12.05.11

More companies selling your email to spammers

Posted in spamcompanies at 3:33 pm by blog

As i’ve posted previously, i generally create a unique email address for any company that requests an email address from me… This is so that i can keep track of who has sold or leaked my email address to third parties or spammers.

First up we have “myfcri.co.uk”, this was a site which promised you a free credit report if you signed up… It seems as if this company has gone under and had their domain bought up by someone else, as the site now redirects to freescoreusa.com. I have received a large amount of spam to this address.

Secondly we have “globe7.com”, now these guys were a problem right from the start (see my other post at http://www.ev4.org/wordpress/2011/12/05/do-not-do-business-with-globe7/ for more information… These guys are seemingly still in business, and yet today i received spams inviting me to join a casino to this address.

Do Not Do Business With Globe7

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:57 pm by blog

Globe7 are a VOIP company, purporting to offer cheap calls. As I have a fairly limited selection of international destinations which i regularly call, I was shopping around for the cheapest rates to these destinations around May 2008 and stumbled across Globe7.

Although they seem to primarily want you to use a proprietary application to access their service, they also claimed to offer a standard SIP service as well. And coupled with their advertised rates to the destinations I wanted to call being among the cheapest around, I signed up and purchased $25 of calling credit and Globe7 were more than willing to take my money.

Now here is where the problems started. Instead of processing the payment as a standard purchase of goods or services, it was processed as a “cash advance” and therefore incurred additional fees from the card issuer. Although it is common for cash advanced to attract fees, Globe7 made no mention that they would be charging in this way prior to the purchase.

When it came to actually trying to use the service, further problems occurred. Since i have a number of voip services, both for inbound and outbound calls I run a small Asterisk PBX at home. With this setup i get voicemail services, email alerts, automatic call forwarding to my mobile if i’m not at home, as well as the convenience of just dialing from my handset and having Asterisk route the call through the cheapest available provider, or falling back if that provider is unavailable.

Having been provided a username and password for the Globe7 SIP service, i was unable to get Asterisk to work with the service, always receiving an error message claiming that my account number was not valid. After much experimentation i found out that changing my user agent made it register successfully. So despite claiming support for the SIP standard, Globe7 explicitly block access to any client identifying itself as Asterisk, and yet nowhere on their website did they state that Asterisk was explicitly blocked and even the error message tries to claim the account is invalid rather than stating the true cause of the error – namely that Asterisk is explicitly being blocked.

My anger already boiling somewhat at this point, but having overcome the explicit blocking of Asterisk both by spoofing my user agent and by using a completely different SIP handset i decided to make some test calls to see if the service was actually any good. I decided to place a test call to my own mobile but Globe7 seemed to have major trouble routing this call. Most calls failed to complete, several appeared to ring out but never actually made it to my mobile and at least one was actually answered by someone else. I have no idea how this could happen, or what chaos is taking place internal to Globe7′s phone system. Test calls to other numbers were similarly ineffective, several calls resulted in hearing only silence not even a ringing tone or any other form of audible feedback and yet looking at my account status on the Globe7 website I had actually been charged for this. Only one call, to another mobile phone on another network ever succeeded, and even then it did not succeed in every attempt.

Anyway, the combination of all the above was far too much, i attempted to contact Globe7 and demand a full refund. I detailed my findings, to them via the following email:

Hi,

I have been most dissatisfied with the service I have received since

purchasing credit for this account.

Firstly i was charged $29.38, for what is supposedly a $25 voucher.

Second, I was unable to connect using an Asterisk PBX system, receiving a

false notification stating that “this account number is not valid”. Upon

connecting my Cisco 7960 directly to the service, using the same account

details this error was not received, and changing the user-agent string

reported by Asterisk this error was similarly not heard. Therefore it is

clearly detecting the Asterisk user-agent string, and rejecting calls for

some aparrent reason.

Third, when i was finally unable to initiate calls, i was unable to call

Myanmar, hearing only silence, not even a ringing tone, and being charged

1 minute worth of call time to listen to this silence wondering what is

actually happening.

Fourth, when i called my own mobile number which is connected to O2, most

attempts failed, one attempt was answered by a total stranger, none of

the attempts actually made my mobile ring, which was right beside me the

whole time. Your web based CDR log shows the correct number, but the fact

that the only time the call went through a total stranger answered

suggests it didn’t actually dial the number that was supplied at all.

Calling another mobile on the Orange network did work.

