An Update on Snipe Sign Spammer 612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355

I wrote back on September 26th about snipe sign spammer, 612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355. At that time, I said:

Out of all of the real estate agents you could work with to sell your home in Minneapolis, why would you choose to work with a real estate agent who litters in your neighborhood?

Since then the snipe spamming hasn’t stopped. In fact, Sasha and I had a chance to take down fresh snipe from 612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355 during a walk around the neighborhood on Monday.

612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355 Snipe

I managed to knock down three of the corrugated plastic signs using a 3-6′ extension painting pole. It’s not really designed to be used as a 6-foot bat, but it does the job.

This sniper has added bus shelter snipe spamming to the mix with spam posted in East Lake Street’s shelters. Those were easier to clean up.

Phone Number Reputation Update

Perhaps some people seeing his illegal signs with decide to Google this snipe spammers phone number before giving him a call? Or, at least before deciding to work with him? If so, here’s what they’ll see on Google as of today:

612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355 on Google

1. The Deets.
2. Johnny Northside’s Blog
3. A site that’s syndicated my blog post.
4. Minneapolis’ 311 Service report where I’ve been reporting snipe spam.
5. My Friendfeed account where my posts syndicated.

and in all numbers:

612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355 on Google

1. The Deets.
2. A site that’s syndicated my blog post.
3. PhoneAddressDirectory.com, where I’ve left the following review/complaint:

This person litters Minneapolis with illegal signs using the phone number 612-208-SELL on the signs. Please do not do business with people who litter in our beautiful city. There are far more reputable real estate agents in this town than this person. If you need a recommendation, I’d be happy to help.

4. Placeblogger, who syndicates this site.
5. My Friendfeed account where my posts syndicated.

Since this person uses an unlisted number and no brand on his sketchy sign his online reputation ends up being tied entirely to that phone number. Everyone’s phone number has an online reputation whether they’d like it or not. If you’re the kind of person who thinks it’s okay to litter in the City of Minneapolis even after being asked to stop, you’re the kind of person who’ll end up with a phone number with some negative publicity.

Faces of Snipe: 612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355

612-208-SELL / (612) 208-7355 Spam

I’ve recently been busy reporting snipe spam signs in the Longfellow neighborhood for 612-208-SELL / 612-208-7355. This person has been littering Minneapolis’ neighborhoods with his predatory real estate spam for nearly three years, based on this post from Johnny Northside where the same phone number was being used on signs in November of 2009. (The city’s handling of snipe violation could use some improvements if a business can go this long without getting the hint.)

Out of all of the real estate agents you could work with to sell your home in Minneapolis, why would you choose to work with a real estate agent who litters in your neighborhood? If Minneapolis is anywhere near the national average, there are more than 1,000 real estate agents living in the City of Minneapolis. That’s not counting people living in surrounding cities who could buy/sell real estate in Minneapolis.

Out of more than 1,000 agents, choosing to work with someone who litters the neighborhood you currently live in is a really poor decision.

It gets worse.

I ran a reverse lookup on this snipe spammer’s number to find out who’s behind this litter:

612-208-SELL Spam

So here we have a person who’s willing to litter North and South Minneapolis with illegal snipe advertising, who uses an unlisted phone number to solicit leads from those illegal signs. Is this the type of person you’d trust for one of the largest financial transactions you’ve ever made? When there are so many legitimate real estate agents who are willing to stand behind their own name, this decision seems obvious to me.

StarTribune’s Purple Bags of Spam

@edkohler - Your next mission:

Aaron Dickinson seems to think that I’d have an opinion about the StarTribune’s print spam operation where they’ve littered purple (purple as in Bachman’s not Vikings) bags on properties throughout the metro.

KARE 11 ran a story on this topic that criticized the advertising tactics of one of their sources of news:

Star Tribune spokesperson Steve Yeager said the newspaper is testing a system of having its regular carriers hand-deliver the “Twin Cities Values” sections that had been sent to homeowners in their mail. Yeager said the high cost of mailing and the possibility of an end to Saturday mail deliveries by the United States Postal Service prompted the test.

However, homeowners like Tim Keseluk of Bloomington are unhappy with the purple Saturday visitor in their driveways. Others complained to KARE 11 and on Facebook that the deliveries end up as litter on the streets, lawns and boulevards, rather than in driveways and private walks.

Since the Strib already has people driving up and down every block of the city, littering the city with purple plastic bags is a cost-effective way to piss people off.

But, get this: this hasn’t been a problem for me. I unsubscribed from the StarTribune’s print spam in 2010 and the Strib appears to have honored that request while spamming my neighbors’ properties with unsolicited purple plastic bags. Based on how spammy their deliveries have been, this seems like luck, but they really didn’t spam my property with their plastic purple spam while my neighbors got hit.

