Category Archives: Humor

Fun with faces; an easy way to catch scammers lying

All you have to do is catch them lying … about anything.

For the past year or more, I’ve been outing web scammers based on my ten-point Scam-O-Meter scoring system.  If ten points sounds too complicated, here’s a tip; all you have to do is catch them lying.  Catch them lying about anything.  Once you do, that’s all you need to know, unless you’re happy with forking over your credit card data to a liar.

A very easy lie to check is any portrait that you see on a web page.  I prefer to use portraits of people giving rave testimonials, if the web page has them.  Portraits of satisfied customers, doctors and other experts, or the supposed founder or owner of the business give good results too.  I’ve even found a scammer who posted an image of his supposed building that really belonged to a different business.

While it’s not true that “A picture never lies,” it is true that this kind of lie is ridiculously easy to spot.   Here’s how to do it:

  1. Store a copy of the photo on your device
  2. Run a Google Image Search on the photo
  3. The search results reveal the lie

1: Store a copy of the photo on your device

Our example is this ad for ClearSight night-vision glasses I noticed on Facebook.  Normally, you can alt-click on a photo on a web page and capture it.  Here I am doing it on a different web page in MacOS on the Sierra browser.  Other OSs and browsers have basically the same feature.  When I alt-click the image, a floating menu pops up.  I select “Save image as …” and go thru the usual dialog to pick a folder in which to save it.

save as

Some web pages are designed such that you can’t grab the individual image so easily.  (And that evasiveness should already be ringing an alarm bell if you were thinking about buying something from them.). For example, ClearSight Glasses won’t let me grab a portrait next to a testimonial.  “Save image as …” doesn’t come up on the menu.cant save

got himThis isn’t really an obstacle.  On a Mac it’s easy to capture all or part of a screen image; and other OSs have a similar feature.  There’s no way a scammer can keep me from recording the pixels on my own computer’s display, and a screen-cap is all I need.  For me, it’s [Apple] [shift] [4]; my mouse pointer turns into crosshairs.  I draw a box around the part of the screen I want, and whatever is inside (like Andy Barns) gets stored on my computer.  Got him!

2: Run a Google Image Search on the photo

Go to Google Images.  Click on the camera.search 1

Two tabs appear.  Click Upload an image.  Then click Choose file.search 2

Navigate to the image or screen cap you saved on your device and run the search.

3: The search results reveal the lie

We’re looking for any of these results:

  • The picture is from a stock photo service.
  • The picture obviously belongs to someone else.  Stolen, probably.
  • The picture appears in lots of ads, with a different name in every ad.

If none of these is true, the web page passes the lie detector test … that test, anyway.

Here’s what the top of an image search result looks like.  Scrolling further down, you’ll find links to any web pages that contain the same picture.  I’ve found that some of the pages don’t have the picture I was looking for.  Maybe they were changed after Google indexed them.  Or maybe the picture was part of an ad that didn’t appear in the page on this round.

results

You’ve been very patient to read this far!  So now let’s enjoy some of the results of my search on the portrait from the ClearSight testimonial.

It turns out that Andy Barns has really gotten around.  Here he is pitching a shoe-polishing gadget for Equerry, only he’s Steven Graham:

test 2

This versatile man is also a massage specialist (no name?) for LotusInParis:

masseur

And now as Bruce The Builder pitching Cheddar, a loan company.  Notice he’s moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Pennsylvania.  Must have; it’d be a hell of a commute:

builder

There’s way, way more to Andy Barns’ online career.  Let’s look at just one more item; here’s a knockoff of The Onion having some fun with Robert Alexander, played by our friend Andy.

yam

If I’d been considering buying a pair of ClearSight night vision glasses, I’d have given up the idea by now.

I didn’t find a stock photo service selling Andy Barn’s picture.  So I’m guessing it was originally stolen from somebody’s online post, simply by copying it to a file as I explained earlier.  I’m a lot more cautious now about posting pictures of myself and anybody I know!

 

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Why reading featured reviews gets you nowhere

Some scam sites have phony reviews right in the site. How convenient! Now you don’t even have to google for reviews.

But how familiar some of the reviewer’s faces look. Let’s track the career of one reviewer named Raymond — or is it Jim?

rePrime:raymond rvw

 

 

 

 

 

Inspire: Jim rvw

 

 

Ryan Leech Connection: john rvw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GreyAtom.com: gregory rvw

This last review is heartless.  How many hopeful GreyAtom graduates will be trying to send their resumes to this nonexistent guy at MySite?

