam people with bullshit products. It doesn’t help that the general public is aware of said buzzwords, but doesn’t generally understand what they really mean.
Take the word “organic.” For a lot of people that word is synonymous with “natural” which they assume means that it’s good for you. Among the health food conscious, “organic” has been a buzzword for years so it’s no surprise that it’s slapped on all sorts of products that aren’t truly organic. Take, for example, bottled water:
Perched on a white tablecloth we noticed some very sleek water bottles, labeled Illanllyr SOURCE. A serious guy named Eric Ewell eagerly offered us a taste, “Try this pristine organic water.” We choked back a giggle. Organic? Really?
As the company’s website says, “Illanllyr … comes from our sources beneath certified organic fields in west Wales in the UK.” So, Ewell says, the water has never been tainted with chemicals, making it organic as it as it emerges from the ground.
Ewell is full of shit. First off, water is a chemical. Most of us don’t think of it as a chemical, but it is so to say that it’s “untainted with chemicals” is technically untrue. Perhaps that’s nitpicky, but it’s also true that water from natural aquifers often contains other trace chemicals that occur naturally in the environment.
Second, water contains no carbon and is not the product of decay or capable of decay so it is not an organic material, which is part of what defines something as being “organic.” The fact that they extract their water through a “certified organic field” does nothing to make the water organic.
Now perhaps the standards for labeling something as organic in the U.K. are vastly different than here in the U.S., but according to the USDA both water and salt can not be certified as organic:
Can salt & water be certified as organic under the NOP?
No. Salt and water cannot be certified as organic. They must also be excluded when calculating the percentage of organically produced ingredients.
I could only find one place online offering the product and I’m not going to link to them, but apparently this stuff sells for $1.59 for a 11.2 ounce bottle (and Google Shopping estimates that with taxes and shipping your total jumps to $11.41 a bottle!). That’s roughly $18.17 a gallon!
Granted, all bottle water is ridiculously overpriced, but here you’re paying extra for bullshit claims that add nothing to the product other than cost. But damn if those bottles aren’t purty!
Sadly, it doesn’t appear these guys are the only ones trying to market organic water. If you buy any of them you have Cheez Whiz for brains.
The manager wasn’t available, so the caller told the employee who answered that he was from the corporate office and was calling about a customer who had lost her wallet at the store. He said a wallet was turned in the prior week with $1,200 but the money was missing when the owner came to claim it. He went on to say surveillance footage showed an employee taking the money, and it needed to be replaced to avoid being sued by the rightful owner.
The man instructed her to gather all the money in the store, get in a taxi and meet a man described as the owner’s fiancé at a McDonald’s in Milwaukee. Because of the ongoing internal investigation, she was to tell no one of her activities.
She followed his directions and handed off more than $400 to a man. After returning to the store, the man called to tell her she did a good job and would be receiving a raise. If the store took in any more money that day, she was to deliver that, too, he added.
You see that part I highlighted up there? That should be a big red warning flag that someone is trying to scam you. Why the hell would you be sent to a McDonald’s to hand over something as important as all of the store’s cash to the fiance of someone you’ve never met?
But don’t feel too bad, you weren’t the only idiot person to fall for it:
A second incident, this time at Things Remembered, never got to the point where a money drop was mentioned. But the caller did ask the employee to step into a bathroom, back office or hallway so he wouldn’t be overheard discussing a sensitive matter. He didn’t believe it was a coincidence that jewelry boxes valued at $120 were missing after the conversation.
The good news is that several other people at other stores, not yours, managed to realize it was a scam and hung up on the caller. You really have to be pretty gullible not to realize you were being scammed based on the stories you were being told, but perhaps the fellow sounded really authoritative so I probably shouldn’t judge.
Over the weekend one of my relatives asked me if I had seen that Russian dead alien video that’s been racking up hits on YouTube. I replied that I had not. Then they asked me if I thought it was a fake. Absolutely, I said.
But how can you be so sure when you haven’t seen the video, they asked. Because it would take more than a video clip by some random yahoo on the Internet to convince me, I said. At which point the conversation got into whether or not I think life exists elsewhere in the Universe (I do) and if so then why can’t they have visited us (because I understand the problems of travel between star systems and while life may be abundant, sentient life may be less so). So on and so forth.
A video of what was claimed to be a mutilated alien corpse, which scored hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, has turned out to be fake.
