If you’ve visited this site before you probably remember us telling you about penny auctions that might be shill bidding.
We strongly believe that there are many penny auction sites that are shill bidding and many more that we do not even know about. It is in our opinion that it is relatively easy for a penny auction site to shill bid either manually or by using “bots,” bidding bots are made possible by programmers that create the script and populate databases with fake users. These autobidders take the place of real bidders and bid against real paying bidders.
Why would a penny auction want to shill bid?
The question should be: Why wouldn’t they want to?
Now, keep in mind that we are not suggesting that each and every penny auction site shill bids because we don’t think they all do.
You may not be familiar with the penny auction software that can be obtained via PHPPennyAuction.com, formerly known as Telebidscript.com, allow us to tell you about them and present some interesting discoveries we’ve made.
And please, let us know what you think is going on here.
Scriptmatix, LTD, UK sells the penny auction software PHPpennyauction.com
You may have already seen at least one penny auction site running on ScriptMatix’s “Swoopo Clone” penny auction software. There’s a variation of colors and logos, but nearly all of them have the same look and feel.
From PHPPennyauction.com’s forum:
“We are watching developments at this website ( pennyauctionwatch.com) closely, as are a number of other penny auction script developers that we are quite friendly with, and that’s all I should really mention on the matter at this time.”
PHPPennyAuction continues, “We do not condone the use of autobidders or shill bidders on live auctions, they are implemented for testing purposes only so that you can test the software and not have to sign into multiple user accounts. Anyone using them on their live website obviously does so at their own risk!
Note that when the new release comes out they are going to be renamed to ‘testing accounts’ or similar so as to avoid any excessive negativity from using the term ‘autobots’.” -Mark PHPpennyauction.com Staff
This was on PhpPennyAuction.com’s product information page until a customer pointed it out and they changed it, however as you will soon see, they did not remove this option from their software:
Automated bidding bots
PHPPennyAuction Script takes away the need for a constant supply of visitors – a lifeline when you’re just starting out. Create bots to bid up to the price YOU want (can be disabled).
“Another thing is, if one or more of my buyers one day comes by you site, I really don’t want them to see such sales pitch and thinking, damn is that how they make money….”- PHPpennyauction.com customer, and PAW forum member.
“The wording has been changed on the site already [name omitted] and this reflects the general changes we will be making in the coming weeks.” -Karen, PHPpennyauction.com staff
Take a look at the following screenshots of the admin console demo for PHPpennyauction.com’s software. (Click images to enlarge)
- Option for autobidders with description for site owners to easily add them to auctions.
You’ll see that PHPPennyAuction encourages and provides the option for site owners to use fake bidders. Here’s the autobidder description found on the “Add a Product” page of the software:
By allowing autobidders to bid on the auction, autobidders will automatically bid on the auction.
Use the ‘Autobid Limit’ to set the maximum number of autobids which will be placed simulaniously before the auction closes. If the limit is met, an autobidder will win the auction. Set this to 0 to not use this feature.
Please note, every time an auto bid is placed, the minimum price will extend by the bid increase amount to ensure that you no not undersell the product.”
Now here’s the autobidder console:
See how easy it is for the penny auction site owner to create autobidder users with the PHPpennyauction.com script
Unlike the real bidder, autobidders, not to be confused with the autobidding (bid butler/buddy) option, do not pay the site for bids. Why would and should penny auction sites and script developers use autobidders?
Have you heard of Mozilla’s Firebug?
Now you’re probably wondering why this matters, you’re most likely not a web developer, but if you are a penny auction bidder this should matter a lot.
There are a few penny auctions, they probably don’t even know this, but they are exposing not only their user’s usernames but their user’s e-mail addresses as well, they’re even showing us that some users don’t even have e-mail addresses. How can a person register to a penny auction site, bid and win and not even have an e-mail address?
The screenshots above, taken from PHPPennyAuction.com’s admin console demo (for prospective buyers), illustrate that in the autobidder (fake) user management section there is not a field for e-mail addresses. Why would this be?
The following penny auction sites (please note we do not know about each and every site, it’s quite likely there are more) are using the PHPpennyauction.com software, and the following show bidders without e-mail addresses bidding and winning.
