It’s 2019 and grown-ass adults have to be told not to drink bleach. Apparently.

Every now and then I stop to ponder how we, collectively as a country, could have been stupid enough to elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. A job he was clearly unqualified for to anyone who had more than two brain cells to rub together. Surely there aren’t that many drooling idiots out there that are so susceptible to Russian propaganda as to make such a thing possible. I know the results of the election show that, yes, clearly this must be true, but my brain struggles to accept the obvious conclusion.

Holy shit, don’t actually do this.

And then I come across a warning from the FDA telling these same people that, no, drinking bleach will not cure your AIDS/Cancer/Autism/Hepatitis/Flu and that they should stop drinking it and/or, even worse, making their kids drink it. You might think I’m kidding, but I am not:

Since 2010, the FDA has warned consumers about the dangers of Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, Water Purification Solution (WPS) and other similar products. Miracle Mineral Solution has not been approved by the FDA for any use, but these products continue to be promoted on social media as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions. However, the solution, when mixed, develops into a dangerous bleach which has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

“The FDA’s drug approval process ensures that patients receive safe and effective drug products. Miracle Mineral Solution and similar products are not FDA-approved, and ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach. Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason,” said FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. “The FDA will continue to track those selling this dangerous product and take appropriate enforcement actions against those who attempt to evade FDA regulations and market unapproved and potentially dangerous products to the American public. Our top priority is to protect the public from products that place their health at risk, and we will send a strong and clear message that these products have the potential to cause serious harm.”

Source: FDA warns consumers about the dangerous and potentially life threatening side effects of Miracle Mineral Solution — U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Note that first sentence: “Since 2010.” Meaning people have been drinking bleach in hopes of curing various issues that largely do not have a cure for almost a fucking decade. I think this explains a lot about the current political environment in America today. It’s not the Russian propaganda all over Facebook and Twitter that is the problem, it’s the fact that enough people are drinking bleach as a miracle cure that the fucking FDA has had to repeatedly tell them to stop. Apparently to no avail.

Where the fuck did people get the idea that drinking bleach was somehow a miracle cure? From a religious nut, of course. A former Scientologist dude named “Jim Humble” (of course) founded and then declared himself the archbishop of The Genesis II Church of Health & Healing. Except it’s really not a religion as you don’t have to have any particular beliefs to join it — not even the ones espoused by the founder(s) — you just have to be able to cough up $35 and, voila, you’re a “church member” complete with an ID card spelling out all the advantages membership brings. Stuff like:

1. Protection against vaccinations, unwanted x-rays, scans, or health insurance mandated by human authority. We are a church and it is against our church’s beliefs. People have already used their membership cards to keep from being vaccinated, and from going through scans.

2. The ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity including but not limited to food, plants, vitamins minerals, herbs and all remedies in any quantity necessary for yourself or your family. This protection will be more understood when the church has its own health food stores right in the church building. The belief includes the right to maintain these products in your own home.

3. The membership includes a picture membership card with these rights written on the back and a notice that anyone violating these rights will be prosecuted by the Church.

Wow! Not even Jesus promises the ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity! Though the definition of “health products” is being very loosely applied here as one of the big things that Mr. Humble promotes is his Miracle Mineral Supplement which Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about:

I want to tell you about a breakthrough that can save your life, or the life of a loved one. In 1996, while on a gold mining expedition in South America, I discovered that chlorine dioxide quickly eradicates malaria. Since that time, it has proven to restore partial or full health to hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a wide range of disease, including cancer, diabetes, hepatitis A, B, C, Lyme disease, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, malaria, autism, infections of all kinds, arthritis, high cholesterol, acid reflux, kidney or liver diseases, aches and pains, allergies, urinary tract infections, digestive problems, high blood pressure, obesity, parasites, tumors and cysts, depression, sinus problems, eye disease, ear infections, dengue fever, skin problems, dental issues, problems with prostate (high PSA), erectile dysfunction and the list goes on. This is by far not a comprehensive list. I know it sounds too good to be true, but according to feedback I have received over the last 20 years, I think it’s safe to say MMS has the potential to overcome most diseases known to mankind.