The tiny “dead alien” is just skin from chicken filled with bread, reports the website 7d.org.ua. Police questioned the men who claimed to have found the “body” and they allegedly confessed to creating it themselves.
It’s amazing how quickly some hoaxers will fess up when they think they’re about to be charged with a crime”
The chief editor of the local Kabansk-Info newspaper initially thought that it was the body of an infant in the video and alerted the police. Officers immediately started the investigation and identified the alleged author.
They went to his house and asked him about the infant’s body. The scared man reportedly showed a fake alien corpse. It was even painted in “alien colors”. Scolding is the only possible punishment for such a stunt as it cannot be considered a crime, the report says.
Yes, even in Russia, stupidity still isn’t a crime.
It's an obvious implication of the theory, but no one mentions it.
As if to drive home the point of how profitable the hCG diet supplement scam is, it took less than 24 hours from the time that I posted that entry to the arrival of a spammer trying to submit entries promoting that “product.”
After registering with the username hcgdietinsight5 he or she then submitted two short entries the first of which carries the title: Drastic Weight Loss with HCG-HCG Dangers. I present it to you now, with my comments added in.
Are you still tormented by your fat body and which had made you too fat to move? And have you found a fast way to lose weight? There are lots of questions about this but do you know why? Why people are looking for a fast way to loseweight? Now let’s start the journey for body shape slim.
Yes, I do know. Because people are basically lazy and would prefer a solution that involves no real effort and no real change to their lifestyle and which works almost immediately. Being someone who falls into the category of obese myself I can attest that it takes a lot of willpower to motivate oneself to get off their ass and exercise and to push oneself away from the table. If someone ever does manage to come up with a pill or spray that could magically induce weight-loss they’d be a billionaire overnight. Alas, it’s highly doubtful such a pill is possible.
Now I will tell you HCG diet can help you. First you must know why you are fat. There were generally three different types of fat stored within the body structural fat which is stored between the organs, normal fat, which is available freely as fuel when needed and abnormal fat, which is locked away and cannot be used by the metabolism until all other fat has been burnt. The truth is we can run out of these abnormal fats so that give back a sexy body by using HCG products. But we should pay attention to the HCG dangers.
What a crock of shit. In actuality there are two types of adipose tissue, or body fat, as it is technically known. They are white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). WAT is the stuff we want to get rid off as it’s basically fat stored in a cell for later energy use. BAT is used primarily for non-shivering thermogenesis, probably better known as body heat. BAT actually makes use of WAT as part of that process which could lead to a method of weight-loss through the stimulation of BAT growth. Something scientists have accomplished in mice already.
If you do a Google search for “abnormal fat” you won’t be surprised to see that most of the sites that mention it are selling, you guessed it, this hCG bullshit. There’s no such thing and no evidence that hCG has any effect on fat deposits of any kind.
Many people are surprised by it. They don’t know the HCG dangers. What you should know is HCG works at the metabolic level to discharge these stores into the bloodstream so that they can be used as fuel, and this is why a very low calorie diet must accompany the HCG dosage.
The HCG dangers are very little. The content of HCG dieters is very natural, which is not man-made products. So many people using HCG will not feel the bad effect of HCG. This is the evidence of the safety of HCG.
I’m surprised that anyone falls for this nonsense. You’ll note that this helpful person doesn’t bother to describe how hCG supposedly works at the metabolic level. Nor do they specify what the danger actually is. The low calorie diet is so that you actually experience some weight-loss making you think the product is working, but it’s not doing a damned thing. You’re just starving yourself.
The specific physiological effects of the HCG make the body feel as if it’s getting plenty of food. But in reality, dieters are only eating approximately 500 calories. This limited caloric intake is simply not enough to support an intense workout.
You will never be distressed by your double chin and your fat body because you have HCG without dangers.
Here’s a question: If hCG is releasing the calories in the fat stores to be used as fuel then shouldn’t an intense workout even at only 500 calories a day be perfectly OK? Presumably the body is making up for the lost calories from the fat stores being released by hCG so why should an intense workout be a problem?
I’ll tell you why: Because you’re only getting 500 calories a day and your body is slowing down its metabolism to try and prevent you from starving. You simply don’t have the energy needed for an intense workout without causing major problems.
Which brings us to the second attempt at an entry titled: HCG Works Well, But Please Notice HCG Dangers.
