Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are Empower Network Members Hiding Something?

UPDATED August 5, 2014: I've decided to revisit this entry and add new information that has become available, as well as remove outdated items.

While looking for Work From Home scams being advertised on Hawaii Craigslist, I answered an ad that was posted through one of my throwaway accounts and received a reply a couple of days later that told me about the "Empower Network".

As far as I can tell, the Empower Network is another multilevel marketing operation where people buy memberships of different levels and price-ranges and then recruit more people to buy memberships. They aren't selling anything, aside from memberships. Your "opportunity" is the chance to make money by selling memberships to other people so that they can go out and sell memberships to other people, who will then do the same and so on. Aside from membership, there is nothing else being bought or sold, aside from training courses on how to sell more memberships.

Doing any kind of impartial research on Empower Network is hard, mostly due to the flood of websites and blogs set-up by members trying to recruit more people into their network. All these sites tell readers how great Empower Network is and I have to admit that it was very difficult trying to find any sort of review posted about it from a neutral or critical standpoint.

I cannot fully explain how the system works, because it gets rather complicated and that's not the purpose of this post.

What does concern me is the near impossibility of finding reviews of the Empower Network from either a neutral or critical standpoint. No business can have 100% satisfaction from its customers. There will always be someone with something negative to say about it, no matter how good the service or product might be.

It may be possible that Empower Network has not have been around long enough to attract the attention of impartial reviewers. But, given its current Internet presence - including blogs, websites and YouTube videos - an impartial review will be needed. Current websites that claim to offer reviews of Empower Network have every appearance of advertising it and trying to get more people to sign-up.

What really made me think that something was not quite right was how certain websearch terms appear to have been hijacked by people attempting to recruit members. Search terms like "Empower Network scam", "Empower Network review", "Empower Network fraud" and "Empower Network ripoff" have been included in websites that advertise for Empower Network, most likely by recruiters looking to sign-up more people. I have to admit that this is a good way - though I believe it to be more than a little underhanded - to get people to find your site. After all, a prospective member will use those search terms in an attempt to do their own research before they sign-up. I must have run across over a dozen members' sites that, at first glance, seemed to be offering some sort of critique of Empower Network only to discover that it was really someone looking to sign-up new members.

If people can't find anything bad being said about Empower Network, they're more likely to sign-up. If they find a critic that gives them second thoughts, they'll either take longer to sign on the dotted line or they may decide that it's not for them and try to find something else. For every monthly membership payment delayed or denied, there's somebody who's unhappy about not getting their commission.

Remember that anyone who is trying to recruit you into a multilevel marketing system isn't doing it for your benefit, they are doing it for the sake of making a commission from your signing-up under them. They'll tell you about how great it is, how you can make a lot of money, take care of your family and live the life of your dreams. But, ultimately it's really all about how much money they can make off of you and the people you sign-up.

So, my question is: why are so many Empower Network members co-opting the above-mentioned search terms? Are they trying, even inadvertently, to prevent potential recruits from learning anything negative about it?

UPDATE: While doing further research, I discovered the Terms and Conditions members agree to when they sign-up. Under the agreement, not only are members forbidden from criticizing the Empower Network themselves, they must actively prevent others from doing so. Under the legal protection of the Fair Use Doctrine, I will quote directly from section C, paragraph g:
You agree that you will not make any derogatory statements, either oral or written, or otherwise disparage us, our products, employees, services, work or employment, and will take all reasonable steps to prevent others from making derogatory or disparaging statements. You agree that it would be impossible, impractical, or extremely difficult to fix the actual damages suffered by reason of a breach of this paragraph, and accordingly hereby agree that Company may determine recover five thousand dollars ($5,000) as the amount of damages sustained by reason of each such breach, without prejudice to Company's right to also seek injunctive or other equitable relief. 
It is perfectly legal to prohibit members from criticizing the product. However, telling them that they must actively try to prevent others from doing so makes me think that Empower Network does, in fact, have something to hide. The use of the word "others" can be taken in different ways. It can mean that you try to prevent current or former members from disparaging Empower Network, or (more dangerously) to prevent people who have never been members, like myself, from criticizing it.

This could explain why members have been co-opting the search terms I cited above: flood the Internet with positive reviews and try to drown-out the naysayers.

Noteworthy is the coincidental similarity that Empower Network's Terms and Conditions are almost word-for-word similar to the members' agreement from another get rich quick offer, called Simple Make Money Formula and you can read it here. Look at section 5g.

I found three videos posted on YouTube by mikewellwood that offered a decidedly negative opinion of Empower Network. Sadly, his videos were all removed from Youtube when his channel was closed-down and his blog is also gone. I have no idea what caused his channel to close.

However, NoMoreBSReviews posted this video and I think he gives a very detailed explanation regarding his problems with Empower Network.



If you prefer to read, here are some websites that give reviews of Empower Network. I had listed some others, but they have been removed this this blog was last edited:
I remember when people were out there trying to sell the latest fad in health food products. There were hundreds of websites advertising Noni juice, Alaskan blueberry products, colloidal silver, etc and all these websites extolled the virtues of their respective product and they all reacted with great hostility to anyone who said anything negative about the products they were selling. But, those people never tried to co-opt search terms to either actively or inadvertently prevent people from reading that the products weren't as healthy or beneficial as advertised. It seems that some Empower Network members were blazing a new trail with this tactic, which is one reason why I personally had no interest in becoming a member myself.

For the sake of honesty on my part: Empower Network LLC does have a B rating from the Better Business Bureau, even though it's not a BBB-accredited company. You can read the complaints at this link.

It is possible that Empower Network is everything its websites claim and that it is an exceptional way for people to work from home to make a lot of money for themselves. But, as with every multilevel marketing system, there comes a saturation point where the influx of new members slows to a trickle, either by disaffected former members speaking-out, a new system coming out and becoming popular or when so many people have heard about it that sales pitches become white noise and fade into the background. If/when these things happen, the people who got in early will have made their money while the newer members will feel ripped-off because the fad has run its course and there is no real money to be had for them.

I think that Empower Network has been around since 2011 and - judging by how previous multilevel marketing systems have fared over the years - I give them another couple of years before Empower Network reaches its own saturation point and fades into history.

Edit: Apparently, that day has come right on time. I haven't seen a new pro-EN YouTube video in a long time from the once-enthusiastic evangelists for this company. In the Comments section below, I received a very polite detailed rebuttal from Mike Moffitt, who was at the time an active member of Empower Network. He included a link to a webpage where he had to write his complete response, due to lack of space in the Comment box. I allowed the link to be posted because he wasn't selling anything and - as I said - he was very polite. I checked the link today and it is no longer active. Neither is the URL on Mike's name in his comment and his EN website hasn't been updated in almost two years.

Furthermore, I checked on Facebook to see if any of the Empower Network groups were still active. I didn't see any recent posts for EN, but I did notice numerous posts for other MLM schemes in their news feeds. So, it looks like Empower Network is no longer the Big Guy on The Block anymore.

So, if anyone wants to comment on this post, feel free. However, I will not allow anyone to advertise themselves in comments. Empower Network members get their own blogs with their memberships and I will not allow you to extend your reach into my blog. This extends to anyone who is engaged in any sort of multilevel marketing system, not just Empower Networks members.


Duane Browning

    Saturday, July 28, 2012

    Textspammers Hiding Behind Namecheap.com


    Namecheap.com is a perfectly legitimate company that offers low-cost webdomains to its customers. A service they offer to their clients is Webguard, which allows people to protect their anonymity from being made known to the general public through a WHOIS search and keep spammers of all types from acquiring their home address, telephone numbers, email address, etc.

    There is nothing wrong or illegal about Namecheap and how they do business. What is wrong is when text spammers register their domains through the company, purchase Webguard and then send textspam to thousands of innocent people with the assurance that none of their victims will be able to discover their whereabouts. Typically, victims will see the Webguard and give-up trying to reach the spammer or from finding-out where the spammmer is really located.

    Namecheap is very attractive to textspammers, due to the low costs of registration and Webguard, which seemingly allows them to operate with impunity.

    Add to that, the fact that Namecheap's physical address appears to be a virtual office owned by Regus USA, which would make it difficult - if not impossible - to have legal documents like a summons or a subpoena delivered to Namecheap in order to initiate a civil case against Namecheap and/or the textspammer.
    Namecheap.com
    11400 W.Olympic Blvd. Suite 200
    Los Angeles , CA90064
    USA
     As I stated, Namecheap is a legal company offering a legal service to its customers. As such, they would have a lot to lose if they get charged by either Federal or California law enforcement if they with knowingly allow illegal activities to be conducted by a client who uses their Namecheap-registered website as part of this activity, such as facilitating the repeated and flagrant violation of a Do Not Call list.

    In order to protect themselves, Namecheap has an avenue for complaints to be filed through their website.

    To file a complaint against a website registered with Namecheap, go to their support page and follow the instructions. They also have email address that they have published
    Feedback Department feedback@namecheap.com
    Support Department support@namecheap.com
    As further proof that Namecheap is not complicit in any of the potentially illegal activity that a tiny minority of their customer base may be engaged-in, they are able to be contacted through their Facebook page and you can also find them on Twitter. People who are knowingly conducting criminal activities would not make themselves so accessible.
    To be clear: Namecheap.com is not engaging in any illegal activity and I believe that they will act on complaints that they receive against accounts engaging in illegal or harassing activities.

