How Low Can You Go? New Community Web Site Is Doing You No Favors

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2003-05-29

How Low Can You Go? New Community Web Site Is Doing You No Favors

I take it as a positive trait in myself that Im constantly appalled at the gall of some people conducting scams on the Internet. It would be sad to take such things in stride.

The latest cheap trick comes as an automated e-mail from a site called Purporting to come from the "Word-of-Mouth.Org Report Awareness System" it informs the reader that some unnamed person has posted information about them at the web site for others to see. It doesnt say what that information is. Couched in pseudo-legalisms it implies that the e-mail is some sort of legally-required disclosure.

Heres an example:

    Word-of-Mouth.Org Report Awareness System

    To add this e-mail address to our Do Not E-mail List click here - http://www.Word-of-Mouth.Org/DNEL.asp?

    Word-of-Mouth.Org is obligated to inform you via e-mail (if possible) that a report has just been submitted about the person or persons associated with this e-mail address ( *Please find a link to the report below. The Word-of-Mouth.Org Report Awareness System will continue to inform you when and if reports regarding this e-mail address are submitted in the future unless you add this e-mail address to our Do Not E-mail List and, in doing so, agree to give up any right you may or may not have to be informed when reports are submitted in the future.

    Word-of-Mouth.Org is a background research tool that allows users to access the valuable information source known as "word-of-mouth" on an International scale.

    Do not reply to this e-mail; it has been automatically generated.

    Click here to view all reports in our system regarding this e-mail address - http://www.Word-of-Mouth.Org/srea.asp?

    Word-of-Mouth.Org is an online meeting place where users from around the world can perform background research on individuals and businesses using the powerful information source known as "word-of-mouth". A user that has had experience with or has opinions regarding an individual or business will submit an "Identification Report" whose purpose is only to identify the individual or business in question. Other users are then immediately able to search through and review these "Identification Reports." When an interesting report (typically regarding an individual or business that the user knows) is found by a user, he/she may then begin to communicate with the report author through our Anonymous E-mail System to learn the experiences and opinions of the report author regarding the report subject.

    *Important! - Word-of-Mouth.Org "Identification Reports" are only for the purpose of identifying the report subject. They do not contain information additional to that which is viewable at no charge by any and all users. "Identification Reports" do not contain fields into which report authors can possibly enter any information aside from that which is for the purpose of identification. "Identification Reports" do not contain and cannot possibly contain any potentially defamatory information and "Identification Reports" are not to be construed as positive or negative.

    If you decide to contact the report author through our Anonymous E-mail System, do so by using the links that clearly appear in each report.

    For additonal information regarding how our site works please our FAQ at - http://Word-of-Mouth.Org/FAQ.asp

    If you have any questions or comments please e-mail us at - http://www.Word-of-Mouth.Org/ContactUs.asp

    Legal Disclaimer: Word-of-Mouth.Org is only a meeting place for its users. Word-of-Mouth.Org has no control over the content of reports nor the actions of its users. Reports found at Word-of-Mouth.Org should not be construed as positive or negative. Use our Anonymous E-mail System to contact report authors and find out what they know. Each report author owns his/her reports as well as the pages on which said reports are published.

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Community As A Form

Of Scam Art, Page 2">

Its worth pointing out that this site is not the same as, a discussion site for book readers.

So what would you think? Obviously youre supposed to be concerned at what whoever it was wrote about you and to go to the site to find out. At the site youll see that there are no actual reports online, but that you can contact the author of the report on you through an anonymous e-mail system on the site. Unfortunately, in order to use this system you must become a "Power User," which costs $19.97/year (or $29.97 for 2 years - "BEST VALUE").

My guess is that this is the main goal of this site: tricking people into paying for the chance of finding out what supposedly was said about them. The other point of the site is to collect e-mail addresses from these people. Of course the site already has the address without the user responding, but the people who respond get stuck in the "sucker" profile, so that list is probably quite valuable to other scammers on the net.

And according to posters on the newsgroup, if you actually contact the author you will be told that they cant seem to locate any of the reports they may have filed on you. Oops. Since its an anonymous system they can tell you whatever they want.

Finally, dont get the idea that clicking on the link at the top of the message will take your name out of the database. All it claims to do is to stop informing you that people have written reports on you.

Theres a general lesson in all this: Be skeptical. Dont believe everything you read. On the web this goes at least double. Many scams, such as web pages trying to coax your password out of you, can be unmasked with some common sense and some technical investigation, but this word-of-mouth business doesnt require any technical expertise. So be skeptical about what you read on the Internet, but dont stop being outraged at it.

Security Supersite Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.

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