Beware of DMCA Scammer

May 25, 2007 Posted by Tyler Cruz
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I’ve written many important and useful articles in the past, but this will be one of the most important ones I’ve ever written, so I highly suggest you read it in it’s entirity.

This evening was interesting. I received a DMCA, followed later by harassment and even death threats. Let me start at the beginning.

Several days ago I had contacted the owner of Starcraft2.net to try to purchase the domain. After a couple days of declining my increasing offers, Eric, the previous owner, contacted me again and said he would, after all, agree to my offer. It turned out that his previous declinations were stemmed from the fact that he had received a very authentic-looking DMCA and didn’t want to sell the domain to me as it’d under false pretenses.

However, Eric had done the smart thing and contacted Blizzard to inquire on the matter more. Blizzard responded by basically stating to ignore the e-mail as it didn’t come from them. And this would make sense, since the e-mail came from the address: howardgspinks@gmail.com and not a Blizzard or even attorney’s office.

So, Eric had informed me of his incounter and had warned me that the scammer may try to contact me when the WHOIS information passed to my name.

Several hours ago, I received a DMCA from howardgspinks@gmail.com. Even though I had been warned by Eric about this, it was still very uncomfortable.

Even with the suspicious Gmail e-mail account, the DMCA is as authentic looking as you’re going to get; in fact, it probably is authentic, only Blizzard never sent it; the scammer “Howard G Spinks” did.

Here is a copy of the DMCA e-mail sent to me: dmca email

A few minutes after receiving the e-mail, Howard G Spinks (Alfred E. Neuman?) added me to MSN. Here is a copy of the entire chat transcript with him. It’s a very entertaining read so I highly recommend reading it: piratereports.rtf

As you can see, I was very strong and held my ground from the beginning. This guy really does try hard to scare people into giving them their domains, or perhaps he is hired by competitors to try to thwart competition; that thought did cross my mind, but I think he really just tries to score good domains and probably sells them quickly thereafter.

You see that I ask the gentleman for his phone number, and he responds with “1-800-kiss my ass”. I guess he’s too afraid to continue his scam over the phone. I was also ready to record it for the police. I can’t believe he threw so many threats at me, I think he did this because I held my ground so well and his scam didn’t phase me. In the chat transcript, you can see the longer it goes on, the more his immaturity comes out, such as the use of the word “owned”.

It’s lucky that I had talked to Eric first, as that did help prepare me for this enslaught, which is partly why I wrote this article: BE AWARE OF SUCH SCAMMERS. If you ever receive a DMCA , C&D, or similar type of e-mail or even phone call, don’t immediately hand your domain over and surrender. 

While it’s very important to comply with such legal matters, make sure first that they are authentic legal entities. You may even want to contact a lawyer if you don’t already have one on speed-dial and have them handle it for you.

You’ll notice that Howard G. Spinks states he is from PirateReports.com. Well, if you visit the Contact Us page on their site you’ll notice they clearly states: “If you receive an email purporting to be from any member of Pirate Reports and a digital signature is not included please forward a copy to us for a response and not our ISP. It is very likely a “spoof” from a pirate to damage our reputation.”

Guess what. I never received any such digital signature in my e-mail from him.

A Google search of “Howard G Spinks” returns a lot of results of people who have had similar problems with this scammer.

Now, for a bit of revenge. While notifying the public of his scams will undoubtedly be revenge enough, here are a couple of his contact details

MSN: piratereport@hotmail.com
E-mail: howardgspinks@gmail.com

So feel free to give him a hard time :)

Also feel free to help spread the word of this post – I really want to put this scammer out of business. I’m sure he’s hurt too many people already…

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Posted: May 25th, 2007 under Articles  

58 Responses to “Beware of DMCA Scammer”

  1. [...] scammer tried to scam me very authentically, followed up by intimidation and even death threats: http://www.tylercruz.com/beware-of-dmca-scammer/ __________________ Tyler Cruz TylerCruz.com PublisherSpot.com: Professional Reviews of Ad [...]

  2. ToddW says:

    The best way to deal with these type of issues via e-mail is DELETE. If it’s real they will contact you via REAL MAIL.

    They will come certified, registered OR UPS overnight w/confirmation ;) ;) FROM an atorneys office most likely too.

    Only after you get such paperwork and verify it then I would say it’s ok to continue in e-mail or over the phone.

  3. Cam says:

    The part involving your family? What an absolute idiot, far out of line even for a scammer.