Okay, I haven’t begun to scratch Raymond’s portfolio and I’m tired. His portrait has been used as a credibility prop in dozens of websites under dozens of names. Save his photo to a file, do a Google image search with that file and see for yourself.

Thanks, Raymond, for helping to unearth a huge trove of web scammer sites for me to expose in this blog.  Good job!

Pranked by Perdant (Venus Technologies)

If you came to this page from “Meet women–with your smart phone! two things:

  1. Don’t be mad!  I’m trying to save you money and grief.
  2. Please keep reading, and I’ll explain everything.

If you didn’t come from there, you might enjoy looking at that web page.

I made up “Venus Technologies LLC” and the Perdant smartphone app as an outreach to people (men, anyway) who might become victims of a web scam.  VenusTech is an April Fools’ Day prank (notice the date in the byline).  But I do not laugh, and I sincerely apologize if it inconvenienced or troubled you.  Now I’d like to use the occasion to pass on some tips about web scams.

Here are two ways to protect yourself from web scams.

  1. Easy: Don’t buy stuff online.   Or, buy only from Amazon.
  2. Hard: Figure out whether the seller is trustworthy.  (Don’t get distracted by how much you want the product.  Some scams involve good products.).  Pay by credit card or PayPal, not by debit card.  Debit cards are like cash; they make it harder to get your money back.  If you do get scammed, it’s best to block your credit card and get a new one with a different number to prevent the scammer from stealing again.

If you chose the hard way, please read on.  Here are some signs that “Perdant” is a web scam and “Venus Technologies” is not to be trusted.


Ridiculous claims:  Common sense should tell you that these claims can’t be true.

  • Discovered in a secret experiment.  Scammers love to claim that their products are barely legal.  Project MK-Ultra was real; but experiment 37-J was not.
  • The CIA forced Dr. Adelph Montague into hiding.  Scammers love an antigovernment backstory, so you’ll root for the little guy by buying their product.
  • So many scammers offer a 75% discount that it’s a pretty certain indicator of a web scam.

Lying and deception:  Does this kind of lying do any harm? That depends. Would you give your credit card to a liar?

  • Dr. Adelph Montague is clip-art. Connoisseurs of web scams may recognize him under various names as the chief technologist or engineer on many scam sites (here, for example). He’s a credibility prop.  How would you know?  Save his picture to a file and use it to do a Google image search.
  • Anton Revanaugh is a guy I made up. A journalism style byline is another credibility prop.  How would you know? Do a Google search on the name.
  • A forged magazine cover feature article blurb. This is a typical credibility prop for web scams that involve gadgets.  How would you know?  Again, Google image search.

Obfuscation:

  • An opportunity that could end at any time!”  It’s standard practice to make you think you don’t have time to consider carefully.
  • You don’t see the price. All you know is that you’re getting 75% off of the normal price, whatever that is.  On a real scam site, you might not find out the price until you’ve given them your email address.  Then they’ll spam you whether you buy anything or not.
  • The important links to the terms and conditions document and the privacy policy are camouflaged in the bottom border.  It’s not unknown for a scam site to hide important information. Here’s an example from real life:For more tips about how to spot a web scam, click some of the tabs in the right toolbar to read my reports about actual scams.

Here are links to some good information sources:

Bonus outtakes:

  • “Perdant” is French for “Loser.”
  • The part about women hearing a higher range of frequencies is true.  But that’s a long way from hypnotizing them.
  • The text in the newspaper clipping is from Donald Trump’s inaugural address.

 

 

 

 

 

Fuzzed by HDFX360 phone lenses

The folks at LUX HD450, or perhaps at Shadowhawk, seem to be running the underworld equivalent of a franchise.

I’m imagining a shadowy character convening hungry-looking con-artists at a Las Vegas motel; “We’ll give ya a shipping container of Chinese lenses and a website.  End of the month, you give us $___,___,___ if you value your kneecaps!”  The look-alike websites feature a Photoshopped Digital SLR Photography magazine cover, which makes them easy to find.

scamometer-hdfx360HDFX360, based in San Francisco, looks even sketchier than its siblings.  (Remember; red link = bad.)  It’s September 11, 2016.  Let’s test the effect on this slime of the focused sunshine of the Scam-O-Meter!

Ridiculous claims:  

  • Tests on Smartphones Shown to Outperform DSLR’s!”  Anyone who knows  photography understands that this claim can’t be true.  It’d be like transforming hamburger into prime rib by covering it with steak sauce.  I’ve tested the lenses, and they aren’t even as good as my iPhone 6’s built-in lens.
  • The product is German designed and we know German’s and their optics.”  I sense LUX HD450’s fictitious Lead Technologist Simon Greig of Stuttgart lurking off-stage.
  • Shoots all the focal lengths.”  Good; we wouldn’t want any of them to get away.
  • 100% auto focus and the auto stabilization compatible.”  Claiming a feature that your phone already has is another kind of ridiculous.
  • Moreover, dust and water are kept away with the lenses.”  Yes, but how awkward to slip your phone into your pocket with a big clamp on it.
  • It also has a fastening clip included in the whole package.”  I do like their style.  -1

Post Office box:  HDFX360 doesn’t offer a physical address of any kind.  -1

  • The Privacy Policy mutters “537 Market St #2324 San Francisco, CA 94101.”  Looks like a vacant lot.
  • Tame review-site ReleaseWire points to “1058 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94103.”  Looks like an abandoned building.

Onerous terms:

  • You can’t sue them, or join a class action that’s suing them.
  • They don’t guarantee that their product is fit for any use (not even “quiet enjoyment”); nor that anything they say is true.
  • After wading thru a page of verbiage, I see no mention of a return or refund policy.  -1

Ads, spam, robocalls:

  • They’ll use your personal information, plus what they can wring out of your browser, to beam ads at you, robocall you and text you at your expense.
  • Are you registered on the National Do-Not-Call list?  No problem; they’ll call you anyway.
  • They’ll sell your data to other companies that will do the same.
  • If they sell their company, your data is part of the deal.  -1

screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-12-33-22-pmLying and deception:

Other than the faked magazine cover, it’s hard to say whether these guys are lying or just don’t know any better.  0

Obfuscation:

  • You have to drill thru three web pages to see the price list.
  • A countdown timer suggests that you don’t have time to comparison shop.
  • On the order form, a quantity of five sets of lenses is pre-filled.
  • The ratio of words to information in the Terms Of Use is extreme.  -1

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 11.07.26 PMPhony reviews:  I see vague, wildly enthusiastic reviews with payola links to HDFX360, like the one by ReleaseWire.  -1

Crummy product:  True.  -1

Overpriced:  HDFX360 expects $69 for one set of lenses.  You can buy the same mediocre lenses on Amazon under a different brand name for $7.  -1

Unauthorized charges: I found no reports of this.  +1

Scam-O-Meter score; -7

Buy nothing from this outfit.  But their website is particularly fun to mock.

If you’re a victim

I am very sorry to learn it.  Here’s the best advice I’ve been able to come up with for victims of phone lens scams.

The sticky web of the LUX HD450 phone lens scam

 

danger-theft

Much of this web is in darkness; here is what I’ve been able to figure out as of 7/25/16.

The product

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 11.07.26 PMThis scam involves a poor-quality, overpriced set of clip-on lenses for smart phone cameras.  The vendor habitually delivers and charges for five sets, regardless of how many sets the customer orders. Thru credit card fraud, many customers have lost over $100 on these lenses advertised at $29 and selling for $10 on Amazon.

The Mailbox

LUX HD450 corporate headquarters are here:

mailbox serviceHow to contact LUX HD450:
Lux HD450
2658 Del Mar Heights Rd #368
Del Mar, CA 92014 USA
Phone: 1-844-220-5101
International Returns Address:
PO Box 7574
Milton Keynes, MK119GQ, UK
Email: support@luxhd450.com
France: soutien@luxhd450.fr
Germany: kundendienst@luxhd450.de

The website

WebsiteInformer.com lists LuxLense LLC (see “The company”) as the owner of luxhd450.com .  The website gets over 25,000 visits a day.  My blogs get at most 600 a day.  I feel like a gnat trying to defend a goal the size of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

“Well, you can’t teach everybody!”  -Dr. Jennifer Brown

Godaddy.com started hosting luxhd450.com on March 17, 2016, per EasyCounter.  Odd that LuxLense LLC’s address for website-owning purposes is different:

las vegas.png

7582 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas Nevada 89123

The connections

What a coincidence.  This is the address of another scammer I’ve blogged about; Shadowhawk Flashlights.

It’s also the address of Bizwhiznetwork.com.  This company’s lines of business on 7/25/16 included online jobs and pre-payday loans.

The company

The bottom of the LUX HD450 web page (which, we now see, might really be owned by Shadowhawk) says “Made by LUXHD Cameras.”  This company is imaginary; I’ve found no mention of it by anybody other than LUX HD450.

