Friday, March 24, 2006
They claim to own the domain www.easy.eu even though the EU domains are not yet allocated and several companies have applied for this name, meaning final ownership is not yet certain. The emails appear to originate in Valencia and the form offers a return address there (Duque De Mandas, 45 G 13 - 46019 Valancia, Spain)
To be honest it is hard know if this document is a spoof or not, the layout of the form and the contract terms are in the Ludenbach style but this could be a copycat scam or even just a sick joke.
These cross border directory scams generally do not defecate on their own doorstep, in most cases the reason is simple, were they to send these contracts within national borders the courts would intervene, by mailing to other countries they sidestep the law. So while companies in the Czech Republic are up in arms about scam contracts mailed from Switzerland a Czech based company is busy sending misleading contracts all around the world. John Chudleigh of Euro-Bid Watch was kind enough to send in this form for UNITED TELECOM s.r.o. and their grandly named 'International Trade & Business Database. I consider this form misleading in that it has the opening line "Re: Your entry in the International Trade & Business Database / Publication Order", suggesting that correspondence on the issue has already occurred; this could lead individuals within a larger company to assume an order has already been placed.
What stopECG has found is that a very small percentage of firms, mostly medium sized operations have such lax accounting procedures that misleading invoices like this are simply paid without any questions being asked; of course paying the invoice then 'commits' you to future adverts. There are probably companies out there that have paid such bills year-after-year and never realised! Have you checked what advertising bills your company is paying?
If you get a contract through the post which you consider misleading, or if you happen to have some old ones you salted away in the filing cabinet, please send them to stopECG!
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The latest from Prague
In the vanguard of the attack on Eastern Europe has been Intercable Verlag, based in Switzerland, they have operated in the former Soviet Block countries since the 90s. Intercable did not stop there, in the Czech Republic they found that the courts would effectively enforce contracts in absentia, making defense against their demands much harder; a situation unique to that country. (See this article)
Intercable's website lists a staggering 2600 organizations in the Czech Republic alone! It contains everything imaginable, international banks, newspapers, security firms, various churches, even former President Havel's sister in law. Now many have had enough and some 250 have banded together to fight the scam. They have strong legal and media backing. During a recent court action instigated by Intercable, the first to come to a full hearing, about 50 lawyers representing other Czech victims, plus newspaper journalists turned up, and the judge had to adjourn the case.
We will keep you informed of developments from Prague
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Moving The Pieces
The shifts both see the activities formerly conducted from Swiss soil being moved to other countries, first Deutscher Adressdienst GmbH (DAD) began targeting internet domain holders, an activity previously undertaken by Intercable Verlag (First reported in Tages-Anzeiger, 28th December 2005) now we see the ECG spreading its area of operations to countries outside Europe.
So what is going on? Put simply the biggest threat to Ludenbach right now is the Swiss Criminal investigation into 3 of his companies which was launched in July 2005. While Intercable Verlag is not currently involved in this investigation that could change and the Judge will almost certainly have the option of closing these companies down.
So there is a need to ensure that if the Swiss do move against him he can continue those scams formerly run from Swiss soil. This is not new, when the government of Liechtenstein liquidated the highly profitable Tour & Travel Guide in 2003 it was the turn of Novachannel in Switzerland to set up a directory, Novachannel's short lived foray into pornography was abandoned and the Tourist Directory was born. Now it may be time to move again.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Fame or Vanity?
OK, here was one to brighten up my Monday morning! Amongst all the lovely spam in the shop inbox was this little gem
It appears someone out there has noticed my little online store and so I am invited to join the very grand sounding PRESTIEGE INTERNATIONAL WHO'S WHO REGISTRIES OF OUTSTANDING PROFESSIONALS
Sweet, I am sooooo flattered! They are even offering me a free holiday.. and no cost involved.. well that's what it says
The email links to a rather shabby website, so professional indeed that if you click the stock quotes link you are unceremoniously dumped on the Yahoo finance pages!
