How I Took Down The Revenue Stream Of A Major Black Hat WAREZ Website - Digital Product Owners DIY..
If you've ever found your digital product (book, software, report) being distributed on a black hat WAREZ forum / website (that means basically anyone that's ever sold or is currently selling a WSO) here's a simple 10 minute DIY guide to hit them where it hurts if they ignore your requests to remove the download files - in their pockets.
It is very easy, but I'll give you some background first...
Whilst most of these sites have been around for years, most also only exist because the owners earn income from the sites by attracting a big audience via distributing other peoples products illegally.
Many simply take donations, others sell their own B/H products to the audience they've attracted, others have monthly subscriptions to access private areas containing even more popular / expensive WAREZ or other information. Most use PayPal to take payments directly - some use other merchant services (and this guide applies equally to any merchant processing service these guys use but in this case I simply went the PayPal angle as it was going to have the biggest impact on the guy in question).
Others use Adsense, or other advertising platforms to generate income from the websites (which is the opposite angle you can take) - none of whom want to be associated with these illegal activities once you inform them.
*** Basic Background ***
Late last year one of our premium paid products was being distributed freely on a popular black hat discussion forum. Clearly not acceptable behavior considering that single post had attracted 1k+ views - it meant a lot of people we're downloading the product illegally.
I joined the forum (paid a $25 subscription via PayPal to get access to the "private forum for the downloads" but more importantly to get the contact details of the business / person that had the PayPal account taking payments for the website). You should also know that the post was cached in Google which anyone could access regardless if they were a paid member - so technically this was publicly accessible as well.
I sent a PM to the owner of the website via the forums outlining the product / post I wanted removed. It was polite and contained all relevant information to show that this was in fact our product and was not to be distributed (obviously the owner knew this but I was just being professional about the situation). I also sent an identical email directly to the customer service email associated with the PayPal account payment.
Not surprisingly I was totally ignored (and the forum account I had created was banned within a few hours - so they guy obviously got the PM and email and thought that banning me would put an end to it).
*** Fighting Back ***
Login to your PayPal account.
Top right hand side you'll see a link "Security Center".
On the page you arrive at you'll see a "Take Action" box. Click the "Report fake (spoof) website" link.
You'll then be taken to a page that allows you to select a topic and sub-topic prior to sending an email to the PayPal fraud team.
Select "Report Fraud / Prohibit Use" as the topic and "Report prohibited items being sold via PayPal" as the subtopic.
You'll then be able to enter full details of the case and send an email to PayPal.
Here you need to be extremely clear about explaining everything that's going on. Include all relevant links to the website in question (including Google cached pages if that helps) and also let them know they might need to signup to the forum in question to see exactly what's going on. Basically be thorough.
*** EMAIL CONTACT START - COPY, EDIT TO SUIT & PASTE ***
Here is the email I sent (I've edited some sensitive data but otherwise this is the exact message sent)...
Copyrighted works being sold through PayPal...
The web address (URL) of the site you are reporting:
URL OF THE WEBSITE / FORUM DISTRIBUTING THE PRODUCT
Additional Information: FULL NAME OF PERSON & EMAIL HERE (from PayPal transaction).
Customer Service URL: ALSO FROM PAYPAL TRANSACTION
Customer Service Email: ALSO FROM PAYPAL TRANSACTION
The client of yours above whom you are providing merchant account services for is selling access to a private forum that provides nothing more than a repository of copyrighted works and products of other individuals including my own...
LINKS TO YOUR PRODUCT HERE (including cache in Google and direct links).
...you will not see this on the public end of their website, it is only accessible once a customer purchases access to this website via PayPal which in my opinion, and most likely that of our lawyers opinion makes PayPal equally responsible for loss of earnings by enabling them.
On the last count given on the forum above for our product "PRODUCT NAME" over #,### copies have been download at no cost via this forum. By continuing to allow this client to accept payments in any fashion via PayPal needs to be addressed, unless you wish to be associated with such activities.
I would suggest you disable this clients PayPal account immediately.