No manufacturer?  No problem.  At their prices, they can afford to buy the lenses from Amazon and repackage them.  However, there really is a company behind LUX HD450.  Trademarkia states, “LUX HD450 is a product created by LuxLense LLC,” same address.  The company was incorporated March 17, 2016 in Delaware, via its registered agent Paracorp.  What a coincidence; that’s the date the LUX HD450 website went up on Godaddy.com.

The lawyer

To communicate with LuxLense LLC’s mysterious owner, one must apply to his or her legal correspondent, a Los Angeles business lawyer.  The lawyer’s address is shown below; apparently, he likes to keep a low profile.

JOSEPH D HUSER, JOE HUSER, ESQ., 424 S BROADWAY, SUITE 902, LOS ANGELES, CA 90013Judson.png

The trademark

LuxLense LLC’s assets include one trademark; LUX HD450, created May 24, 2016 according to Inventively.  Trademark File lists its status on June 1, 2016 as “New application – not assigned to an Examiner.”

 

If you’re a victim

I am very sorry to learn it. Here’s the best advice I’ve been able to come up with for victims of phone lens scams.

Related posts

Death by laughter; Shadowhawk tactical laser

Sexy and slightly dangerous, small lasers join electric lighters in that odd class of web scams; good products sold in an evil way.

Overpriced

I’m picking on Shadowhawk again because I so detest their veterans charity scam, Operation Hero Relief.  But on 7/18/16 the identical laser was being sold on several sites:

  • Shadowhawk military tactical laser MAX MV; $69
  • Ultrabeam survival laser; $54 (no battery)
  • Nighthawk tactical laser; $70 ($56 + $14 for a battery)
  • Galleon / Camplife tactical laser pointer (out of stock)
  • Amazon / Camplife tactical laser pointer ($25, out of stock)
  • eBay ($6.59 and up)

(I’m only providing links for the “good guys;” you can google the others if you’d like.)  I’m showing the single-unit prices here.

What’s a fair price?  For once, Amazon let me down.  So I shopped for a similar laser from a reputable vendor, and came up with LaserPointerPro’s “Green laser pointer pen” for $12.99.  Like the Shadowhawk, the LaserPointerPro is a 5 mw 532 nm laser, the maximum power the US government allows for laser pointers.  It can make star patterns on your ceiling.  You can torment your cat with it.  And in several ways it’s actually better than the Shadowhawk:

  • Uses two standard AAA batteries
  • Has a pocket clip
  • Costs 1/5 as much
  • Isn’t sold by a scammer

Ridiculous claims

The value of your purchase is what you think it is.  And scammers are always happy to help you think.

Weapons-grade laser  8DDDD

  • Secondary scammer NationLife boasts “Attach to your pistol or rifle to maintain a perfect aim.”  But they don’t provide a way to attach it.
  • “Blinds invaders!” Shadowhawk assures us of this “self-defense” laser.  My guess is the invader either wouldn’t notice it, or would collapse in laughter, wipe the tears out of his eyes, and take your laser too.  Wikipedia says, “Studies have found that even low-power laser beams of not more than 5 mW can cause permanent retinal damage if gazed at for several seconds; however, the eye’s blink reflex makes this highly unlikely.”
  • NationLife says, “Nowadays it is very important to carry a Tactical Laser due to natural disasters, and terrorism.”  You never know when you might need to give a PowerPoint talk during an earthquake, or take down a hijacker by setting his carefully-positioned match on fire.
  • Galleon screams “Super strong, burns everything!”  If this were true, it might be a disadvantage.

Other silly claims  8DDDD

  • Nighthawk boasts, “We have the most powerful and brightest laser available in the world and still within legal US regulations.”  This is true in a twisted way; the feds have set a 5 mw limit for laser pointers (not laser weapons).  But it’s a good line to use on your friends.
  • Shadowhawk touts “Aircraft aluminum.”  This is the same metal that beer cans are made of.
  • NationLife points out the laser’s utility for teasing cats, pointing out stars and entertaining children.  How strange to read true stuff on such a web site.

Chicanery

Ultrabeam has found a new way to make their Terms and Conditions even more obscure; the Stealth Display:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 11.26.03 PM

A second layer of obfuscation is that nearly all the Terms document is about legal services(?), not lasers.  This flak conceals the worst terms I’ve ever seen:

  • You can only return an item within 10 days of your order date (not the date you received it)
  • You can only return an unopened item
  • We charge a $35 per item restocking fee (over half the cost of the laser)

Oddly, Ultrabeam’s privacy policy is pretty good.

Bottom line

Steer clear of Shadowhawk and their slimy ilk.

Those weapons claims … ROTFLMAO!  But if you’re looking for a presentation pointer, cat-teaser or kid-pleaser, the LaserPointerPro is good.  Also there’s eBay.