Repeat after me “anecdotes are not data.” He’s right about one thing though, it does sound too good to be true. Because it isn’t true.

Jim gives away the recipe to this miracle on his website for free which has lead to a shit load of unscrupulous people setting up websites and selling it on the Internet. Fortunately, the FDA is cracking down and prosecuting the folks peddling it. Which is good because drinking it can cause vomiting and severe diarrhea — which a lot of these websites will claim proves it’s working — and can cause much bigger problems like dangerously low blood pressure, damage to the digestive tract, acute liver failure, and kidney damage. Poison control centers across this country have seen almost 17,000 cases of idiots drinking chlorine dioxide — industrial fucking bleach — since 2014.

My cynical side says that this is the definition of a self-correcting problem. If enough idiots drink enough bleach then it’ll go away on its own. The issue is not only are they not drinking enough bleach, but they’re inflicting it on others who don’t have the ability to say no. I draw the line at people trying to sell it as a legit medicinal product and at you deciding to shove it down your kids’ throat because you can’t handle the fact that he/she is autistic.

However, It’s a free country and if you want to chug some industrial bleach in hopes it’ll cure your gout then more power to you. The recipe, as I said, is freely available on Jim (I’m so) Humble’s website. You’re an idiot, but you’re an idiot with the right to do stupid things to yourself if you really want to. That said, I would highly recommend that you consider the following bit of text at the bottom of the page that has the MMS recipe on it:

Disclaimer: The protocols described on this site are official sacraments of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. The reader accepts 100% responsibility for any and all use made of any information herein.

I don’t know about you, but any church that has to cover its ass with a disclaimer for its “miracle cure” is one I wouldn’t have much faith in. Bottoms up!

No, the Social Security Administration won’t call you about “suspicious activity.”

So my wife rings me up at work this morning to tell me about a strange phone call she’d just gotten. An automated voice claiming to be from the Social Security Administration was contacting her about suspicious activity involving her SSN that will result in an immediate suspension of her number if she doesn’t take steps to clear her name. The longer she listened to it the more she thought to herself, “This is bullshit,” and she hung up on the call.

She called me because there was just enough of a nagging doubt that she wanted to make sure she did the right thing. She did. It’s a scam that’s been growing since at least 2017. Here’s a recording of one of these calls:

Gotta admit that I can see how some folks would panic if they got a phone call like that one. It sounds legit enough and it doesn’t help that the scammers are spoofing the real phone number of the SSA (1-800-772-1213) on your Caller ID.

There are two basic types of these calls. One is to try and get you to “verify” your SSN by entering it into the phone so they can attempt Identity Theft. With the other type they try to get you to pay a fee by going out and buying gift cards and then reading off the codes to those cards to the scammer on the phone. This is basically the same scam as the IRS imposter scam that was making the rounds for a few years.

According to the FTC website:

In 2017, we heard from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams, and those people reported losing nearly $210,000. So far THIS year: more than 35,000 people have reported the scam, and they tell us they’ve lost $10 million.

Source: This is what a Social Security scam sounds like – Federal Trade Commission

The page I’m quoting from was last updated in December of 2018 and it’s only gotten worse since then. From April 2018 to March 2019 the reported losses grew to $19 million.

Here’s the bit that I don’t get: How is it that folks are not recognizing this is a scam as soon as they’re told to go out and buy gift cards and then read the numbers off to the guy on the phone? How is that not a smack over the head that this is not a legit call?

I mean, I can understand falling for the request to verify your SSN because there are lots of occasions (banks, etc.) where you might be asked to do that, but who out there is so dumb to think that a government agency accepts payment by gift cards only or, worse, Bitcoin?

In an updated article about this from this past April, the FTC said:

Click to embiggen.

As the graphic shows, people reported the IRS scam (in blue) in huge numbers for many years, but the new SSA scam (in orange) is trending in the same direction – with a vengeance. People filed over 76,000 reports about Social Security imposters in the past 12 months, with reported losses of $19 million.1 Compare that to the $17 million in reported losses to the IRS scam in its peak year.2 About 36,000 reports and $6.7 million in reported losses are from the past two months alone.