HCG(Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) is a hormone produced in large amounts by pregnant women to control metabolic functions, but is found in both men and women. HCG diet works directly with the Hypothalamus gland. This gland actually controls body fat, emotions, and helps to develop the reproductive organs during puberty. Each and every person is given HCG at birth. Many people don’t notice the HCG dangers because of this.
Quite a bit of the nonsense that’s endlessly repeated about hCG comes from the work of British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons. It was his theory that hCG must be programming the hypothalamus to protect the developing fetus by promoting mobilization and consumption of what he called abnormal, excessive adipose deposits. He believed that an ultra-low calorie diet (high-protein, low-carbohydrate/fat) in conjunction with daily low-dose hCG injections would promote WAT loss without losing lean tissue in the process, something that often occurs on starvation diets. He was wrong, but that didn’t stop unscrupulous “alternative therapy” advocates, such as the infamous Kevin Trudeau, from promoting it as a weight-loss miracle.
An important point to make is the fact that Simeons’ theory involved daily injections of hCG. The vast majority of hCG products being sold on the internet are “homeopathic” which means they contain little to no amount of the hormone at all. That makes them a doubly stupid purchase.
Recently Most of the food has been overloaded with chemicals. These chemicals are designed to remove HCG from your body. So we use HCG products can supply you this element. But you must know that each medicine has side effect, so does HCG. This means that there are no HCG dangers at all. We all know that HCG will reduce your craving for food and metabolize stored fat. You will not experience irritability, headaches, weakness or any hunger pains as with other low calorie diets, but you will lose abnormal fat, reshape your body and look the way you are supposed to. Particularly, it works regardless of whether you exercise or not. Nonetheless, you will not lose abnormal fat so much if you do a mass of exercise rather than use HCG diet.
I can only assume that whoever wrote this doesn’t speak English as their primary language. At least I hope that’s the case because otherwise they’re a babbling idiot.
Ignoring the obvious contradiction for a moment, it’s worth mentioning that diet alone will not “reshape your body” to “look the way you are supposed to.” All of those diet plans that show someone going from fat to ripped neglect to mention that you don’t get ripped without exercise. I also like how they claim that you won’t lose “abnormal fat” with massive exercise. Which is technically true seeing as there’s no such thing as abnormal fat.
There is also no appearance for HCG diet’s dangers and HCG side effects, maybe there are some but the property are incredibly rare!
Gotta love this bit. There are no side effects except maybe some but you’re probably not one of the very rare people who do experience side effects that never happen anyway so don’t worry about it.
The HCG diet is widely available over the Internet and often cheap. Nowadays, peoples are researching of HCG diet to make a medical breakthrough on how we can control the body’s fatness. The results shows that HCG diet is effective, completely safe, having little dangers. The HCG weight loss diet consists of either a 23 or 40-day protocol. Don’t be hesitate anymore and just say “bye-bye” to your fatness without pains of exercise. This answer is HCG diet.
The only true claims in the above paragraph are the very first two about hCG being widely available over the internet and often being cheap. Every other claim in that paragraph is false. The research that has been done does not indicate that hCG is effective or safe and, according to the FDA, isn’t even legal.
It says something that this spammer considered it worth their time to show up here and submit a couple of cut-and-paste entries despite the fact that just the day before I posted an article trashing their product. The desire for a quick and easy weight-loss solution encourages lots of wishful thinking and, even with bad publicity sitting right next to it, they know that some folks are going to buy into it regardless of how badly their article mangles the English language.
The best defense against these scumbags is education. Don’t take my word for it, look this stuff up yourself. Preferably from sites not trying to sell you on it. If that’s too much work then just read what they’re saying very carefully. If you break it down like I did it’s pretty clear they’re full of shit.
HCG weight-loss products that promise dramatic results and claim to be homeopathic are sold as drops, pellets and sprays on the Web, in drugstores and at General Nutrition Centers. They are supposed to be used in combination with a very low-calorie diet of 500 calories a day.
The fact that they claim to be homeopathic is your first clue that the claims are full of shit, but who doesn’t realize that any weight-loss they experience is because they somehow managed to stick to limit of 500 calories a day?
Hell, if you can manage that without gnawing your own arm off in a fit of hunger then, yes, you’re probably going to lose weight regardless of whatever bullshit supplement you’re taking. Assuming, of course, that you don’t spend 24 hours a day just laying on a couch someplace.
