Microsoft subsidizes Nigerian scammers

A four-part series of blog postings at Artists against 419 discusses in detail the massive abuse of Microsoft’s OfficeLive (MSOL) webhosting service by Advance fee fraud scammers, which I mentioned in a previous blog post here. Currently I come across such MSOL domains at a rate of about two new ones per day.

As the Artists point out, one of the reasons for the large number of scam domains hosted at MSOL is that unlike other webhosting services where customers get their own domain, they are not charged any fees for registering and using a domain. Microsoft appears to be so desparate to find any business willing to host their website with them using the basic webhosting package that they fork out cash to VeriSign for the .com / .net domain registration fees. To secure against abuse, the user has to supply a gredit card when signing up, but no charge is ever made to that card. All that MSOL will do with it is get authorization from the card company to charge $1 to it (that means, the card company will verify that the card exists, has not been cancelled and that current accumulated charges since the last statement are at least $1 below its set spending limit). Those $1 authorizations will not show up on a monthly statement that the owner of a card whose data has been stolen could see. If the owner doesn’t see unauthorized charges he has no reason to cancel the card and the scammer could use the same card over and over to register hundreds of scam domains, while Microsoft pays hundreds of dollars in domain registration fees to VeriSign and scam victims lose thousands of dollars to the scammer.

The article series then discusses the problems with trying to get MSOL to take action against the criminal abuse of their system, which appears to be so broken that even a domain that has been disabled (no working website) can still be used for sending email, which is all that some 75% of scammers ever use it for anyway, according to the Artists.

Read the article series here: