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My First Google+ Spam Encounter

2011-10-20

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It had to happen sooner or later, whether or not anyone wanted it to: I was encircled (ensnared?) by my very first deliberately and not-at-all-bashful-about-it spam Google+ account today. Wait, a spam what?

As one might expect, the Transforman Anno account is all about the Benjamins. It is a blatant (if somewhat daft) attempt to recruit players into a game called Anno 1777. The spammer’s link to anno1777.com describes the game as “the first social game in which you can change virtual currency into real money” in the one and only link on his/her account.

Taking a look at the domain itself, it doesn’t have much of a reputation for anything. Some Web of Trust users claim the domain is a source of spam, and given today’s events, I find that description plausible, but perhaps not entirely accurate in this case.

The game itself is some kind of browser-based strategy game, but to be honest, I didn’t really find the whole idea of pretending to be an 18th century slave trader all that appealing. Apparently, more than 5700 people find games such as this one, where your character gets to stand around looking menacing with his butterfly net while smoking unfiltered cigarettes, more fun than Farmville. Hey, at least it’s not inviting me to help my friends pick their darn crops. Harvest your own stuff!

The Web site touted on the spam account points to a server at 77.232.217.94, hosted by a Romanian company named Intermedia. The game’s own Web site claims that the server is hosted in the Seychelles, but if that’s the case, that’s news to our geolocation database.

The game’s publisher claims that it has paid out more than 81,000 euros. I have no way of verifying it, but the big “selling” point seems to be that the longer you play, the more you earn. No, you’re not allowed to have more than one account. Yes, you are allowed to buy and sell other players. Imagine the griefing possibilities when the biggest jerk on the server can literally pwn you. This game’s sounding better by the minute.

Note the second-to-last bullet point: “Invite your friends and earn taxes for life from them” — bingo, here’s the reason for our spam link. By joining the game following this user’s link, players unwittingly contribute to the financial success of this troll. Rule #27: Don’t feed the trolls!

Taking a closer look at the terms and conditions of this “economical, political and military simulator.”

Sure, you could earn money playing the game, but all payouts are at the sole discretion of a mysterious administrator. You have no recourse if the administrator of the game decides not to pay out. It says so right there in the terms and conditions, and it adds that the administrator “is not obliged to provide a specific reason for this decision.” Sounds totally worth it, right?

I’m not sure what happened to section 8.5 and 8.6. Maybe they’re double-secret and you can’t find out until you sign the contract.

Take note: you can’t have a refund, even if you find and report a bug. The company also issues no refunds. Or is it no refounds. Also, no refunds, and refunds are impossible, because you cannot technically buy anything with our nonmoney that is not called Euros, nor can you return a nonthing you nonbought. No refunds!

Sounds like a real Nobel-quality economic model there.

Bottom line on this is, of course, that spammers will find their way around anti-spam measures by anyone, even a company as committed as Google to keeping G+ spam free and user accounts, well, accountable. The Anno1777 site may be tasteless but it isn’t overtly malicious. This time it looks like this was just a pathetic attempt by some gamer — a user of the service, rather than the service itself — to pad his wallet, but the next spam G+ account might lead to a more dangerous domain, hosting more seriously sketchy stuff than this one. Here’s to hoping that Google notifies this user his account will be closed soon. Been nice knowing ya, Transforman. You’re outta my circles.Solera blog stats

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