Consider that experts recommend between 1000 – 1200 calories a day for women and 1200 – 1500 a day for men. Then add in the fact that consuming less than 800 calories a day can actually interfere with weight-loss as your metabolism slows because it thinks you’re starving. A limit of 500 a day is just stupid.
Many of the labels indicate the products contain HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone made by the placenta during pregnancy. The hormone itself is approved as a prescription treatment for infertility and other conditions.
There is no evidence the oral over-the-counter products are effective for weight loss, says Elizabeth Miller, FDA’s leader for the Internet and health fraud team. While they may not be dangerous, they’re at least “economic fraud,” she says.
Because the products do not seem to be “a serious direct health hazard or a serious indirect health hazard,” they have been a lower priority for FDA action than other products. Still, Miller says, “they could be subject to enforcement at any time.”
While the “drug” itself may not be harmful, sticking to such a diet probably is. If for no other reason than it’s actually undermining your goal of losing weight plus you may be burning up lean muscle as your body struggles to deal with the huge decrease in caloric intake.
Apparently the idea of using hCG in combination with a ultra-low calorie diet has been around for a long time:
Miller says HCG began being used for weight loss in the 1950s when a British physician had a theory that it could help people on a near-starvation diet not feel hungry. “Since then, a lot of research and clinical trials debunked that theory.“
Samuel Klein of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis agrees: “Data from most randomized controlled trials show that HCG is no better than placebo in achieving weight loss or reducing hunger.”
Stephen Barrett, a retired psychiatrist who operates quackwatch.org, says, “The bottom line is there is no reason to think the product works.”
Even experts in the supplement industry say the products aren’t legal and don’t work. Andrew Shao of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an industry group, says HCG is “not considered a legal dietary ingredient and therefore cannot be sold as a dietary supplement. I am not aware of any scientific evidence that supports its use when taken orally.”
Think about that for a moment. What this product is supposedly doing for you — if it actually did anything at all — is mask the fact that you’re starving yourself. That’s like taking morphine so you can walk on your broken leg without bothering to get the bone set. Sure, you can do it for awhile, but you’re not really helping to solve the problem.
A simple Google Shopping search reveals that there are still plenty of sites out there offering this product with prices ranging from $10 a bottle to $600 for multi-person diet kits. (Because if you’re going to starve yourself you may as well share the misery!) The number of books on the topic, including an entry in the venerable “For Dummies” series, is amazing and shows that this is a big seller. Which means that until the FDA actually starts cracking down on some of the vendors out there they’ll probably continue to offer hCG for as long as they can.
[Update 7/14/2010: Another update from a commenter. This time the site is appearing as ELL Property Management and it just went live today. See the comment thread for details.]
[Update 7/4/2010: A commenter dropped by and told us these assholes are still trying to run this same scam under a new name. Do not apply for jobs with VOV Property Management either. See the comment thread for details.]
I’ve been out of work just over two months now and, as you would expect, I’ve been spending a good portion of my time trying to find a new job. One of the resources I’ve been using to try and find something local is Craigslist. It was there that I came across this ad on June 24th:
Looks legit enough, if somewhat brief.
So I sent an email with a short cover letter and my resume. Yesterday I got the following email:
Thank you for your interest and your recent resume submission. My name is Armanda and I am the Human Resource Manager that is in charge of the hiring process for our company TTJ Property Management. I’ve look over your application and due to the high amount of replies that we’ve gotten regarding our recent classifieds posting, I wanted to contact you as soon as possible and see if you would be interested in setting up an interview with us.
Before I continue let me tell you some background information about TTJ Property Management: We are an established Rental Company that was founded back in 1984 and we’ve grown immensely since then. Unlike other rental companies, we hope to foster a fun yet efficient environment for our employees since we have the firm belief that if we provide our employees with a welcoming work atmosphere we will see an increased return in productivity. Candidates should consider themselves self-starters and be able to work efficiently with minimum supervision. Other skills like great interaction with employees of all levels of the firm, strong communication skills, organization skills etc. are also valued very highly.
Our company aims to build a strong bond with its employees and therefore we offer benefits packages for you and your family plus we thrive to pay our employees a higher hourly wage than any of our competitors. We will be discussing compensation and benefits a little bit more in detail during our interview when we are in a more private environment instead of public emails.
Now due to our policies I will not be able to schedule an interview with you until you have filled out one of our online applications which can be found on our company website. Please visit http://ttjmanagement.com/application/ and fill out our short application so we can move on with the interview process. Each applicant is required to have a personal application code in order to fill the application.
