I just want to preface this posting with the obvious: This is my personal investigation of the site. I could be wrong, though I don’t think I am. If you’ve got more information on this website, I’m all ears.
The first thing I do when I come across a new ecommerce site is google for it, see what others have said about it. As it turns out one of the first articles I found was on Penny Auction Watch titled “Hasteno a Waste?” where they discuss some of their concerns. More importantly, I clicked through to their forums and found a post detailing the paypal address information for sending payments to the site. A gmail address? Big red flag. I also checked Twitter because if it is a legitimate site, people will be talking about it. As of the writing of this post — nothing.
Next step is to track down the whois information on the domain. Hasteno is registered via Domains By Proxy. Now for a personal site that’s not a bad thing, but a business website?
That is not excusable.
I will not spend any money with any company that believes that they should be hiding their owner information. Though Hasteno does have a contact page with an address on it. “2972 Columbia St. / Suite # 4941 / Torrance, CA 90503”. I did a quick google for this address and found out that it belongs to a company called Shipito that does mail forwarding. They offer “virtual mailboxes” with a “Real California Street Address”, and the example shown is that of the address on Hasteno’s contact page.
On several places of Hasteno’s website they claim to be California based, and then there is the fake address. So I did the logical thing, I checked to see if the company was a legitimate California business. I went over to the California Business Search on the Secretary of State’s page and did a few quick searches.
Terms of Service
As this point I was fairly sure the site was a scam, but I figured any horse worth killing was worth beating to death and then some. I checked the terms of service, or more specifically pulled out sections and googled them. Most Hasteno’s Terms of Service are a word for word match for Yellmann’s T&C’s. Yellmann, which I’d never heard of, also happens to be a “micro auction” site in a very similar style to Hasteno. I know there are generic Terms & Conditions out there that you can buy/copy, but I’m fairly sure they aren’t made custom for micro auction sites. I also pulled a few other sections from Hasteno’s TOS that almost exactly match Swoopo’s T&C’s. About the only changes Hasteno makes is to make them fit their “scheme” and change the name.
As I noted earlier, the Penny Auction Watch forum had information on the PayPal address, which was ‘[email protected]’. That is still a big fat red flag. In addition to that they listed “Customer Service Phone: +372 53647338”. I was curious where +372, so I went and checked on Phonebook of the world. That country code belongs to Estonia. For those that don’t know, Estonia, “officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe”. So much for being California based. As a note, I did try to get this information on my own, but the payment system setup had been changed to prevent this info from being shown — not a good sign in and of itself.
I know you’re looking at this section asking yourself “What does a blog comment have to do with this?". That is how it all started actually. Someone left a comment on the “Review: Swoopo” entry that John wrote a little while back. It was extolling the virtues of trying out Hasteno, but not overly obvious. I’ll give them points for being fairly subtle about it, and that’s why we originally took at look at Hasteno in the first place. The post was filled by ‘Thomas’ with the email address ‘[email protected]’. More interesting was how they got to the site and where they came from. The referral URL was a Google search for ‘swoopo comments’ on Google.ee (which if you haven’t guessed is the ccTLD for Estonia). The IP address was ‘126.96.36.199’ which I quickly put into Maxmind GeoIP which put the user in Tallinn, Esonia. (Important Note: Normally I’d never give away this amount of information on the commentators of my blog, but scammers deserve to be outed)
Don’t give this person any of your money. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few initial auctions on this site worked out, but only to establish some basic reputation. After that they’re going to take your money and run with it. I most certainly will not be giving them any money and recommending that everyone else to the same thing. Hell, if you can’t find Copyright information on the bottom of a “business” website, you should be suspicious. This “Micro Auction” field is new and growing rapidly. I’d recommend to anyone trying out a new website, give it a in-depth checking out before you give them any of your money, or you’re gonna be out some money. And as my Mother always says: “If it is too good to be true, it probably is.”