How do I drive this scam artist off the Internet?

Normally I have a sixth sense about Internet scams, but this one completely flew beneath my radar. The website in question is http://www.mega-soft.com – they purport to be a repository of 100’s of old games you can download for FREE!!! Of course, it’s not really free (what is?) and in order to register you need to buy a game called Magic Brick something for $16.95, and THEN the membership is free. And since they offered games like Civilization, Lords of the Realm 2, Alone in the Dark, SimCopter…well, hey! It’s worth the money, right??

Well, I pay with my c/c (via a legit 3rd party, thank GOD) and get this page of totally convoluted instructions on how to download it. Screw that, I said. So I went to the members area where I discovered…

Every single game offered is DEMOWARE or SHAREWARE!!! The person running this site very cleverly disguises that fact. Most are linked to the official game company FTP sites, and about 95% of the links are BROKEN. In other words, although it has all the appearances of a legitimate site (albeit badly designed), it’s a total scam.

I cannot express how much this enrages me. It’s not the money (I’m positive my bank will dispute the charges since it’s obvious fraud), it’s the principle. My first instinct was to find out where this person lives and beat the living shit out of him, but I checked Internic and the domain is registered to a guy in New Zealand (to be precise: Steven Bell, Digital Design Limited, 133 Campbell Road, R.D.5, Feilding, 5600 NZ; Tel +64-6-3239113) which is too far to swim. So I’m doing the next best thing, which is compiling a list of every game he’s offering and then writing the software companies directly and saying, Umm, did you license this guy? Oh, as well as the music companies that own the copyrights to the midi themes he uses (and can’t turn off…)

But that’s not enough. I also want to contact legal authorities, both here and in NZ, but I have no idea who to contact. I’ve been lurking on the SDMB for a long time and I know you guys are pretty smart on just about everything. :slight_smile: What else should I do?

I don’t think you are going to have much luck with the software companies or the legal authorities, but I do think you had the right idea with the beating the crap out of him. The best part is you don’t even have to learn to swim faster. Just let this be a call to any New Zealand doper out there willing to go the extra mile for a fellow poster.

Good luck with this

You enter into a contract with a “company” offering an illegal service: giving away commercial software products for free. You then get screwed. You are pissed off, then, why? You are a victim of your own stupidity.

Uh, maybe you should have read more carefully. On the bottom of this page, it clearly states:

Notice the total absence of full version commercial software among these types.

A general rule of thumb is never to give any money to someone whose page looks like it was designed by a drunken chimpanzee.

Along those same lines, what the hell is that guy up to underneath the game zone logo?

Looks untoward to me!

Hey asshole, I didn’t think for a minute it was an illegal service. All the games offered are vintage (1996 or older) and mostly unavailable at the computer store and yes, I know they are still under copyright but I was thinking, “Damn, this is a great idea, licensing these old games out so people can still enjoy them AND the software company still gets paid!” Kind of like what Napster and Bertelsmann are planning to do with their monthly fee system.

And you know how long and confusing those “license and copyright notices” are. It’s easy to gloss over the fact that all he offers is demoware and shareware. Like you glossed over the fact that I said 95% of the links are BROKEN. See what I mean???

Don’t believe me? Here’s my username & password so you can browse the pages and see exactly where the links lead:

Username: deleted by Coldfire
Password: deleted by Coldfire

BTW that flamey yellow guy under the logo is the Arch-Vile from Doom II. I’ll bet he didn’t get id software’s permission for that either…

J.E.T.

[Edited by Coldfire on 03-09-2001 at 08:22 AM]

You got the address of the domain name. Sign him up for the Jehovah’s Witness mailing list. Spend a few bucks to donate to causes that love to send mailings every other day and use his name and address. Send a threatening letter to a high ranking NZ official…again, his name and address. Be creative!

Don’t use insults or useless profanity on the Straight Dope Message Board, unless it is in the BBQ Pit.

I removed your username and password to that site, since The Straight Dope Message Board is not intended as a means to get access to (potentially illegal) software that is otherwise shielded from the outside world. In other words: we don’t care if the site you talk about is legit. You may discuss it all you want, but you can’t post your access password etc. here.

Now go re-read the rules you obviously skipped when you registered, and try again.

There is an easy way to shut this joker down: Get other companies to do it for you.

First of all if the graphics he is using are the property of id software, let id software know about the infringement of their copyright.

