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Dec. 5th, 2014

You Tried This Already

In October of last year, a “Chinese domain name service” contacted me to tell me that there was someone trying to register the domain of this blog- goeskaboominsanejournal to their company and telling me that in order to protect my “brand image” I would need to reigster the name myself. Guess what email I got again this morning? Yep. Same exact content as before, from the same exact guy with the same exact email address. Seriously? They must think I'm dumb as a rock. Well, I guess I can't blame them since the first time I got the email I fell for it and actually responded to it like it was legitimate.

Jim from the Shanghai Branch Office- like I said before, I don't wish you any ill will, but I'm not going to fall for this fraud. Everyone who's ever studied the Internet knows that in general you cannot register a domain name in a country that is not the one they live in, especially for personal use. You're not going to convince me otherwise. Fool me once and all that.

Jul. 14th, 2014

ScamCon

I honestly don't even know where to start with this.

People who've followed this blog for some time know that I don't really like much of anything. It would be easier to make a list of things I don't dislike than a list of things I do dislike. But there are some things I hate more than others, and scammers are one of those things. Even more than that, I hate scammers who try to make themselves seem like the victims. Fuck them with a cactus. In the ear.

Over the weekend, there was a fan convention in northern Illinois. Okay, no biggie, right? There are fan convention all the time. And most of the time, they're very fun for the attendees. This one... not so much. The con that happened this weekend was known as DashCon, previously known as Tumbl-Con USA. The name was changed to avoid confusing people into thinking that they were officially affiliated with Tumblr itself. And that was about the last honest, above-board thing that happened at that con.

I do not like the Daily Dot very much, but this is a relatively balanced account of what happened at the con, although the Daily Dot is a lot more willing to go on “this was an honest mistake, not fraud” than I am. To make a long story short, along with a whole lot of other issues, the con's organizers got on stage, claimed that they were going to be kicked out unless they raised $17,000 in an hour, and started begging for money, which they received. Even with all of this last-minute slapdash fundraising, they still didn't have enough money to pay for the hotel rooms of the celebrity guests they invited, couldn't pay the performers, and had to sell pizza at a ridiculous markup to feed the hungry guests. But they apparently had enough money to put a down payment on the convention hall for next year, And not only did they get a convention hall for next year, they upgraded massively, into a convention hall used for massive, already-established conventions in actual industries, that would probably cost even more than $17,000.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of business law knows that once a contract has been signed, one party cannot renege on that contract by deciding that they don't like the people they signed the contract with and demand more money. That's not how contracts work. In my (humble and unprofessional opinion), they either never signed a contract, or didn't pay their fair share of the money to book the venue this year, and the hotel realized this belatedly. They could have also given a bad check, and realized what they did, and started trying to extort from the con attendees in order to cover their asses. This is called check kiting, and it's a federal crime, so this should be interesting to see if anything comes of this in the future.

If that wasn't bad enough, they also did not have enough money to rent the rooms for their high-profile guests, or even pay them. Welcome to Night Vale, a popular podcast, ducked out when they realized what was going on. I don't have the best opinion of the WTNV people since the podcast has stopped being funny and been more heavy-handed commentary on social issues, but my opinion has risen a bit based on this. Not only did they realize that they weren't going to get paid, most likely, they realized that if they did get any money at all it wouldn't have been ethically gotten, or could potentially be seized as part of an investigation into the fraud, if that's the way the defrauded parties choose to go.

But that's enough about the potential fraud/sketchy business practices. Let's get into the other sketchy things that went down at this con. For one, there was no security to speak of whatsoever, so anyone could wander into the con itself without paying for a ticket. There was a panel about BDSM, that was supposed to be restricted to adults only (18+). Reports are kind of all over the place about what actually happened, but it seems that they weren't very stringent with the age requirements, and minors went in and attended. That is a federal crime, and a very good way for the presenters to end up on the sex offender registry. Whether or not that's fair is a discussion for another day, but the fact remains that they really needed to be more careful about who gets into restricted panels.

And if that wasn't enough, now some people are complaining that the fact that the WTNV people bailed when they realized how sketchy this was are sexist because the convention organizers were “young women.” Never mind that at least one of those “naive young women” is approaching 40- technically old enough to be my mother. And serously? You're going to go the route of trying to paint scammers and fraudsters as naïve, poor, misunderstood young girls? HA. And Bernie Madoff is just a misunderstood old granddad.

I should end this by saying that I did not attend DashCon. But I can recognize a scam when I see one, and I have no sympathy. Well, that's not entirely true- I have sympathy for the attendees who got scammed out of their money. Given tumblr's demographics, it's very likely the majority of people who lost money actually were, in fact, naïve teen girls.

Here are some more links to the whole debacle. You know my position on it, you can form your own opinion if you'd like.