I used my print spam unsubscription service, Junk86.com, to let the Strib know that I’m not interested in their spam. You can find instructions here, or sign up to have Junk86.com take care of business.

The risk here is that the StarTribune may take on the tactics we’ve seen used in the Yellow Pages industry. Once you’re not doing direct mail, the cost of delivering an individual piece of spam drops considerably, so there is less incentive to deliver accurately. Why not just send out people working as independent contractors (driving their own cars with questionable insurance whose profits are consumed by the cost of maintaining their cars) to do the spam drop? If that happens, opt-out will be worthless without penalties for not honoring the opt-out list. We don’t have that today, but other cities do, including Seattle. Perhaps it’s time to get something like that on the books to protect us from the StarTribune’s advertising department?

Faces of Snipe: Freddie Fowler with Symmetry Direct 651-633-0175

A few days ago, I called the phone number of an illegal snipe advertisement placed near Hiawatha and Hwy 62. Today, I got a call back after leaving a voicemail. The caller: Mr. Jim Freddie Fowler calling from the number 651-633-0175. I told him that I had called about the signs he has been spamming around the City of Minneapolis. At that point, Freddie hung up on me.

Mr. Fowler appears to work at 2717 Patton Rd in Roseville, MN and live near Blue Moon Coffee in Minneapolis.

The ad Mr. Fowler was “fowling” up the City of Minneapolis with was targeted at people looking for work. Freddie works in “Wellness / Nutrition / weight loss” according to his Facebook profile.

It turns out that Mr. Fowler’s domain name redirects to a company called symmetrydirect.com. I tried to find out some information about this company. The BBB says that their phone numbers have changed:

BBB Review of Symetry Direct

A college student in Bloomington, MN says that his car has been spammed with Post-It notes from Symmetry Direct recruiter. He wrote up his experience with the company on ripoffreport.com.

People have been discussing this company’s MLM style business practices here.

You are repeating exactly what I went through with these people working at Mac, Inc.
The road is a frontage Northern road off of the Highway in a small business area in New Brighton.
Do you really feel that this is a scam of sorts? If so, then I suggest you call or write the BBB, the Minnesota Secretary of State, and the FTC to file a complaint about the “employment opportunity” Mac, Inc. offered to you to come in for an “Interview.”

In my opinion, Mac, Inc. operates under dubious business practices to lure desparate people to sell or buy nutritional supplements under an illegal chain-referral marketing scheme.

Contact a business attorney to answer your business questions about Mac, Inc.

In addition, tell Mac to remove you from their contact list if you are not interested.

Brighan

Do the ads work? Here is what someone wrote after setting up an appointment with the company after seeing one of their signs:

just got an appointment from a Sara telling me to come to 2727 highway 694 new brighton, mn across from a ford dealership on a service road. same story, lower level, i asked the company name and she said Imac it sounded like. the number was 651-633-4312. I got her number off a sign posted in the grass near a 694 exit. I assume now this is a scam ? I have an appointment for thursday.

And there are more complaints about this company on ComplaintsBoard.com.

And even more on RipoffReport.com, including a report indicating that one of the company’s employees (a registered sex offender in Michigan for “Criminal Sexual Conduct – 4th Degree – Victim Between 13-16”) is cold calling people to recruit them.

The same phone number is used to advertise to U of MN students with the following classified ad:

Extra Cash Opportunity
EXTRA CASH $950/wk, customer service need help now. Flex hrs 651-633-0175

This is yet another reason why it’s worth enforcing the city’s snipe ordinance.

The kind of company that litters our city then hangs up on people asking them to stop is not the kind of company I want to support.

Western Union’s Fraud Control 419 Scam Fail

A friend of mine recently had her Facebook account hacked. The hacker then started contacting her friends through Facebook Chat with a request to have money sent to her through Western Union. In a nutshell, the person made up a story that she was stuck in London with her family, had been mugged, and needed money to pay for the hotel and get home.

Below is a transcript of the conversation I had with my friend’s Facebook hacker / fraudster. Below that is a breakdown of my attempt to work with Western Union to solve this problem. It’s also worth nothing that the hacker wiped a lot of information off my friend’s Facebook profile, including her phone number so people couldn’t see her number and call her directly to verify the situation. They also turned off her wall so people couldn’t leave warnings for others about this scam.

(Friend of Ed)
Hey
How are you doing ??

12:04
(Friend of Ed)
glad you responded
i and my family are in some deep mess at the moment

12:04
Ed Kohler
oh?

12:05
(Friend of Ed)
we are currently stuck in London UK

12:05
Ed Kohler
on a vaca?

12:05
(Friend of Ed)
went on a short vacation unfortunately got mugged at a gun point last night
Scary!!!

