Tag Archives: online scams

The DWP Meets the Internet: New Government Website Advertises Drug Smuggling Job!

cosa-nostra-jobThe DWP don’t have a good record when it comes to the internet.  In fact it’s been one shambles after another.  This isn’t stopping Iain Duncan Smith steaming ahead into a digital by default world he knows nothing about.

Universal Credit, the upcoming multi-billion pound change to the benefits system, is set to be the largest and most complex online  database ever created by any Government.  Millions could be plunged into desperate poverty, homelessness and hunger if the new system goes wrong.  Billions of pounds could be squandered.

The first IT project commissioned by the DWP is Universal Jobmatch, a job vacancy listing site.  It has proved an unmitigated disaster with adverts for sex work, scams and an increasing number of spoof jobs posted on a daily basis.

The latest, which has now sadly been removed, deserves to be printed in its entirety:

Cosa Nostra Holdings International Couriers

Cosa Nostra is a family run business which has a number of successful divisions, and following increasing demand we are recruiting into our import/export and logistics division.

We are looking to take on three international couriers, ideally with their own transport, who can travel to our production hub in Amsterdam to collect high value packages and bring them into the UK to pass on to our national distribution network. Speed is of the essence in this role and we also expect all staff to adhere to our strict code of conduct.

There may also be opportunities for particularly talented individuals to work on some of our transatlantic routes between the central America and the UK.

We are expecting high applicants for these roles, so do apply soon.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Universal Jobmatch: A Scammers Paradise

job-scam3UPDATE 27/2/13:  Registering an account with Universal Jobmatch will  become mandatory from the beginning of March 2013.  There should still be no requirement to tick the box giving DWP access to your account.  For the latest details and what this means for claimants keep an eye on:  http://consent.me.uk/2013/02/26/mandatory/

The Government’s new job vacancies website, Universal Jobmatch, is riddled with outright scams, data harvesting operations, spoof job vacancies and dodgy business opportunities.  The recently launched website is the latest crazy scheme from Iain Duncan Smith to snoop on the ‘job seeking activity’ of benefit claimants.

The bug ridden site, which many claimants say barely works, is now leading to fears unemployed people may be forced to hand over personal information to fraudsters or face benefit sanctions.

An advert appeared last week for the Montcalm Hotel offering a staggering £3-5000 a month for bar work and catering staff.  All candidates had to do is send a full CV, with contact details and a passport sized photograph, to an email address which appeared to emanate from Thailand.

This advert, which was an obvious identity fraud scam, has now been taken down.  But this was only after several people had identified it on twitter and made the real Montcalm Hotel (which does exist) aware of the fake job advert.  It seems to have easily passed through the shabby vetting procedures the DWP requires from employers wishing to advertise jobs on the system

An obvious scam such as this appearing on a Government website is embarrassing enough, but of far more concern is that unemployed claimants can now be forced to apply for any job on the site or face losing benefits.  This is not scare-mongering.  The DWP could force you to hand over your personal details to an obvious fraudster.  In fact this could have already happened.

The lax security procedures were highlighted when the site launched and an advert with the reference number 007 called for an Elimination Specialist at MI6.  This weekend two adverts have appeared asking for a ‘gay princess’ with a company called spamco suggesting hackers have already found their way through the verification system.

Even the jobs which aren’t outright scams or spoofs are dubious at best.  Several adverts ask for ‘distributors’ for a company called Focus Group Distribution.  Like many of the jobs on the Universal Jobmatch site, this position is commission only.  Potential candidates are asked to visit a website to apply where they are presented with a form asking for a name, address and telephone number.  The company claim to be a long established British PLC.  Yet according to Companies House, Focus Group Distribution don’t exist.  The website is registered to a single individual at a home address.

Several more vacancies are available with the optimistically named Freedom Enterprises.  Once again this leads to a website which demands full personal details before before providing any information on the company.  According to who.is, this website is registered to a non-trading individual.

Unlike the Montcalm Hotel scam these commission only jobs advertised on dubious websites may be perfectly genuine.  Or they may be pyramid schemes, spammers or the kind of ‘business opportunity’ that demands huge cash payments up front. The DWP don’t know.  Or even seem to care.  So desperate are they to punish and harass anyone who might find themselves unemployed, that they no longer seem interested if by their actions they further destroy people’s lives.

An increasing number of people forced off sickness benefits and into endless job seeking activity have learning disabilities or mental health conditions.  Most are desperate and living in dire poverty.  These are exactly the people scammers like to target to strip away any last remaining cash they may have.