  4. James says:

    Wow I can’t believe he got so personal. What a sick sob. Probably a nerd who is obsessed with starcraft, and wants to impress the ladies with the domain? I would report this for sure. See if you can IP through the email information as well.

  5. The real ones I’ve received for owning domains with trademarks in them have all come by a commercial carrier, registered, and overnight – Usually FedEx, in it’s shiney card letter sleeve. If I get an email asking me to sell a domain or anything, I always ask them to send it to me in writing – getting mail is the best way of seeing if someone is kidding you in a small joke or is more serious (either in their joke or they are real).

  6. I could never be so brave as to keep a conversation going if death threats were thrown in – wow.

    Thanks for letting us know about this – hopefully the publicity will stop him.

    A quick Google search for his name shows that he supposedly he operates from Surrey in England. Although searching in the 192.com database (which I’ve always found very reliable) suggests that nobody with his surname ever lived there. Looks like he chooses a location near to his target and starts threatening… nasty.

    Hope that’s the end of it.

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      I should promote you to ‘detective’.

      Yeah, that’s what I considered too, that he looks up the location of the person on WHOIS and then chooses a close location nearby for more of a fear factor effect. I assumed this from a number of factors.

      Anyhow, I’m about to report him to Gmail, so at least they’ll ban his account..

    • Iwan Nagag says:

      There is a Surry in British Columbia. It’s right next to Vancouver, British Columbia.

  7. Tyler, thanks for the heads up. Your post is quite amusing, especially the msn conversation.

    I’d love for that guy to come round, I’d be sitting there with the 8 other doormen I work with…I’m sure we’d have a cracking time.

    What are your plans with this guy? Have you managed to track him? Are you going to? If so, what do you intend to do?

    Khalid.

  8. Zigire says:

    LOL

    Like anyone would be foolish enough to fall for that!

  9. Brian says:

    I hate to give this guy (what an a$$) any credibility, but Google piratereports.com..

    He may not be a scam artist at all, albeit not a very professional person according to your posted transcripts.

    An example of piratereports.com PERHAPS being legit (look at bottom under GENERAL):

    http://www.phpfox.com/konsort/license/

    and although VBulletin may not acknowledge this communication as being “from them”, it clearly states under their own license agreement that

    “Please be aware that we subcontract our anti-piracy measures to Pirate Reports. They may contact you to clarify your license legality, and will use an email address @vbulletin.com or @piratereports.com.”

    Exerpt from:

    http://www.vbulletin.com/order/license_agreement.php

    No matter what the case may be, I think you should file a police report Tyler, and let this guy know that he crossed the line with his threatening verbiage.

    Good luck!

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      Which is exactly why he is pretending to be from them… and which is why he is sending from a Gmail account, and which is why he didn’t attach the certified/authentic thingy.

      If he continues to harass me I may indeed contact the police.

      • Andrew says:

        I wouldn’t even wait until he does it again. If he is a known scammer and has threatened you, that’s enough cause right there. Also, the police may be able to track the email accounts through Google or Microsoft (Google may not succumb), and get him for good.

        • Crusader says:

          That’s a good point. You should report this incident to the police. Someone threatening you like that may be serious, don’t take a chance.

          I think the police can get court orders to trace the IP from where the e-mail originated from. I doubt the scammer is working from an Internet cafe.

        • krillz says:

          Just do it yourself I’ve spent some good hours tracking down people I don’t like thanks to their ip.

          Then next time reversing the attack, usually scares the crap out of them and they leave for good.

  10. [...] Entrepreneur vs. DMCA Scammer Web Entrepreneur vs. DMCA Scammer An article retelling the events when a DMCA Scammer attempts to cease the domain Starcraft2.net [...]

  11. Marc says:

    Just sounds like some kid who’s read your blog and become fixated on you.

  12. Lisa Hayes says:

    FYI, Howard is not a scammer. though i highly doubt it.

    we have had an unpleasant encounter with Howard G. Spinks.

    http://digg.com/software/PirateReports_revokes_vBulletin_license_of_HongFire_com_for_moral_reasons

    I thought you might find it interesting, since dear Howard has decided to harrass on you.

  13. someone says:

    DMCA: “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner of an exclusive right that is infringed”

    If he’s not the owner and trying to threaten you, you can sue his ass and put him in jail(probably able to get money too).

