Sunday, 28 October 2007

THERE'S ONE BORN EVERY MINUTE

For some inexplicable reason, Anticant is deluged daily with offers to enhance his manhood, though in his case it would only be locking the stable door....

But in case anyone is ever tempted to take up one of these enticing offers, here's a cautionary tale from Wired:

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire -- A security flaw at a website operated by the purveyors of penis-enlargement pills has provided the world with a depressing answer to the question: Who in their right mind would buy something from a spammer?

An order log left exposed at one of Amazing Internet Products' websites revealed that, over a four-week period, some 6,000 people responded to e-mail ads and placed orders for the company's Pinacle herbal supplement. Most customers ordered two bottles of the pills at a price of $50 per bottle.

Do the math and you begin to understand why spammers are willing to put up with the wrath of spam recipients, Internet service providers and federal regulators.

Since July 4, Amazing Internet Products would have grossed more than half a million dollars from Goringly.biz, one of several sites operated by the company to hawk its penis pills.

Among the people who responded in July to Amazing's spam, which bore the subject line, "Make your penis HUGE," was the manager of a $6 billion mutual fund, who ordered two bottles of Pinacle to be shipped to his Park Avenue office in New York City. A restaurateur in Boulder, Colorado, requested four bottles. The president of a California firm that sells airplane parts and is active in the local Rotary Club gave out his American Express card number to pay for six bottles, or $300 worth, of Pinacle. The coach of an elementary school lacrosse club in Pennsylvania ordered four bottles of the pills.

Other customers included the head of a credit-repair firm, a chiropractor, a veterinarian, a landscaper and several people from the military. Numerous women also were evidently among Amazing Internet's customers.

All were evidently undaunted by the fact that Amazing's order site contained no phone number, mailing address or e-mail address for contacting the company. Nor were they seemingly concerned that their order data, including their credit card info, addresses and phone numbers, were transmitted to the site without the encryption used by most legitimate online stores.

"There was a picture on the top of the page that said, 'As Seen on TV,' and I guess that made me think it was legit," said a San Diego salesman who ordered two bottles of Pinacle in early July. The man, who asked not to be named, said he has yet to receive his pills, despite the site's promise to fill the order in five days.

A former employee of Amazing Internet Products, who requested anonymity, reported the company's tendency to expose order log files to Wired News. The file was viewable by anyone with a Web browser who truncated one of the Internet addresses published by the company.

Besides legitimate orders, Amazing Internet's log file also contained numerous complaints from spam recipients, who used the order form to register their unhappiness at the site's lack of a proper list-removal option.

Faith York, a rehabilitation counselor in Maine, left Amazing Internet a few choice words last month after an e-mail advertising Pinacle pills slipped through AOL's spam filters and landed in her 10-year-old son's inbox. In a telephone interview last week, York said she lost her temper when she discovered that neither the e-mail nor the ordering site included any means of contacting the company.

"The only way I could send them information was by making up an order, and in the spaces for address and whatnot I described my discontent at them sending my son that kind of e-mail," York said.

The registration record for the site, and the ones for the dozens of other sites used by Amazing Internet Products, provide little help in tracking down the company's owners. The domain records typically list a fictitious registrant and a post office box in Manchester, New Hampshire, along with a nonworking phone number and e-mail address.

To further throw people off its tracks, Amazing Internet and its affiliates send out their loads of junk e-mail using fake return addresses, or the real return address of an innocent third party.

But records on file with the New Hampshire secretary of state show that Braden Bournival, a 19-year-old high-school dropout who is also listed as vice president of the New Hampshire Chess Association, owns Amazing Internet Products.

Bournival refused repeated requests for interviews about his business. When approached for comment at a chess tournament in Merrimack, New Hampshire, last month, Bournival, who is a national-master-caliber player, ran away from a Wired News reporter.

The registered agent for Amazing Internet Products, Mark Wright of Manchester law firm McLane, Graf, Raulerson, & Middleton, also declined to be interviewed.

Amazing Internet leases several thousand square feet of office space at the Tower Mill Center on Bedford Street in Manchester, where, according to the former employee, Bournival's teenage sister fills padded envelopes with bottles of Pinacle and ships them off to customers.

An investigation (registration to Salon.com required) last month revealed that Bournival's mentor and business partner is Davis Wolfgang Hawke, a chess expert and former neo-Nazi leader who turned to the spam business in 1999 after it became public that his father was Jewish.

By all appearances, Bournival's and Hawke's spam business is highly profitable. Amazing Internet pays a supplier around $5 per bottle of pills, and gives affiliates who send spam on its behalf about $10 per order, said the former associate. That leaves plenty of room for a tidy profit in the low-overhead spam business.

But does the stuff work? Amazing Internet's spams make this promise to Pinacle users: "Realistically, you can grow up to 3 FULL INCHES IN LENGTH."

The Federal Trade Commission said there is no proof that the pills work as advertised. But the FTC does not have the resources to press a case against such companies, according to spokesman Richard Cleland.

Earlier this year, Joe Miksch, a columnist for the Fairfield County Weekly, published a humorous account of what happened when he took Pinacle for 30 days. It went something like this: "Day one: No change. Day two: No change. Day three: No change. Days four through 30: See above."

But according to the former associate, Amazing Internet Products makes good on its enlargement guarantee, and -- poor security precautions aside -- protects customers' data.

"I don't know if the stuff works. But Brad has a weird sense of ethics. He would never use a stolen credit card, and he honors requests for refunds," he said.

To that end, one of Amazing's websites, which has since gone offline, listed a toll-free customer service number. The company's PayPal account shows two e-mail addresses.



1 comment:

Emmett said...

THANKS, Aunty! I sent this around to some of my mates, here (not a few of whom, such /is/ the american atmosphere, I /do/ suspicion of regaling themselves with these ducksome medicaments!)