Category: Internet Scams


I would like to thank Google for sponsoring this draw, my wife and children for their outstanding support during this overwhelming ordeal of newfound financial wealth and Director of Peoples Operations: Mr. Laszlo Bock for notifying me of my win.

“This is to inform you that you have won yourself an Award of One million Five Hundred Thousand Pounds (GBP1500,000) in the Google 11 Years Anniversary Awards as organized by the Anniversary Centre of Google Inc….”

As I performed my daily ritual of checking my email, I was somewhat surprised to receive an email from Google Management about their 11th anniversary. At least that is what the header stated. After opening it out of curiosity I soon realized it was just another elaborate scam with no value whatsoever, that is until I realized I had been inadvertently been handed a nice plum to blog about.

The intro was well done and would do well to fool the unsuspecting looking for a free windfall including the logo and official looking address, which after some quick research for curiosity sake is as I suspected, fake.

The rest was easy to spot from the bad English to the all encompassing asking for personal information and that fact Mr. Bock was the Director of the Peoples Operations, definitely not an English business term.

” The Anniversary Centre of Google Inc selected your email id as of one it’s 20 chosen fortunate winner to receive this award.” “…Send your complete personal information with your Award Ref. and File no. to us to enable us process your Prize;…”

What was also intriguing is the email addresses provided for contact based on the fact as there was no effort to conceal what was already apparent. They that was even remotely associated with Google other then the use of a Gmail address as the following shows.

Director of Peoples Operations: Mr. Laszlo Bock
E-Mail: mr.laaszloblock@ciudad.com.ar, gluckawards500@gmail.com

The first email address (ciudad.com.ar) is for a web site with the contact address in South Africa and the registration address for the site is Argentina, the second of course while at Gmail could be anywhere.

The telephone and fax numbers Tel: +44 7024 046 990, Fax: +44 704 090 1883 are intriguing as they are the same ones used in multiples of prize scams including numerous ones from Microsoft under multiple names of official contacts. The area or country code +44 is used in Great Britain, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey.

Further research shows that the telephone/fax numbers in question 070240***** are part of a series owned by Magrathea Telecommunications Limited a phone number redirection service from the United Kingdom.

In closing, Mr. Bock took the time to inform me that, “After 11 years of establishment, Google Inc is worth over US$23 Billion with over 20,000 workers worldwide making it the best and most successful online search engine around the globe.”

He also requested that I “Keep your Award information confidential.” Sorry Mr. Bock but how could I even attempt to keep such good fortune a secret. Now show me the money….

I had intended to post this article in January of this year and for personal reasons held off. I have since made a pact with myself to finish any project I start regardless of how I feel about it. It is with that in mind I present the following!

leapfish_logo1I had the opportunity to watch the movie, Slum Dog Millionaire and for some strange reason I reflected about the controversial topic of LeapFish. Like the main character and the overall plot, in the movie, LeapFish has numerous twists and turns, but we know the truth is out there, somewhere!

LeapFish first came to my attention on November 27, 2008 when I received and email from sspr.com, a marketing firm in Princeton, New Jersey. Normally I would send unsolicited email directly to the trash without any thought of opening it prior, but for some unexplainable reason I opened it:

Hi Allan,
Ben Behrouzi is a 27-year old serial entrepreneur who has already been a part of 20 multi-million dollar startups including Reply.com, iMotors.com, RealtyNow.com and more. He has just launched LeapFish.com, a new search engine that conveniently surprises users with new found search information as it combines the best of the web in a single search. Type in a search term and LeapFish instantly delivers a plethora of relevant results from Google, Yahoo, and MSN, along with blogs, news, Q&A, videos, images and shopping results from major online destinations including Ebay and YouTube. More than just a useful aggregator, LeapFish features a refreshingly clean interface with search widgets that display up-to-the-minute news, images, videos and more, on every search term.

Can I send you the press release on www.leapfish.com to consider for a possible story?