Just 3.4% of people who report the Social Security scam tell us they lost money.3 Most people we hear from are just worried because they believe a scammer has their Social Security number. But when people do lose money, they lose a lot: the median individual reported loss last year was $1,500, four times higher than the median individual loss for all frauds.4 All age groups are reporting this scam in high numbers, with older and younger adults filing loss reports at similar rates.5

People report sending money in unconventional ways. Most often, people say they gave the scammer the PIN numbers on the back of gift cards. Virtual currencies like Bitcoin come in a distant second to gift cards: people say they withdrew money and fed cash into Bitcoin ATMs. With both methods, the scammer gets quick cash while staying anonymous, and the money people thought they were keeping safe is simply gone.

So let’s break a few things down:

  • No, your SSN is not about to be suspended, your bank accounts are not about to be seized, and you are not about to have an arrest warrant put out on you. This is bullshit, plain and simple.
  • The Social Security Administration will never contact you and tell you to wire them money, send cash, or (for crying out loud) give them gift cards or they’ll suspend your benefits. Never. Doesn’t happen.
  • You should never give out your SSN and/or personally identifying info to someone who has called you out of the blue even if you think it’s legit and the Called ID is the real number for whomever is calling. Hang up and call a number you know is associated with whatever you’re dealing with to make sure the request is legit first.
  • If you did do the above then go to https://www.identitytheft.gov/SSA to learn what steps you can take to protect yourself from Identity Theft.
  • Lastly, report government imposter scams to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. To learn more, visit ftc.gov/imposters.

As always, be vigilant. There are a lot of unscrupulous people in this world working hard to scam you out of your money. If something smells like bullshit to you then it’s probably bullshit and you should do some digging before handing over any info or money. Most importantly, remain calm. These assholes are relying on you freaking out to make it easier to get you to do something stupid. Don’t be stupid. Don’t freak out.

14 years after trying to scam my brother, Saint Matthew’s Church gets around to mailing me.

In January of 2015 my brother chatted with me on MSN Messenger (remember that?) about a mailing he got from an organization calling itself Saint Matthew’s Churches. They had sent him the amazingly wonderfully amazing Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug which, they promised, would perform a legitimate miracle by opening its closed eyes if you just stared at it long enough and prayed.

The idea was that “Jesus sees your needs” and all you had to do to be financially blessed by the Son of God was say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, I do need Your financial blessings upon me and my family’s finances!” and then send a “seed gift” to the folks at Saint Matthew’s Churches along with the prayer rug. Afterall, you have to spend money to make money, right? Apparently the same rules apply with God. Though you’d think you’d get to keep the prayer rug. I guess they didn’t have enough to go around even though it was clearly a cheap printing on low-quality cloth.

They also had a big form to fill out where you could check off what things you were struggling with and then they’d pray for God to help you with those things, but the big thing they kept emphasising in the package was just how much money other people had been “blessed” with. One woman got $46,000 after praying to the rug and sending it back with her seed gift and another person got $10,000. You can read my original blog post about it here.

Fast forward 14 years and I come home from work to find this envelope waiting for me in my mailbox:

When I saw it was from Saint Matthew’s Churches I knew I recognized the name and as soon as I opened the envelope I knew why. It’s the same scam as my brother got almost a decade and a half ago.

Well, not quite the same as there is no amazingly wonderfully amazing miracle Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug this time. No, this time it’s a Prosperity Handkerchief. Production values have definitely gone down over the years as the Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug was printed on something resembling cloth whereas this Prosperity Handkerchief doesn’t perform any miracles and is clearly printed on a standard 8×11 sheet of copier paper. Seriously:

Blow your nose with this handkerchief and you’ll suffer the Lord’s wrath with a paper cut on your nose.

The spiel, however, is very close to the original. Using this amazingly wonderfully amazing Prosperity Handkerchief has resulted in folks having all manner of Spiritual, Physical, but — most important of all — FINANCIAL blessings rained down upon them from the Good Lord above. God sees you need money and He’s willing to be most generous so long as you’re willing to be generous first with Saint Matthew’s Churches.

