Some VERY strange forum members!

57 replies
Hi warriors,

I am looking at some very strange forum members.

This is a question for fellow warriors that run or moderate forums.

I have been asked to help moderate a forum and we are getting
the following kind of members registering:

Here is a screen shot from the members list:




You will notice that each of these 3 funny member account names
have the same format.

They begin with two numbers, then two capital letters, then a name in lower case.

It looks to me like they are script generated entries.

Have you seen this type of members before ?
What is the point of them ? :confused:
Are they harmful ?

Thanks for advice.

.
#forum #members #strange
  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    My guess is they are bots creating accounts for backlinks.
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
      Yes,

      I though that must be the case at first,
      but doesn't the backlink come from the website field ?

      For instance here "Emoppy" has a backlink I guess,





      But the 3 strange ones that I showed in the previous
      image don't seem to have any websites:confused:

      How would they pick up any backlinks ??

      .
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      • Profile picture of the author Alfredo Carrion
        Sometimes they will place the backlinks in the comments section of their member profile.
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        • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
          Thanks for that observation.

          I will go and have a look to see if there are any back links in
          the comments.
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          • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
            I have looked for backlinks in profiles and
            comments etc.

            For those automated accounts, I can not find any.

            The forum is new but quite active there are a few Warriors on the forum that have made great posts - Is it because the forum is new that we are attracting these funny members - or because of the activity on the threads ?

            You are right about the membership list being open - but as with most forums
            it is only open to members - well I think so.

            Here is the membership page - maybe you can test it and see if you
            can see the list without registering.
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        • Profile picture of the author dgridley
          Exactly.. I run into these daily. They're bots.

          Go into their profile and delete any links they've placed in their profile then BAN, don't delete them.. if you delete the account, they can just rejoin anyway.

          Also if your forum allows visitors messages, check those as well as they will often post a visitor message to themselves with a link. Other places to check if you forum has blogs, albums, or classifieds, check for comments left by these bots and delete them as well.

          Originally Posted by Alfredocoach View Post

          Sometimes they will place the backlinks in the comments section of their member profile.
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      • Profile picture of the author Karan Goel
        Originally Posted by Tim_Hawksworth View Post

        But the 3 strange ones that I showed in the previous
        image don't seem to have any websites:confused:

        How would they pick up any backlinks ??

        .
        Yeah. The new trend in forum spamming is to create accounts, let them sit there so they raise no suspicion, and later, add a link to them.

        Karan
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        • Profile picture of the author CDarklock
          Originally Posted by Karan Goel View Post

          The new trend in forum spamming is to create accounts, let them sit there so they raise no suspicion, and later, add a link to them.
          This is actually the new trend against anticommercialism.

          There are a lot of people out there who actively search for new things, and if they find something new that has advertising or a sales pitch or an affiliate link on it, they report it as spam.

          So when you're using "parasite hosting," which is any situation where your site/profile is hosted on someone else's service, it's smart to wait two to four weeks before adding your marketing content.

          I even recommend this in Zombie Blogging, because Blogger.com has self-appointed "ad police" who actively watch for brand new blogs with AdSense on them. These are not people who work for Google or Blogger enforcing a bona fide policy, they are independent troublemakers who have decided anyone with advertising on their Blogger blog is a spammer.

          So they watch for new blogs, and go look at them, and if there's AdSense or Amazon on the blog they report it as spam. They don't read the posts or check the owner's profile; ads = spam.

          All you have to do is wait a couple weeks until you're off the radar, then go back and put up your ads. Then the only people checking up on you are the legitimate policymakers of your parasite hosting service, and if you're within the terms of service you'll be fine.
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        • Profile picture of the author tryinhere
          Originally Posted by Karan Goel View Post

          Yeah. The new trend in forum spamming is to create accounts, let them sit there so they raise no suspicion, and later, add a link to them.

          Karan
          far from a trend an old trick of many they use / they usuall come unstuck sooner or later @ the op, some bad news you listed 3 possible spammers in those names, ? i am lucky if i see one thats not a spammer ? all of those and the profiles created look like dodgy brothers to me

          eyes wide open
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    • Profile picture of the author nerrutis
      Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

      My guess is they are bots creating accounts for backlinks.
      100% bot, programmed to make fake ID`s in this certain way, 100%
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    • Profile picture of the author greggreg
      Banned
      [DELETED]
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      • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
        Thanks for all your replies.