I then proceeded to do what I always do when opening a link from my emails I copied and pasted the link in my browser. The latter is a standard practice I follow regardless of the sender. What I discovered was a very intriguing search engine aggregator that was simple in design and pleasing to the eye, which prompted me to request the proffered press release as follows:

LeapFish.com Unveils Most Convenient Search Engine on the Web
Newly Released Beta of Multi-Dimensional Search Portal Offers the Best of the Web in a Single Search
PLEASANTON, CA LeapFish, a multi-dimensional search aggregator, announced today the launch of its beta search engine, LeapFish.com, that promises to conveniently surprise users with new- found search information as it combines the best of the web in a single search.

Type in a search term and LeapFish instantly delivers a plethora of relevant results from Google, Yahoo, and MSN, along with blogs, news, Q&A, videos, images and shopping results from major online destinations including Ebay and YouTube, all conveniently organized in a single, easy to use interface.

“The growing complexity and variety of the Internet has naturally fragmented data accessibility online. Today’s users are driven to utilize more than one online destination to find the data they seek,” said Behnam Behrouzi, President and CEO. “LeapFish offers a one-stop convenient solution for more complex searches by querying the web’s most sought-after destinations and rendering the results to users in a surprisingly easy-to-use format.”

More than just a useful aggregator, LeapFish features a refreshingly clean interface with search widgets that display up-to-the-minute news, images, videos and more, on every search term. Click “see more” under a search widget and get a complete list of relevant results. Hover over a video and view it right on LeapFish. Hover over an image thumbnail and see the actual image on demand.

“Future releases will allow LeapFish to intelligently decipher the search term entered and deliver the most relevant search widgets from a growing list of over 200 currently being developed,” Behrouzi said. “Users will receive instant results from relevant online authorities in maps, music, real estate, social sites and more, based on the search term they enter.”

Behrouzi points out that LeapFish does not intend to race alongside Google or Yahoo, but instead seeks to leverage what is already working and wanted online. “LeapFish utilizes what already works to capture the breadth and variety of the web and lends more accessibility to what is already valuable to us in the vastness of the Internet,” he says.

LeapFish utilizes proprietary hyper-threading technology to communicate with all major online portals simultaneously to deliver the various search results from across the web to users in a single search query. The beta search platform has been under development since early 2008 and is geared for considerable advancements over the coming months.

LeapFish Features Summary:

• New-Found Knowledge: By developing relationships with more than 200 leading online destinations in search, news, imagery, videos, real estate and more, LeapFish is defragmenting the accessibility of valuable information online.

• Convenience and Variety: LeapFish conveniently surprises users with new-found search information by bringing the variety of the web right to their finger tips.

• Simplicity: LeapFish’s comfortable and familiar interface allows for the organization and display of various types of search information in a single easy-to-view format.

So will you make the leap to LeapFish? To try LeapFish for yourself, visit www.leapfish.com.

About LeapFish

LeapFish empowers Internet users with a radically simple way of searching the breadth and variety of the growing web. The first multi-dimensional search aggregator in the world, LeapFish gathers, organizes and renders the most relevant information from the depths of the internet’s most valuable destinations in one simple search. LeapFish Inc. is a privately held corporation headquartered out of CARR America Corporate Center in Pleasanton California. For more information, visit http://www.leapfish.com

I am willing to admit that after reading the above release and scoping put LeapFish for myself I became slightly enamored with the simplistic design layout of LeapFish. However, I did and still do have some reservations in respect to the limited time zone and weather widgets due to the fact there were no options for Canadian time zones and the weather was strictly American. Ben has reassured me that changes are in the offing in respect to the latter for an International audience but as of to-date is not available. Call it Canadian pride it you like but to me it is important as a potential user, more so since the service is being offered.

I had queried LeapFish via email after initially viewing the web site and discovering the aforementioned pet peeves. I was doubtful I would receive a reply based on the following, which I had sent on a Saturday night:

I am presently checking out your web browser Leapfish to define if it has the value I seek to switch too from Google. My questions to date are as follows:

1. In the bottom right hand corner of the home page you have a request box for weather in ones area. However, it only accepts US Zip codes which as a Canadian makes it useless to me. While I note you are still in beta format, will there be options for users of other countries to be able to submit and receive weather information for their area or will it remain US based only?

2. In the upper right hand corner of the home page is assign in option. If I were to have sign in access would that allow me to alter the home page to my specifications based on set options such as is presently available in Yahoo.