Second, he has a lot of shareware and demoware that he is requiring payment for (indirectly). I am certain that it is against the policy of the respective developers to require payment. I would send emails to the software developers he uses on his site and let them know of his scam.

[QUOTE]
*Originally posted by Jeremy’s Evil Twin *
**

from http://www.mega-soft.com/games/legal.htm

“Files indexed by this internet site are sourced from numerous servers around the world. As the operation of these servers is beyond our control we are unable to guarantee the current availability of any particular game.”

Looks like this should be a nice little lesson for you.

Oh I read that part, all right. I took it to mean that the outside servers might be temporarily unavailable, which happens occasionally and is totally understandable. What I did not expect, and what is actually the case, is that NINETY-FIVE PERCENT of the links go NOWHERE. Some of them have no DNS, some simply won’t respond, and a good percentage of simply point to an FTP server (normally run by the software company itself) where the file has simply been moved. (If anything good has come out of this, I’ve got about a dozen official servers bookmarked now.)

If not an outright scam, it certainly shows an incredible lax attitude towards maintaining this site. The least he could do was routinely check to make sure all the files were still available. The fact that the files are NOT available at ANY time is in no way covered by the disclaimer and any court in this country would agree with me (remembering that “intent” is 90% of the law.)

To Coldfire: Sorry for the insult, I knew that was a rule but forgot in the heat of the moment. However I did read the rules when I registered, even printed out a copy in fact. Assuming that I “obviously skipped” it shows an incredible amount of presumtion and derision on your part, if I may be so bold to state. (And I’m proud that it only took me 2 posts to get chastized by a moderator. :))

Thanks to everyone else who actually took the time to make positive suggestions instead of laughing at the newbie.

J.E.T.

I posted the username/pwd because some people were assuming this was some kind of illegal warez site and I wanted to show everyone what was REALLY up. Well, believe me or don’t, that’s your preroggative (sp?) but for a board that supposedly fights ignorance, I find a disturbing lack of trust in some people here.

J.E.T.

No offense, sweetcakes, but if we trusted everything that was thrown at us, a lot of us would still be ignorant.

welcome to the SDMB!

jarbaby

To me, that’s exactly what the following quote from the legal page does say. The servers are out of their control, so how can they guarantee what’s on them? I, reading this, would figure that there’s a distinct possiblilty that no games would ever be available through the links on the site.

I guess this is a half-full/half-empty argument. It sucks that you got conned into this, but I think your eagerness to get a “deal” and play these nostalgic games overwhelmed your good sense.

Whether it’s legal to sell a list of links to freeware/shareware without the manufacturers’ permissions, I can’t say. But that’s basically what you bought - a list of hyperlinks.

Better luck next time. :wink:

If you want free, legal abandonware games go to http://www.theunderdogs.org.

**

Yes, but they DO have control over checking periodically to make sure the links actually lead somewhere. I do that with my personal homepage all the time, and if I were actually getting PAID for it, you’d better believe I’d be far more diligent in maintaining the quality of my service. But I guess that’s not important to some people…(referring to the guy who runs the website in question, of course.)

Actually it made perfect sense to me (licensing older games en masse for a monthly membership fee) at the time and still does. That’s probably how it got below my radar…whatever, I’ll just start writing software companies about it, with a cc: to the FBI. (Can somebody please tell me the legal agency in New Zealand that would cover this?)

**

And I didn’t even get that…

J.E.T.

Am I the only one to sympathize with JET? The disclaimer might as well read “By the way, 95% of the links are dead”, and that would be the truth too.

It’d be like buying a used car and the last owner saying, might it might not start easily on cold mornings, and afterwards you find out that “might not” means 95% of the mornings.

There’s a difference between saying “some of these links might not work” and knowing that 95% of the links don’t work. And since that guy is selling these links for dough, he should be checking to make sure that they do work, at least most of them.

To JET: I’m sure you know the old maxim, if it’s too good to be true, it is. Buyer beware, let that be a lesson, etc., etc. But consider $17 a cheap lesson, it could save you considerably more in the future.

G’day, JET – I’m a New Zealand poster signing in.

If you still want these guys to get the right kind of notice from New Zealand local authorities, contact the folk at this site. This is the site for Fair Go, a comsumer show which has a pretty good record when it comes to scams like this one. Just fill in the form, and they’ll be in touch with you.

(Fielding, hey? Yeah. Strange little town, Fielding. Right in the middle of the North Island. Watch 'em, I say …)

try http://www.troubleshooter.com