    In order to facilitate this information being made available to people who may wish to file complaints against textspammers, I am going to list all links associated with textspam that are registered with Namecheap. If the link you want to complain about is listed, file a complaint with Namecheap. If the link you received is not listed here, please let me know in the Comments section and I will add it at a later time.

    Textspam Links Hall of Shame

    www.apple.com.au.txtaprize.com
    MYREWARDSHOUSE.COM
    apple.ca.winatxt.com
    apple.com.au.smtk.cc
    apple.com.au.qhknb.com
    MyCashCall.net
    giftcard2.com
    MONEY500.COM
    LAPTOP55.COM
    mobile-testers.com
    celltestnkeep.com
    WONACONTEST.COM
    CREDIT300.com

     
    Duane Browning

    Australia-based Textspammer

    This text message is making the rounds on peoples' cellphones:
    Congratulations, your number has made you Apple's winner of the day! Go to http://www.apple.com.au.txtaprize.com and enter code: 0757 on last page to claim
    The link www.apple.com.au.txtaprize.com is a redirect that goes to TXTAPRIZE.COM which is registered anonymously.  Other links are sometimes sent out in text spam messages that also tell recipients that have won an Apple iPhone. They could be run by the same people or by other scammers working off the same page. As with the last textspammer I wrote about, you go to the link and enter a four-digit confirmation code. Any four digits you enter will automatically be approved, so don't worry. Curiously, this page looks almost exactly like the first page described in my earlier post, which makes me suspect that they could be controlled by the same people. In an apparent attempt to foil merry pranksters (like myself) there's another confirmation screen after this one that tells you that they know your IP address, so I'd advise using a proxy.

    You can file a complaint against this spammer with Namecheap by going to their Support page.

    If you get past all that, they ask for your cellphone number, so they can send you a confirmation code via SMS and then you'll automatically be subscribed to their service for whatever the charge is.

    Interestingly, there's even a phone number for you to call if you have any problems: 1300734821. Good luck getting them to answer the phone if you call.

    A quick search shows that this number is associated with other websites based in Australia
    Flirtlounge and Salsa Mobile.

    While it is possible that these companies are innocent victims in this whole thing and that their phone number is being falsely used by scammers in an attempt to insulate themselves from angry textspam recipients, they may appreciate being told that their phone number is being used for nefarious purposes and you can email them
    Flirtlounge: admin@flirtlounge.com.au
    Salsa Mobile: support@salsamobile.com.au

    But, there have been complaints about Salsa Mobile and I'm including a link for you to look over, just in case somebody is trying to pull a fast one.

    Txtaprize also offers another way to get in touch with them via email: admin@CellOptOut.com but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for them to unsubscribe your cellphone number from their spam list. More likely, they'll just find-out that your cell number is valid and keep bothering you.


    While they're a bit smarter than the run-of-the-mill textspammer, they haven't yet mastered the ability to only spam phones in their own country.


    By the way, Apple doesn't giveaway phones through third party websites. Just so you know.




    Duane Browning

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Text Spammer from Hawaii? Nope.


    Received this from 808-221-6738:
    Your entry in our drawing WON you a FREE $500 Target Giftcard! Enter "808" at www.target.com.tltv.biz to claim it and we can ship it to you immediately!
     This text has also been sent from the following numbers:
    • 714-264-5281
    • 612-244-6187
    • 786-227-1051
    • 419-377-6208
    • 714-227-5949
    • 714-227-4168
    • 612-244-9504
    • 714-227-5525
    Going to the link brings you to this

    According to the spamtext I got, the "code" I'm expected to enter is my area code. Having tried this a couple of times, I've discovered that you can enter any three numbers, which will then be "validated" by the system. Not surprisingly, each time I was told told that I had a winning code, whereupon I was redirected to this

    Naturally, what the spammer wants is your email address, so they can spam the living shit out of it and so they can sell a confirmed active email address on the market where spammers buy and sell email addresses to each other.

    I seriously doubt if there have been any gift cards from Target given away through this site. Like many sites of a similar nature, it's all about finding valid email addresses to add to spam lists. Like other major retailers, Target doesn't need to reply on textspammers to get people to want their gift cards. That's what advertising is for.

    Unfortunately, a WHOIS search for myrewardshouse.com reveals nothing beyond the knowledge that the website owner has enabled WhoIs Guard to prevent people like me from finding out who they really are. But, you can file a complaint against them with Namecheap by going to the Support page.

    A mean-spirited person may be tempted to go to the webpage and enter any random set of numbers; upon getting to the next page, they could enter any made-up email address that they feel like. For example, I get a lot of 419 scam letters and I may enter the Reply-To address of the scammers, so they can get spammed by these assclowns. However, that would be very cruel of me, as the scammers email address could soon be filled with spam. And we wouldn't want that, would we?


    Duane Browning