As you look through the scans of the brochure then sent me below, note the lack of specificity of the rewards compared to 14 years ago. Clearly the number of folks complaining about this scam to the BBB and various charity watchdogs has had an impact. Instead of “this woman got $46,000” it’s now “I used this [Prosperity] Handkerchief and … I received [a huge financial blessing].” I guess so long as you make the testimonials vague enough and put shit in brackets with lots of underlines then it’s A-OK.

I also find it amusing how so much of the artwork and styling looks like something crapped out in the 1950s. They claim to have been established in 1951 so I suppose that’s not surprising, but you’ll note that in that last scan above there’s a very modern roll of hundred dollar bills and a Cadillac SUV that has been crudely photoshopped in. Sure, folks got jobs and raises and just plain old happiness, but LOOK AT THE MONEY AND CARS!

“But,” I hear you say, “what about the miracle?” Well this time they have something even BETTER than a miracle! They have a PERSONALIZED PROPHECY! You may remember seeing something about that on the back of the envelope up above. You’re not supposed to open it until after sunset the day after you get the mailing for reasons that are never specified. Additionally, you shouldn’t open the prophecy until after you have sent the paper handkerchief and your “seed” money back to the church. If you’re not going to send the money then you must DESTROY the prophecy without reading it!

Ha! Yeah, I’m not sending them shit and I am reading this supposedly highly personalized prophecy that God dictated to them to send to me even though He could’ve saved on postage if He’d just show up and tell me Himself. I wonder why “He” doesn’t just do that?

Wow, that was, underwhelming. Lots of generic talk about a “greater purpose” that I “haven’t discovered yet” and “the power was IN YOU ALL ALONG” bullshit. I’ve seen phony psychic readings that were more specific than this claptrap.

Lastly, we have the final page that has the “what other shit other than money do you need us to pray for you which we totally won’t do” form. I particularly like how personalized the opening is: “Dear … Someone Connected with This Home, Who Needs Prayer and God’s Divine Help and Blessings… In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. ” Yeah, that’s totally not my name.

So, yeah, 14 years later and they’re still at it with a few tweaks to the message to stay just this side of legal. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised as they were at it for longer than that prior to my brother telling me about them.

When I first wrote about them in 2005 I mentioned that Saint Matthew’s Churches made $26 million in 1999, which was the last year they made their tax records public. As of 2007 it’s estimated they were pulling down $6 million a month. That’s a lot of sheep being fleeced. Mostly elderly sheep too. They construct their mailing lists specifically to target older believers many of whom are the least likely to be able to afford sending along money and you can bet your ass that those who do will find a whole lot more prayer scam letters showing up in their mailboxes.

In that original post about these asshats I said that I was torn between feeling angry that the religiously gullible are being taken advantage by an unscrupulous organization and feeling that they’re getting what they deserve for being gullible sheep to begin with. That hasn’t changed much over time and neither has the tactics of Saint Matthew’s Church. So I suppose the only thing to say is: buyer beware.

Everyone loves my blog’s content and wants to help with it.

It seems like every day I get one to upwards of five emails from people who just love my blog and want to know if they can “collaborate” on a post or who feel they have a page that is way more informative than whatever thing I linked to in an entry written years ago and they just want me to know that if I’d be willing to link to them/let them write a post that they’d help me out by sharing my amazing website with everyone they’ve ever known in their entire lives.

Here’s an example from Tuesday the 14th with the links to their website removed:

Hi Les,

My name is Helen Sanders, I am the main editor at <website about health stuff redacted>

I just wanted to send you a quick email to let you know that we recently released a very comprehensive blog post on the benefits of cold showers.

While browsing your site, I noticed you linked to a piece from treehugger.com on the same topic from this page (https://stupidevilbastard.com/2016/07/apparently-showering-is-another-thing-im-doing-completely-wrong/).

I believe our piece is a lot more comprehensive, updated and quotes more trustable sources and I think it would be a great addition to your page.

If you were willing to add our link to that page, I would be more than happy to share it to our tens of thousands of social followers to help you gain some visibility in exchange.

Here is the link for your review:<link redacted>

Let me know what you think and thank you for your consideration!

Helen

Right off the bat it’s clear that Helen hasn’t been browsing my site nor has she read the entry in question. If she had then it should’ve been clear that the last thing my entry was doing was promoting taking cold showers. If anything, it’s a humorous rant against the idea of taking cold showers regardless of how healthy it would make me because cold showers suck. As such, there’s little need for a more comprehensive or updated source of information on the benefits of cold showers. The attempt at humor is in no way reliant on the accuracy of the article I linked to.

At least Helen gave me some details on what she wants from me. Just this morning I got this exciting offer:

Hello,

My name is Rick and I would like to write a guest post for your website. I think your blog is missing one great story that would be of interest to your readers.

Send me a text if you’re interested.

Kind regards,

Rick Slot.

What could it be?? How can I allow my die-hard readers to miss out on a great story like… like whatever it is he wants to write about? How can I sleep at night not knowing what amazing thing I and my readers are missing out on?

Here’s another one from yesterday:

Hi there,

My name is Jenna, I am the main editor at <website about dogs>.

While browsing your site, I noticed you have an amazing article from this page: https://stupidevilbastard.com/2011/12/what-do-you-get-when-you-combine-cute-puppies-and-christmas/

My team actually just published a comprehensive article on <article about dogs redacted> which I think your visitors would truly appreciate and add value to your awesome article.

You can check it out here: <website redacted>

If you were willing to add our link to that page, I would be more than happy to share it to more than 40 thousands of our social followers to help you gain some visibility in exchange.

Let me know what you think and thank you for your consideration!

Cheers,

Jenna D. Collier

Then there’s the ever helpful YOU GOT A BROKEN LINK IN AN ENTRY YOU WROTE 15 YEARS AGO SO LINK TO MY WEBSITE INSTEAD. Their concern for my site having broken links is nearly palpable:

Howdy Les,

I just finished reading your piece at https://stupidevilbastard.com/2002/12/dmca_abuses_continue_to_pile_up/, and I noticed you’re linking to a discontinued website here: TechDeals.net.

I just thought your readers might like to have an updated link.

A very similar resource can be found at <link to website redacted>. Might fit in as a good replacement, if I may say so myself 😀

Just a thought – keep up the great work and have an awesome day.

Cheers,

Angelica

Angelica here isn’t even offering to share my amazing article with her “umpteen tens of thousands, no, literally millions of visitors” for my trouble.

You need to step up your game, Angelica.

Shall we do one more? Sure, let’s do one more from two days ago:

Hi Les,

My name is John Rizzo and I run a one man PR/marketing agency. I recently found your blog and wanted to reach out on behalf of some of my clients.

Specifically, we are interested in guest posts and sponsored posts. Is this something you offer?

If so, could you please send over more information.

I appreciate your time and I hope the rest of your week goes well!

Thanks,

John Rizzo

You can tell John’s a professional as he’s using a standard Gmail account to send his inquiries. I’m sure all of those guest/sponsored posts would be of the highest quality.

To be honest, I’m surprised that I get a constant stream of emails like these considering the traffic to my blog isn’t what it used to be. The pages they want me to add their links to aren’t even in the top 10 of most popular threads on SEB. Most of them won’t even show up in the first few pages of a Google search for those topics. I can only assume they’re trying to gain page rank by getting as many places as possible to link to their websites.

Now usually I just delete these emails as they come in, but there’s a new trend as of late that has led to this rant: They won’t stop emailing me until I reply.

Allow me to illustrate with this one from March 13th:

Hi there,

I was just browsing Stupid Evil Bastard and saw you were interested in gaming from this post (https://stupidevilbastard.com/tag/ps3/), and so I thought you might also be interested in linking to a resource we put together on the health benefits of playing video games.

Here is a link for your review: [link redacted]

Our post is comprehensive, up to date, and quotes trustworthy sources to give our readers the best information available. We think it would be a great resource for your readers as well.

If you were willing to add our link to that page, I would be more than happy to share it to our tens of thousands of social followers to help you gain some more visibility in exchange.