Obviously this is all far from acceptable, and I therefore request a full

refund of the $29.38 spent on this service.

So 2 working days later received a rather weak reply:

Dear Customer,

We would like to inform that,  for European and UK customers, 17.5% VAT will

be charged additionally on each purchase of extra talk time.

Kindly note that Globe7 does not support Asterisk.

We will be glad to assist you with any further query.

Best Regards,

Well great, they inform me *after making a purchase* that they will charge VAT on that purchase… Doesn’t the law require that they disclose any such charges up front? And this is also the first time they make any mention of not supporting Asterisk, and yet there is a big difference between “does not support” and “explicitly blocks without informing customers as such”. On their website, they claim to support SIP, and Asterisk supports SIP. They make no attempt to list which SIP devices are supported, nor do they publish any list of devices which are explicitly not supported. Add to that the fact that Asterisk with a modified user agent seems to work just as well (or as badly, given the poor quality of their service) as the other SIP devices i tested their service with.

Their response made no mention of my demand for a refund, no mention of my complaint about calls not being routed correctly and failed to answer my question about why Asterisk was being explicitly banned by user agent string. So i sent a reply to their email:

The site claims support for SIP devices, which Asterisk is… Instead, the
service explicitly disconnects anything with Asterisk in the user-agent
string. It doesn’t say that only certain SIP devices are supported, and
that other devices will be explicitly blocked. SIP is supposed to be a
standard!
Also the notice given when rejecting an asterisk connection suggests that
the username is invalid, it does not state that connections from asterisk
are rejected. If I had been informed up front that asterisk connections
were explicitly denied I would not have purchased any service.

You have also not addressed the other complaints…
Calls were charged without connecting…
Calls to my mobile number for testing purposes never succeeded even in
making the handset ring, and one of the calls clearly went through to a
completely different number as someone else answered it, even tho the call
log shows the correct number (my mobile)..

I was also unable to call Myanmar, which was the sole reason for buying
this service, cals never connected but were charged regardless…

Finally, and this has only just come to my attention and was thus not
mentioned in the original complaint, the charge to my credit card was put
through as a “cash advance” rather than a purchase, and thus incurred a
cash advance charge and began being charged interest immediately. This was
_NOT_ disclosed up front and is clearly unacceptable.

Your reply was also incredibly slow.

My request for a full refund still stands, and i hope this can be dealt
with speedily, or I will be forced to dispute the charge with my card
issuer and contact Ofcom.

This message got no response whatsoever, and I was forced to carry out my threat to dispute the charge, claim a refund via the card issuer and report the matter to Ofcom.

Out of curiosity, i decided to test if my account created in 2008 was still functional now in the last month of 2011, I went to the Globe7 website and was told that there was a new billing interface for SIP accounts. This new interface was not present when I signed up in 2008, so i followed the link and got an SSL certificate error:

SSL Certificate Error

Amusingly, despite the fact that this new interface had supposedly been added since 2008, it used an SSL certificate which expired in 2006? Incompetence knows no bounds…

So in short, avoid Glove7 like the plague… They may claim to offer cheap calls, yet once you factor in the VAT (which other companies disclose up front), the cash advance charge, the hassle and the fact that the majority of calls don’t complete and yet still get charged the service suddenly appears to be exceptionally poor value for money.

11.05.10

GUI vs CLI

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:13 pm by blog

A GUI (graphical user interface) is like public transport…

Anyone can use it, and it will take you to the most common of destinations during normal hours with the minimum of fuss and hassle. On the other hand, you might be forced to take a slow inefficient route, might have to travel at specific times, might have to wait around for the next train/bus and some places just aren’t reachable using public transport at all.

A CLI (Command Line Interface) is like a car…

A car will take you anywhere you want to go and at any time, but you have to know how to drive and you have to navigate the route yourself.

06.12.10

Very dumb scams – janesgrantblog.com

Posted in Scams at 3:14 pm by blog

So a bunch of sites i use seem to have advert banners offering “government grants”…

One of these linked to www.janesgrantblog.com which claims to be written by someone in the uk who received several thousand in free government grants… The site even tries to guess where you are based on the IP address, and claims the person who wrote the site actually live there… If you access it from different IPs, the content of the site changes!

Only, she received her grant money in US DOLLARS… Now why would the UK government pay out grants in US currency? Not only that, but in order to get the “information” on how to claim these grants, you have to pay a fee which is also in USD… Now how stupid would someone have to be to fall for such an incompetent scam as this?

