By Andrew Brandt
World Cup soccer fans are in the crosshairs of scammers, and the problem appears to be getting worse in the run-up to the start of the tournament Friday. In a new twist on an old scam, a Web site is selling gullible Internet users what it claims is access to streamed video of every World Cup match. In fact, customers of the Live Sports Network only find that their “membership” provides them with a few links to what would otherwise be freely available streaming video feeds offered by various global TV networks, some of whom may be streaming some of the World Cup matches.
Potential customers are asked to pay $29.97 for the otherwise free content — a merely obscene “last minute discount” off the regular, utterly extortionate price of $69.95. Also pre-selected on the order form are two items, each of which adds another $9.95 to the total, for a grand total of $49.87. Goooooooal!
For that price, the Web site continues, you not only get every World Cup match, but “3,000+ premium TV channels” and “800+ premium movie channels” as well as a “comfortable interface.”
Well that’s a relief. I hate those interfaces with sharp, jabby points that stab you in the wallet.
The sales pitch for the scam, historically, has been used over and over again to sell gullible Internet users free software, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader, the free OpenOffice office suite, and the free peer-to-peer file sharing application Limewire. In fact, the same IP address used to host one Streaming Sports website, live-2010-football.com, also hosts six different Web sites selling something called PDF Pro 2010 (bundled with OpenOffice, something the OpenOffice organization has been actively fighting for more than a year), and three Web sites selling “unlimited access” to Limewire, a free application, for the completely outrageous price of $2.50 a month.
A spam campaign fraudulently selling the PDF software began circulating this past March (and continues to pop up from time to time). The spam messages advertise something called Adobe PDF Reader 2010 or Acrobat Dynamic PDF 2010 and point, not to Adobe’s Web site, but http://www.adobe-reader-2010.com, a Web site which redirects visitors to one of 25 other Web sites with Adobe, PDF and/or 2010 in the names.
Most of the bogus Web sites were registered through a service called Nicflix.com, but the identity of the registrants has been hidden using Domains By Proxy, a service which masks from the public WHOIS record the identity of those who buy domain names. The adobe-reader-2010.com domain, however, is not protected in this way; It (and several others) registered as recently as a week ago in Russia, allegedly to “Tommy Anderson” of Miami, Florida, are completely bogus. San Jose, California-based Adobe, on the other hand, is completely open about its domain registration, and uses Network Solutions to register its Web sites. Needless to say, I’m sure someone from Adobe’s legal team will be contacting the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Domains By Proxy in short order.
Those 25 Web sites, as well as the LimeWire and streaming World Cup 2010 Web sites, all share similar design elements, including the same “time is running out!” countdown clock. More importantly, all route their transactions through signupway.ru, a company that can only generously be described as an e-commerce provider for fraudulent products or transactions.
It’s fair to say that, as in other circumstances, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. In this case, World Cup fans should avoid shelling out for “services” such as these, because you’re sure to be disappointed. You’re handing credit card information over to people who are just as likely to sell your financial information to other criminals as they are to renege on their dodgy promises.