The Escapist

Oh No They Didn't! thread

Reddit thread from TumblrInAction

Another Reddit thread from TiA

Third Reddit thread

Hyperbite

Tumblr detailing what you can buy with $17 grand

Tumblr user explains the basic problems with the con- somewhat outdated but useful

Tumblr user who attended but left before the money grab happened describes the con

Lots of links

Why a lawsuit could happen
A vendor who went to DashCon talks about what she saw

Oct. 29th, 2013

In the past week, not only have my life plans basically evaporated, leaving me confused and irritated, I've now become the target of a scammer. I'm posting this here partially to shame the duckfucker, and also to help people avoid falling for the same situation. Apparently it's fairly common, and I actually made the mistake of responding to the first email. I thought it was legitimate at first, and then I started to think it was kind of suspicious and did some research. Here are the emails I received in their entirety:

Dear Manager,

(If you are not the person who is in charge of this, please forward this to your CEO,Thanks)

This email is from China domain name registration center, which mainly deal with the domain name registration in China and Asia. We received an application from Huahong Ltd on July 8, 2013. They want to register " goeskaboominsanejournal " as their internet keyword and China/Asia/Hongkong (CN/ASIA/HK) domain names. But after checking it, we find this name conflicts with your company. In order to deal with this matter better, so we send you email and confirm whether this company is your distributor or business partner in China or not?

Best Regards,

Jim
General Manager
Shanghai Office (Head Office)
[Address and phone numbers redacted]


I responded as though it was legitimate, thanking the guy for letting me know and saying that I am not a business, this is a personal blog, and that I do not have any business contacts in China. I thought that was the end of it, and then three days ago I got another email, this time from a different person: Jiang Zhifa.

Dear Sirs,

Our company based in chinese office, our company has submitted the " goeskaboomsanejournal " as CN(.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) domain name and Internet Keyword, we are waiting for Mr. Jim's approval. We think this name is very important for our products in Chinese market. Even though Mr. Jim advises us to change another name, we will persist in this name.


Best regards

Jiang zhifa


By this point I had figured out it was a scam, and I did not respond to the email. I had read online that a few days after getting this email, I would be getting another email from the first guy, telling me that these people would be attempting to go ahead and register the domain name they had originally planned on using- my domain name, and that they would send me pricing information so that I could register it before they did.

In case you don't know, if you are not a company or individual based in China, you cannot register the .cn domain. That is for Chinese nationals only, not foreigners. That's how you know this is a scam- you can pay all the money you want but you will not be allowed to register with a .cn domain name if you're not Chinese. The exception to this is for big multinational corporations with Chinese customers (example: Microsoft). As I am not Microsoft, it's impossible for me to get a .cn domain name.

Sure enough, this morning I woke up to check my email, and here's what was there.

Dear [my name redacted],

Based on your company having no relationship with them, we have suggested they should choose another name to avoid this conflict but they insist on this name as CN domain names (.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) and internet keyword on the internet. In our opinion, maybe they do the similar business as your company and register it to promote his company.
According to the domain name registration principle: The domain names and internet keyword which applied based on the international principle are opened to companies as well as individuals. Any companies or individuals have rights to register any domain name and internet keyword which are unregistered. Because your company haven't registered this name as CN domains and internet keyword on the internet, anyone can obtain them by registration. However, in order to avoid this conflict, the trademark or original name owner has priority to make this registration in our audit period. If your company is the original owner of this name and want to register these CN domain names (.cn/.com.cn/.net.cn/.org.cn) and internet keyword to prevent anybody from using them, please inform us. We can send an application form and the price list to you and help you register these within dispute period.

Kind regards
Jim


Jim, if you're reading this, I wish you no ill will, but I will not respond to any further emails. Go try to scam people somewhere else, since I'm not falling for it.

Jan. 21st, 2013

Take The Money And Run

I know you guys are probably getting very sick of hearing about this sort of thing, but once again, the person who let me know about the video game creation scam has come forward with yet another instance of someone abusing the goodwill of the Internet to get money and bugger off with it. I'm basically at the point where I don't even want to donate to legitimate charities anymore because of all this fraud going down.

Now, I've personally never heard of firework-comic, the individual involved in this situation before, at least, not until Neil Gaiman posted her request of her begging for money. The evidence of this is here. So, Neil Gaiman's a good guy, and he probably thought that he was helping out a struggling college student. That's what I thought when I saw this, and because I'm a nice person I thought I would go check out this person's work. If I liked it enough I thought I might donate a few dollars. I've done similar things in the past for people whose work I enjoyed, when the needed the money (Kimberly Geswein, the font maker, makes beautiful fonts and requests that if you use her fonts for anything that's not personal that you donate a bit of money. I've used her fonts for school projects, so I've donated then).

