Hacking Through The Web of Mysterious Faux Web Sites That Plague the Credit Unions
By Ed Murray
The Nobby Beach Boyz Take a Bite Out of Star One
I call them the Nobby Beach Boyz because their domain is in Nobby Beach, the heart of Australia’s Gold Coast. Way down in the land of Oz, nowhere near the Northern California headquarters of Star One Credit Union, is the hidden lair of a domain name that was unprotected by Star, and has fallen into the hands of “someone” in Nobby Beach, hiding behind a wall of privacy. The Nobby Beach Boyz own the nameStarOneCreditUnion.com. How the real Star One left this unprotected is baffling. But on 23 November, 2008 they snagged the name, and what they have done should be a lesson learned to any company. By the way, PrivacyProtect.org of Australia is the shield now around the real owner or owners of StarOneCreditUnion.com. And don’t bother to write, as “all postal mails rejected”.
Nobby Beach sounds like a great place to vacation, wedged between Mermaid Beach and Miami Beach on the famous “Gold Coast”. Nice places to stay for families, picnic areas, BBQ pits, theme parks like Sea World, Wildlife Sanctuary, Outback Spectacular, Warner Bros Movie World, cycling, swimming, bushwalking and much more. Not a bad place to operate a world-wide buccaneering operation.
So what happens when you type in StarOneCreditUnion.com. Firstly, for some reason, the Nobby Beach Boyz don’t want to use this real name, even though, as we have seen, the real StarOne failed to get the Trademark for it. Be that as it is, the web site is some kind of a static page, which redirects to another page. This page looks like the actual page, but the name is actually miss-spelled, on purpose. The web address you are taken to is 1starceditunion.com Notice that the name is “cedit”, not “credit” union.com.
When you hit the front page a series of links appear: Names like Credit Services, Loan Application, Pay Bills Online, Online Banking, Small Business Loans, Wealth Management, Credit Counseling, Business Lending, and more. A click on the very top link, Credit Services, takes you right to a link to bankofamerica.com. Talk about sending your potential customers to the enemy! This credit service click-through page lists 10 linked “ads”, including Discover Card, other credit card companies and finance companies. The front page list of links goes to other pages of links, which go to other links, search engines, banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, credit card and finance companies, on and on, an inverse pyramid that opens wide to the sky. Most of the links seem to be “ads”, probably paid for on a “click through” basis, as most are these days. In the forest of links they have even thrown in links to the “real” Star One Credit Union, but it is not that easy to find. Staroneceditunion.com is mainly directing customers to the big banks and finance companies. Their pages of links could be providing the Nobby Beach crowd quite a revenue stream. All thanks to the fact that “Lockheed’s” Starone.org did not protect their name.
One thing is clear: the Nobby Beach Boyz are well protected, hiding behind a phalanx of security. They are good, very good at what they do. The main server they are operating from is in Ashburn, VA, an amazon server. Under this IP server is a group of websites, including a porn site that is hosted in Nassau, Bahamas, another sex site hosted down in Dallas, Texas, a nominal “health” site with click-through ads, and a site for sale that is hosted in the UK. One of their sites is registered in Panama. This web of servers totally shields the real owners, we don’t know anything about them, and the Nobby Beach Boyz, as I originally called them, could simply be one guy. Where is he? Nassau? Nobby Beach? Panama? Houston? Living near amazon.com in Virginia? It would sure be enlightening to sit down with whoever the main bloke is, and chat about all this. I’m sure he would have some funny stories about buccaneering on the world-wide web.
The Brisbane Blokes also take a bite of Star One.
As if it wasn’t enough to throw away staronecreditunion.com, the “real” Starone.org also somehow managed to lose staronecreditunion.org. So who has this? The registration filed for the .org is also in Australia, not that far from the Gold Coast and the .com. This is in Fortitude Valley, near Brisbane. I’ll call these guys The Brisbane Blokes, another fun loving bunch of internet operators, who claim to be “The Leading Star One Credit Union Site on The Net.” As opposed to any other “buccaneer” Star One sites! When you visit staronecreditunion.org you see a very similar page to the dot com page: Credit Union Savings Accounts, Star One Credit Union, Credit Union Online Banking, Loans, more and more. Clicking on the first link takes you to more links, in this case bank sites like Barclays, and some credit union sites that are listed under “sponsored listings”, which means in English that they are paid ads.