        I am going to "tinker" with the registration code.

        Think I will add an addition question to the sign up.

        If I write a bit of code myself - then a bot will not expect it as
        it will not appear on any other site.
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  • Profile picture of the author IcedSEO-CEO
    Banned
    I believe they are bots too
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  • Profile picture of the author christopher jon
    My guess is they are bots creating accounts for backlinks.
    Agree. 0 posts, just delete them and save yourself the headache.

    Actually, that entire list looks like profile backlinkers to me. No time to post but enough time to get a URL in their profile. Delete them too
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  • Profile picture of the author christopher jon
    They will make a second pass and add the links then.

    What they are doing... it's working. You don't see a backlink so you don't automatically assume that's what they are doing and you aren't deleting the accounts. Believe me, in two weeks to a month backlinks will be added.

    Also, if your profiles are publicly viewable they may be added someplace else to avoid easy detection. Profile comments, bio and other random fields are all open to backlinking abuse.
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  • Profile picture of the author christopher jon
    Also, there are automated tools that run two pass backlinking.

    They create the profiles and save a list of those accounts. That list can be re-run at anytime to see which profiles are active and re-run at any time to add in backlinks or make changes.
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  • Profile picture of the author christopher jon
    attempting to spam you now

    As far as I can tell you're locked down. A person has to be logged in to view a profile which is the #1 thing. That'll discourage most except the forum sig spammers.
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
      Thanks for looking.

      That's reassuring

      As I said these "fuuny" acounts don't have any sig files
      or websites addresses and they don't even post !

      We did catch one blatant spammer and instead of deleting the
      account - the admin left it in a "locked" thread.

      Is this a good idea ? The spammed thread

      Would that discourage anyone ?
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      • Profile picture of the author Dan C. Rinnert
        Originally Posted by Tim_Hawksworth View Post

        We did catch one blatant spammer and instead of deleting the
        account - the admin left it in a "locked" thread.

        Is this a good idea ? The spammed thread

        Would that discourage anyone ?
        Won't discourage anyone, because most spammers aren't going to bother reading your rules.

        Also, bad idea to leave that there. That TIME Magazine cover is copyrighted and the spammer probably did not have permission to use it. Although Safe Harbor laws may protect you because you didn't post it yourself, singling it out and willfully leaving it up may pose a problem. (But, I'm not a lawyer, so don't take any of this as legal advice.)
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        • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
          Thanks for pointing that out Dan.

          Even though I like the idea because it lets members see
          that we are monitoring the site and want to keep spam out,
          I think I will just go ahead and delete that post.

          Does anyone else run phpbb forum here ?

          Seems that deleting accounts is a bit slow
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  • Profile picture of the author cupul89
    [DELETED]
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
      I think that Chris must be right

      These must be sophisticated bots that set up and account and
      then just wait a while - maybe a couple of weeks, and then
      come back to the forum and post spammy sig files and post etc.

      Has anyone had experience of these things ?
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      • Profile picture of the author JimmyD
        Lots of these bots are either not well built or not configured for your forum style and fail at some part of the profile spamming process so they create a profile but do not complete it.
        As with everything there are the excellent, the good and the not so good.
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  • Profile picture of the author theemperor
    Oh the irony if these profile accounts were a result of a back-linking package ordered via WSO :-)
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
      Oh the irony if these profile accounts were a result of a back-linking package ordered via WSO :-)


      ha ha ha !!

      very funny
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    • Profile picture of the author George Wright
      Originally Posted by theemperor View Post

      Oh the irony if these profile accounts were a result of a back-linking package ordered via WSO :-)
      You read my mind. Also I was LOL at the comment above, with the phrase "Backlink abuse," considering, uh... nevermind. Need coffee, need McDouble and more coffee... must go now.

