Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wow, I won a lottery I never even entered!

The FTC is warning consumers about International Lottery Scams that have become increasingly prevalent lately, especially in spam emails. If you've gotten an email lately that looks like the one below you should be weary about it's true meaning.



It's our pleasure to inform you of the result of the Union Australia
Lottery, held on the 29th, January 2006. Your e-mail address attached to e-ticket
number: 0001013xxxx, with Cash Prize number 099109xxxx, drew ?�2,000,000.00 (Two Million EUros), which was first in the 3rd Category of the draws. You have been approved to receive the sum of ?�2,000,000.00 (Two Million Euros) from our paying bank. Because of mix-up of information(claims) and the limited time for your cash prize pay-out, we will advice that you keep all
information about this notification confidential(secret) until your prize
(?�2,000,000.00) have been remitted to you by our accredited paying bank. You must adhere to this instructions strictly to avoid the loose of your cash prize to internet abusers, this program has been abused severally, so we are doing our best to forestall further abuse by false claims.
It's important to note that this draws were conducted formally under the
watchful eyes of over a 8,000 audiences. Winners were selected through an internet ballot system from 250,000 e-mail addresses(both personal and
corporate e-mail addresses). This program is sponsored and supported by
T-NET ASSETS, in conjunction with Union Australia lottery.
Congratulations once again. Your e-mail address will be used to participate
in our next, mega, draw: ?65Million.
BE INFORMED: all winning (cash prize) must be claimed not later than
10-days after you receive this notification. Failure to claim your cash prize after this date will result in your cash prize forfeiture. Please, in order to avoid unnecessary delays and complications during the remitance of your funds, remember to always quote your personal and winning information in your correspondence with the
paying bank.

Please contact the paying bank with these information for the immediate
remittance of your funds to you.
Kindly send them the following:
(i). your names,
(ii) Contact telephone and fax numbers
(iii) Contact Address
(iv) Your winning numbers
(v) Quote amount won.

Contact the paying bank with the following:
Swissfirst Bank AG,
Attention: __________.
Swissfirst Bank AG, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Tel: (+3163) 378 ____.
Fax: (+3184) 757 ____.

If you're thinking about claiming the prize in question, the FTC warns the following:

The FTC has these words of caution for consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery:
  • If you play a foreign lottery -� through the mail or over the telephone -� you're violating federal law.
  • There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none.
  • If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment "�opportunities." Your name will be placed on "�sucker lists" that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.
  • Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch.
If you get one of these emails, you can forward them to the FTC at who will most likely do nothing, or register for an account at SpamCop and report the email to the offending provider where the email came from.


GetPinz (GPZ) Update! Customer data possibly compromised!

It has now been about a week since GPZ's site was offline from an unexplained outage where the site was down and customers received mysterious emails from fake addresses as well as a competitor. GPZ is now back online, but I contacted them to find out what happened and whether or not any of their other customer data was compromised. Here is what they had to say.

: Can you comment on what caused the recent outage? Was there a hacker or a raid of some type?

GPZ: We were hacked. Our web store, e-mail addy's and domains were all temporarily out of our control. There were also some events that happened at the exact same time on a local level that give this situation a local connection. We are working on gaining proof.

They defaced the web site, so we had no choice other than to shut the store down until we could gain control of everything.

pogue: Can you discuss the emails that were sent to customers from phoney addresses? Was any customer data compromised during the outage?

GPZ: The e-mail addresses were obviously taken from out store database and used for the phoney DEA.COM e-mails that were sent out. Also, many people have reported to us that a certain competitor of ours has sent unsolicited e-mails to our customers. Supposively a "friend" referred them to this company. Many people are very suspicious about this "referral" e-mail.

As for any other information, it doesn't seem to have been stolen, but we have let people know if they are concerned about the credit card info, they should notified the respective company(s).

pogue: Do you have any idea who (if anyone) might be responsible for the outage and emails that were sent to your customers?

GPZ: Again, we are working on it. The truth will come to light, but it takes a little time.

pogue: If there is anything else you would like to mention, about GPZ, the outage, and your current service, I would appreciate it.

GPZ: We are back up and in control of everything. We have done everything in our power to make sure all of our systems are secured and we have been in contact with IT security people as well.

All orders from last week have been sent out and we are back to getting everything that comes in before 4:30 PM (EST) out the same day.

Please let everyone know we appreciate their patience and understanding, it's been tough for us all.



UPDATE: GPZ Int'l responded to an inquiry by sikboy on the bb forums asking whether or not their site was hacked.

The only hacking that GPZ Canada was affected by was the DNS address that
linked to the online store. GPZ Canada was not affected in any
other way. In addition to that, all of our customer's credit card
information is encrypted on the server under military-grade
encryption so your information is as safe as it gets.

GPZ Canada

So, it seems a possibly that customer data might have been stolen, although there appears to be no evidence of that. However, if you had a credit card on file with GPZ you might want to watch it for strange charges. If you are concerned that it might have been used please contact your bank and credit card company immediately to stop false charges. Under current U.S. law you are only liable for the first $50 of a false charge. However, the more serious concern would be identity theft. You can also request free copies of your credit report once a year from each of the 3 credit bureaus from, which you may want to do if you haven't already.

Again, since we are not completely sure how or what data was accessed customers should be vigilant in watching their credit cards for strange activity just as a precaution.

We are also still uncertain who sent the original phoney emails from the DEA/FDA. If anyone still has copies of them intact, please send them to me with the full headers intact and I will try and determine who sent them.

