One of the top genealogy news stories in 2003 was the arrest of Elias
Abodeely, a 23-year-old in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who ran a string of pseudo
genealogy sites. His arrest didn't seem to deter him: 2004 has started off
with a rash of the same advertising.
For those who missed it, let's briefly recap this scam. The sites involved
included GenSeeker.com, GenSeekers.com, genealogydevelopments.com,
genlocator.com, familydiscovery.com, genealogyfinders.net,
genealogy-express.com, and probably many others. Abodeely would send out
spam mail from one site, then collect money until the complaints mounted,
and his site eventually would be shut down by the hosting service. A week or
two later he would appear with a new name and a new site on a different
hosting service conducting essentially the same business. To access his
sites, the hapless buyer paid $40 to $60 (the exact amount varied from time
to time). None of these sites contained any genealogy information; they
simply had pointers to free sites where information could be found. In other
words, the buyer paid $40 to $60 to access something that was already
available free of charge.
Abodeely eventually ran into lots of legal difficulties. On August 1, 2003,
he was arrested in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on felony charges of first-degree
theft, money laundering, and ongoing criminal activity. He was released
later that day, and a court appearance on those charges still has not yet
His arrest did not slow Abodeely very much. A month later he appeared
selling worthless "self-renewing" genealogy CD-ROM disks under the name
GenealogyTechs.com. That site actually was registered to Andrew Abodeely.
GenealogyTechs.com was shut down in Septermber.
Things had been quiet for the past three months, but on January 2, 2004, a
number of newsletter readers reported receiving some fishy-looking spam mail
messages. In fact, the messages appear to be word-for-word the same as the
old ads for "self-renewing" genealogy CD-ROM disks sent earlier from
GenealogyTechs.com - except that the new ads are coming from
GenealogyTechs.net. A quick check of the WHOIS information shows that
Genealogytechs.net is registered to the same address as GenealogyTechs.com:
1013 Agate Street, Suite B, San Diego, CA 92109, the business address of
Andrew Abodeely. That is also the same address that ships the worthless
"self-renewing" genealogy CD-ROM disks.
In short, the Abodeelys seem to have reappeared after a three-month hiatus.
Elias Abodeely's earlier arrest for felonies doesn't seem to have fazed
either of the Abodeelys at all. At the time these words are being written,
http://www.genealogytechs.net is up and running and looks almost identical
to the previously shut down http://www.genealogytechs.com.
It is also interesting to note that the new site is like the old one in
several respects, especially in that it cannot handle credit cards. Instead,
the buyer is suckered into paying by an "e-check" that extracts money
directly from the buyer's checking account with no credit card involved.
Beware! This is one method by which the earlier
sites allegedly extracted money time and again from a buyer's checking
accounts! Several buyers thought they paid once but, after examining their
end-of-month checking account statements, found that they had been charged
time and again without permission. That is one of the actions that led to
Elias Abodeely's arrest.
Why would a company not offer payment by credit card? That is extremely rare
in the online world. The answer is simple: the owner's credit rating is so
poor that he cannot obtain the merchant account required to be able to
accept credit cards. In this case, he cannot even obtain a PayPal account,
which is easy for most people to obtain. No credit card service will give a
merchant account to someone awaiting trial on charges of money laundering by
using credit cards! Without access to a credit card merchant account, the
Web site owner is forced to resort to online checks, a risky method for any
buyer considering an online purchase.
Remember that purchases made online with VISA, MasterCard or American
Express are fully insured against fraud by the credit card companies. If you
get "ripped off" by a shady merchant when using a credit card, the credit
card companies will immediately refund all of your money and then will
pursue resolution with the merchant. PayPal transactions are also fully
insured in the same manner. However, if you pay by check, you have no such
protection. That is true both for paper checks
as well as for "e-checks." You receive only whatever insurance your local
bank provides. Sadly, most banks provide no protection at all against
fraudulent purchases made with a check or with a debit card.
Send a check to a con artist? You lose.
Any time you see a Web site offering something for sale and not accepting
credit cards, ask yourself, "Why does this merchant not accept credit cards?
Not even via PayPal?" Most of the time, it is because that merchant has
severe financial problems. Then ask yourself if you really want to do
business with such a merchant.
If you receive a spam mail from GenealogyTechs.net or any similar-sounding
scam, please forward it to the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Police Department's
Financial Crimes Division at k.was...@cedar-rapids.org. I suspect they
have an interest in the
"business activities" of this person, who is awaiting a court appearance
after being arrested by that department. Please feel free to also enclose a
copy of this article. You can read more about the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Police
Department's Financial Crimes Division at
Please feel free to also forward this article to other genealogists,
newsgroups, mailing lists, and anywhere else you feel is appropriate.