Enter "Earth4Energy", a site I had never heard of until (you guessed it) people started sharing their samples of inbound, unwanted spam promoting it.
Researching this rather dubious "product" turned out to be pretty interesting, because whoever is behind Earth4Energy has taken great care in registering as many domains as possible - including those which would imply that the product is a scam - and then employing them in all manner of seemingly blackhat SEO (search engine optimization) techniques. This obscures any genuine discussion of this "product", which is why I thought it was probably worth posting here.
Let's start at the beginning. Here's a recently-received sample of the spam being sent, which I have only mildly cleaned up (this particular idiot didn't bother to clean up the formatting for readability):
From: "Dan Kittles"
Subject: Create a windmill & solar power @ home!
Discover now how to create electricity at home. No gimmicks! It's just a simple science, and I believe you knew it. This is exactly what you need if you are interested of knowing how to generate power and reduce electricity bills at home.
All it takes are guts, the eagerness to read the manual and apply it real life.
Earth4Energy is the solution for our needs. It can reduce our power bills or even completely eliminate it. So why would you follow others who pay $1400 for the installation of Windmill & Solar Power at home? You can actually build your own!
See it on this site to discover it now!
Notice: List is taken from "Dan's Corner". So this e-mail is NEVER sent unsolicited. You are receiving it
because you, or somebody purporting to be you and using your e-mail address, has asked to be added to this mailing list.
To be remove, please reply so. Then we'll remove you from the database.
Boy. Way to go on the copy writing there, moron.
You can see a full example also being reported for spamming at this website. Note that that version, from August 2009, didn't have to use URL shorteners, probably because they had yet to become blacklisted.
The line that says "See it on this site" links to a URL shortener, for obfuscation purposes, in violation of their terms of service regarding spamming:
That in turn redirects to:
With the ultimate goal being to get you to purchase their "manual" via ClickBank's shopping cart functionality:
The site of course contains more breathless testimonials and unsubstantiated claims than even the most bogus pharmacy spam I've seen. That should be red flag #1 to anybody.
So that exposes the "thrust" of this spam campaign, and also the affiliate ID.
Note that not one person who has reported this to me has ever subscribed to "Dan's Corner", nor had they ever heard of either that list or this "product".
Any attempt to "opt out", has also been unsuccessful, as expected.
ClickBank is a fairly well-known "Pay Per Click" affiliate program, and they appear to offer affiliate promotion services for a wide array of products and services.
They also offer a shopping cart service, which is what this particular scam is out to abuse.
Note their extremely specific anti-spam clause in their terms of service:
You shall not directly or indirectly:
a Send, initiate or procure the sending of an Email to any Person who has either not explicitly requested to receive such messages specifically from You, including without limitation for the purposes of sending unsolicited bulk email, executing any "mass mailings" or "email blasts," or for the purpose of spamming any public forum, including without limitation, any blog, message board, classified listings, auction sites, altnet, newsnet, newsgroups, or similar service.
b Send, initiate or procure the sending of an Email to any Person who has explicitly requested to receive no further Emails from You or Your company.
c Employ any false or deceptive information regarding Your identity, or regarding the intent, subject, or origin of the message or fail to include accurate information regarding Your identity, and the intent, subject, and origin of the Email.
It continues from there, but we can see already: This message violates all three of those. There is no "Dan Kittles", and a search for that email address only returns further discussion of this particular spam campaign.
They began their SEO campaign at least as early as October 2007. The first research I could find regarding this dates from November 2008:
This disease is really getting out of control. Earth4Energy now gets 222,000 hits on Google (October 24, 2008), and it is all a fraud. There are even thousands of fake negatives, like "Don't buy Earth4Energy" and "Earth4Energy Sucks" that lead you to yet more sales pages. Negative reviews are totally drowned out by the massive, cancerous marketing campaign.
That same author has set up an extremely detailed page specifically criticizing all of this company's claims regarding Earth4Energy, and in my opinion it's definitely worth a read, especially the completely bold-faced threats that they against the author make regarding his negative review. (Read on, you'll see that his dissection is pretty much spot-on.)
Affiliates for this scam have also spammed Craigslist repeatedly, and continue to do so now. [example]
There is, of course, a link to the Earth4Energy affiliate program [affiliatematerial.com], and it becomes extremely obvious that this group do not care how you promote this crap. They don't care if you paint some random person's house with your domain name. There is no abuse process, no terms of service, nada. Just sign up, and (they allege) you can "start making money now!"
I tested out a signup, and their process doesn't include anything verifying that you have solid, opt-in-only lists, that you have whitelisted domains, etc. They just ask for a name and email, and you're in. Period.
Their "product" list looks like a veritable megastore of utterly useless crap. "Hair Extensions DIY", "Zero Chemicals", "DIY Hot Water", and of course the only product I or any of the people had contacted me had heard of, "Earth4Energy".
Note that in these examples they plainly list a ClickBank url. They don't reiterate ClickBank's terms of service, they don't say anything about not spamming people, and they don't warn against flooding other sites or forums with links to these promotional urls.
Now: add to this that I've actually been sent a copy of this alleged "manual". Let me tell you: it is extremely slim on any kind of technical details regarding the construction of either a solar panel or a windmill. It has very cursory descriptions of how to build each piece, but no schematics, no detailed parts lists with sample pricing, etc.
Check out this excerpt regarding how to secure your windmill in the event of strong winds:
but how do we stop it from rotating wildly during high winds or severe storms? This is not something we want as it could tangle the wires and damage them. The easiest home fix for this is to use a bungee cord. You may think this sounds like a cheap little fix, and you are right! It is a cheap fix and it works very well.
Ignoring for the moment that this would violate numerous building and safety codes, there is no legitimate construction manual I have ever seen in my life that would recommend this solution. Especially not one that is a digital download being sold for $49 USD.
It is also rife with spelling and grammatical mistakes which make it clear that this is definitely a money grab.
In comparison to the plethora of actual forums and discussions regarding DIY electrical generation (there are dozens of them out there,) I find it very hard to believe that anyone would seriously think that this "manual" is worth the money being paid. It certainly appears that more than mere "guts" are required, and the manual itself makes it extremely unlikely that anyone would "apply it real life."
The affiliate company behind this operation has been extremely active at responding to any negative commentary regarding this product. (Again: note their threats against a detailed analysis of why their product could be bogus.) The moment anyone complains about it being a scam, there is immediately a response saying that perhaps they didn't do it right, or stating that the person complaining just didn't bother to build it. This of course seeds doubt regarding the claims, so the sites are continually allowed to exist and be promoted. You can see a series of examples of this here.
I would have to say in the strongest possible terms: this product is a scam. It is worthless. Do not waste your money on it. As with any "product" being promoted via unwanted spam, it is utter crap, and not worth anyone's time, energy, or money.
SiL / IKS / concerned citizen
P.S. Update: it turns out that the nlcpr.com dissection already included lots of info from the actual pdf file these scammers sell. He does a very thorough job of refuting literally every claim in this so-called "manual." Again: do not waste your money. Thanks to readers who sent me this update.