Haiti disaster attracts Nigerian scammers

It happened after the Indian ocean tsunami and after Hurricane Katrina. It’s happening again with the earthquake in Haiti that has killed tens of thousands and left hundreds of thousands injured, homeless, hungry or without medical treatment: Scammers in Nigeria and elsewhere are stealing money meant for victims of the disaster.

If you think there is a line that such scammers won’t cross, think again.

Here is an email soliciting donations on behalf of “HAITI CITIZENS LIVING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM” with relatives living in Haiti, but really originating from an IP address in Nigeria, West Africa:

PASTOR JOHN BROMA
HAITI CITIZENS IN UNITED KINGDOM
23 BEN AVENUE S/W,LONDON
UNITED KINGDOM

DEAR SIR/MADAM

WE ARE HAITI CITIZENS LIVING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM WHOM THEIR FAMILIES
ARE AFFECTED BY THE RECENT EARTQUAKE,WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO RAISE MONEY
TO HELP THE HAITI CITIZENS WHO ARE WITHOUT FOODS,DRUG AND SHELTER,SO WE
PLEAD THAT YOU SUPPORT US WITH WHAT EVER YOU CAN.

ALL DONATIONS SHOULD BE SEND THROUGH WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER
BECAUSE OF THE URGENT ATTENTION NEEDED.DO SEND IT TO THE INFORMATIONS BELOW.

PASTOR JOHN BROMA

HAITI CITIZENS IN UNITED KINGDOM
23 BEN AVENUE S/W,LONDON
UNITED KINGDOM

PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU FORWARD THE WESTERN UNION INFORMATIONS SUCH AS
SENDERS NAME,AMOUNT SEND AND THE MTCN.WE PRAY THAT ALMIGHTY GOD WILL
BLESS AS YOU HELP THE SUFFERING HAITI CITIZEN.

THANKS FOR YOUR HELP

PASTOR JOHN BROMA(SECRETARY)

Looking at the message headers we see:

Received: from User ([82.128.33.35] RDNS failed) by mail.westnet.com
with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959); Fri, 15 Jan 2010 19:13:32 +0900
Reply-To: <pastorjohnbroma@yahoo.com>
From: HIATI CITIZENS IN UNITED KINGDOM<pastorjohnbroma@yahoo.com>
Subject: HELP FOR HAITI
Date: Sat, 16 Jan 2010 11:21:10 -0800

IP address 82.128.33.35 belongs to a cell phone provider in Nigeria:

inetnum: 82.128.32.0 – 82.128.63.255
netname: INET-MLTL
descr: CDMA 1x/EVDO Dial up pool
country: NG
admin-c: RIA27
tech-c: RIA27
status: ASSIGNED PA
mnt-by: MLTL-INT-MNT
mnt-lower: MLTL-INT-MNT
source: AFRINIC # Filtered
parent: 82.128.0.0 – 82.128.127.255

person: IP Admin-RIPE
address: Multilinks Telecommunications Limited
address: 231 Adeola Odeku Str.
address: Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria

The criminal who sent this mail must be one of their customers.

If you want to make a donation to help those affected by the disaster, send it to the Red Cross or another well established relief organization. Beware of any stranger who asks you to wire money by Western Union or MoneyGram, because these instant wire transfer services are essentially anonymous and untraceable and there are no safeguards whatsoever against abuse by criminal recipients, who can not be traced. That is precisely why scammers prefer you to send money that way.

If hell exists there must be a special place there waiting for these scammers, who even make money out of the orphans and dying in Haiti.

Broken link suggestion spam, a new twist on link exchange spam

Since Google ranks sites primarily by how many other pages and sites link to them, unethical people have been trying to boost their site rankings by tricking others into creating links to them.

Link exchange spam, i.e. unsolicited offers to reciprocally create links to each other’s sites, has been around for many years. Recently I came across a new twist, broken link suggestion spam. You’ll receive a personal looking email like the following that tells you about a broken link on a page on one of your sites, with an suggestion for a replacement link target (boldface added by me):

Hi Joe!
Sorry to bother you, my name is Kate Austen, I’m a teaching assistant for a sociology class. I’ve been doing some research online for an upcoming lesson on the urban legends, myths, and hoaxes, and your page was very helpful. Thanks so much!