Let me know what you think and thanks for your consideration!

Regards,

Danielle

Damn, but that sounds very familiar. Almost like Danielle and Helen from up top use the same automated bot to send those emails out. I love that Danielle here doesn’t even link to a specific entry, but to the category tag for posts about the PS3.

Anyway, I deleted the email and went about my business. Three days later I get this:

Hi ,

I just wanted to follow up and see what you thought of linking to our site on your blog.

Just double checking you received our previous email.

Looking forward to sharing some of your content across our social following, let us know what you think.

Regards,

Danielle

Once again I deleted it. Much like Jesus, three days later she was back again:

Hi,

I just wanted to follow up on my previous email and hear your thoughts on linking to us in one of your blog posts.

We would be happy to share your blog post across our thousands of social followers in return.

Let me know what you think by shooting me a quick reply.

Regards,

Danielle

So too did Helen, from the first example up top, continue to pester me:

On Sat, Mar 18, 2017 at 7:00 AM “Helen Sanders” wrote:
Hi there,

I understand you are a busy person and your time is valuable but did you have some time to look at my last email? (see above).

I’d love to collaborate with your site!

Many Thanks,

Helen

 

On Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 3:00 AM, Helen Sanders wrote:
Hi there,

I will give this one last shot, did you have time to review my proposal? I’d be really excited to collaborate with you.

Best,
Helen

These fuckers can’t seem to take a hint.

So today I replied to Helen with a very simple “no thanks” — that was literally all the email said outside of “Helen” and “Les” — and apparently that just wasn’t good enough for Helen. Almost as soon as I sent her my reply this morning I got this back:

Hi Les,

Thanks for taking the time out to get back to me.

I was just wondering if you had any feedback on why you weren’t interested so that I can take it on board while promoting my work in the future.

I really appreciate the opinions of the people I’m reaching out to, so anything I can take on board is appreciated 🙂

Thanks

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you already know that I don’t deal with annoyances all that well and I was pretty proud of myself for limiting my first reply to Helen with just a “no thanks” and not some profanity laced tirade. Helen, as I said previously, hasn’t really read my blog. My response to this latest missive strains to stay civil with her and I think I just barely managed it:

Helen,

I’m getting roughly 3 to 4 of these offers every single day for the past few years. I’m surprised so many people want to associate their products with a site with the name Stupid Evil Bastard. I literally just told another person making this sort of offer “no thanks” before typing up this reply. [Editor’s Note: That would’ve been Rick’s offer of a great entry of some unspecified type that I reproduced above.] Everyone loves my content and wants to write for my blog except that it’s clear based on the couple of folks I did entertain the thought with that this is entirely for your benefit to drive traffic to your site and/or promote your product. Nine times out of ten the topic of whatever someone wants to write about for my blog has little to nothing to do with what my blog is about (mainly, things that catch my attention) or even the page they claim they saw that inspired them to contact me. It’s pretty clear these requests are ads disguised as posts. One you probably don’t wish to pay me for or, if you do, the amount is hardly worth considering. I’m often told to consider the extra “exposure” the ad-post will generate for my blog as though I needed more exposure. In short, it’s a pretty one-sided equation that benefits you more than me.

I’ve been blogging for 16 years now. For awhile, I accepted guest posts from my regular readers who wanted to participate in the community I’d managed to build up. None of those guest entries were ever anything close to an ad or an attempt to drive traffic someplace else. I’m not as active as I once was and my readership is down to the most loyal of regulars. I’m fine with that. It was never about being at the top of the search results or making a ton of money. It was a place for me to express myself for those who were interested. Nothing more. Needless to say, my blog is a deeply personal thing to me. Frankly, the number of people who wish to exploit it for their own gain is more than a little annoying.

Sincerely,

Les Jenkins

P.S. I’m probably going to blog this.

I’ve not heard back from Helen. With any luck this is enough of a hint for her to not bother sending a reply. It annoys me that I am going to have to respond to each and every one of these offers with “no thanks” as they come in or put up with an endless stream of WHY HAVEN’T YOU REPLIED TO MY AWESOME OFFER???