3. What are the benefits of having a Leapfish account and how do I sign up if I decide to do so?

You can well imagine my surprise when two days later I received a telephone call (Monday morning) from an individual whom I was to learn was Ben Behrouzi, the founder of LeapFish. He was calling to follow up on my questions. Okay he was using my questions to lead into presenting the opportunity to sell me on his Keyword Marketing program on LeapFish. Hey! I would have done the same thing if I were in his shoes.

He was very tactful and actually reminded me of myself with his tactful lead in to his sales pitch for which I take my hat off and bow with the deepest respect, but the comparison stops there.

I would like to note that Ben was at no time aggressive during the conversation and actually listened to my reasons as to why I was declining his offer without any interruptions. Something most marketers I have had the bad luck of running into should learn to do as opposed to forcing you to hang up or walk away in frustration giving the company they represent a bad name.

As Ben explained, LeapFish has/had three-(3) levels for the keyword program. For the use of the word, “Photography” Level one-(1) came in at $5,400.00 per year that broke down to $450.00 per month or $14.42 per day based on a 31-day month. Level two-(2) was a reduced rate because of it being a lower tier for $4,300.00 per year or $358.33 per month and just $11.56 per day, again based on a 31-day month.

I declined the offer because given the then and present state of the world economy, many businesses if not most, would see such a program a losing proposition. As I saw and still see, such monies, while a pittance for some, can be better utilized elsewhere.

Other reasons that I did not bring into play at that time where the fact that as any good marketer can see is that there are many good on-line marketing options at present, which if correctly researched and incorporated can be had for a fraction of the cost quoted with just as good if not better results.

I follow a steadfast rule given me by my business advisor, Robert Sanzalone, who I first met when he was a Program Facilitator for the Vancouver based Successful Contracting and Contracting program; SCC for short. What it all comes down to is a good marketing strategy that is readily available to anyone for whom the greatest cost is just some good old-fashioned time and effort.

A third reason, which I also did not state during my conversation with Ben that was in the back of my mind, is that LeapFish while still in its infancy is also ripe with controversy.

Based on those facts, from personal research, I envision a very small audience with the chances of LeapFish ever making it big enough to warrant such an investment into their Keyword program being viable as zero. While 99% of the individuals I have talked to in respect to web browsers that would/could be potential buyers use Google and the remaining percentage use Yahoo and MSN. While LeapFish integrates with each of the latter, potential buyers would also need to be using LeapFish itself for the Keyword program to work. Then there is all the online controversy!

When I say controversy I mean ‘CONTROVERSY’, which I asked Ben about in an email for clarification as follows to ensure my article was as unbiased as possible.

Ben and Belinda,

Well here, we are in 2009, which is already seemingly slipping by fast. I trust that Christmas was good to the two of you and that the New Year is brining you all the expectations you hoped it would for a fruitful new beginning in a new year.

As you recall I emailed you both the following questions at which time Belinda emailed me that Ben was travelling over the holidays and could we re-visit said questions after the holiday season. Hence my follow-up with my questions to date.

I tried to read each and every article to date on Ben, LeapFish and his other ventures and conflicts. An impossible task especially when ensuring I also have time for my personal and business life as well. That being said I have just a few limited questions at this time.

As stated in the LeapFish blog, “The first multi-dimensional search aggregator in the world”. After doing extensive research, I discovered that that particular line is incorrect as other search engines that can be/are classified under that particular category, provide the same, and in some cases, more search results. My question is does LeapFish still stand by that statement or was it in fact an error on the part of the staff editor or whomever prepared the blog that has yet to be corrected?

In the following, it is impossible to read all of the articles surrounding Ben and his ventures so I have just provided what I feel are a few key questions at this time. If you could just provide a brief, comment on each that would be appreciated. Be advised I will use your quotes/comments purely for the purpose of ensuring that like anyone I quote in my article it will be his/her facts as provided.

1) Brabus Ventures (BrabusVentures.com), owned by embattled CEO Ben Behrouzi and parent company of ePerks.com, LeapFish and DotNextInc has updated it’s website and added new “Values” and “Culture” pages to combat the barrage of negative publicity their business practices have earned them. There is only one problem: the pages are STOLEN Story Link

I note that the wording in examples given in the above story are indeed per verbatim. What were LeapFishes thoughts or reasoning behind this?

