Monday, December 6, 2010

Learning the Hard Way

The email sounded promising:

Save & Record Calls
screen shot from the scam
Record all of your text messages, audio, video and conference conversations, quickly and easily. Cherish all of your important moments, and relive them over and over again.

I'd been thinking about a way to record my Skype audio, video and chat, so when this ad came along, I opened it. It turned out to be spam AND a scam, but I learned that--and I'm embarrassed to admit it--after I paid for the 'product.'

The 'product' was not what was promised. Instead of a way to record Skype audio, video and more, what I got was a collection of freeware. About the only advantage to my purchase is that I got the freeware links in one place without having to collect them myself.

I was going to write about this sooner, while the scam was live, but I waited too long and now it's been taken down after just a couple weeks. The web site is now nothing but a parking lot.

I initially acted too quickly--I should have investigated the offer and the owners more carefully before charging $50 for a three-year license to my credit card.

Ouch. Another lesson learned the hard way.

First potential Red Flag: they found me--I wasn't looking for them.

When it started to dawn on me that there was a problem with the offer (I couldn't seem to locate the download for the audio/video recording software--Red Flag only after I had already paid), I became aware of clues I had overlooked. The small print at the bottom of the page stated pretty clearly all the software was freeware. Why would anyone pay for freeware? Red Flag

There were links to more information but nothing got me closer to the tools I wanted. There were plenty of other things to distract me: software I could download that works as a Skype answering machine (but again, that's free).

I decided to see who the site owner is. That information was blocked in a whois search. (Another Red Flag).

At this point I was pretty confident that someone had built a nice looking site that promised way more than it delivered and they were not taking calls. An online help line was provided, but there were so many information fields to fill (and a warning to fill them in exactly) in that I was pretty certain this was going to be a dead end. (Red Flag).

There were more than a few Red Flags but my guard was down.  At the time I couldn't find any warnings about this site. There could be some now. For the record, here are the names from the bottom of the spam:

Media Internet Consultants - Edif. Neptuno, Planta Baja, Ave. Ricardo J. Alfaro, Tumba Muerto, n/a, Panama  

(try that in a Google search!)

And while I'm at it, here's the description of the 'merchant': MB-SALE.COM (a processing house for Internet vendors).

The Lesson: Does it matter if you don't investigate before you buy? You can bet you'll lose money if you don't.

No comments: