Focal Curve

The Plot Sickens

Got an email from a guy named Mike :

Aloha,

I googled for “Guerra Communications” and found your article about that site being a huge scam.

Well, i did some more poking around, and got this big huge list of websites that are also hosted on that ip address.

You can view that list here: [link]

Have a good day, thanks for the info.

The ads have been increasing in frequency, and so has the search traffic to my post about them. Back then I had asked if there was an easy way to find out what domains direct to a particular server. Well now we know, thanks Mike.

Perusing the list of 1228 domains that share hosting at that IP, a pattern emerges… lots of domains referencing prescription medications, home business opportunities, debt consolidation, online degrees from DeVry and the University of Phoenix… gosh that sure looks spammy. Whois’ing the domains no longer returns Sam Guerra’s contact information as it did a few months ago, now it simply shows that they are almost all registered anonymously by AMNTV.com.

A traceroute reveals that the IP falls into a block controled by Global Crossing, considered to be a spam supporter for refusing to remove spammers from their network. Picking half a dozen random domains from the list and searching the NANAE archives didn’t turn up anything, but the whole thing is dirty enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Yet I just can’t resist the urge to dig deeper…

So first let’s see who this AMNTV entity is… sure enough, they’re a company that does “Pay Per Call” advertising on television, wherein the advertiser only pays a cut of the proceeds rather than paying for the airtime up front. They’re calling themselves REVShare now, and they’re the ones responsible for this lame commercial. Turns out they actually produced the ad on behalf of Guerra Communications/Prospect Performance and they even have a case study on their site (which I won’t be linking to, take that, Googlebot) about the campaign’s success. They’re claiming to have brought in 389,337 leads since the ads started running a year ago. 389,337 poor suckers who handed their information over to a network of scammers and spammers.

A little more digging and Googling uncovered the guy who designed the website, REVShare’s creative director, David Schooley. His portfolio lists a bunch of other “as seen on tv”-type sites he’s done, as well as numerous email campaigns. Jack Lalanne’s juicer, AbSwing, Pasta Pot Express, fire fighter coins… you guessed it, the man makes spam.

Some of the other links in Mr. Schooley’s personal porfolio point to jdrmedia.com. JDR Media is listed in the Spamhaus Register of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO). To qualify for a ROKSO listing, a spammer must have been kicked off three or more networks for email abuse. It’s a tenuous connection at best, but it certainly seems that AMN/REVShare has been dealing with spammers, if not spamming themselves.

Spammers are advertising on television.

Of course this isn’t really a deep revelation, but the detective work is fun in that sick-satisfying scab-picking way.

18 Comments on 'The Plot Sickens'

  1. Jonathan Murray said:

    Link away, friend… just remember to add rel=”nofollow” to the link, and Googlebot will happily NOT give them any credit.

    Since there are but 3 of us talking about this crap (as far as Google can tell, anyway, and one is pretty dated); I hope you don’t mind if I crosslink to this article on my site.

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  2. Craig said:

    Crosslink away, friend… I’m hesitant to trust the nofollow thing until I’ve seen it in practice for a while.

    I’m also somewhat surprised that there hasn’t been more net chatter about this since the commercials have become unavoidable. Googling for info just turns up the same few articles, and three of them are mine. The scam needs more exposure. As with any other spam, as long as idiots keep responding the spammers keep making money.

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  3. Orgrider said:

    Ok, I just googled the Las Vegas address given for Prospect Performance LLC. The general address comes up for several buisnesses so I assume it’s an office building. However, on searching for the address along with suite B, a real estate agent’s site comes up. Apparently Guerra/Prospect is going by yet another name: Last Second Media. The posting is dated January 13th 2005. http://lasvegas.craigslist.org/off/55508492.html
    Last Second Media describes themselves with, “We’re an ad agency specializing in TV – both commercial production and placement.” I wonder when they will settle on a name.

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  4. Craig said:

    It’s hard to tell if Guerra Communications and Last Second Media are actually the same company, but there’s definitely a connection. All of these “companies” (including AMN/REVshare) are part of the same tangled web.

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  5. Frank Pournelle said:

    A big thank you for the hearty souls participating in these comments about the sales lead company, Prospect Performance and Guerra Communications LLC. Our thanks goes out to Craig Cook and Focal Curve for providing a forum for people to express concerns about the work-from-home industry. There sure are some scams in the MLM field and that’s why we’re glad there’s finally a consumer advocate like Guerra Communications who forces MLM companies to act legitimately and honestly. Without the threat of Guerra Communications taking away their television-generated leads, some less-than-legitimate companies might not have a reason to treat potential customers fairly and legally under the anonymousness of online marketing. With Guerra Communications there is now recourse for consumers. Guerra Communications does take consumer concerns seriously and read these notes. Where there’s a good idea, our client will act on your suggestions. Forums like Focal Curve offer a way for our client to improve thier business without the expense of focus groups and surveys. Again Craig, thanks again for the free service.

    WARNING A brief note to advise those posting on this site…Multi-million dollar companies will spend thousands of dollars on legal representation to defend against slander, libel and tortious business interference. You could be prosecuted and be personally subject to massive legal costs as well as actual and up to treble punitive damages. Just be careful what you say. Opinions are valued…libel and slander may not hide behind the anonymousness of a bulletin board or blog. Please feel free to email me directly should you have questions about this client, their activities, or just wish to share your comments on this industry.
    Frank Pournelle
    President/CEO
    Last Second Media Inc.
    D&B Number: 156157682

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  6. Craig said:

    Thanks for your contribution Frank.

    Prospect Performance and Guerra Communications are probably not doing anything illegal, but their customers may be. We can only take it on faith that PP/Guerra are enforcing any ethical policies upon those who purchase their leads.

    Looking at the signup form at mlm.prospectperformance.com, I don’t see any requirement for a business license or tax ID or any other confirmation that the purchaser is legit. I’m not going to fill out the form to proceed to the next step, but is the purchase immediate so I can come away with a few hundred leads in a matter of seconds, or is there a verification process? What due diligence do they perform before selling the information? Is there a 10 day waiting period while PP/Guerra does a background check before they sell me ammunition for my spam cannon?

    I suppose if PP/Guerra find out they’ve been selling information to illegal scammers, they simply shut off the tap and kill the scammer’s account. That’s all well and good. But will Prospect Performance take any responsibility for facilitating the scam in the first place? What recourse does a victim have?

    With the addition of a privacy policy which clearly discloses that the information collected through their vast array of url redirects will be shared with unidentified third parties, PP/Guerra have absolved themselves of any accountability for how that information is used by the purchasers.

    As such, my opinion hasn’t been changed and my advice remains the same: anyone who submits their information to one of the advertised sites should exercise extreme caution and be prepared to deal with the consequences.

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  7. Jonathan Murray said:

    Legitimate legal advisors to legitimate multi-million dollar companies also know that threatening people for stating their opinion is a handy way to accomplish… nothing.

    The business of selling desperate people (or their personal information, which in this day and age amounts to almost the same thing) is sleazy. Any reasonable person who sits back and thinks about it would come to the same conclusion.

    It is comforting that people like “Al”, and now “Frank” have taken the time to try to convince us that preying on the desperate is a legitimate business model.

    Here are some questions for Mr. Pournelle and his ilk:
    Why is this industry layered so thickly in subterfuge and misdirection? If so legitimate, why so hidden?
    Why do the commercials advertise a “system” of matching up personal interests with opportunities when in fact they simply sell to whomever is willing to fork over the money?
    Who are you trying to impress with your thinly veiled threats of legal action for people stating their opinions? How does that help you prove your point?

    If Guerra Communications is a “consumer advocate” trying to bring legitimacy to the industry, as you claim, please feel free to direct me/us to the information that backs that position.

    Considering the difficulties in even figuring out who is involved in this elaborate information harvesting scheme, I find it difficult to believe it is anything but a shady business hiding behind the ignorance of the general public.

    And just for your edification: I have also posted negative opinions about Microsoft, CNN, Claria/Gator, and who knows what else. They are multi-million (or BILLION) dollar companies who care about their public image – and yet none of them feels it necessary to hunt down posts and threaten legal action against opinion. Of course, each of those can easily be found and communicated with, since they conduct business in the daylight (even Claria/Gator, at least recently). Too bad the personal information harvesting industry can’t say the same.

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  8. Craig said:

    I was actually contacted by Mr. Pournelle before he posted his comment. He and the company(ies) he represents take issue with some of the commentary on the various posts I’ve published on this topic. He was totally civil and polite and he is to be commended on the subtlty of his threats.

    Not wishing to get into a nasty battle, yet also not wishing to cave into censorship, I requested a detailed list citing which specific comments he felt were potentially libelous and why, and assured him that I would delete/modify them on a case-by-case basis if I agreed with his positions. It’s been two weeks and I haven’t yet recieved that list, but it may still come.

    It seems that my little site here ranks pretty highly in search engines when hunting for anything on Prospect Performance, Guerra Communications, Last Second Media, AMNTV, and quite a few of the throwaway domains appearing in their ads. Wary consumers who search for information on these companies/sites before submitting their information discover my cautionary articles and decide not to do it. This is apparently damaging their business: if they’re targeting uninformed consumers, I’m informing them, hence taking away a potential sale.

    However, this does not seem to fall into the domain of libel because I’m not publishing falsehoods with malicious intent. I’ve never made a single statement which was knowingly untrue, and my goals from the beginning have only been to express my own opinions and caution potential victims. If I’ve published anything untrue, I welcome factual corrections.