2) I am not even going to attempt to provide any details in respect to Tech Crunch and just ask Ben’s input in respect to the accusations put forth by Tech Crunch to which I noted I am assuming portions of his response posted on Tech Crunch.

3) I recall Ben stating that LeapFish was relatively new. Can you provide the start date LeapFish came into being either in Alpha or Beta or both.

4) Is LeapFish the name that Ben designed or is it a name that was purchased and revamped to its existing format and if so may I ask when?

While as previously noted, there is a lot of material to cover but any answers to the latter will greatly help me define what questions I may/may not have for you soon.

To date although he has read my emails he has never responded.

As I noted in my message to Brad it is and still is impossible to read all the articles surrounding both himself and his varied venture capitals. One of the main characters in the Behrouzi online battle and ePERKS, another of Behrouzi holdings, is by Lord Matt who goes into detail about the dark side of Behrouzi as he sees it. Other insightful links are Sage Blogger, Go Beyond MLS, blogcatalog, BloodhoundBlog, BrokerScience and the list goes on. ( I stopped at 50 sites in my research) I decided to go one better and did a search on the US, BBB, site and discovered the following:

Based on BBB files, this business (ePerks) has a BBB Rating of F.” it goes on to read,

We have identified a pattern
BBB Definition:
pattern – More than 2 complaints involving the same allegations usually within 12 months that are significant in relation to the company’s size and volume of business.
of complaints concerning sales practices, cancellations, refunds and customer service issues
BBB Definition:
service issues – Claims of alleged delay in completing service, failure to provide promised service, inferior quality of provided service, or damaged merchandise as a result of delivery service.
BBB Definition:
customer service issues – Claims alleging unsatisfactory customer service, including personnel’s failure to provide assistance in a timely manner, failure to address or respond to customer dissatisfaction, unavailability for customer support, and/or inappropriate behavior or attitude exhibited by company staff.
. Complaints processed by the BBB claim 1) Company does not follow through with the number of real estates leads they claim customers will receive using their services. 2) Despite what the company tells their customers at the time of signing up for services, they later find they are unable to cancel the service and receive a refund. 3) Phone calls and emails to the company go unanswered.

The company has responded to all complaints processed by the BBB.

I proceeded to do a BBB search of all business related to Ben Behrouzi including LeapFish and all businesses come up under the same address, with different business names at 4420 Rosewood Drive, Suite #2550
Pleasanton, CA 94588

Unlike Yarri.com with its, spam fraud, Leapfish is comparable to a three-(3) ring circus, LeapFish was nice to use but not worth investing in. I say was, because while as noted previously, I personally love the layout and ease of use based on the fact it uses Google, Yahoo and MSN as its search engine options, but when it comes to Behrouzi’s business ethics, the thought of using LeapFish leaves a bad taste in my mouth, figuratively speaking. I am once again using Google.

In closing, it seems that in the case of LeapFish or more to the point Ben Behrouzi vs. the movie Slum Dog Millionaire, Behrouzi is rated as just a Slum Dog, full of talent but with the ethics of the devil himself, as I see it!

Note: According to Web 2.0 Journal, Ben Behrouzi is now with Ulitzer as Startup Journal Founder.

Yaari Revisited

yaari_logoI first wrote about Yarri on October 31, 2007 at Profy.com. To this day, I still receive comments from readers who are disillusioned with Yarri.com and its spamming antics, after they have joined that is. Partially based on the latter and more so due to the following email that I received from one of the founders of Yarri; Prerna Gupta, Chief Executive Officer for Yaari.com, I decided to revisit the topic.

Dear Allan,

I wanted to address the issue that you have written about on your blog (http://profy.com/2007/10/31/yaari-social-network-or-international-scam/), regarding Yaari’s invitation procedure. I know it might seem to you that we have been following our invitation procedure continuously, which has been used by many of the world’s largest social networking sites, with a disregard for the people who are not accustomed to it. However, this is not true. We have taken the process offline repeatedly in an attempt to understand what types of people might be adversely affected by it and tweak it accordingly. You’ll note that the vast majority of the people we reach (>99%) do not have any issues with our sign-up procedures, and we continue to improve on them everyday to help minimize the extent to which we reach people who are not familiar with this type of sign-up process.