Your code is: [Code Deleted]
Since we have received such a high number of replies to our job posting I will only be able to hold your application on my desk for 1-2 days more so please do not wait too long to fill out our online application! I will contact you as soon as I receive your online application!
Now if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!
Hoping to see you here for an interview soon,
Human Resource Manager
TTJ Property Management
It all looks legitimate enough and I was oblivious that anything might be amiss until I tried to click on the link in the email. My browser sat twiddling its thumbs and then finally announced that it could not resolve the domain name. That seemed a bit strange so I tried a Google search which came up with a big fat nothing. Well, not entirely true. It found results for companies with similar names, but if you put TTJ Property Management in quotes to force it as a literal result you get the dreaded “No results found for “TTJ Property Management”.”
I thought that was odd for a company that’s been around since the year before I graduated high school. Even if they never had a web presence themselves surely someone in the past 26 years would’ve said something about them on the Internet. No company is so perfect that someone somewhere doesn’t bitch about them at some point. For that matter any of a number of online Yellow Pages and business directories would have an entry about them someplace. That is, if they actually existed.
My curiosity piqued by this interesting turn of events I did what all life-long computer geeks do when confronted with such an anomaly: I did a WhoIs on the domain name. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the domain belonged to someone in Moscow, Russia and had been registered for the first time the day before I got the email above:
Noooooo. This doesn't appear suspicious at all.
Now the klaxons in my head were going off at full volume, but I thought I should reply just to see what kind of response I might get. So I sent the following reply back to “Armanda” to see what she would say:
I seem to be having some trouble accessing the website you have listed in your email. The domain name doesn’t appear to be resolving properly and I’m not sure if it’s an issue with my ISP or not. I tried pinging the address and got no response so I did a WhoIs and it appears the domain is registered to someone in Russia and was just created yesterday.
I have to admit that for a company that’s been around since 1984, the above facts strike me as rather odd. Seeing as I am unable to fill out the online application as you requested is it possible I could contact you by phone to set up a time for an interview? I’d also like to verify the address I’d be going to when the time comes.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
So far I’ve yet to receive a reply, but the webpage address is resolving properly as of today. If you go there today you’ll see this:
Again, looks legit enough on first glance.
Looks OK, right? There’s plenty of pages to poke around on and if you take the time to do so you’ll soon be struck by how there’s so much text that isn’t really telling you anything. Sure, it all reads like what you’d expect on a property management site except that there’s no staff information, something which is pretty common on business sites offering services, and no information on where this company is located. If you click on the Contact Us tab you’re presented with a simple web form with no indication as to who the message will go to and absolutely no other information on how to contact anyone at the company.
It was about this time that it occurred to me to check the header on the email I received from “Armanda Elliot” and got the next clue that this was a scam. The email address the message was sent from was email@example.com. Now why would a legitimate Human Resources manager for a company so well established use an obviously randomized email address through a Hotmail account? Checking the originating IP address shows that it came from Amsterdam, NL. Website in Russia and emails from the Netherlands?
By this point I was pretty well convinced that this was possibly an attempt at ID theft, but before I started blogging about it I thought I should be thorough. So I went ahead and clicked on the link for the application “Armanda” had sent along and it took me to this page:
Starts off about how you'd expect.
You’ll note that I put a red box around the section that claims this is a secure page. I did this because it’s a flat out lie. The URL for that page was a standard http address and not the https of a secure page. Also most browsers will change the address bar to indicate when you’re on a secure page and Firefox gave no indication that the page was secure. I also took the time to ping the domain name and got an IP address of 184.108.40.206 which, when you look it up, is registered to the RIPE Network Coordination Centre in, you guessed it, Amsterdam. The same place the email originated from.
The next several pages were very surreal as they were filled with all manner of questions that seemed more like one of those find-out-your-personality-profile quizzes that are all over the internet than anything a company would put up. Some of the questions were OK such as “You see a fellow employee stealing from the company. What would you do?” followed by three answers — do nothing, tell a supervisor, confront employee — that I’ve seen asked before, but others seemed totally irrelevant to a job such as whether I consider myself a liberal, moderate, or a conservative. Right in the middle of the second page was where the next big red flag popped up as squeezed between the surreal questions was this:
Why would they need to know my credit history?