12:06
Ed Kohler
Wow. I’d say.

12:11
(Friend of Ed)
i was hit at the back of my neck with the gun
all cash cellphones including credit card were stolen off by the muggers

12:12
Ed Kohler
not good

12:12
(Friend of Ed)
it was a brutal experience but i thank god we still have our lives and passport saved…i really need your help

12:13
Ed Kohler
What do you need?

12:14
(Friend of Ed)
our return flight leaves in few hours time from now and we are having problems settling the hotel bills and getting a cab down to the airport
wondering if i could get a quick loan from you
i promise to def refund it as soon as we get back home hopefully tomorrow

12:15
Ed Kohler
How much do you need?

12:17
(Friend of Ed)
1,250
Okay ?

12:18
Ed Kohler
What does that cover?

12:18
(Friend of Ed)
do you know how to get it to me ?

12:19
Ed Kohler
What would work for you?

12:19
(Friend of Ed)
yes…do you know how to get it to me ?

12:20
Ed Kohler
How?

12:20
(Friend of Ed)
you can have to send it on my name and present location via western union
kindly log on to www.westernunion.com
got it ?
….

12:22
Ed Kohler
How about I just pay the hotel directly?

12:23
(Friend of Ed)
i will also be needing some money to get a cab down to the hotel and also need some money for feeding
are you on the site now ?
???

12:25
Ed Kohler
How about I just pay the hotel directly?

12:26
(Friend of Ed)
i told you earlier i will also be needing some money to get cab down to the airport and we are totally freaked out here

12:26
Ed Kohler
I bet the hotel could pay for the cab. I could just pay that one bill for you.

12:26
(Friend of Ed)
we have nothing to feed on on the main time before getting on the flight
should i give you the info you need in wiring the money to me ?

12:28
Ed Kohler
yep
Does the hotel have a restaurant?

12:29
(Friend of Ed)
okay..here is the info you need

12:34
(Friend of Ed)
Name: (Friend of Ed)
Location: London United Kingdom
got it ?

12:35
Ed Kohler
What else do I need?

12:36
(Friend of Ed)
that all you need

12:36
Ed Kohler
is it set up now?
12:38
(Friend of Ed) connected

12:38
(Friend of Ed)
can i have your direct email address so i can email you..i have to rush down to the hotel room now to get our stuffs ready

(Friend of Ed)
you there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??
you still there ??

12:44
Ed Kohler
Yep. Do you have a Western Union account number I should send the money to?

12:44
(Friend of Ed)
all you need to do is send it on my name
i thank God i still have my valid ID passport to pick up the money

12:45
Ed Kohler
12:45
Could you let me know that you’re who you say you are?

The same fraudster also spoofed my friend’s email address to send emails to her Facebook contact’s email addresses:

I don’t know what wrong with my facebook account cos it really acting up…It’s me.. am sorry i did not inform you that i will be going on vacation,this is for real, i’m doing everything i can to work my way out of here peacefully.. i have checked with the consulate but there is nothing really working out, most important is i don’t have enough money on me, please i need you to loan me the money,i will def refund it as soon as am back home.

I owe you alot

While carrying on this chat, I called my friend and left her a voicemail to let her know that her Facebook had been hacked. I also reported her account as hacked through Facebook’s 419 Scam Report Form.

I then contacted Western Union’s fraud department to let them know that I had a fraudster on the hook, and would like to work with them to have the person arrested. Unfortunately, this did not go well. Rather than help figure out who the fraudster was, the Western Union fraud rep’s advice was to contact my friend and tell her that her Facebook account had been compromised. I explained to the rep that I was interested in solving the larger issue with the fraudster. I suggested that we work together to have the person arrested when they go to a Western Union office to pick up fraudulently acquired funds. I figured it would be worth transferring a few bucks through Western Union as bait to help catch the fraudster. Should that person walk into a Western Union office, the office could call the local police to have the person arrested.

Unfortunately, Western Union’s response to this request is that there was nothing they could do. That, of course, is a load of crap. Western Union clearly has the capability to flag a fraudulent transaction and notify authorities. They are simply choosing not to help fight criminal activity that leverages their money transferring system.

It makes me wonder how much money Western Union makes from fraudulent web scams such as 419 scams like this one. Their complete lack of interest in catching a person who’s using their business for criminal activities is shocking.

Minneapolis Snipe Sign Round-Up

Here’s a little update on the Minneapolis snipe sign scene. As a reminder, snipe signs are the illegally placed ads we often see posted around town on light poles or planted on boulevards.

1. Aric at Hardest Working Lazy Guy has been having some fun with a local fitness sign spammer, Sgt. Peterson. Aric documents some exchanges he’s had with the man behind the spam on his blog. The Twitter exchanges are particularly humorous.