Thanks very much to for the interviewing and disclosing this information. I will keep you posted of information as I learn about it.

Are Paid Surveys Real?

In a recent thread on, some members were asking where they could go to fill out surveys online and get paid and whether or not they were real. You've probably seen sites that advertise to pay you to fill out surveys in banner ads or emails, but most people are skeptical if it's really true.

When I was younger, a local market research group used to pay me and my family to go and taste test pizza. They wanted us to test a new brand of pizza when compared to other flavors and then rate them based on how we liked it. We would go into a large room, be read some instructions and then given our slices. We didn't have to finish the slice, just taste it, then afterwards we would have to take a bite of a cracker and sip some water to "clean our palette". Then, we filled out a brief survey about what we liked and disliked about the pizza. When the survey ended we got paid $20 to eat pizza!

We later figured out that this was probably being done by Papa Johns, as they were not in the DFW area at the time and wanted to find out if people would want to buy their pizza before they made the expensive dive into the new market place.

Many large companies pay consumers for their opinions to find out what they think about just about anything on any variety of topics. They do this for market research and sometimes they pay well to find out this information.

When I first started reading about paid online surveys I just figured they were like the pizza taste tests I took part in years ago. I was a consumer and they wanted to know what I thought about XYZ product or whatever and once the survey was over I would get paid for the time consuming task of going through and answering questions and looking over ads and descriptions of products and ideas. Unfortunately, at the end of most surveys I either got the message that I was not "qualified" for the survey or that I would be entered into a monthly drawing to win prize money. At the end of it, I ended up with about $5 from the survey companies in the form of a check with I subsequently lost.

So where are the real paid surveys?

So, what's the deal? Are there actually surveys online that really pay money? The answer is yes, you just have to know where to look. One of the best companies to start with is SurveyAnnex. They are actually a database of paying survey companies that pay individuals anywhere from $4 to $20 an hour to give their opinions online. Another company that will pay you just to sign up for survey sites is InboxDollars. IBD will pay you a small fee to sign up with the sites that publish online surveys and also host their own paid surveys themselves. Most of the survey sites are like the ones I described above which normally don't pay out directly, but enter you into a drawing or give you points to fill out surveys. None the less, you can still get paid just to sign up for the sites even if you never take any surveys afterwards. Survey Payoff is another company I recommend that pays well for surveys. Another great new comer is Survey Monster, which has a very easy to use system that is totally free.

There are a lot of other well known companies that I don't recommend like Survey Savvy. Although they claim to pay the most for surveys, they normally don't pay anything or by the time you try and access the survey it's closed.

As with everything else, be sure and do your research on a company before you sign up. Most of the cheaper free survey companies don't ask for money to sign up, unless it's a large database of resources. Remember that most free survey sites pay the lowest amount (or nothing) for your time, so choose wisely. Check the BBB and search Google for the company to see what other people think! Also be sure and check out the sites privacy policy before you get started if you're concerned about getting junk mail and telemarketing calls once you submit your information. Use a disposable or create a new email account to sign up for the survey sites and always use proper internet security (of course).

Articles & Resources

If you know of any other good survey sites, feel free to post a comment on it!

Newly Developed Software Promises to Expose "Photo Hoaxes"

New software technology being developed by scientists at Dartmouth College will be able to determine whether digital images are fakes. According to the article, a Java version will soon come out that will be available for more widespread use. Software like this could solve a wide array of questions about doctored photographs - from JFK pictures, supposed UFO shots, or even just finding out if that picture posted on your favorite newsgroup or forum has been altered.

The question is just whether or not the general public will have access to a copies of this groundbreaking technology.

Will you be able to get a copy of the Java-based version of the Image Science Group's applications? Probably not. One of the dilemmas of this type of software is that the more widespread the distribution, the more chance forgers will exploit it to their advantage. Police organizations and news media outlets will likely get access to the application, but he's still unsure of how far he will extend distribution beyond that.

And although Farid charges a fee when asked to serve as a consultant, the software will be made freely available under an open-source license. He doesn't even have plans to form a company around his work. A significant amount of the research, after all, was funded by federal grants.

Sounds great! Now all we need is an online polygraph machine and online fraud will cease to exist...

Smoking out photo hoaxes with software | CNET

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Beetle Juice

Next time you take a bite out of a processed food or drink that's colored red, you might want to think twice...

The Food and Drug Administration proposed Friday requiring food and cosmetic labels to list cochineal extract or carmine if a product's ingredients include either of the two red colorings that have been extracted from the ground bodies of an insect known since the time of the Aztecs.


The widespread use of the dyes in everything from yogurt to lipstick hasn't exactly been well-disclosed: The ingredients typically are listed as "color added" or "E120," the FDA said.

Carmine puts the red in ice cream, strawberry milk, fake crab and lobster, fruit cocktail cherries, port wine cheese, lumpfish eggs and liqueurs like Campari, according to the FDA. Carmine is also used in lipstick, makeup base, eye shadow, eyeliners, nail polishes and baby products, the agency said. Meanwhile, cochineal extract shows up in fruit drinks, candy, yogurt and some processed foods.

Carmine may be prepared from cochineal, by boiling dried insects in water to extract the carminic acid and then treating the clear solution with alum, cream of tartar, stannous chloride, or potassium hydrogen oxalate; the coloring and animal matters present in the liquid are thus precipitated. Other methods are in use; sometimes egg white, fish glue, or gelatine are added before the precipitation. (Wikipedia)

Some pictures of the little beetles can be found here. - FDA: You're eating crushed bug juice - Jan 27, 2006
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