I noticed that on your page (http://www.joewein.de/hoax.htm) you have a broken link http://www.urbanlegends.com/index.html (an old page about urban legends)… May I offer a thought on a possible replacement? http://www.costumesupercenter.com/csc_inc/html/static/btarticles/urbanlegendsandmyths.html It has some great information about several urban legends and myths. I found it to be a great resource during my research, and it would be a great fix to your broken link. I’ve added it to my bookmarks, along with your site 🙂

Just thought I’d let you know 🙂

Take Care,
Kate
kate@professor-research.org

I plugged some phrases from the above email into Google and it found the following similar email (boldface also added by me, please compare the two):

Crystal Sawyer
crystal@studentresearchers.org

Hi!
Sorry to bother you, my name is
Crystal Sawyer, I’m an education major from upstate New York. I’ve been doing some research online for a class project and your pages were very helpful. Thanks so much 🙂

I noticed that on your page (http://www.apfn.org/apfn/mmm.htm) you have a broken link http://www.nara.gov/exhall/charters/declaration/decmain.html (an old page about science projects)… May I offer a thought on a possible replacement? http://legalmetro.com/library/historic-us-documents-the-charters-of-freedom.html It has some great information about teaching children how to do experimental science projects. I found it to be a great resource during my research, and it would be a great fix to your broken link. I’ve added it to my bookmarks, along with your site 🙂

Just thought I’d let you know 🙂

Take Care,
Crystal
crystal@studentresearchers.org

The number of identical phrases is far to high to be a coincidence. Looking at the sender domains professor-research.org and studentresearchers.org, the registrant on both is hidden behind the anonymization service domainsbyproxy.com.

I would say chances are good that both “Kate” and “Crystal” are the same person and that this person works for a company offering paid search engine optimization (SEO) services to boost their customers’ website rankings. They add some editorial contents to the customer website and then deceptively ask owners of sites with a high Page rank (PR) to replace broken links with links to these new pages by posing as students and researchers with no obvious commercial interest in the link target site.

RCA Airnergy looks like a hoax

Gizmodo reported about a Gadget shown at CES 2010 that supposedly harvests energy from a wireless hotspot. The “RCA Airnergy WiFi Hotspot Power Harvester” consists of a small battery, a USB connector and some circuitry that is supposed to convert wireless signals into DC power to top up the battery. The gadget can then be used to recharge or power any device that can draw power from a USB port, such as a cell phone or iPod.

A claim was made in a Youtube video on the Gizmodo site that the gadget will charge a Blackberry mobile phone from 30% to fully charged in 90 minutes. That may well be true, if the internal battery of the gadget starts off fully charged and is big enough. The big question is, how much energy can this wireless harvester actually draw out of thin air to replenish its internal battery, if any?

The whole thing reminds me of the hoax of the Japanese “car that runs on water” demonstrated in June 2008 by now apparently defunct company Genepax Co. Ltd. (their website went offline the following year). That car turned out to have a set of lead-acid batteries that — fully charged — could have powered the car some distance even if the proprietary fuel cell announced by Genepax was completely dysfunctional. In any case, the quoted power output of the fuel cell of only 300W was completely inadequate to power a car, meaning the batteries (the real power source) would have had to be recharged from a wall socket before too long.

Likewise, the amount of power available from a WiFi hotspot is nowhere near enough to run a computer or mobile phone. Take my cheap Samsung mobile phone with a 880 mAh 3.7 V Li ion battery (a battery capacity of 3.2 Wh) that I normally need to charge every other day or so. 3.2 Wh over 48 h works out as about 67 mW, which is not that much. However, the maximum power at which a wireless access point may transmit under FCC regulations without needing a broadcast license is a mere 100 mW. Even if the “Hotspot Harvester” could convert 2/3 of the radio energy into usable DC power, it would have to suck up 100% of all energy radiated by the access point, which would have to broadcast at full blast all the time instead of just when there is traffic, just to keep my cell phone charged.

In reality, there is no way the harvester can grab 100% or 10% or even 1% of the energy from the hotspot, which radiates wireless signals in all directions. The gadget can only harvest the small fraction of the airwaves that cross its antenna, which is only a few centimetres by a few centimetres in size, while the hotspot may be metres or tens of metres away. The numbers simply don’t add up.

What that device is then is just a glorified spare battery that will need to be recharged by plugging it into a wall socket or the USB port of a mains-powered computer. The “energy harvesting” function can make no meaningful contribution to the battery charge – unless maybe you happen to put it inside a microwave oven and radiate it with 1000W of power (boys, don’t try this at home! 😉 ).

The sad thing is how many websites and blogs have given free publicity to these claims, without doing the math to check if they make any sense at all.