I can’t recall an employer ever asking me for my credit report before. What’s interesting is that if you click on the check box to get your “free” credit report the form launches an entirely new browser window which cycles through two or three URLs in rapid succession before landing at ID Complete.com which, ironically enough, has the following for its webpage title: Identity Theft Protection & Identity Theft Prevention by ID Complete. The URL goes to a specific sub-page and includes some codes that are probably affiliate indicators. Here’s what that site looks like:
This also looks fairly legit.
We’ll talk about these guys in a minute, but first let’s finish up with the TTJ Property Management folks. The last page of the questionnaire asks you to attach your resume and upload it to the site, which is odd because they already have my resume from the initial email I sent them so why would they ask for it a second time? More surprising, though, was the fact that they weren’t doing something obvious like asking for my Social Security number, which is what I had expected to have happen. I didn’t upload my resume again so I’m not sure what the screen after that would’ve been like, but I was feeling pretty confident at this point that I had investigated the site itself far enough.
Now as for the ID Complete.com folks, well, I’m not sure about them. Doing a Google search on IDComplete.com reveals they are all over the place with over 2,000 mentions mainly because it appears that they have an affiliate program which pays for traffic to their site. Having gone through the first dozen or so pages of search results I’ve been unable to find anything in the way of complaints and trying various search queries specifically looking for complaints doesn’t turn anything up either. Which is suspicious in itself as it suggests they’ve done everything they can to bury anything negative about them out on the net. That said, as near as I can tell, they are legit. Or at least as legit as any other company that attempts to sell you ID theft prevention and credit reports. You can bet your sweet ass that the “free” credit report involves signing up for their ID theft prevention service which will probably be very difficult to cancel once you’ve signed up.
Finally, to be on the safe side, I contacted the Better Business Bureau to see if perhaps they had any info on TTJ Property Management. Not surprisingly, they don’t and the representative I spoke with on the phone agreed that it sounded like a scam. He suggested I contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC about it. The thing that is puzzling is that it appears they aren’t trying to steal your ID at all. Rather it’s a very involved affiliate marketing ruse. If that’s the case then what they’re doing may not even be illegal.
The phony job application above says they’ll need a copy of your credit report at the interview, but they never ask you to send it to them. It’s designed specifically to get you to go to ID Complete.com website and sign up whereupon the owners of the phony job site will earn an affiliate fee. Seems like a lot of work for a few pennies, right? Naturally that made me curious to see how much they could potentially earn from this ploy.
Doing a Google search for ID Complete Affiliate Program returns just two results both of which point to oDigger.com which is a site for finding affiliate programs to join. The first points to an offer from Cactus Media for joining an affiliate program promoting ID Complete.com that apparently offers payments of $36 per conversion! Now I’m not sure what a conversion is, but I’d guess that it means for every person who signs up with ID Complete. The second points to an offer from Cpaway that offers payments of $19 per lead. Not as impressive as Cactus Media’s offering, but still not bad.
Interestingly enough, the Cpaway listing has the following description:
Identity Protection and 3 Bureau Annual Credit Report. Converts on a 2nd page submit with order of 30 day free trial. (Please be aware that his offer may not be ran on Craigslist and publishers found promoting it through CL will have their fund forfeited)
A prohibition against promoting on Craigslist! Now what would be a clever way to get around that prohibition and guarantee that at least some of the chumps applicants actually sign up for the service? How about a phony job listing that leads to an application that does the push to ID Complete? It’s brilliant! There’s also probably nothing illegal about it. It’s just a shame that they posted the fake job ad on Craigslist before they registered the domain for their phony company website and then were dumb enough to respond to an applicant before the IP address had time to propagate from Russia leading one overly skeptical job seeker to do a little digging. That would be me.
There’s not much more I can do to put a stop to this ruse, but at least I can blog about it. Considering that Google doesn’t have any search results for TTJ Property Management that means that this little blog entry will be the first it will index, probably before it ever finds the original page. And that means that the next poor schlep who decides to Google the company name will read all about it here.
If you’re that poor schlep and you haven’t applied with TTJ Property Management yet then you probably already realize that you shouldn’t bother. If you have applied then just ignore any emails you get from them as it’ll just point you to this phony website. More importantly, however, is knowing that this sort of scam is out there and to be properly skeptical when considering ads for jobs on sites like Craigslist. You can bet I’ll be looking at them a lot more closely from now on.