      George Wright
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    • Profile picture of the author Rich Struck
      Originally Posted by theemperor View Post

      Oh the irony if these profile accounts were a result of a back-linking package ordered via WSO :-)
      The sad part is that this kind of crap is in fact encouraged here on a daily basis.
      Signature

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      • Profile picture of the author tryinhere
        Originally Posted by Rich Struck View Post

        The sad part is that this kind of crap is in fact encouraged here on a daily basis.
        and even sadder is that it seems to be supported.
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Originally Posted by Tim_Hawksworth View Post

    Hi warriors,

    I am looking at some very strange forum members.

    This is a question for fellow warriors that run or moderate forums.

    I have been asked to help moderate a forum and we are getting
    the following kind of members registering:

    Here is a screen shot from the members list:




    You will notice that each of these 3 funny member account names
    have the same format.

    They begin with two numbers, then two capital letters, then a name in lower case.

    It looks to me like they are script generated entries.

    Have you seen this type of members before ?
    What is the point of them ? :confused:
    Are they harmful ?

    Thanks for advice.


    .

    When I had my forum, I just deleted all those type of members with autogenerated numbers. They are either for profile backlinks or they plan on spamming the forum.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sodaware
    Depending on what forum software you're running, you can get plugins/extensions to automatically prevent most spam bots. I run a small forum that was getting dozens of spam signups a day, but after installing a small plugin 99% are caught automatically.

    I highly recommend checking StopForumSpam.com Under Resources -> Mods/Plugins to see if there's something you can use.
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
      Thanks for the tip Sodaware.

      What I find strange is that when you register
      with the forum you have to enter the two CAPTCHA words.

      You know, those 2 wavey looking words that bots are supposed to not
      be able to do.

      This is what it says:

      Confirmation code:
      In an effort to prevent
      automatic submissions,
      we require that you
      enter both of the words
      displayed into the text
      field underneath.


      Maybe there is something wrong with my registration ?


      Does it look OK ?

      .
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  • Profile picture of the author GeorgR.
    TipI have a small forum on SMF running, and the spam i am getting is really insane. To make things worse, there is really not one good anti-spam measure known to me for that forum....along with other bugs.

    VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure to set your forum links to nofollow (or get a plugin which makes all links nofollow)..otherwise all the spam and p*rn links can seriously hurt your rankings. (Alternatively, spend a lot of time moderating the forum...deleting links etc....but this is just too much work for me personally. Almost EVERYONE posting has some link in their signature)

    Tim: There is software for creating those spam bots/links...the most known is Xrumer. They are auto captcha solving. Nothing wrong with your forum.
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
      Thanks for the tip George.

      I am gonna go and get rid og these spammy
      accounts.

      But I am really glad that I asked about it first
      - learned a lot
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      • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
        OK

        I hope we didn't wreck anything.

        The admin couldn't be bothered to individually delete those rouge
        accounts so he just access the database and edited the phpbb_users table
        directly.

        They all got zapped
        ... except for one.

        We are going to see what it does over the course of the next
        couple of weeks

        Could be interesting

        .
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  • Profile picture of the author christopher jon
    even recommend this in Zombie Blogging,
    OMGWTFBBQ

    Sorry, couldn't resist. It's one of my favorite headlines. It stuck with me unlike many many others.
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  • Profile picture of the author popopdc
    When a forum has 291,000+ members there are bound to be a few strange usernames...
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    • Profile picture of the author skibbz
      Originally Posted by popopdc View Post

      When a forum has 291,000+ members there are bound to be a few strange usernames...
      most naturally but when they have similar alphanumeric structure it raises a red flag
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  • Profile picture of the author mojojuju
    As a person whose legal full name is 05AAtim Bradly 04XNginny Jr., I am very much offended by the suggestion that people with unusual alphanumeric names similar to mine are bots.
    Signature

    :)

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  • Profile picture of the author sarahberra
    Those are some odd names. They might be spammer bots trying to create backlinks. I think the Warrior forum has moderators and software that continually looks for this though. However, this forum is so big that sometimes it might take a while before they catch every bot.
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    • Profile picture of the author skibbz
      Originally Posted by sarahberra View Post

      this forum is so big that sometimes it might take a while before they catch every bot.
      unless we report them, its hard for the moderators to pick up every spam or every bot on the loose
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      • Profile picture of the author dgridley
        I tend to get a series of bots with 113 appended to the end of the username, always a tipoff. Another "trick" they use a normal name such as GregWills but append random letters before and after such as nGregWillsf. Other times they will try to embed a keyword or anchor text amongst the random letters such as xdfkeywordheredfg. Most of the time they are pretty easy to spot.