The bit that really tickled my cockles is under the Header WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT
Members of Prestige Who's Who Registries will receive a 9 x 12 Wall Plaque Of Achievement. It has a gold front, your name is custom laser engraved at the top and it will read "The Recipient Named Above Is Included In The 2006-2007 Prestige International Who's Who Registries of Outstanding Professionals. Inclusion is limited to the individuals who have demonstrated Leadership And Achievement in their Industry, Occupation Or Profession.
It's OK folks, I will find a piece of slate out the back garden and scrawl on it I'm one of those mugs who replies to spam emails Well, it would be a more honest item to stick on my office wall....Wouldn't it?
The Spam email in full, Images may vanish in time......
Received: from roshiki.com (188.8.131.52) by WS1 (MailMax 4. 8. 3. 0) with ESMTP id 38461528 for email@example.com; Mon, 13 Mar 2006 01:37:26 +0000 GST
From: "Prestige Reserach Department"
Subject: Your Invite to Prestige Who's Who Regristries
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 20:37:04 -0500
Board of Directors
Prestige International Who's Who Registries • 300 Motor Parkway, Suite 200, Hauppauge, NY 11773 • (631) 654-4045
Friday, March 10, 2006
It's all in a photo
Image courtesy of the Daily Mirror
As this is a weblog I guess it should not be a simple extension of stopECG, perhaps there is space for analysis of events or even occasionally those strange personal thoughts that crop up in the middle of the hectic moments.
It is not always the newsworthy moments like the ECG being fined or the announcement that Novachannel had been raided by the police that stick in your memory, there are other turning points. And so it was that to finally see an image of Meinolf Lüdenbach is the moment that sticks out from an event packed period during February 2006.
I have known the name Lüdenbach for a considerable time and various newspaper investigations last year uncovered that he is absolutely pivotal to this whole horrid industry. Knowing that focused the campaign, no longer were these so called guides a nebulous multi-headed beast rising from several countries, rather we faced was a single ugly monster!
There is a legal significance to the common ownership, it would perhaps, in a moment of extreme forgiveness be possible to argue that a single guide was just poor at formulating a reasonable contract. That the ECG's staff, were somehow just too stupid to comprehend that after all the legal rulings what was needed was a wholesale redesign of their forms.
As the whole picture becomes apparent it is harder to be forgiving. Here are several near identical guides, each mailing its forms almost exclusively across borders and each using the same sort of contract, even though the vast majority of their so-called customers dispute the bills! Then there are the debt collection companies, bullying, threatening, and claiming they will take court action.. Because without all these threats most people would not pay a bean, and yes, these debt collection companies appear to fall within the same common ownership.
Am I painting a picture here, of a monster, someone who could conceive such a scam and then mercilessly execute it against thousands of individuals for no greater goal than his own self enrichment? Having a name allows you to build a bogeyman, in your mind, especially when that name is so unusual, a name that would have been perfect for a cartoon baddie! So when I first saw the Daily Mirror's picture it was bound to be a seminal moment, there he was Meinolf Lüdenbach and how surprisingly human he looked!
More than that, looming over the camera, chandelier in the background, tonsils in full view, quite frankly a prat! Does that make him any less of a monster? Momentarily I guess it did, you can relate to a human face, especially a buffoon, you can empathize with it ever so slightly more than you can empathize with a name. Please don't think I am going soft here, this guide industry is despicable.
We are brought up to fear spooks, monsters, diseases and ugly creatures that inhabit far corners of the globe, we are not as a rule taught or encouraged to fear or resent our fellow human beings, so there is always a fascination with the normal looking faces behind the acts we despise.
I do not know how Lüdenbach sleeps at night, but then I have corresponded with many of his unwilling 'customers' and I know how little they are sleeping. I live in hope that he might one day comprehend the misery his actions cause, close the guides and call off the debt collectors. Perhaps I am going soft after all, for we all know deep down that the human visage can hide much greater evil than any of those darkened corners of the globe.