And the DWP will help them along the way by demanding that huge numbers of unemployed people are  forced to hand out personal information to any passing ID fraudster.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Did Grant Shapps’ Spam Scam Break the Law?

Grant Shapps’ online money making scam goes further than just bad internet etiquette and at times veers into possible criminality.  A host of advertising regulations may have been breached whilst the company are also breaking US rules on registering domain names.

Shapps used the name Michael Green whilst flogging his spam software, registering the website trafficpaymaster.com under this false name in breach of US rules.  Whilst this can lead to the website being removed by internet regulators, it is not in itself a criminal offence – unless the website is used to commit crimes such as copyright violation.

Whilst Shapps sold his share of the online business to his wife two years ago, ‘Michael Green’ re-registered the trafficpaymaster domain as recently as February 2011.

Traffic Paymaster is the software created by Shapps’ company which is designed to automatically generate content for websites by stealing other people’s work.  This is known as ‘scraping’ and websites generated this way are considered spam sites by google.  The software subtly changes some of the text it steals in order to fool google that it is not merely replicating content found elsewhere.  Like much of the internet this is a grey area legally, but it could be deemed copyright infringement – it will probably take a court case at some point in the future to decide.

As the company themselves explain:

“We NEVER allow TrafficPaymaster to repaste unchanged articles and this would seriously undermine your website.  Every article is ‘spun’ using the best spinner on the market called – TheBestSpinner.”

Predictably, TheBestSpinner is another piece of software sold by the company which can be purchased for just $77 a year.

Whilst it is not known if Shapps’ website used the software themselves to generate content, they undoubtedly aided and abetted others in doing so.

Online spivs use software like this to create scores of websites and place google ads on them to generate money.  This is a breach of google’s terms and conditions, and arguably fraud.  Google are very quick to ban sites which  ‘scrape’ content, but so far have yet to prosecute.  However the creation of websites knowingly in  breach of google’s terms and conditions, to generate income through google’s advertising network, is clearly obtaining money under false pretences.

Once again there is no direct evidence that Shapps or his wife’s company have done this.  The lurid advertising for the company does not mention that this software can be used to scam google ads.  To find the company’s endorsement of this practice requires digging a little deeper, such as this post on the company’s blog where they say:

“Now if you’re sitting there wondering what you’d do with all this extra traffic then the answer is simple:

  1. You can use these pages to promote your own product or service.
  2. You can use these pages to promote something that you’re affiliated to.
  3. You can simply stick Google AdSense or similar on there and make PPC cash by having these pages ranked and pulling in traffic.”

Which could be considered incitement to commit fraud.

The company’s garish ‘get rich quick’ advertising style makes bold claims that their product will drive thousands of new visitors to customer’s websites by manipulating google and other search engines.  Yet nowhere do they mention that the end result of using this software is that google are likely to remove any website caught using it from their search results completely.  This reveals the company to be the worst kind of snake oil salesmen.  Their product doesn’t just cost a whopping $297, is will also probably kill any website which uses it.

To make false claims is a breach of advertising regulations and possibly even a breach of trading standard rules.  The company are obviously aware of the google problem, as can be seen by their answer on this forum to the following :

“Is this a type of autoblogging?

I thought Google didn’t like that.

The company is quick to respond:  “Google may or may not like a particular approach, but the real question is whether there are any signs about how a page has been created. If the answer is no, well then it doesn’t much matter what Google officially thinks.”

As google have now de-listed all of the company’s websites it does appear to matter what google officially thinks.

Shapps is attempting to distance himself from the emerging scandal about his shady online activities.  Instead he is shifting the blame onto his wife, mother and sister who now run the firm.  But all the above practices seem to have been taking place when Shapps himself was in charge.

Some may claim this is a victimless crime, or at the very least a crime against google search.  But the trafficpaymaster software is designed to go further than that.  Their endorsement of using the software to generate google ad revenue means they are advising people to rip off the tens of thousands of small businesses that pay for ads on the google advertising network.  And the company rips off their customers by charging $297 for a piece of dodgy spam generating software that could see a website’s traffic obliterated overnight.

Whether the company’s activities are even legal is clearly open to debate.  But the activities carried out in pursuit of profit by Shapps and his family tell us everything we need to know about this government of crooks.  You really  can’t trust a Tory.

The company’s online forum appears to have become unavailable.   Anyone looking into this bunch of scam artists make sure to get screen grabs etc.  The company are no doubt carrying out extensive damage limitation and things are likely to disappear without warning.