FYI: the actual page is www.janesgrantblog.com/uk.php?t202id=74508&t202kw=GUK112728 as the front page of the site seems not to have any content…

01.14.09

The great PayPal Services scam

Posted in Scams at 9:18 pm by blog

Has anyone ever heard about the “buyer protection” scheme PayPal offer, whereby buyers who have been ripped off can file disputes and hopefully try to get their money back…
Well, it turns out this does not apply if you buy anything deemed as a “service”, and many unscrupulous companies are using this to their advantage to rip people off. Take the following example.

We signed up for a dedicated server from a company called “Shrikehosting”. Paid for it up front on a Friday evening, and received an automated reply stating the server would be up and ready within 24 hours.
24 hours passed and the server was not up, in fact we had not heard anything so we filed a support ticket… It wasn’t until monday that we receive a reply stating that they don’t work at weekends, and that the server would be up later that day.
So we wait another 24 hours, still nothing… A few mails ping back and forth for about a week, each time they insist the server is “nearly ready”.
Meanwhile, we have already been inserted into their billing cycle, so we are already 1 week into the service we paid for, while having actually received no service.
So we query this and ask that the billing cycle be started when the server is brought up, and ask that the server be made available soon.
Another week, and they have not responded at all, and now blacklisted our email address so we cannot contact them anymore.

So we file a dispute with PayPal. For those who aren’t familiar with the dispute process… You file a dispute, which gives up to 20 days for both parties to communicate and try to resolve their differences. If you reach an agreement then the dispute can be cancelled, or allowed to expire after 20 days. If not, then either party can escalate the dispute to a claim at any time before the 20 day deadline. The idea is that then PayPal will investigate the dispute and make a decision on wether to issue a refund or not.

Our dispute was pretty simple. We had paid for a service which was supposed to be delivered in 24 hours, we had not been provided that service after 2 weeks, and the 2 weeks of waiting were being counted against the 1 month of service we had paid for up front.

Shrikehosting immediately escalated this dispute to a claim. They were clearly not prepared to talk, and were already familiar with PayPal’s claim process and how to use it for their fraudulent advantage. The escalation message said “This payment was for a service, 1 month server hosting and not for a physical product”.

PayPal very quickly denied our claim, and under their system once a claim has been denied you have no recourse for appeal or to make any further claim. They consider the case closed, and you well and truly screwed.

Luckily, we had paid by credit card so we had one course of action left – to dispute the charge with the card issuer. Luckily, the card issuer being a proper reputable bank and not an unregulated fraud haven like PayPal, accepted our dispute and credited the value of the transaction back to us immediately.

Had we paid using a debit card, or by a direct bank transfer which PayPal are always trying to encourage people to use (wonder why) we would have had absolutely no recourse and would have completely lost our money.

So if you are planning to commit fraud, simply start offering some kind of services online… Make a nice shiny looking website, and only accept PayPal as a form of payment. Don’t worry about what the services are, because you will never have to actually provide them. For a little extra credit, see if you can keep the victim fooled until after one or more billing cycles so you can rip them off even more.

Announcing Sales Divert

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:47 pm by blog

Sick of marketing calls and companies which demand your phone number for the sole purpose of calling you up to sell you stuff you don’t want?

So give them the following US number: 1-254-243-1704

This number goes through to an automated system that plays samples of Borat saying various random things… He starts off saying hello, and then says he’s pleased to meet you, followed by a few other quotes. In my limited tests, unwanted callers usually tend to speak to Borat for a while, as they think the person saying hello and asking who he’s speaking to is a real person and not a recorded message.

For legal reasons I think I will have to add a recorded message at the start saying that the call is being recorded, then I will be able to record the calls and post them here…

Laughable scams…

Posted in Scams at 8:42 pm by blog

So today, as with most days, i received a phishing email, this one purporting to be from eBay and asking me to visit a URL to “confirm” my security details… What made this one so special? judge for yourself:

Date: Wed, 14 Jan 2009 23:51:20 +0800
From: Support
To: undisclosed-recipients: MISSING_MAILBOX@MISSING_DOMAIN ;
Subject: Messge from eBay -

Dear eBay Member,
This is your official notification from eBay. Your online has expired.
If you want to continue using our service you have to renew your online.
If not, your online will be limited and deleted.
To confirm your Account records click on the following link:

http://210.38.96.137/ebay/eBayISAPI/ws/eBayISAPI.htm

Thank you,
Scott R. Shipman, CIPP Senior Counsel, Global Privacy Practices eBay Inc.