So let me just say this right here and now: Dear people who think it’d be a great idea if I helped you to promote your website/product at no cost to you. Don’t bother sending me your sales pitch because it’s not going to happen. At least, not unless you’re willing to toss me some serious greenbacks. I don’t need “tens of thousands” of people to see my blog, but I would be happy to sell out for “tens of thousands” of dollars. This would be particularly handy right now as I’m in the process of buying a house and could use the extra cash.

So, once again just to be clear, I don’t need your exposure, but I would take your cash as long as it’s substantial. I doubt any of you will be making such an offer anytime soon so you may as well not waste the electrons it would take to send me an email.

Sincerely,
Me

UPDATE: Holy Christ on a cracker! I’ve not even PUBLISHED this entry yet and Rick Slot — of the “I wanna write a guest post, let me know if you’re interested” I quoted above to which I had replied simply “I am not” — has just replied with the following:

Hello, Les

Thank you for the reply. Do you post sponsored articles?

Best wishes,
Rick

Seriously, what does it take for these people to understand the concept of “no”?  I’m half-tempted to send him a dictionary definition, but perhaps I’ll just send the link to this entry. Maybe he’ll offer me tens of thousands of dollars to let him write a guest post. Also, maybe I’ll be made Queen of England. Probably about equal chances of both, right?

SEB Mailbag: Hilariously bad extortion email from the “FBI.”

unbearable_consequencesBeing 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 two emails 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”<info@fbi.us>
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 Needed.

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
City: Abuja
Text question: You
Text answer: Me
Amount: $250
Senders name:
Senders Country:

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

Respectively:

Agent Norman Wood.
E-mail: drnormanwood@qq.com
Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI)

If you get a phone call saying President Obama will pay your utility bills just hang up.

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.

And there are idiots out there who not only fell for this scam, but got their friends to sign up for it as well:

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.

SEB PSA: Penis vanity can kill you.

I never cease to be amazed at the lengths (pardon the pun) people will go to to have a bigger dick. Especially considering that the vast majority of them carry a lot of risk for very little (and often temporary) gain. Herbal supplements, surgery, weights, you name it and someone has probably tried to use it to make their wang bigger.

All of those things can cost big bucks in the long run and with today’s economy in the dumps some folks are apparently trying to find cheaper alternatives to penile improvement. There’s a growing trend of holding “pumping parties” where too often things end badly:

Justin Street visited Kasia Rivera, 34, at her home in New Jersey for the penis enhancement proceedure on May 5, prosecutors say.

But just a day after attending the so-called ‘pumping-party’ the 22-year-old was dead.

Street suffered a clot to the lungs and died. A medical examiner determined he died of a silicone embolism.

Ms. Rivera is not a licensed medical practitioner and the silicone used most likely was not medical grade. Silicone not in a container (like breast implants) can migrate through tissue causing damage requiring surgery or, as in this case, the bloodstream where it can cause dangerous clots.

Perhaps you’d be better served with a bit of counseling to overcome your self-image problems. After all it’s not the size of the ship, but the motion of the ocean that gets the job done.

hCG spammers descend on SEB in less than 24 hours.

Pic of homeopathy poster.

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.

FDA says hCG weight-loss products are nothing but bullshit.

Pic of bottles of HCG.

You wanna lose weight? Try eating less and exercising more.

Well, not literally bullshit, but bullshit as in they-don’t-do-what-they-claim-to-do. I know, I know. A diet program that doesn’t work? That’s unpossible!

HCG weight-loss products are fraudulent, FDA says – USATODAY.com

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.

UPDATED: Do not apply for jobs with “TTJ Property Management” as it’s just a scam.

[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:

Pic of Craigslist ad for TTJ Property Management

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:

Hi Les,

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,

Armanda
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:

Pic of TTJ Property Management WhoIs info.

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:

Armanda,

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.

Sincerely,
Les Jenkins

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:

Pic of TTJ Project Management main page.

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 fezuqaxyxyfyq646818@hotmail.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:

Pic of the TTJ application screen.

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 217.23.10.25 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:

Pic of TTJ application form.

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:

Pic of ID Complete's page.

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.