These blokes do have a sense of humor. One link, Starone Credit Union takes you to a page packed with links in New Jersey! So folks looking to get to the “real” Star One in Santa Clara are directed to banks, job searches, credit unions and more, about as far away from Sunnyvale as you can get. And this includes sites that offer rapid STD testing! The New Jersey page links say “ads by Google”, so it looks like the cash flow is moving here too. Are the many credit unions listed on some of these links paying for these ads? It appears so. Ironic, isn’t it, that the “real” Star One, would have to pay for an ad on a site using its original name, now owned by someone else. Big Jim is right again, always protect your name! Right now, the Brisbane Blokes are raking in a pile of dough because they were wide awake and moved fast to get a great name very cheaply from a dithering credit union. What was Star One thinking? And how does this look to someone trying to contact the “real” Star One in Sunneyvale to open an account?
Once again, tracking down the location of the main ISP is enlightening. The address for staronecreditunion.org is a server farm in the Bahamas. Here, we find a multitude of websites being run off one IP. Many of their other websites are for sale. They are mostly “links” sites, organized by product categories with links to other sites. A few examples:
**pajas.com – adult links, gay dating, xxxdating, etc.
**xnxy.com – adult dating links, nude girls, lesbian chat, adult online dating sites
**antervesana.com – girls hot, nude girls, hot sex, plumpes sex, sex dildos
**banat6 – arabix video, xxl video, Egypt Girl, Arabic Girls, Arab Six (Arabic for Sex?)
**freevideodownloads.com – title tells all
**hakers.com – links to spy software, password software, gold assay
**cupcakes.com – a domain name for sale, and a really good one at that! I can’t believe they have had this since Nov. 2000. Great names like this are few and far between.
In theory, at least, the Brisbane Blokes should be taking in a lot of money from the click-throughs. The similarity of the staronecreditunion.com and .org sites, although on different servers in the Bahamas might indicate a connection. Could the Brisbane Bloke be the same as the Nobby Beach Bloke? Or are these just some fun loving internet buccaneers who move in the same circles? There’s no telling, because they are hidden from view. They only come out of the fog briefly, just long enough to snag another good name, then retreat from sight behind walls of security.
The Premier America Credit Union – Another Domain Name Debacle
Premier America Credit Union was born out of the old 1950’s Litton Employees Federal Credit Union. This great credit union has 64,000 members and over 1 Billion in assets. It is a worthy place to put your money, as is Star One and Lockheed, and we urge you to support all these institutions with your money. If you want to strike a blow against the big banks, move your money now, then you can laugh when you see Jamie Dimon squirming in front of a Congressional Hearing. But Premier also has also felt the sting of the internet buccaneers, or maybe they haven’t noticed all the name follies going on around them for the last 12 years.
Premier decided to use the name premier.org for their credit union. This was in early internet days, December 18, 1995. Maybe they would have been better off keeping the name Litton, and using that with some other name that they could have connected to internet domains. From the get-go, Premier was stymied. The greatest of the names, Premier.com was taken in the dim mists of the internet beginnings, March 1, 1993. This was grabbed by Premier Pet Products, and they are still using it today, 19 years later. “Your Pets, Our Passion” say these nice folks in Drums, Pennsylvannia. So the “real” Premier took Premier.org, and figured that was all they needed. Just think about how many folks, in the last 19 years, typed in Premier.com and ended up looking at pet products instead of a credit union? We’ll never know. Whooof, whooof. Meow, meow.
But as the years went by, the names they left behind started to get noticed. Well, most of them. Some are still floating out there, unbelievably not attached to a bouy. I found that PremierAmericaCreditUnion.org is still available, 17 years after they created Premier.org. Also still hanging around is PremierAmerica.net. Hey, it’s a big ocean out there, even the buccaneer fleet can’t patrol everywhere. But the Internet Buccaneers did come sailing in near the shores of Fort Premier.org, scooping out the rich clam beds right in front of them.
Oh, You Were Looking For a Credit Union? How About a String Bikini Instead?
