Busted…

If there’s one thing I hate more than spam, it’s street spam.

Street spam is my term for corrugated plastic signs that are nailed to wooden utility poles at night. In poor neighborhoods they usually advertise guys who’ll buy your house for cash. In better neighborhoods they’re work-at-home scams.

Kirkwood must be moving up because we recently graduated to the latter. The signs promise an income of $25 to $75 per hour and list a web site, www.ework101.com, which devolves into www.work-at-home.net/rwells.

The owner of ework101 is listed as one Robby Wells of Dallas, Georgia, and he bought the name in July.

The Work-At-Home.Net scam itself is fairly simple. Victims are lured in with promises of great wealth and eventually led into buying a booklet and videotape for $39.95 (called the “Internet Decision Package“) that can lead to more purchases and eventually causes the victim to seek out more victims. It’s an opportunity chain letter. The site also seeks advertisers claiming 1.2 million hits since 1996.

The owner of Work-At-Home.Net is listed as Waldron Waldron Waldron, and there’s a reason he might want to keep his identity secret. Back in 1998, Work-At-Home was accused of spamming, using a service called NetGenie in Florida. But each domain name registration must have an email contact, and the one here is rberg@inetport.com.

Doing a search under that email address reveals a busy little fellow. A page at the University of Oregon identifies Berg as a credit card spammer-scammer. The scam was identified by Sam Spade, a site that gives away software to help track down spammers.

Here’s the citation in its entirety:

“A spam for accepting credit cards, supposedly regardless of credit. Calling the toll-free number in the spam gave a long recorded message, ending with instructions to go to ‘www.have-money.com’ (contact: barbararoos@email.com), which in turn forwards you to ‘www.work-from-home.net/broos/’ (contact: RBERG@INETPORT.COM).”

Berg is also listed as a recipient of a scam message in February at Williams College claiming a Bill 604-P will put a 5-cent tax on each email. There is no such bill, by the way, according to the Thomas Server – Congress doesn’t use any “-P” designation in filing legislation.

Anyway, it also turns out that Mr. Berg has his own web page. The page identifies him as Richard C. “Rick” Berg of 2603 Shiloh Drive in Austin, which just happens to be the same address given for Work-At-Home.Net. And guess what, class? Mr. Berg turns out to have a fine job. He’s a verification engineer at Tivoli Systems Inc. in Austin, a unit of IBM. I wonder how Tivoli feels about his second career?

The point of this exercise, which consumed about 45 minutes and mainly was done through the use of a single search engine, isn’t about scams or spam or even street spam. No, the point is (once again) to demonstrate how, in the age of the Internet, everything we do leaves a little trail, leading right back to our door.

Before you think about going to the “dark side” in any way (ethical as well as legal), think about that. This kind of search can be conducted easily on you (and me). My guess is it’s going to become a very common practice in the next few years.

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