  14. Dan says:

    congrats, you made the front page of digg

  15. Brendyn says:

    It’s also a pretty good indication that he’s not legit when you see two typos in the opening sentence of the e-mail. He uses the wrong “to” and has a fragmented sentence. No one wanting to be taken seriously would send out an e-mail with two glaring mistakes like that. They’re reason enough alone to question.

  16. Dan Diemer says:

    The EFF just recently filed suit with someone for abuse of the DMCA, so if it keeps up you always have that recourse… Though I doubt that he’d ever give you any real contact info to use in court.

    • krillz says:

      if he uses gmail, and doesn’t use shells to tunnel through, which I seriously doubt, then google has all the ip and more info stored to track that bastard down.

      No problems in that, all that would be needed is to get a warant to be able to get to that info.

  17. Lars says:

    If he’s actually Canadian you should file with the RCMP and if this guy decides to try anything like this again there will be a previous report. Also I would definitely consider reporting the fake DMCA, this is a very serious issue for the EFF.

  18. Nathan says:

    This kid is very amusing, he breaks down easy. Best of luck against him. He is probably reading this on Digg now.

  19. some guy says:

    Interesting, but I have no respect for domain squatters either. Some “Entrepreneur” :P

    • Jook says:

      @some guy

      Not everyone who wants a domain wants to squat on it. Some actually end up enthusiast sights. Look at PlanetHalfLife(HalfLife2.com).

      @Tyler

      Good job holding your ground Tyler! I was sure to sign up ol’ Howard for a few of my favorite mailing lists!

  20. Justin says:

    Hah, I find it entertaining with his comments on Vancouver, seeing that I live in West Van.

    Take solace in the fact that you did not get fooled and merely had some fun as the resolve of this immature scammer fail and result in “ownage” of your forum.

    Anyways, the moral of the story is always ask for some form of proof before you proceed in any way. Ask for a Blizzard contact number, etc.

  21. Nate says:

    The email that this fellow sent constitutes a clear _felony_. The message he sent states:

    > Declaration
    > :I, the undersigned, CERTIFY UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY that I
    > am an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of
    > certain intellectual property rights, said exclusive owners
    > being named:Blizzard Entertainment

    A “Declaration”, such as this, is a legal document. Courts take them very seriously– they are the same as sworn testimony in court itself.

    If someone sends a legal notice that certifies a declaration “UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY”, and the declaration itself is intentionally false, this is a felony. In order to maintain the credibility and integrity of the entire legal system, the courts do not tolerate this kind of perjury in the slightest.

    Seriously, this matter should be referred to a prosecutor or the FBI. Sending a false/fraudulent legal notice is a blatant attempt to undermine our legal system. In addition, since this attempt at fraud was sent as an email across state lines via the “wires” (i.e. phone/Internet), this constitutes “wire fraud”– this is a federal crime. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wire_fraud)

    So there are several felonies here. This fellow needs to be identified, possibly extradited and prosecuted ASAP. And if the fellow is truly in Canada, the Canadians will be more than glad to help deal with this matter.

    This sort of thing needs to be put to a stop immediately.

  22. JK87 says:

    Just a question…why HAVEN’T you contacted police. I don’t care if he is just some prick little teenager, he committed a pretty seriously offense and should be prosecuted. At the very least, it would make him think twice before doing it again.

    • Frances says:

      Seconded. You’re being threatened and somebody is forging or trying to forge an official document to make you cave. There -must- be a felony in there somewhere.

      I’d go for his IP-address and give it to the feds to follow-up. See if he’s still as cool when two guys in a bare room start asking him some interesting questions.

  23. DavidJSmitty says:

    Got a good laugh outta this one

  24. ixilom says:

    Giving him a hard time with his email and MSN accounts isn’t that smart. What is going to happen is that he will just create new accounts noone ever heard of. Starting this scams with a “clean record”.

  25. Josh Buckley says:

    that msn conversation is quite amusing. Thanks for the heads up tyler

  26. flash killer says:

    I highly recommend signing him up to a few of these, see how long his account can with stand that barrage? http://www.toastedspam.com/freespamlist

  27. Frances says:

    He sends a cease and desist, ok, might be real.
    Then he almost immediately contacts you… claiming to represent Blizzard. Do you think Blizzard [or Vivendi] is going to pounce you -live- to get their domain back? Making implicit threats?
    What do you think they keep all the expensive suits with a law degree around for?

    I would have played with this guy. He’s nothing but a toy.
    Or, simply ignore him straightaway.

    Playing with him would have been nicer though.