    I believe I’m fully within my rights to publish these opinions, and to allow others to publish their own in the comments. I leave it to Mr. Pournelle to provide the list of which statements he feels are deliberately false and published with defamatory malice, and to back it up with an explanation of how and why it is false (which will likely require revealing the truth).

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  9. p said:

    latestest in this scam is 34venture.com advertised on the CNN station……I guess they don`t care where there money comes from

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  10. Martyn Whitby said:

    It seems that through reading this thread, there are a lot of references to “the victims”. My take is that this company runs television advertisements to generate leads of people who are interested in operating a home-based business.

    If someone takes the time to go to there site, and then makes the effort to input their information, how does that make them a victim when they are contacted by a network marketing company?

    I visited this site, and wasn’t asked to give them any money or provide them with anything beyond basic contact information.

    If the ad were offerring a way to find the best hamburger in my area, and they sold my name to local restaurants that make hamburgers, how is that a bad thing?

    Martyn Whitby

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  11. Craig said:

    Martyn, one concern here is that most of the information being sold is personally identifiable, and you are not told who it’s being sold to. Anyone can buy your contact information and do with it what they please. You may be spammed and pestered and harrassed by people you have never heard of, with no way of preventing it because you willingly surrendered your data. If you submit your home phone number and address to an agency that will sell it to hamburger joints, you would expect to only hear from burger joints. But if you’re then indundated with unwanted solicitations from appliance repairmen and lawnmowing services who purchased your information from the burger list, well, you’re a victim.

    The other concern is that there’s little or no assurance that these home-based businesses are legitimate. It’s more likely to be tacky and deceptive multi-level marketing schemes. Amway and Herbalife skirt around federal law because they technically do sell actual products. But if you get involved in their business model, you’ll quickly discover that it’s not about selling a product at all, it’s just about generating more leads and recruiting more people into the system.

    Imagine if you went to Joe’s Burger Stand expecting to get a decent meal, only to find once you got there that Joe is a member of an apocalyptic death cult who will tie you to a dinette chair with coaxial cable and force-feed you live caterpillars while beating you over the head with a baguette. It may still qualify as a restaurant, but that’s probably not what you signed up for.

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  12. Chris said:

    A ha, now it comes out. It’s not so much the Radio/TV ad lead generation method you don’t like, it’s the CONSUMER of the leads – MLM distributors. Why? Because you don’t like the MLM business model.

    Suspend disbelief for a moment, and assume that there is such a thing as a legitimate network marketing organization (MLM). So, in a highly competitive 50 year old industry(MLM), how does a distributor find new people? Pester friends, relatives, and co-workers? No, that’s the insurance industry. (Just kidding, sort of)

    Personally, I prefer to buy leads of folks who are looking for a business like mine. There’s no spam involved. Maybe my particular business is not what the prospect wanted, but that’s HIS/HER decision to make — not yours.

    Hope that helps.

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  13. Chris said:

    Forgot to mention — there IS a vetting process. They would not allow me to purchase leads from them until they completed a check on my parent company and on me to ensure legitimacy and lack of consumer complaints. Just thought you’d like to know.

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  14. Craig said:

    Gee Chris, of course I don’t like marketing scams, did I ever deny that?

    But this all started with lame, poorly-produced, and misleading television ads hawking a website that failed to disclose to its visitors what was being done with their non-public personal information.

    The site now includes a privacy policy, but the commercials still suck.

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  15. Chris said:

    I haven’t seen the TV commercials but I have heard the radio ads, and they are pretty catchy. However, the true evaluation of the commercial is does it do the intended job — that is, does it get qualified, motivated people looking for a legitimate home-based business to respond? If it does, then the ad is good. If not, the ad is bad, even if it has nice production values and features Bill Clinton on a voiceover. We shall see, I’ve not yet had a chance to evaluate the process.

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  16. Craig said:

    does it get qualified, motivated people looking for a legitimate home-based business to respond?

    Somehow I don’t think that’s the intent of the ad. If they were really only interested in “qualified, motivated people” why all the mystery? The infoharvest website consists of a single page, with no way to find additional information, no FAQs, no means of contacting them for help or to ask questions.

    No, it seems the intent of the ads are to lure in desperate, gullible people with vague, empty promises of unfathomable wealth in order to collect as much nonpublic personally identifyable information as possible. They’re interested in quantity, not quality.

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  17. Chris said:

    Just noticed your post. You are only seeing part of the system (the generic part). The page you are looking at confirms that the responder is looking for an opportunity and provides the contact info needed to follow up (opt in). The responder is then sent to a unique website which explains a specific opportunity which the responder can accept, reject, or study further by requesting additional information.

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  18. fal said:

    It’s even on the radio, I found this site after hearing the same script they use on the tv ad with the site addmorecash.com while listening to Art Bell. I’ve seen it countless times on a number of stations, I immediately knew it was a scam, even with out doing research, but most people are not smart. It’s nice to know you can find this relatively easy. this has got to be against FCC regulations

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