I once heard a story about a scheme to defraud people out of money. The scheme worked on the principle of embarassment and went something like this.
“Start a company with an innocuous name which places ads for something no one wants to be known for buying. When an order comes in reply that you are out of stock. When the customer demands their money back issue a check from a different company with a really embarrassing name printed in bold. The customer will never cash the check because they don’t want people at the bank knowing they tried to order from such an embarrassing company.”
I’ve toned down the retelling but you get the idea. While investigating some other leads today I came upon a newer version of this scam which adds the element of fear via destroyed credit rating. It is an interesting twist to this old theme.
People who are searching for popular downloads online will end up with search results from various torrent trackers. Somehow, likely through SEO manipulation, sites such as DownloadNova dot com are returned as valid search results. When a user clicks on the link they will be presented with a series of servers to download from. All of the links will say that you need to provide an email address to join the site. Once a user has submitted an email then the site will direct them to pay some nominal fee for full membership. According to various reports [1,2,3,4,5] the range is somewhere between $3-$5. Buried in the fine print are details of the actual membership.
It now said that I had activated three day trial memberships to three sites. One called ‘MegaDownloadPass dot com’ another called ‘Vipbookmark dot com’ and one called ‘DiscountVideoPass.’
Other versions of this scam exist like baydownloads dot com. According to the same source once your trial membership expires you graduate to full membership for all three sites and billed for $30 per month. Most of the reports I read showed people who cancelled their memberships by using the chargeback mechanism of their credit card company. This is the obvious way to go. Here is where it gets interesting though. I researched the phone number listed for support:
I called this number posing as a web site owner who was looking to add support to my own websites. The support rep informed me that they had about 100 people working there and that they handled multiple websites. After a while he decided that he couldn’t answer my questions and should get the manager on the line. While I patiently waited he explained the situation to his superior. As it turns out the manager wasn’t willing to talk with me and instead directed me to email the company with any questions I might have. This was good enough for me as it gave me a central website to work from. The website findsupportonline dot com has this dire warning on its front page
A billing chargeback will place your name, address, zip code, and credit card number into an Internet fraud database. ALL INTERNET CREDIT CARD COMPANIES USE THIS DATABASE. We DO NOT have any control over this fraud database.
If you chargeback your membership, the billing company WILL add your information to the ban database. If you get into this database you will not be able to use that billing company again. It is impossible to get off the ban lists.
BE SMART! DON’T DESTROY YOUR INTERNET CREDIT BY BEING ADDED TO THIS LIST AND INVESTIGATED FOR FRAUD!
I doubt the veracity of this last statement. It is amusing to see this twist though. Get the user to pay a nominal fee and then spring new fees justified by fine print. Then assault them with a warning that their online credit will be ruined before they can even think about using the appropriate mechanism to stop the fraud. I really have to wonder how well this company is doing.
The support rep was not very talkative when he came back from his manager. Maybe it was because I called from a payphone. Maybe it was the questions I was asking. He did admit to servicing Megadownloadpass dot com but claimed they “stopped supporting them … two or three days ago”.
I also doubt the veracity of this statement however I don’t think the two companies are related at all. findsupportonline’s whois information points to an address in New York. Unfortunately novadownload hides their true registry information but megadownload and vipbookmark uses a false Delaware address in their whois registration. The email address in the registrations list marketingx dot com which has an address in Cyprus. This listing has an email address for prolastlimited dot com which points to the same address as does customersupporthelp dot com. So the update to this age old scam is to entice the user with warez downloads and then bill them for pornography. Then make sure that the support representatives are trained to intimidate anyone who tries to cancel their membership.