Beware 'Watch FIFA World Cup Online' and other championship scams
But what about Internet scams? Any big event focusing the world's eyeballs brings out the worst in web criminals. In the run-up to South Africa 2010, we've seen a couple of spam attacks, including an e- mail targeting Brazilian executives with the subject line, "Se o Brasil ganhar VOCE tambem ganha!" (basically, "if Brazil wins, this is what you'll win"), carrying an infected file designed to link gullible recipients to a botnet. Then there's the garden-variety bogus ticket sales sites (in short, only FIFA and its partners sell real tickets), and World Cup lottery scam sites. Nothing really to worry about there, if you've got your wits about you.
But do beware of web sites advertising live streaming video of the games. Here in the U.S. you can watch the World Cup matches for free -- well, you do have to sit through several minutes of commercials first -- on ESPN 3. But that hasn't stopped a whole bunch of sites from promising free streaming video of the World Cup and (here's the hook) continued access to dozens of satellite channels around the world. Sports! Movies! Venezuelan Beauty Contests! All you have to do is pay a one-time fee of $49. Making matters worse, these come up fairly high in search engines when you type in "live video World Cup." (Here's our full list of where you can really watch the World Cup online for free.)
First, there's Watch FIFA World Cup 2010 Online, which really functions as a front-end to a site selling Satellite Direct. You can find people complaining easily enough about Satellite Direct, mostly that many of the channels are of poor quality, don't broadcast, or are in a foreign language. But all you really need to know about Satellite Direct is that its web domain is hidden by a private proxy service in Arizona, something no legitimate business does.
Then there's Breaking Updates (motto: "If you have a news, please let the world know about it!") For some reason, Breaking Updates scores high with search engines. You can, from time to time, actually find a free live feed here, but not before being driven through a poorly-executed online survey and several layers of pop-up ads. The feed comes courtesy of something called SouthAfricaLive.org, a domain registered in California. There's absolutely no reason to choose this site, especially since it uses pop-up and browser tricks to try to keep you on the page. That's so 1990s porn.
You also don't want to wind up on Easy Online Jobs Review.com, another high-ranker World Cup video searches, probably because it's heavily optimized. The site is full of bogus product and work-from-home ads, and will eventually lead you to http://worldcuplivestreaming2010.blogspot.com/, camouflaged by a Blogspot subdomain and really just a front for OnlineSatNetwork, which previously has tried its hand with boxing promotion and appears to be little more than a lead generator. Its domain is blind-registered in the Netherlands. Forget it.
Also beware if you get directed to StreamDirect, which appears to be the same product and company as Satellite Direct. They're both blind-registered. But perhaps more worrisome is the fact that the owners of StreamDirect's domain URL, www.streamdirect.tv, are selling it for $250. In addition, its ads use the good old-fashioned browser back-button disabling, making it hard to get off the page once you are there.
So if you find yourself in desperate need of a World Cup video fix on your computer, give the red card to SatelliteDirect, StreamDirect, OnlineSatNetwork and all the sites that might lead you to it.
Consumer Ally asked Prague, Czech Republic-based security software company Avast! to tell us, following their "Most Wanted" list of malicious sites, if they were finding any specifically related to the World Cup. They gave us this list, found within the past month: