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Fun With Job Scams: TooSpoiled.com
September 21, 2006, 6:48 am
Filed under: Business, Work

I’ve been in an employment dry spell lately, and decided to take the plunge and post my resume at HotJobs and CarreerBuilder (via Yahoo! and MSN respectively). It wasn’t long before I got results. And naturally, they were in the form of a scam.

Dear Alfonso ,

I recently saw your resume online and feel you would be ideal for an immediate opening as a Casting Manager with our company. We are TooSpoiled.com, one of the most exciting website launches in the last few years.

Alfonso , if you are looking for a real opportunity and a real long-term career with an exciting cutting edge company, you may be the person we are looking for.

TooSpoiled.com is a combination of a modeling and acting database and MySpace.com with much more. We offer Models and Actors the opportunity to gain international exposure, interface with the world’s largest entertainment industry network, and make money through online advertising.

And, best of all, TooSpoiled allows Talent to earn money instantly. TooSpoiled allows each member to earn money by displaying ads on their portfolio page.

Unlike many other sites in the entertainment industry, TooSpoiled is 100% free for Models and Actors to join.

Casting Managers work with Clients and industry professionals that are seeking Models and Actors. Your background makes you an ideal fit for the position. We offer our Casting Managers the following:

* Highly competitive salary
* Incentive plan that can add 40% – 60% or more to Base Salary
* Medical, Dental, and Vision plan
* Expense Account
* Paid Vacation
* Tuition Reimbursement
* Rapid Fast Track Advancement Program

The person we are looking for is good with people; detail oriented, very organized, and possesses excellent communication skills. A college degree or equivalent experience is required.

Alfonso , if you feel the Casting Manager position is right for you, visit the link below and fill out the online application. (If the link does not work in your e-mail, you may copy and paste the address in your browser.)

http://www.TooSpoiled.com/Careers/opportunities.cfm?jp=3004732

Once I receive your online application, I will contact you within one to two business days.

Regards,
Bethany Reagan

Click here to be removed from any future employment offers.

Naturally, I was already expecting that this was baloney. After all, I’m not sure how making coffee at Starbucks for the past seven years, studying economics and digital media, and being an Internet geek in general qualify me as a “casting manager” for some kind of modeling website-cum-Myspace wanabe. Of course, how could one argue with a “highly competitve salary” with full medical benefits, paid vacation, tuition reimbursement and even an expense account? Yeah, definitely baloney.

Perhaps I should have stopped there, but I couldn’t resist at least a limited perusal of their website. After all, according to this e-mail, it was “one of the most exciting website launches in the last few years.” Wow, you mean as exciting as del.icio.us, or Flickr, Digg, or heck, even Google? I snickered to myself as I was met with quite possibly the worst logo of the web2.0 era:

https://i0.wp.com/static.flickr.com/96/246705914_a96b2553fd.jpg

It appears someone used an online Google logo generator, added a smiley face for no good reason, and finished it with a (not-trademarked) slogan. In case you’re wondering and already too disgusted to look it up yourself, the site wasn’t any better. It comes from the Myspace school of (bad) design, mixed with random stock photos and fonts–I counted a whopping fifteen fonts on the front page, and that’s when I stopped looking.

What is this TooSpoiled.com Site Anyway?

I Googled “toospoiled.com” and in the midst of countless “legitimate” hits for the dozens of “toospoiled*.com” sites the company had registered, found exactly what I was looking for: several mentions of TooSpoiled on scam forums. After sifting through reams of domain names and carbon copy e-mails coming from TooSpoiled in this thread on ScamFraudAlert, I found that TooSpoiled was something of a front for Impact Worldwide, itself an already notorious fake modeling site. It got even better. I found a mailing address for TooSpoiled, located just minutes from my home, right here in Orlando:

2295 South Hiawassee Rd (Ste. 308)
Orlando, FL 32835

In fact, it was the same address for Titan, a rather dubious-looking SEO website. After a quick map search, I found that they were in the Metro West area, just west of Downtown Orlando. Oh, I was definitely going to check this place out in person!

I also found some good dirt at this Scam.com thread. Apparently, the dude behind TooSpoiled/ImpactWW is Ayman El-Difrawi, a.ka. Alec Defrawy, a.k.a. Alexander Simon, and that’s just a very limited list of his aliases. That’s where this thing gets really interesting.