        I also check usernames, emails, IPs against the stopforumspam.com database or check the IP with an IP location tool. Many times they will give their location as some place in the states yet have a Phillipines IP.

        Frequently spammers will tend to use the same zip codes too such as 12345, 10003, 90210 or misspell common names like Lusy (Lucy), Wiliam (William), etc.

        Originally Posted by skibbz View Post

        unless we report them, its hard for the moderators to pick up every spam or every bot on the loose
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  • Profile picture of the author Evolve91
    Well, if you don't delete them, you may start to see porn or "enhancement" pills posted by those fake accounts or they are just for backlinks.

    In another forum I use, those auto-generated accounts have posted porn, buying gold and silver, etc. Either way its spam
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  • Profile picture of the author Adam Roy
    I own a pretty large and active forum myself, what a chore that is eh??

    These bots or whatever will automatically go to your forum, sign up for an account, and place backlinks in any applicable fields IE website, signatures or forum posts. Sometimes these bots 'fail', and only create the account but fail to create the backlink, which is why some of those bizarre looking accounts were created but didn't have a link left within.

    I found that the best solution, for me and my forum, was to make member's profiles and the members list non-public. Basically any user that is not logged-in, cannot view the profile pages thus, any links created here will never be seen by Google.

    Keep in mind your forum CAN lose credibility and rankings if you have public profiles and many of them link out to negative, dangerous, spam or other websites that don't adhere to Google's or any other search engine's search quality guidelines. Example, you get 10 members per month creating profiles and linking out to pornographic sites or sites with malware you could have a problem.
    If your member's profiles aren't public, if any links slip through the cracks they're worthless for the user and won't harm the reputation of your website.

    Also, I require that any new member must have at least 2 posts before they can create a signature. This stops most of the bots right in their tracks as far as creating signature links.

    Then there's the issue of bots actually mass posting threads and replies on your forum full of links and spam. This is a bit harder to control, but since I use vbulletin I have the ability to not allow anybody to leave links in posts unless they have xx posts already.

    Hope that helps.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mike McAleer
    I would definitely delete them. I think that these bots are just annoying and you should punish anyone who is trying to use them thinking that mods won't catch them.
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  • Profile picture of the author alistair
    It's quite easy to do using software like sick submitter or auto backlink bomb. All you have to do is enter your profile information which can be spun so you don't have exactly the same info for every profile into the software, add the list of forums you want to register to, get some proxies and hit start and the software goes off and does the registering for you. Captchas can easily be solved either manually or using a decpatcher service like death by captcha, and there are also scripts that will automatically solve other anti-bot puzzles. Then wait a couple of days and then run the software to verify all of the verification emails which only takes minutes or even seconds for hundreds of emails. Then wait some more days or however long you prefer so it's not so obvious to admins you're just there to add your backlinks and run the software to go and submit your profile with backlinks and it can all be automated, for example with sick submitter so you can set it to do each task anytime night or day you want it to. If you wanted to you could just make your profile and then add backlinks later on.

    Couple this with scrapebox to scrape for hundreds or thousands of forums to register to and bobs your uncle, a ton of backlinks.
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  • Hi,

    Chances they are using xrumer.

    To get rid of that, make your php registering process a 'challenge-question' response. I.e., instead of choosing captcha, make them answer a question like 'what color is red?'. That stops a lot of spammy accounts from being generated.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kierkegaard
    There is a plugin for smf that checks usernames on registration for known spam-like activity. If a genuine person wants to register as wsedrftgyhjjjjjj they will run into difficulties. As will people with .ru and .jp email addresses etc.
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  • Profile picture of the author VOnline
    Bots. Most likely trying to get their links out there and get backlinks.
    Here's a quick search that might be useful:

    How to make a forum bot? : phpBB2 Forum - en
    Member Bots 1.0 - Allow bots to act as members - vBulletin.org Forum
    phpBB &bull; View topic - [ABD] Forum AI 0.0.3
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    • Profile picture of the author Jim Hudson
      Here's a kicker..let em' spammo for months..then go in and 301 redirect to a new website or forum and point their lil' link juice and steal their thunder...lol
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    I'm a Mod on a couple of other non IM forums. I wouldn't delete the actual user, just lock the profile & delete any outbound links they posted.