  28. Harry says:

    That letter (e-mail) is horribly written! “Greetings”? Who begins a serious letter with “Greetings”?

  29. Chris says:

    If he contacts you on MSN try and get him to send you a file, or try to send him a file. Make sure you fire up ethereal before hand and when the transfer is initiated your machines will exchange REAL ip addresses ;)

  30. Fox says:

    This totally made my day :), Congrats on cracking his immaturity.
    Well worth the read :).

  31. Mehul Patel says:

    is this guy Howrad on Drugs? Tyler Awesome stuff, kudos to you….

  32. [...] Beware of DMCA Scammer – TylerCruz.com Several days ago I had contacted the owner of Starcraft2.net to try to purchase the domain. After a couple days of declining my increasing offers, Eric, the previous owner, contacted me again and said he would, after all, agree to my offer. It turned out that his previous declinations were stemmed from the fact that he had received a very authentic-looking DMCA and didn’t want to sell the domain to me as it’d under false pretenses. [...]

  33. smart scammers. i never trust e-mails from unknown sources. we still have to depend on the old telephone system on serious business transactions ;)

  34. me says:

    hey douche bag, nice work on verifying the credibility of *@gmail.com account. nice work.

  35. Jim says:

    Stupidly, if you both live in Canada, the DMCA can’t touch you. Even if you did live in the USA, HE
    would be breaking it for attempting to misuse it. There’s a section in it that makes it illegal, perhaps
    even a felony, to knowingly claim a DMCA violation when there is none.

    This idiot could potentially end up in prison if he sends those things to the wrong people.

  36. tracker says:

    TYLER – post the header info from the email you received and let’s find this prick..

    I just re-read the email, and surely the writer has not yet completed ENG 101. Perhaps we can help him find his “time out” corner?

  37. ROI_Guy says:

    Some good comments and thoughts here … plus a Digg FP … the email was fortuitous, even if annoying.

    To piggyback on a couple oieces of good advice you already got …

    email is not recognized by the court system in the US or Canada as legal notice.

    Legal notice is the first thing required before anyone can sue anybody … the court will not even allow a case to begin unless the party who claims injury can show they have made good faith attempts to notify the party they claim injured them (in most states of the US it does _not_ have to be registered ar certified, First Class will do.

    As a rule, though, it’s best to just delete such an and engage in no conversation, email or phone. The original claim may be bogus, but if you respond unintentionally in the wrong way … such as recording a telephone conversation where it is not legal at both your end and the other person’s end … or type something online that can be construed as libelous, _you_ may then give the other party something to make a real case out of … so

    (non-professional) advice from one who has been there … they send these emails to provoke a response … don’t fall into their trap … playing with them can be legally dangerous, and at best it is only making them feel happy in their own twisted way..

    It’s kind of entertaining to actually read the DMCA … if you can stay awake through the sections that protect the designs of boats and other things with nothing to do with the web:
    http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf
    There are indeed several sections of the act that make it a crime to falsely allege violations of the DMCA, so it’s not a very useful toy for trolls like this guy appears to be. Interesting.

  38. Rob says:

    The guy’s a troll & a scam artist. Unfortunately it looks like he gets his jollies off just by perpuating a scam and getting some publicity for it. If you had more solid evidence of him doing that (and you were in the USA), I’m sure that’s without a doubt harassment.

    Anyways, let it go, find some humor in it and carry on, otherwise he is partially succeeding..

  39. [...] Tyler Cruz gives us a recount of his run in with a domain name scammer. Interesting read and could maybe save [...]

  40. 1time says:

    Nothing unique in this, goes on all the time. These jerks can make some serious money with domains. Good thing you held your ground but you should have never wasted your time in the first place.

  41. [...] Cruz had an interesting run in with a DCMA scammer over one of his Starcraft domains. It’s interesting the lengths some of these people will go [...]

  42. [...] Beware of DMCA Scammer [...]

  43. [...] I liked the theme he uses, with a white central column, and off-white background, it is quite pleasing to the eye. The actual side columns weren’t too overloaded, a situation I’ve been trying to achieve here, hence most of the extra widgets and code being moved over to my Extras page (link at the top). The subjects covered varied from the obvious – ways to make money from the internet, not at all purely blog based, to the personal posts, including his new condo and owing the Canadian tax man a scary amount. The post that most caught my attention was his detailing how someone attempted to scam him out a recently purchased domain name. [...]

  44. make wicked money says:

    I’m sure you had a hilarious chat! Haha!

PeerFly

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