Charity scam; Herorelief.org

Curious about what our friends at Shadowhawk Flashlights do when they’re not plugging the Chinese answer to the lightsword, I tried googling their return address,

UPS storeShadowhawk Flashlights
7875 Highlands Village Place, Suite B102 #401
San Diego, CA 92129

What a coincidence!

herorelief.org (no link, because that would improve their Google score) uses this post office box as their corporate address!  What a surprise to discover that the flashlight guys are into good works.  Let’s take a closer look, with Google Image Search.

Near the top of the herorelief.org page is a picture of a kind man handing a package to a young mother who’s holding her little girl.  In Charisma News, a story about Red Cross volunteers helping Hurricane Sandy victims carries the same picture.  Come to think of it, the man is wearing a Red Cross hat.  Can’t herorelief.org even come up with their own hats?

man in orangeNext we see a man in an orange jacket offering a little girl a bowl.  The same image is used by Global Language Network, a EurActiv.com news story, and (this could be the source) a Shutterstock gallery labeled “Kosovar.”

I don’t think we can learn much more about herorelief.org this way.  All the text about disasters, veterans, etc. is really good.  But let’s look at what they say about what they’re saying.  Uh-oh, there’s a disclaimer on the bottom of the page.  <<Klaxon horn sounds>>


Copyright © Hero Relief. All information provided is deemed reliable but is not guaranteed and should be independently verified. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.


Impressive chunk of Latin at the end–or is it?  Googling that sentence, I find:


This phrase has the appearance of an intelligent Latin idiom. Actually, it is nonsense.


So, not satisfied with refusing to say that what they say is true, Shadowhawk couldn’t resist poking us in the eye with impressive nonsense.

Chicanery

Glancing thru their Terms and Conditions, it’s obvious that they’re cribbed from a scam (the flashlight one, I’m thinking).  The quality of the lawyer’s workmanship really shows in lines like “While we want everyone to be able to enjoy Hero Relief, we may, in our sole discretion, not accept an order.”  I’ll just hit the high points, trying to be brief and amusing while scaring you into actually reading these things.

  • You can’t sue us, or join a class action that’s suing us.
  • Unless you tell us not to, we’ll keep charging the amount you donate to your credit card monthly forever. 
  • You have to wait 30 days for a refund, long enough for us to bill you again.  And we’ll only give you one refund.
  • If you reverse a credit card charge, that’s theft.
  • We’ll use your personal information and what we can suck out of your browser to spam you and beam ads at you.  And we’ll share it with other companies who will do the same.

What’s the buzz?

The usually reliable Charity Navigator has no information on them; nor does the San Diego Better Business Bureau.  In fact, nobody on the web is putting out information about herorelief.org other than themselves.

Certifications?  Audits?  Financial reports?  A list of charities that hero relief.org supports?

No buzz, other than what you’re reading right now.

Donate now …

Before you deal out your credit card for these turkeys to fondle, take a close look at the illustration.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 10.26.48 PM

  • The “Monthly donation” box is pre-checked.  You can uncheck it; but if you’ve read this far, would you trust them to keep it unchecked?
  • Green Shield sounds good.  But who are they?  Again, Charity Navigator has no information about such a charity.
  • The laughing family is not who your donation will support.  They’re clip-art from dreamtime.com .

Instead

Now that we’ve saved your credit card from a scammer’s sweaty grip, here’s a suggestion; give to a real charity.  For starters, here’s Charity Navigator’s list of charities with perfect scores.


 

 If you have any experience with or information about herorelief.org please reply; thanks.


7/15/16 Update: When I linked this blog to Operation Hero Relief’s Facebook page, their admin deleted my post.  So I’ve created a “Skeptics” Facebook page to enable independent discussion of this sham charity.  Hope to see you there!


7/21/16 Update: Operation Hero Relief’s Facebook page announced an Indegogo fundraising campaign.  I registered with Indegogo to look for a way to warn off contributors.  However, the campaign was closed with no backers and no contributions.  I wrote to Indegogo support to ask whether the campaign was permanently closed, who closed it and why.  Their response; “As you can see the campaign is closed and has not raised any funds. Unfortunately, this is all the public info we can provide.”

The campaign was created by Martin Stalnecker of Jacksonville.  This could be a glimpse of who’s behind Shadowhawk.  Or he might be an unwitting assistant; Jacksonville is a long way from San Diego.  His Facebook profile says, “A Jacksonville native and Clay County resident, Martin Stalnecker believes in putting traditional values first in life, family, and community.”