So apparently my “online” has expired, and it will soon be limited and deleted unless i confirm my username and password to eBay’s new chinese division which is kindly being hosted by Guangzhou University Of Tradicinal Chinese Medicine.

I can’t believe anyone could possibly be stupid enough to fall for a scam as pathetically engineered as this one… It doesn’t even look in the least bit light a legitimate email from eBay.

Searching through your bags/pockets at the ticket barrier?

Posted in Pet Hates at 8:37 pm by blog

Something that really really annoys me, is people who are about to board a bus, or go through the ticket gate in a train station… And they will get right up to the barrier or the ticket reader on the bus, and then stop dead while they search through their bags or pockets looking for their ticket!
Why the hell couldn’t they have found their ticket beforehand, and had it ready?
You can usually see the bus coming up the road, plenty of time to find your ticket… The ticket barriers in stations don’t exactly move around, so you know well in advance of arriving there that you will need to present a ticket.
It is extremely annoying to be stuck behind someone like that, or be stuck on a stationary bus while someone wastes your time searching for their ticket.
It’s just as bad when someone spends time hunting through small change to find the right fare… You know how much a bus ticket costs, why haven’t you got the exact change ready in your hand BEFORE THE BUS ARRIVES?
People who don’t have their ticket ready for inspection on boarding a bus or reaching a ticket barrier should be sent to the back of the queue… If the bus or train leaves before they can find their ticket then it should be THEIR OWN FAULT… And maybe they will be a bit smarter and more considerate of others in future.

01.13.09

Domain name suggestions

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:37 pm by blog

I am looking to register a new domain name for the free disposable mail site – currently http://commodore.in.

Basically what this site does, is allow anyone to read email for any address at the supported domains anonymously… The site currently has 4 domains for mail receiving:

  • dharmatel.net
  • commodore.in
  • slave-auctions.net
  • deadchildren.org
  • You can receive for any address at these domains, and read it anonymously for free. This is extremely useful for sites that force you to sign up with a valid email address for whatever purpose, such as posting a comment or downloading something. If you use your real email address, these sites could send you mail continuously or worse, let spammers get hold of your address either by selling it to them or suffering a security breach allowing them to get it. If you use the free disposable mail service, then that’s where the spam will go to and you don’t have to worry about it.
    The site also has a nice AJAX-ish interface, based on Roundcube webmail.

    Because some of these domains may come and go, i need a permanent domain for the service… Something simple, easy to remember and to the point, something like tempmail.com, but that is already taken…

    All suggestions welcome, post suggestions as comments below!

    11.18.08

    In Reply To Wil Peters

    Posted in Pet Hates at 11:39 am by blog

    A user going by the name “Wil Peters” made the following 2 posts:

    Wil Peters

    But was the meat good ?

    Why moan about newsletters when you have to leave your email addy on this blog
    Some people just enjoy complaining Would prefer constructive comments
    please

    From keziefoods.co.uk are cheeky bastards, 2008/11/17 at 11:01 AM

    Wil Peters

    Get a life

    From Keziefoods are cheeky bastards, followup, 2008/11/17 at 11:05 AM

     

    Now, he states he would prefer constructive comments, but “Get a life” is hardly constructive…

    To answer the first question – i did not try the meat, when i saw the underhanded way in which they try to force you to receive their newsletter i decided to buy from elsewhere instead.

    My entire point is that, even when the end user has explicitly unchecked the subscribe to newsletter option, they use an underhanded piece of javascript to re-tick it. Why shouldn’t potential customers have the option to refuse the newsletter?

    Also, the way their staff handled my initial complaint was equally underhanded and generally incompetent, my complaint was forwarded around internally (see my earlier post where they messed that up and forwarded it back to me by mistake) and they never wrote me a proper reply. When i wrote the first complaint i was willing to accept it may be a simple oversight, but considering that my complaints went completely unanswered and over a year later the problem is still there i no longer believe it could be a mistake.

    Do you really want to do business with a company that ignores customer complaints and uses intentionally underhanded methods to trick you into receiving their unsolicited mail (ie spam)?

    Instead, just take your business elsewhere, I ended up going to Osgrow http://www.osgrow.com who offered a good service and didn’t try to send me any spam.

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