In February 2004, some fun loving bunch, hidden behind a wall of security in downtown Los Angeles, California, discovered one of Premier’s unwanted step children, this called PremierAmericaCreditUnion.com. It is certainly puzzling that even though Premier has trademarked that very name, they forgot to get the domain. No worries, it’s being put to good use in the fashion business. Hit the website and you’ll find a lot of cool links. How about a job at McDonalds? Or Walmart? Or hey, Micro Bikini See Thru and Bikini String, Sheer Bikini, Mode Fashion, Women Fashion, and more. As their slogan at the top of the site says: “What you need, when you need it.”
Did The Internet Buccaneers Cut Their Teeth on Premier? The Panamanians Find A Treasure Floating on the Internet Ocean.
I call them the Panamanians because I don’t know who “they” are. They are hiding behind the walls of Fundacion Private Whois in Panama. Back in August of 2000, while patrolling the Internet Seas, they stumbled on to a treasure chest just floating out there. Opening it up, they discovered something valuable: PremierAmerica.org. This was one of the unprotected domain names from Premier America Credit Union. This might have been the lab they used for the credit union web page template. With a slight twist.
When you go to PremierAmerica.org you are re-directed to Prmieramerica.com. Look at that carefully, Premier is misspelled as “Prmier” Why? Possibly because the “real” Premier America has trademarks: Premier America TM filed in August of 2001, and Premier America Credit Union TM filed in March, 2000, five months before the Panamanians snagged PremierAmerica.org. Maybe it was wiser to just use this as a holding page, and re-direct traffic to a similarly named site that is intentionally misspelled, and has a .com behind it. This site is also hosted in the Bahamas on a server farm.
The same brilliant website design page that is seen on all these morphing sites is here. An index page full of bank, credit union, and financial links. Click on these and you go to more links: more banks, search engines, finance and credit card sites. Go almost anywhere except where you might have intended to go in the first place. The “real” Premier America is having its potential customers directed elsewhere, all because they left their name unprotected and set adrift on the choppy, dangerous seas of the internet. All legal, you snooze and you looze, as they say on the street. If you were savvy, you could actually find Premier America Credit Union through those sites, if nothing else by using search engines that you can get to through the forest of links. But how many average folks are savvy? And so what, when you click on anything on the buccaneer’s websites, it’s “ka-ching, ka-ching” baby! They make their money on clicks, even yours. And even mine, come to think of it. How much did I put in their pockets while researching this article? Lordy, lordy…..
The Pompano Beach Internet Surfers Find a Treasure Chest, Too!
I’m calling them the Pompano Beach Surfers because I don’t know who they really are, so that’s as good a name as any. Imagine the surprise these boyz had, sailing and surfing the Internet Seas of the Spanish Main back in June of 2002, when they also discovered a treasure chest, just barely floating on the surface of the shallow waters. Something the Panamanians had missed on their patrol two years before. Opening the chest, they peered inside to find another unattached web site, PremierAmerica.com.You don’t have to call these guys twice to the barbeque pit. They moved into the web space and set up shop. You see the same type of design as we have seen on the others, an index page with a lot of banking and finance links to click on, and clicking on these takes you to other pages packed with links that click-through to even more links. A blizzard of links, and the clicking sounds you hear might be sending a torrent of ad revenue to the Pompano Beach Internet Surfers, wherever they are, maybe into off-shore bank accounts. Although the registration was in Pompano Beach, Florida, the hosting is a server farm in the Bahamas.
The Pompano Beach Surfers snagged PremierAmerica.com way back in 2002. Looking back at the name games at StarOne, we find that StarOneCreditUnion.org is fairly recent, created in April 2010 by the Brisbane Blokes. And looking even further back in archives, the Nobby Beach Boyz created StarOneCreditUnion.com back in November of 2008. So PremierAmerica.com is one of the early creations, although the “senior” treasure here, possibly used as the template, so to speak, for more recent activities, was PremierAmerica.org, created in August of 2000. A large part of this is speculation on my part, of course, because everyone involved is hiding behind walls of security around the world, and they probably aren’t eager to give any interviews.