    Not much point in blocking an IP, most are running proxies for multiple profiles.
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  • Profile picture of the author Simon Ashari
    I think every forum user name in that screen shot is suspicious. Not just the 3 you pointed out.

    To be honest I'd just delete all of those now. None of them seem to be adding any value (zero posts) and they will probably come back later to add their spam links.

    -Simon
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    • Profile picture of the author Rich Struck
      Originally Posted by Simon Ashari View Post

      I think every forum user name in that screen shot is suspicious. Not just the 3 you pointed out.

      To be honest I'd just delete all of those now. None of them seem to be adding any value (zero posts) and they will probably come back later to add their spam links.

      -Simon
      You are correct, they are all fake. I delete this crap all the time.
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  • Profile picture of the author Adie
    Originally Posted by Tim_Hawksworth View Post

    Hi warriors,

    I am looking at some very strange forum members.

    This is a question for fellow warriors that run or moderate forums.

    I have been asked to help moderate a forum and we are getting
    the following kind of members registering:

    Here is a screen shot from the members list:




    You will notice that each of these 3 funny member account names
    have the same format.

    They begin with two numbers, then two capital letters, then a name in lower case.

    It looks to me like they are script generated entries.

    Have you seen this type of members before ?
    What is the point of them ? :confused:
    Are they harmful ?

    Thanks for advice.

    .
    Xrumer rules, or some ubot programs.
    Signature



    Moderator's Note: You're only allowed to put your own products or sites in your signature.

    Signature edited.
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    • Profile picture of the author Tim_Hawksworth
      When a forum has 291,000+ members there are bound to be a few strange usernames...
      They are a bit short of that number ... but getting there

      Anyway - its not the quantity - more the quality
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  • Profile picture of the author Mike Baker
    When I owned and ran a couple of high profile forums I would have a modification in place that would automatically delete certain user accounts if they didn't make a single (1) post after a certain amount of days, which was usually 30. This way you are removing any leechers, spammers, or anybody that could potentially ruin your community.
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    • Profile picture of the author MarketingTorch
      I made the mistake of adding a Facebook login connection program to one of my big Wordpress content sites. I was doing it to encourage real friends on FB to increase their interaction with the content site. Instead, I got reg-bombed with HUNDREDS of fake registrations per day through the plugin. I had to set my screen options to display 100 at a time to delete the buggers out of my subscriber base, which was really tedious, since there were legit users mixed in with the bots.

      I also run a phpbb site, but have not had a huge problem with fake logins there, but it's a low volume forum, so it's not so big a target.

      I also run a classifieds site, but I quit looking at the ads posted, because most were geographic arbitrage listings, and if there are fakers in their midst, it would be difficult to tell them apart. It's not like comment spam where it's blatantly obvious. Also, it has an anti-bot question system which seems to work better than captchas. That has probably made the difference.

      Like others have said, Tim, I too think all your users on that screenshot are probably fake. It's uncommon to see so many weird or unpronounceable usernames in a row unless they're fake.
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  • Profile picture of the author mjarel
    Hmmmm Thats funny come strange thing.. they are bots.
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  • Profile picture of the author mahal788
    When I saw the title of this thread I was afraid my name would be mentioned. :p
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  • Profile picture of the author dgridley
    OnlnPharmirus is no doubt a pharma bot or spammer as well.

    Originally Posted by Tim_Hawksworth View Post

    Hi warriors,

    I am looking at some very strange forum members.

    This is a question for fellow warriors that run or moderate forums.

    I have been asked to help moderate a forum and we are getting
    the following kind of members registering:

    Here is a screen shot from the members list:




    You will notice that each of these 3 funny member account names
    have the same format.

    They begin with two numbers, then two capital letters, then a name in lower case.

    It looks to me like they are script generated entries.

    Have you seen this type of members before ?
    What is the point of them ? :confused:
    Are they harmful ?

    Thanks for advice.

    .
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