Many of these sites have since been “patched” after we found bidtent.com’s owner bidding against users back in December, but you may still be able to try this tool out and see if you can spot the users without e-mail addresses on the various sites that are not yet patched. Once they are patched it will be a bit more difficult for users to check to see if there are autobidders bidding against them, just keep in mind that this feature is readily available and could be put to use at any time on any of the many penny auctions powered by the PHPpennyauction.com script.
Do these sites pass the smell test? Let us know what you think.
*Click all images to enlarge*
NickelBids.com [thumbshot url=http://nickelbids.com]
- Click to see screenshots in our gallery.
We found the CFO of NickelBids.com bidding on many auctions jhan is his username, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We also found a large number of users with e-mail addresses @himasr.com. Here’s just a glimpse of a few bidders with email addresses at himasr.com just over a one -week period bidding on NickelBids.com, along with u_id:27,user:hye,email:email@example.com
5 u_id:5724,user:shosho,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5725,user:koko2010,email:email@example.com u_id:5726,user:gree,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5728,user:qtel,email:email@example.com u_id:5730,user:o22,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5731,user:co2,email:email@example.com u_id:5732,user:visa2010,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5733,user:h2o,email:email@example.com u_id:5734,user:sony2010,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5735,user:dis2010,email:email@example.com u_id:5736,user:show,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5737,user:omda,email:email@example.com u_id:5738,user:salwa,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5739,user:metoo,email:email@example.com u_id:5740,user:other,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5741,user:boom,email:email@example.com u_id:5743,user:koky,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5744,user:joko,email:email@example.com u_id:5746,user:biraa,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5747,user:roro,email:email@example.com u_id:5748,user:lolo,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5749,user:xoxo,email:email@example.com u_id:5750,user:madness101,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5751,user:uss,email:email@example.com u_id:5752,user:wwe,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5753,user:qqq,email:email@example.com u_id:5754,user:soso,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5756,user:eye,email:email@example.com u_id:5757,user:goldy,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5758,user:sosan,email:email@example.com u_id:5759,user:gree1,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5763,user:gogo2010,email:email@example.com u_id:5764,user:soso2010,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5765,user:roby,email:email@example.com u_id:5766,user:kono,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5767,user:lolo2000,email:email@example.com u_id:5768,user:pen,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5769,user:joy,email:email@example.com u_id:5770,user:rix,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5771,user:robe,email:email@example.com u_id:5772,user:heba,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5773,user:baba,email:email@example.com u_id:5774,user:sally,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5775,user:kola,email:email@example.com u_id:5777,user:keplooking,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5778,user:maddmyk,email:email@example.com u_id:5779,user:jena,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5780,user:zena,email:email@example.com u_id:5781,user:lona,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5782,user:bana,email:email@example.com u_id:5783,user:bena,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5784,user:lena,email:email@example.com u_id:5785,user:fona,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5786,user:mona,email:email@example.com u_id:5787,user:mena,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5788,user:sara,email:email@example.com u_id:5789,user:mido,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5790,user:mado,email:email@example.com u_id:5791,user:ahmed,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5792,user:zaza,email:email@example.com u_id:5793,user:rtrt,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5794,user:art,email:email@example.com u_id:5796,user:ch1,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5797,user:she,email:email@example.com u_id:5798,user:who,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5799,user:what,email:email@example.com u_id:5817,user:popo,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5818,user:sdsd,email:email@example.com u_id:5819,user:ccc,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5820,user:AAA,email:AAA@HIMASR.COM8 u_id:5822,user:BBB,email:MMMM@HIMASR.COM5 u_id:5824,user:III,email:KJK@HIMASR.COM10 u_id:5825,user:MMM,email:KJDJ@HIMASR.COM10 u_id:5827,user:DDD,email:KSJSK@HIMASR.COM10 u_id:5830,user:KKK,email:GVJG@HIMASR.COM2 u_id:5832,user:HHH,email:JSJSJ@HIMASR.COM2 u_id:5834,user:VVV,email:VVV@HIMASR.COM1 u_id:5835,user:KOS,email:KOKOS@HIMASR.COM1 u_id:5836,user:LOOK,email:LOOK@HIMASR.INFO1 u_id:5837,user:WIN,email:WIN@HIMASR.COM2 u_id:5838,user:alexmartln,email:email@example.com u_id:5840,user:alexcheat,email:firstname.lastname@example.org u_id:5847,user:bcaplovitz,email:email@example.comThe list goes on and on…
There are also some bidders without e-mail addresses. The screenshots in our screenshot gallery show just a glimpse of this. A few months ago, for some reason the e-mail cannot be found now but I am almost sure that it was NickelBids’s CFO, when requesting advertising information from us, said that they did not use bots or shill bid.