So You Failed at Spelling? The Buccaneers Make Money Off That, Too!
You say you can’t spell? That’s OK, the internet buccaneers make money off that too! Looking through the web sites stashed on one of the Bahama I.P.s which hosts PremierAmerica.org (which re-directs you to PrmierAmerica.com, the miss-spelled web name),I stumbled across a stash of website names that were miss-spelled. This is the secret port where the Panamanians dock, in the middle of the Caribbean. Sure, we could write this off to a foreigner’s ignorance of English. The dummies can’t even spell. You would be wrong about this, though. Firstly, although the .org is registered in Panama, it doesn’t mean that these guys are Panamanians, they might be blokes from the Land of Oz. Second, the miss-spellings are a deliberate ruse to direct those of us mortals who try to type in web sites although we didn’t graduate from grammar school.
Take a look at some of these gems, just a few: you all know about craigslist.com, right? The site with the great job ads, personal ads, and stuff for sale, all free? Well how about cragslist.com? Or criagslist.com? Clever, eh? One of these is a re-direct, actually taking you to the real craigslist. Is this paid for? Or just a public service from the Panamanian amigos? Then there’s gmai.com for all you gmail lovers. And ansestry.com for those looking for their humble beginnings. Other things are hidden here, a hip hop stars site and porntube.com, just to mention two. So keep being a bozo when you type in that website name, the internet buccaneers are making money from your mistakes.
What Would Edgar Allan Poe Say?
If you go to one of my favorite sites, www.poestories.com, and look up the words “Ignes Fatui” you will find something that describes what you have just read. Poe was famous for using a lot of obscure words, and this Poe website has a dictionary of words and phrases to help you out. His expression in this case, fits perfectly the situation with the domain name games. Ignes Fatui means foolish light. This old term refers to the strange lights sometimes seen in swamps and marshes, caused when seeping methane gas self-ignites, creating flickering lights. To travelers, these lights could act as a dangerous lure, tricking them off the safe path and on to treacherous ground. As in old times, still true today. These faux credit union websites are like the strange lights in the swamp, luring the internet surfers who are looking for the path to a specific credit union site, beckoning them off the path into a swamp of links and confusing weeds, from which they may never come back to the sound road.
The Ultimate Question: Who Are These Guys? One Mastermind or a Gang of Fun-Loving Internet Buccaneers? The Criss-Cross of Clues.
I’ve asked around. Big Jim says I should contact the NSA, maybe they know who these mysterious guys are. The Brisbane Blokes, The Panamanians, the Nobby Beach Boyz, The Pompano Florida Surfers. Are they a group of fun-loving buccaneers, businessmen who may or may not know each other? Or is this entire matrix of domains shown in this article (and I may have only scratched the surface), the work of one true mastermind. A shadowy Mr. X, who travels between his digs in the Australian Gold Coast to the Bahamas to check on his server farms and maybe his off-shore accounts where the click-through ad revenue pours in? Then it’s on to the States, stop by amazon.com to look things over, then maybe scoot down to Pompano Beach or Miami for a few days of sunshine, before jetting off to the UK. As one famous radio personality, Dave Emory, says often, this is all food for thought and grounds for further investigation. One tantalizing thing did pop up though. The IP address in the Bahamas, 188.8.131.52, which houses PremierAmerica.com, is the same one for StarOneCreditUnion.org. The battery of web sites housed are the same, just one big happy family. And residing there is the old web site 40something.com that takes you to horneywife.com. Although now holding forth in Luxembourg, 40something.com is an old site, created way back in 1998 and was registered years ago by an Australian company, Fabulous.com. Could Mr. X be from the Land of Oz? A fun-loving, but hard bitten Aussie businessman like Rupert Murdoch, operating around the world in Luxembourg, Panama, Los Angeles, Pompano Beach, The Bahamas, Virginia, Brisbane and our favorite, Nobby Beach? Hiding behind walls of security and internet I.P.s world-wide, a true modern-day internet buccaneer? We may never find out.
These often wild internet name games at times seem not only incomprehensible, but totally incredible. I can only say that if you don’t believe me about all this, these complicated tales of the domain name games, you could ask Big Jim about it.
If he were talking.
Which he ain’t.