What I found was a half-assed webcomic that has been in production since 2006 with approximately fifty pages to its name. Penny Arcade, another webcomic which has been in production since 1999, has exponentially more content than that, and the creators are actually competent at what they do. Not only did this woman have very little output to show for her years of work, but she also ran a blog called This Is Wealthy Privilege, which was basically nothing but complaining about how rich people can afford things she can't. She'd post these stories saying how she couldn't afford to pay her rent, how her parents kept mooching off of her, how the electricity kept getting shut off, and how at times, she didn't even have clean water to drink.

That was what first tripped alarm bells. She had also posted that she lived in the United States. Uh. I live in the United States. Barring something like a natural disaster, the water that comes out of the taps here is safe to drink. It might taste kind of weird depending on where you are (some places put different chemicals and vitamins in the water), but again, unless you're in a situation like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina you can drink the water from the tap without getting sick. While it is possible that if you do not pay the utility bill the company would shut off your water, that doesn't mean you don't have access to it at all. It's a bad situation- don't get me wrong. But you can go to the park and use one of the public drinking fountains- that water is clean.

But let's say that this individual couldn't pay her water bill and lived in an area affected by natural disaters, or used a well that pumped groundwater that became contaminated. If that was it, I'd understand that. But apparently she took donated money and used it to buy a Nintendo DS. You can't eat a Nintendo DS. You don't need a Nintendo DS to survive. But she bought one, despite supposedly being very, very poor. My informant sent me a link to this, which chronicles the whole saga.

Unfortunately, it's people like this who give charity a bad name.
Tags: , ,

Jan. 12th, 2013

IMPORTANT: Fraud Alert

Yesterday, I heard about something that disturbed me a great deal, and because of the sensitive nature of this... issue, I cannot actually name-drop the “organization” responsible- they are running a targeted harassment campaign against anyone who dares to speak against them and are threatening legal action if you so much as annoy them. Considering I don't want to spend a bunch of time fighting off hordes of angry nutjobs and don't have enough money for a lawyer, I am going to keep this as informative as possible whilst still being vauge enough to maintain plausible deniability. If you think that you may have been targeted by this “organization,” please seek help. If you have been suckered in, get out while you still can, and possibly contact a lawyer. I cannot stress the seriousness of this enough- you have been scammed out of your money, you are being taken advantage of, and you may be involved in some illegal business dealings that could lead to you being prosecuted under various US laws, and possibly various UK laws. You could be damaging your reputation and your future career prospects.

There is an... uh, “company,” and I use the term in the loosest sense possible, that has been going around blogging websites like tumblr, Livejournal, and Blogspot attempting to recruit IT professionals to help them create a video game. They are funding this thing entirely through donated money, scamming many well-meaning people who want to help create this game. Never mind that they are shooting for a 3D RPG, on the level of Skyrim or something similar, and that their donation goal is laughably low for a game of that level. None of the people in charge of this project know anything about what they are doing, and I think on some level, they realize that- that's why they are contacting people who actually do have know-how and asking them for help.

They do this by appealing to their target's sense of fairness and social justice- this game is supposedly going to include groups traditionally left out of game design. A lot of people hear about this, go “oh, that's cool! I hope it goes through, and I hope it works! Maybe I'll donate!” There's nothing wrong with that, but that's also where things get hairy.

The group is apparently run by a virulently racist asshole who has done similar things in the past, claiming to be involved with work directed towards helping some marginalized group or another. They capitalize on the goodwill of people who want to help out their fellow human beings, collect large sums of money, then buggers off with said money. It is a scam, and a right nasty one at that. They take advantage of people's altruism only to screw them over, making things even more complicated for the group they screwed over in the future. No one wants to donate to a cause that has burned them before, so why would they want to do it again?

Not only is this group running a scam, but they fully intend to capitalize on the donated time of the professionals and students they are asking for help- they are, after all, allegedly making a video game. The individual that approached me with this information indicated that this organization intends to make its “volunteers” sign a contract for their work. By signing this contract, you are essentially indenturing yourself to these people for “as long as it takes to make the game.” While my informant was not sure whether or not this contract would be legally binding or not, it is best to err on the side of caution. If the contract does turn out to be a valid, legally binding contract, you may have just screwed yourself over- you agreed to work for free, and to not find other work, for any different company, until the game is completed. If there is no game, well... it doesn't take a genius to figure out the problems that could cause.

Once again, while I do not know the exact veracity of these claims, what I saw was enough to give me serious pause. If you think you may have signed something like this, please seek help from a contract lawyer or contact the Department of Labor (or whatever you have in your country- like I said, I do not know whether or not this would violate laws outside of the United States but I wouldn't be surprised if it would).

This link is to the Employment Development Department of California. While it is only valid for California residents, it is a good starting place for figuring out what to do next. Your state probably has something similar.

This link is to Crimestoppers in the UK, where you can report a fraud if you are in the United Kingdom. Again, I am not sure if this would have applied to anyone outside of the United States, but it does not hurt to check on it.

All in all, I just want everyone to stay safe.