Background Search

A search of “Ayman El-Difrawi” found some interesting information on this guy’s criminal background. Here is a sample:

In 1990, while working as the VP of a Maitland, FL loan company, Difrawi was arrested for illegally taping phone calls. He was arrested again in 1996 for fraudulent financial reporting after the FBI found that he’d receieved some $170,000 at a time he claimed he couldn’t afford an attorney. His rap sheet also includes such gems as conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, copyright violations, Internet fraud, and even the child abuse of his former girlfriend’s son! This is one bad dude.

Apparently, Difrawi gets his all his money from an offshore trust fund run by his mother, Rafiah Kashmiri–read: he gets an allowance from his mommy. He’s been running criminal enterprises under many names, such as eModel, Options Talent, Wilhelmina Scouting Network, Transcontinental Talent, Impact Worldwide, and of course now TooSpoiled.

Rafia Kashmiri runs a small defese contractor out of Orlando, FL called Modasco, Inc. A map search found three separate addresses for “Modesco, Inc.”, all in the Downtown Orlando area. Apparently, one or more of the various incarnations of Difrawi’s modeling scam even operated out of one of Modesco’s offices. In other words, a known criminal enterprise operated under the same address as a defense contractor for the United States. A criminal enterprise with ties to at least one Mafia thug, to boot. Why Homeland Security hasn’t seemed to notice is beyond me, but I hope they like reading blogs.

Apparently, the Wilhelmina Scouting Network was Difrawi’s most high-profile case; he and his equally corrupt buddies somehow managed to sell WSN to Orlando’s own boy-band-factory Lou Pearlman in 2002. Apparently, this guy doesn’t do background checks, and he got stung big-time for not doing so. WSN was investigated for about two years by the Florida Attorney General’s office (Charlie Crist, now running for FL governer). The fiasco was covered in more detail in this Orlando Weekly article, but essentially, Pearlman was somehow able to get through the investigation after Difrawi and his cohorts left the company, and he’s now trying to live down WSN’s bad name.

And Action!

After I felt I was done digging for the time being, I decided it was time to start being a good citizen. That meant reporting the scam to the Federal Trade Commission, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, TooSpoiled’s domain registrar GoDaddy, and the folks who let them have my e-mail address in the first place, CareerBuilder. I was hesitant to add the solicitation’s address to my spam filter, though, because I wanted to make sure I had any evidence in the future.

Next, I’m going to check out that address and see what’s going on there, and wait and see if I get a response from any of the organizations I complained to. Even if I don’t, it’s important that these people get a body of complaints if we want to do anything about these clowns at TooSpoiled.

Also, I’ll be looking in my inbox for legitimate job solicitation e-mails. I still need that job.

Digg!

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Swag Alert! Free Jimi Wallet for Facebook Members!
September 12, 2006, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Advertising

I don’t usually do link posts, but, this one’s special: it’s a freebie!

Maybe you’ve heard of the Jimi Wallet (think wallet2.0). Well, now’s your chance to grab one for free! Join the Chase+1 group on Facebook (account required to view page), add the Jimi Wallet, go to checkout, and you’ve got yourself some truly awesome free swag. Quick, before the Digg effect kills the offer!

read more | digg story



Two Stu.dicio.us Weeks
September 8, 2006, 11:08 am
Filed under: Reviews, Technology

I have a hard time paying attention. It might just be a geek ailment caused by too much stimulation, or I might have A.D.D. Either way, I’m an awful note-taker, and computers have only made my notes worse. When I heard about stu.dicio.us and saw its minimalist interface, I signed up right away. Now, I’ve been using stu.dico.us for two weeks for all my lecture notes and here’s what I think of it so far.

In which I ditch Microsoft Word for a puny web-based text editor

Full disclosure: Despite running beta versions of Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 on a shiny new computer, I’m writing this on notepad.exe. The more techie gadgets and flash interfaces we have thrown at us, the more attractive the low-end simple interface becomes. After all, the idea is to get things done, not to look good doing them. Stu.dicio.us is a web based application that helps you get a specific job done with minimal fuss. It’s all about taking notes for class, and if you want to insert graphics and spreadsheets and pie charts, then you’re missing the point entirely.

Note-taking

I have a tendency to be long-winded and imprecise, and thus would make a terrible computer programmer. I’m also a terrible note-taker, and find myself focusing on making my notes look pretty rather than actually writing them. Lecture notes are supposed to be quick and to the point, and I am not. Fortunately, one of stu.dicio.us’ glaring “limitations” helps teach you to be a better note-taker while you’re working. Unlike full word processors like Writely, stu.dicio.us is essentially a huge bullet list. This means you need to keep lines short and to the point. This is good.

Blank Page

The prospect of staring at a completely blank page with essentially no user interface might seem daunting to some, but in this age of GUI overkill, I find it very refreshing. Yes, the pretty interfaces in OSX and Vista are nice to look at and impress your friends with, but there’s a point where focusing on a nice-looking interface becomes akin to buying an “it” car before you’ve landed a good job. It’s stupid.

Enter stu.dicio.us’ non-interface. Here’s a whole new paradigm in the world of web2.0 overkill: it’s essentially a blank page.

The only “interface” here is a little quick reference card in the upper right-hand corner. For limited formatting, stu.dicio.us uses Textile formatting. Not having to click on buttons comes in very handy when you’re trying to focus on the lecture isntead of your user interface.

After using stu.dicio.us daily for about two weeks, I find thatthis non-interface helps me focus on one thing: taking my notes. Compared to the shiny animated graphics of Microsoft Office 2007, which I was using last semester, stu.dicio.us is downright bland. But, again, are we using software to complete a task, or to stare at pretty graphics on a screen?

Autolinks

Last semester, I found myself looking at Wikipedia for additional information on people or topics mentioned in class nearly every lecture. I eventually started putting links into the document (a long, round-about task in Word, even in 2007 Beta). Using stu.dicio.us, all I need to do is encapsulate the word(s) I want Wikipedia links to in curly brackets, and I’m done. At the end, I’m left with a reference list of Wikipedia (or Google Search or Google Scholar) links below the “cheat sheet” reference card (which I’d like the option to turn off). The “autolink” feature, unveiled just a few days ago, is a very welcome addition, making it much easier to go to Wikipedia for in-depth information.

Save As…

With all the buzz about ditching the desktop for web-based apps, people sometimes forget their biggest drawback: When the internet connection dies, good luck trying to get all those files you saved online or accessing any of the apps you depend on. It’s a lesson each of us must learn eventually (probably the hard way), but fortunately, stu.dicio.us has a few safety mechanisms to protect the user.

First, there’s the straightforward “save as” button. Don’t trust the auto-save, save a copy to your hard drive as often as you would were you typing a document in Word. No, on notepad.exe! Stu.dicio.us lets you choose to save your notes as either an HTML file, or (better), a DOC file. In addition, a recently added “work offline” feature holds back on the auto-save function for a while (let’s say you’ve got to turn off that WiFi to save battery-life), and then immediately save as soon as the “work online” button is pressed.

B is for beta buggy

With all the good stuff stud.icio.us has in store for students, it’s not without its frustrating bugs and problems. The auto-save doesn’t work as well as, say, Gmail’s auto-save, and I’d like to have the option of specifying standard auto-save intervals. The worst problem I had with stu.dicio.us was its propensity to arbitrarily “forget” chunks of notes, even after they’ve been auto-saved. It’s a reason why you should remember to save all your files to your hard drive. I found that an entire lecture’s worth of notes vanished into the ether one day, despite having been there the previous day. In fact, this has happened twice during my two-week test.

Because stud.icio.us doesn’t seem to good at actually saving your documents (come on, even a small failure rate is not acceptible here), and because clicking “save as DOC” everytime I finish typing my notes gets old pretty fast, I would like to see some kind of synchroization ability built in to a later version. For example, while auto-saving to the server, it could also be auto-saving to a specified directory in my hard drive, as a backup.

All in all, if you’re a student and you’re sick of firing up a bloated word processor to take your lecture notes, stu.dicio.us is a worthy note-taking app. I have had very few qualms about stu.dicio.us so far, and I’m going to keep using it throughout this semester. This means you can look forward to a long-haul report at the end of the semester.

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