You will find the products I am referring to in the "Freebies" section of the private forum. These are all copyrighted works that the person above has no legal standing to offer. i.e. he is a thief plain and simple.
I am offering our product in question via PayPal and have already done $Xk in legitimate sales over the past few weeks - so this is not only hurting our sales, but it is also hurting legitimate PayPal commissions on those sales.
I have been a good standing client of PayPal for almost XX years now and have grossed at least US $Xmillion through our account during that time, and would hope this would be taken seriously and promptly.
*** EMAIL CONTACT END***
...obviously you're going to have to include all relevant information in there (and the more the better - I've edited all the links out and respective data explaining what's going on at those links). Once you submit the information you'll get back an Infringement Report form that you also need to fill out...
"Any person or business that requests PayPal assist in asserting its copyright, patent, trademark, or any other work protected under federal law, must first complete PayPal's Infringement Report Form."
This is a PDF which you can fill out and then send back to the email contact you'll be given. Note however that the form is short and it's very hard to put everything you want to put in there (hence why we include as much information as possible on the first contact form so they have additional reference material for the case if required).
Two days after sending the PDF Infringement Report Form in I was contacted by an individual at PayPal's fraud team...
"Thank you for submitting the Infringement Report form. We are currently investigating the matter and will follow up with additional information when our investigation is complete."
At that point what PayPal is doing is contacting the third party (the owner of the website / PayPal account). They explain the case put against them and give them the opportunity to submit an "OBJECTION TO INFRINGEMENT REPORT". Clearly, given the activities of the website / person, there is no serious "objection" that can be made here - there never is.
It was at this point (a couple of days after hearing from the fraud team) that the owner of the forum decided to contact / get back to me directly via email. As you might imagine, he had a bunch of excuses - didn't get any of my messages (but for some reason my forum account was banned about an hour after sending them), blamed his forum members exclusively and that he can't control what they post, that the post in question was syndicated from another website so it wasn't his fault. Basically he started crying like a little B arch.
I guess I would be too if I had a few hundred or thousand customers, paying $25 per month each on recurring subscriptions, and his PayPal account was put on total hold pending a permanent ban.
He also offered me free advertising on his site for the product in question (figure that one out - I'm sure sales would be excellent) had put the product on a Do Not Share List (which he created exclusively for this case - there was no such list prior to this on the forum in question). Ultimately he was trying to get me to agree / make a statement along the following lines...
"Do you agree with me, that I was not trying to sell your product in any shape or form? and that I have Deleted all threads with your product on, and that I have created a do not share list with your product in it and your product will never set foot on XXXXXXXXXXX.com ever again."
...so he could show the PayPal fraud guy investigating the case. I simply ignored all this dribble.
Whether he ever put in his "OBJECTION TO INFRINGEMENT REPORT" or not I don't know (probably didn't because it would've been seen exactly for what it was).
What I do know however is that this guy is no longer able to take payment for his site via PayPal. I have no doubt that shook up his revenue generation from the website in question (don't know how many people he had on recurring subscriptions but that would have ended at the flick of a switch on PayPal's end) but it also killed his ability to use PayPal for anything else.
O, and yes, I did get my $25 back that I had initially paid to get his contact information ;-0
End of story is if you get ignored by a simple request you have other options. If PayPal is not being used you can get in touch with the merchant service provider that is. All will take the complaint seriously because if they don't it opens them up to legal action.
I should also state that I'm a lover not a fighter (although I don't put up with S&#T from anyone).
In a similar instance on a similar website the owner did remove a similar post and added the product to a Do Not Share list. I left it at that.
Had the guy above done the same thing, that would've been fine. However at the end of the day, it is literally a 10 minute task to hit them where it hurts if required. And once you've done it once, you've got everything you need to repeat it if needed on other sites basically copy, paste and send.
If just half 10 other people running WSO's (or selling products directly from their own websites) did this with whatever merchant service these sites use, well it's going to rock their boat and make them stand up and take notice. At the very least they're going to be more inclined to add your products to their "Do Not Share" lists promptly.
Hope this helps (or is at least interesting).
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