StickrPrice.com [thumbshot url=http://stickrprice.com]
As listed on the whois info for Stickrprice.com, the registered owner of Stickrprice’s contact e-mail address is listed to be millionairemind03[at]gmail[dot]com:
Users have corresponded with the owner via the millionairemind03 gmail address on numerous occasions. After viewing the code that displayed via Firebug, on stickerprice auction #296 it is revealed that stickrprice user aj3200 is assigned to the following email address millionaire_mind03 [at] yahoo [at] com. Coincidence? It is in our opinion that the owner of Stickrprice.com was bidding on his own website under the username aj3200.
Brother #1 ? of the owner of stickrprice.com
After searching on google, facebook, twitter, youtube and myspace, we stumbled across a lot of information that links what looks to be the owner of Stickrprice’s brother to stickrprice.com
The first of such is a link found on what looks like is the owner’s brothers facebook page, on which he links to a site called www.yourdriven.com, which is a website that is called a Stickrprice blog. A whois lookup for this site shows that it is owned by what looks to be the owner’s brother, whose email is crazypraze35 [at] yahoo [dot] com
A search on brother #1 brings us to the following page, where he lists his email address as crazypraze35 [at] gmail [dot] com
Another example is here: http://www.free-press-release.com/news/200802/1201878078.html
A quick review of past Stickrprice auctions revealed that there was a user crazypraze, and that users email address was crazypraze35 [at] gmail [dot] com.
After some more research on all other users of stickrprice.com. 2 other accounts were found to be linked to brother #1, user Rachael9 and user bubblebee. As you will see in the following 2 screenshots, crazypraze links these accounts to brother #1.
Brother #2? – of the owner of stickrprice.com
After searching on google, facebook, twitter, youtube and myspace, we stumbled across a lot of information that links what looks to be another brother to the owner (same last night) of stickrprice.com. It looks like we could quite possibly have the proof that shows that this possible brother has five accounts on stickrprice.com
More searching was done on brother #2 and this brought us to a few posts by him on a web forum, he lists his number as 614-604-2806.
So then I did some searching on that phone number, and what came up was more posts by brother #2 other forums. Notably, are the usernames that brother #2 uses on these forums. In the screenshot below, you will see that brother #2 used the username musaka18 for this forum.
It looks like brother #2 likes to use the usernames tegpower18 and musaka18 as usernames, a review of the auctions on Stickrprice.com revealed a user named tegpower18.
Stickrprice.com, according to their site, had graphic work done by the web design company mjohnsonmedia.com, as you can see they list stickrprice.com as one of their clients in their online portfolio. (ironically enough in the screenshot they use in the portfolio you can see user crazypraze – brother #2 bidding on 2 auctions.)
Another thing that sticks out is the disproportionate number of users who used a hushmail.com email address. The good thing about a hushmail.com email address is that if the account is not used within 3 weeks, it is shut down. So we began to look into users who have hushmail.com email addresses linked to them.
The first is user stickrprice user gordonm73. The screenshot below shows that this users email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
So we went to hushmail.com and tried to log in (try it- it first asks for an e-mail address then it shows whether or not an account is active and then prompts for a password) as email@example.com. And wouldnt you know it, even though this is an active account as recently as February 2010, hushmail has shut this email address down because it has not been accessed in the past 3 weeks a shown below.
Other stickrprice accounts are linked to the following three dead hushmail addresses. User kgibs is firstname.lastname@example.org, user sallysteal (ironic?) is email@example.com and then brother (?) #3′s Trixxer account is firstname.lastname@example.org. All of these recently active users have dead hushmail addresses as shown below.