2. Last fall, Aric also started a blog called “Hey, I Found Your Sign” where he logs signs he found. The signs weren’t exactly lost. Will snipe advertisers understand the humor?

3. Jeff Skrenes has been working hard to keep the Hawthorne neighborhood snipe-free. He documents his desniping adventures on his North by Northside blog. He recently upgraded his desniping hardware with some shears to help remove bolted corrugated signs.

4. Johnny Northside has been keeping an eye on parts of North Minneapolis as well. Last month, he put out a plea to sign spammers, asking them to stop using plastic signs since they’re not as useful for backyard fires.

5. And here is my recent contribution to snipe eradication in the city. They were starting to pile up in my garage, so I brought them down to the Walker Art Center on a windy day to shoot this:

That recording of Subterranean Homesick Blues is by a guy I met on YouTube, William Nowik, who recorded it on a 4-track tape recorder in 1974.

The quote at the end of the video is a play on an inspirational quote by Sgt. Peterson on his website.

Spammer: Associated Chiropractic Clinics & Medical Centers

Dr. Michael Dorfman of Associated Chiropractic Clinics & Medical Centers in Detroit, Allen Park, Southfield, and Waterford, MI appears to have hired the wrong SEO to do link building for his website, associatedclinics.com. How else can one explain comments like this on 5 year old blog post on this site:

associatedclinics.com Spam

What are the issues here?

1. The comment’s content has nothing to do with the post it was submitted to.

2. It uses a keyword stuffed name rather than an actual human’s name.

3. With a sketchy looking Yahoo email address.

4. From an IP address in Norway.

5. On a blog that nofollows commenter URLs.

It’s quite possible that Dr. Michael Dorfman of Associated Chiropractic Clinics & Medical Centers knows more about chiropractic work than he does about search engine optimization. At least, I sure hope he does.

MN Lottery Revenues Used to Spam MN Blogs From DC

Did you know that revenues from the Minnesota Lottery are being used to spam local bloggers? Here’s an example comment that was dropped on my post about Groupon.com:

MN Lottery Blog Spam

1st sentence: On topic.
2nd sentence: transition.
3rd sentence and beyond: an advertisement and a link to the MN Lottery’s website.

Notice that the comment author is inconsistent in whether they’re writing about something they’re familiar with or for someone they work for.

In this case, the spammer doesn’t work directly for the MN Lottery. Instead, it looks like the Minnesota State Lottery has hire a company in New Jersey to spam blogs on their behalf. Additionally, the actual spammer lives near Washington, DC.

If you read the comment again, now knowing that it was written by a guy named Alex who lives in Washington, DC, you can understand how poor of a job he did pretending to be:

1. A Minnesotan.
2a. Not affiliated with the MN Lottery.
2b. Or, if he was attempting to comment form a MN Lottery perspective, he was inconsistent at that as well.

It’s a shame to see Minnesota State Lottery revenue is being sent out of state for use spamming in-state blogs. We have plenty of qualified spammers right here in the State of Minnesota who are capable of spamming blogs on behalf of the lottery.

If you’re going to pay people to spam blogs on behalf of the MN Lottery, hire locally. Better yet, stop spamming people (or hiring firms that think spamming is an appropriate marketing tactic).

New Form Of Spam Gives Women Orgasms

I’ve never encountered this form of blog comment spam before:

Re-Comment Spam

The lower of the two comments comes from a real Amanda. The upper comment took Amanda’s comment, added two more sentences, changed Amanda’s commenter URL, then reposted the comment under Amanda’s name.

That’s some sneaky stuff. The commenter and comment look familiar, which may cause many website owners to miss that it’s spam. Of course, there are still a few flags, such as the domain and email.

I don’t know where Amanda stands on giving women orgasms, but it seems safe to assume that the 2nd Amanda is not the same as the first.

ProQuo’s Stop Junk Mail Service Seems to Work

My dislike of unsolicited print marketing messages delivered to my home isn’t limited to the yellow pages. However, unlike the yellow pages, most direct marketers are perfectly willing to allow you to unsubscribe from their mailing lists since they’re smart enough to realize that it’s tough to sell something to someone who doesn’t want your catalog, coupons, etc.

For catalogs, I mostly contacted the companies sending them through their website’s contact forms. That worked well.

And for other forms of junk mail, I signed up with ProQuo. They maintain contacts with direct mail companies, so you can input your contact information once then choose which lists you’re like to be removed from. They have a paid and free service. I use the free one.

Here’s an update I recently received from them:

ProQuo Print Spam Filtering

Overall, I’d have to say that this service works. While it’s tough to directly measure whether ProQuo was responsible for the drop in junk mail we receive, I can say that we receive very little junk mail. In fact, we can often go a day or two without receiving any mail at all.