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Yow, that was Close; Email List Scams Hit Home

3/27/12

By Ken Magill

The universe of potential email-list-scam victims is apparently practically limitless.

Just how limitless was driven home to me last week in an exchange I had with an entrepreneur friend who emailed asking for advice.

He had a very close call with a firm that appears to be related to India-based Data Champions/Sloan Marketing.

According to Spamhaus, Data Champions/Sloan Marketing was the company behind EmailAppenders, a firm infamous in email marketing circles for having been accused by multiple marketers of ripping them off in bad list deals.

“I've peeled off a product and given it its own web page and have (I think) found a list of qualified email addresses from a vendor,” my friend wrote in his email to me. “Since this is right up your alley I figured I'd ask how I know it is a list of people that really want the info and how much I should pay.

“I have my own software to do the mailing and I only need to use a subset of their list once. I have them down to $0.85 per contact. Does that make sense?”

“Um, no $850 per thousand names does not make sense,” I thought and fired back an email immediately to him saying: “We need to talk before you do anything with that IT  list. Call me.”

My friend is not a direct marketer. He’s a tech guy who started a reasonably successful wi-fi security firm.

And he was about to buy a list of names from a company calling itself Global IT Users and start spamming the names.

“Have you spoken with anyone from this company on the phone?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Call them,” I said. “’Cynthia’ [his rep’s supposed name] will have an Indian accent.”

“Did you notice there is no postal address on their web site?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“There’s no postal address on their web site because they’re probably based in India,” I said. “If you buy a list from them, it will be garbage and there will be nothing you can do to get your money back because they have no physical U.S. presence. And if you do get a postal address from them, it’ll probably be a P.O. Box.”

“Have you done a Whois search on their domain?” I asked?

“No,” he said.

“Do it,” I said. “Their registration information will be hidden by one of those domain privacy services.”

“Hang on a minute,” he said. “Yep, they’re registered with Moniker Privacy Services.”

“Can you think of any reason a legitimate company would want to hide their domain registration information?” I asked.

“Nope.”

After we hung up, I did a little more digging and then sent my friend one final email:

“Run. Don't walk. Run away from these people.

“If you want to give one more test, ask if they'll take half of the money up front and half on delivery of the list (they won't). They'll want it all up front because they know you will not be satisfied with your purchase.”

So here is what I found:

While reading through my friend’s email string with GlobalIT Users rep Cynthia, I saw that a rep calling herself Ava Smith was also involved in the pitch. Her email address was ava.smith@techinfodata.com.

A Google search on TechInfoData.com revealed nothing about any such company and the domain did not load.

Smith’s phone number was 866-978-8534.

A Google search on 866-978-8534 brought back, among other results, this site, which claims the number has been used in numerous fake email identities employed by Data Champions, an India-based firm that has been linked to EmailAppenders and other firms that marketers have claimed scammed them in bad list deals.

I emailed the “Cynthia” my friend had been in contact with using my fake ShuvittInyurass_at_yahoo.com address and requested her company’s postal address.

After three requests, she responded with “DEPT LA 22973 14005 LI VEOAK AVE IRWINDALe CA 91706-1300.” Her spelling and punctuation, not mine.

So first, she doesn’t recognize Shuvitt Inyurass for the juvenile nonsense that it is. Second, she responds with a mangled address.

What is more, the address she supplied was once claimed by a company calling itself SalesListsOnline.

SalesListsOnline has been connected to another address, as well—an address connected to Data Champions/Sloan Marketing.

In 2009, a man calling himself Jack Wilson contacted soon-to-be exhibitors to the ad:tech San Francisco conference claiming to have a list of show attendees. He claimed to be with SalesListsOnline.

The phone number in Wilson’s SalesListsOnline pitch was identical to the phone number used in a pitch where someone calling himself Jack Wilson claimed to represent OptInList.

At the time, Wilson claimed his company’s address was 2370 Market Street in San Francisco.

A firm called EventGain located at EventGain.net—notice the .net—listed the 2370 Market Street address as its U.S. headquarters.

According to anti-spam outfit Spamhaus’s Registry of Known Spam Operations, EventGain.com—notice the .com—at one time was operated by Data Champions/Sloan Marketing.

It is possible EventGain.com and EventGain.net are unrelated but unlikely.

So GlobalITUsers is apparently connected to SalesListsOnline, which is apparently connected to OptInList, which is apparently connected to EventGain, which is apparently connected to India-based Data Champions/Sloan Marketing, which was apparently behind the infamous EmailAppenders.

Are all of the warning signs above absolute proof that my friend was about to be scammed? No. But put together, do they smell like my dog Willie after he killed a skunk last summer? Yep.

For the record, it is a myth that tomato juice neutralizes skunk smell. Vinegar is the trick. And you couldn’t soak the deal my friend was about to make in enough vinegar to get the stench off it.

This was just one deal with one non-marketing guy running a one-man-show IT company who just happened to know me and had the sense to ask me before he cut the deal.

I shudder when I think of all the people who are getting scammed in bad email list deals right now.

Author’s note: Meanwhile, another friend was contacted by a list pitch that smelled. The person who contacted him claimed to be the following:

Joyce Regan
Senior Marketing Manager
Phone:267-274-2163
Elettermails Services - We Create Opportunities!
1211 Louisiana Street,
Harwick, Pennsylvania,USA 15001

Debunking this pitch took one Google maps search. The postal address doesn’t exist. Also, this anti-spam site claims the phone number is linked to Data Champions.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Andrew Stephens
Date: 2012-04-20 03:34:37
Subject: I disagree with your assumptions

Although I have no personal experiences with Data Champions, I find your analysis to lack fact and substance (as Spamhaus is well-known for lacking facts themselves). I run over a dozen different DBAs BECAUSE OF SPAMHAUS. Not because I want to scam someone or fail to be transparent, but rather because Spamhaus is able to slander, defame, smear, libel, and flat-out abuse the web and people today and data vendors are forced to be VERY secretive prior to an exchange of funds. Pay them for a small database and see how transparent they get. Spam fighters do not make purchases on data, so if you become a patron of a data vendor you will most likely find much more transparency. If you had written this article with the same presumptions and used a more respectable authority reference (other than Spamhaus), I think it will carry much more weight. The truth is that Spamhaus is far from respected in the email marketing industry...but more so in the 'anti-incoming data admin' circles. Who are you looking to reach here; the marketer or the sys admin?
Posted by: Dave Schauer
Date: 2012-03-27 16:53:28
Subject: Email Appenders

We have had our run ins with them and I have advised my customers many times that "you don't have to use me, but do not use them!" Glad to see you are still on the case!
Posted by: Ken Magill
Date: 2012-03-27 16:52:52
Subject: Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide

So I've since been told. Let's hope I don't have to find out. Last time Willie killed a skunk he got into the house before I realized it and began rubbing up against the walls. Yeesh.
Posted by: Stefanie Pont
Date: 2012-03-27 15:55:51
Subject: Data Champions

Excellent detective work, as usual. And if you mix baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, it works better than vinegar.

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