Other users of stickrprice.com with hushmail.com addresses include. rickjames02, goldking, cervantes, titansail, ineverquit, ebpsi55, sarastyles, kgibs and reggiesmith.
See screenshots in our gallery.
BidTent.com [thumbshot url=http://bidtent.com]
Remember Bidtent.com? Back in December we told you how we found the owner’s full name in an e-mail address to a user that was bidding against bidders and our forum members. Read More
Well the bidder’s e-mail address was ianrobinson at att dot net, check out the whois info:
Biduh.com - [thumbshot url=http://biduh.com]
They sure have a lot of saunas…
SoMuchCheaper.com /UK -[thumbshot url=http://somuchcheaper.com] Told us they didn’t have bots and threatened to sue, etc.
Again, some users had e-mail addresses while others do not.
NabNGrab.com -[thumbshot url=http://nabngrab.com]
Some users do not have e-mail addresses. See gallery for screenshots.
PennyBiddr.com [thumbshot url=http://pennybiddr.com]
Bids4Penny.com [thumbshot url=http://Bids4Penny.com]
Status: For sale
Some users do not have e-mail addresses, the winners of both Ford’s did not have e-mail addresses associated with their accounts. See gallery for screenshots.
AuctionStorm.com - [thumbshot url=http://AuctionStorm.com]
Not all users have e-mail addresses:
See screenshots in our gallery.
Last week a Penny Auction Watch forum member e-mailed The Auction Storm with his suspicions, here was their reply:
“Thanks for your input but unlike other penny auction sites that are scams, we are not. We give everybody a chance to win and if they means losing money sometimes that so be it. We are not going to sit by and watch some of these other big name sites steal everybody’s money with their bots. The more the customer wins, the more we win.
The AuctionStorm Team”
Well as you can see in the screenshots provided there are users without e-mail addresses bidding.
Bidash.com -[thumbshot url=http://Bidash.com]
Swipeo.com -[thumbshot url=http://Swipeo.com]
FreeBidee.com [thumbshot url=http://freebidee.com]
Status: No active auctions
PandaBids.com [thumbshot url=http://pandabids.com]
Status: Done? As soon as a PennyAuctionWatch.com forum member told them they were going to tell us about their suspicions they stopped running auctions, coincidence? They must have not known how to use their software because all registered users had access to the admin console, in there we found that the administrator had multiple accounts, bid on items and won.
Lofuss.com -[thumbshot url=http://lofuss.com]
Cameloot.com -[thumbshot url=http://cameloot.com]
CrayzBidz.com - [thumbshot url=http://crazybiz.com]
Status: Gone, ritbid.com–?
Saruok.com [thumbshot url=http://Saruok.com]
Japanese penny auction- We found Saruok last year and so far we’ve seen Japanese characters on dozens of sites that are using the phppennyauction.com script.
An ex-customer of the phppennyauction script told us this:
“I spent most of my time changing out all the Japanese graphics and default green buttons, so I’m not sure if the entire template from the other site would be there. …
There were a lot of things in the default script in Japanese. Definitely a possibility – and this is one area that took a lot of time. They could tell me where to change bits an pieces, but when I asked them to identify all the places that had Japanese text so I could make sure it didn’t pop up, they never replied. …
One thing we didn’t like is that there are a lot of “leftovers” in the script (from previous clients I’m guessing). For example, on first install, there were old bids that would show for a few seconds and then disappear. This is before any test auction, and with no autobidders entered or enabled. I’d manually tried to clear away all of the default things in the database, so I don’t know where it came from, but I do have to say it bothered me. Their response was that I needed to delete the auction – but again, this was before any bids of any kind were placed. It’s this “leftover” type of behavior from the script that should be troubling. Even for things as simple as changing the timezone, there were specific changes to the configuration of the script that were made, but never registered. We didn’t get far enough to know, but I would be concerned that disabling the autobid functionality might not be enough to stop it from appearing on a live site if someone had used it to test before. There were a LOT of problems related to payments, which was ultimately our biggest area of concern.”
Maybe the aforementioned penny auction sites and PHPPennyAuction.com can provide us with an explanation for users related to owner’s bidding against paying customers and why they think “hidden reserves” are permissible?
We look forward to your comments.
Take a look at some of the screenshots in our gallery.