Finally, I wanted to request you to please remove Parag’s name and contact information from your site (there is a comment on your post that lists his name and email address), as he is not actively involved with Yaari and has no bearing on our procedures. I humbly request that you not falsely accuse others. Any email sent to his email addresses regarding Yaari will not be read.

Best,
Prerna

Dear Ms. Gupta,

While it has been some time since I received your letter of concern in respect to my article on Yaari I have not forgotten you.

First, I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact me directly in respect to my article I wrote on Yaari on October 31, 2007 with your concerns for which following is my response.

In respect to your issue, you have/had about my original article and your invitation procedures, specifically where in you note about your invitation procedure being the same one used by many of the world’s largest social networking sites, I would like to point out the obvious. While it is true many if not the majority, do ask for an email address during the membership process, they DO NOT request/insist on being provided with the email account password as well, as Yarri does. Furthermore, where you note that you have repeatedly taken the above process offline to understand what type of people may be affected the only changes I have seen was your attempt to perfect the harvesting mechanism for potential member’s email contacts for spamming purposes by ensuring the member must provide both an existing email address and the password for same. Based on the latter I suggest you check out the following link. http://www.spamlaws.com/state/summary.shtml

In respect to your figures of 99% of your membership being satisfied with the process, I respectfully challenge those numbers on the basis that A) many of those you have spammed are either unaware of what you have done or B) they are too ashamed to admit it or C) they do not have the information needed to file a complaint (in your case as a US Citizen the links is http://www.ftc.gov/spam/ )

In respect to your request to remove Parag’s name and contact information from what you suggested is my site I would like to advise you the link you provided is in fact for Aalaap.blog by Aalaap Ghag. My article was published at Profy.com

Prerna, I stand by my actions and the information I provided. While you are, perhaps, providing a seemingly desirable service, the fact remains you are abusing your powers by taking advantage of both existing and potential members with your spam policy. (Asking for and ensuring anyone desiring to join provides you with an email address and pass word which contrary to your policy of not retaining said passwords, you obviously do. How else would Yaari be able to send unsolicited invitations?)

I would also like to point out what I view as a contradiction of your membership terms of use as follows:

Your terms state that a member must be 13 years of age or older.” YAARI LLC TERMS OF SERVICE: ONLY USERS WHO ARE 13 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER MAY REGISTER FOR YAARI.” That contravenes, as I decipher, it the following: section C) Member Conduct: 14 Members shall not provide material that exploits people under the age of 18 in a sexual or violent manner,

    or solicits personal information from anyone under 18

.

As stated, a member must be 13 years of age to join. When you join, you must provide personal information such as city of residence, gender, personal email address and password for that email address so Yarri can send out invitations to all the contacts listed in that account. That then violates your rule wherein it states, “Members shall not provide… or solicit personal information from anyone under 18 based on the fact Yaari is soliciting email addresses from individuals under the age of 18 for the sole purpose of soliciting membership to others under the age of 18 years of age.

Further to the latter, I would like to draw your attention to the following and ask how you can justify sending commercial emails to anyone under the age of 18 years of age and not call it solicitation as outlined in your own site policy in respect to the age limitations.

E) Notice Regarding Commercial Email
MEMBERS CONSENT TO RECEIVE COMMERCIAL E-MAIL MESSAGES FROM YAARI, AND ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT THEIR EMAIL ADDRESSES AND OTHER PERSONAL INFORMATION MAY BE USED BY YAARI FOR THE PURPOSE OF INITIATING COMMERCIAL E-MAIL MESSAGES.

Furthermore, Rule #1 states: “Members shall not engage in any activity that constitutes harassment, including, but not limited to, excessive repetition when listing a person as a referral.”

Do you not consider the fact Yaari sends unsolicited email invitations on behalf of the membership that you as the Chief Executive Officer and Yaari as a whole are in fact again violating the anti-harassment rule with repeated invitations to contacts harvested from the various member email accounts.

I could spend hours on the topic of Yaari and the pros and more so the cons of Yaari but you already know what they are so I will consider my response to be a more than sufficient response to your original note.