Entries in Oakland (2)

Aug202011 People-Searching Website Sued as 'Scam'

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(OAKLAND, Calif.) --, a social-networking website that says it helps old friends reconnect, has been labeled as a "scam" in a lawsuit that claims it tells people "someone" is searching for them, then charges them for "a list of fake names." The site has now tried unsuccessfully to have the suit quashed, though lawyers for both sides said the case is in its early stages.

The class-action suit, filed in February in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., accuses MyLife of luring people to pay $7.95 for membership to find out who may be looking them up, then charging $100 or more to their credit cards.

"It gets worse," said the suit. "Victims of the ruse then find that MyLife hacks into their address books to target their friends, family and other contacts with spam solicitations stating that 'someone' is looking for them."

MyLife, along with its executives and investors, moved to have the suit dismissed, but District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled this week the suit can go forward, though only against the website and not, for now, against the individuals. The case has now been combined with a second, similar complaint. The next hearing is Sept. 1.

"Clearly the case is without merit," said Jeffrey Tinsley, CEO and founder of MyLife, in a telephone interview.

"We've been in business nine years, and we're proud of the service we offer," he said. "We wouldn't benefit from fake searches. We'd just get a lot of people angry."

MyLife's homepage is dominated by a bright green box: "See Who's Searching For You." In it, you can enter your name, age and ZIP code to "find out instantly," though before it gives you any results, it takes you to a new page, inviting you to enter your email address and "get alerts for new searches on your name."

The site also features "success stories" from members who found relatives or long-lost friends. The complaint paints a very different picture.

" is a scam that begins with a false solicitation telling potential victims that 'someone' is searching for them, and they can find out who by paying a small fee," the suit said.

It added that users do not realize they are signing up for long-term subscriptions.

"We want the money back, and we want them to stop sending out those phony solicitations," said Scott Bursor of the law firm of Bursor and Fisher, which filed the complaint. "People sign up, pay the money, [and it] turns out nobody's looking for them."

MyLife said in a news release that it has more than 60 million registered members, and "finds itself only behind industry giants: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn." It said unique visitor traffic grew 20 percent in July.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Police and Anti-Theft Software Combine to Nab MacBook Thief

Apple, Inc.(OAKLAND, Calif.) -- Two months after his laptop was stolen from his apartment, Joshua Kaufman on Wednesday reclaimed it at the Oakland, Calif., Police Department, thanks to the combined forces of a police investigation and an unusual sleuth -- a clever computer application.

"I'm here to pick up my MacBook!" Kaufman proclaimed to his nearly 6,000 Twitter followers Wednesday afternoon after arriving at the police station.

After losing the Apple Macbook in March to an apartment bandit, Kaufman, an interaction designer from San Francisco, activated an application he'd previously installed on the computer, called "Hidden," to locate it -- along with the alleged thief.

The app tracks the computer's location to within a few meters and uses a built-in camera to take photos. In addition to a street address, Kaufman was able to take screenshots of the computer in use and snap photos of the alleged thief driving, sitting shirtless in his bed, and even napping on a couch.

He alerted police, who told Kaufman they were unable to help due to "a lack of resources," according to Kaufman's blog post.

The Oakland Police Department conceded that a heavy case load can hinder some investigations. "We definitely have to prioritize our cases," said Holly Joshi, public information officer for the Oakland Police Department. "We get about 2,400 theft cases per month and we only have three theft investigators. There's a very high demand as far as theft investigations are concerned,"

Without a suspect in custody or any leads to follow up on, the police didn't have much to further investigate.

Undeterred, Kaufman took to Tumblr for some Internet justice, launching a blog called "This Guy Has My MacBook," loaded with the photos of the alleged perpetrator.

The site developed into a minor viral sensation, but some readers were skeptical.

"Unfortunately some people thought it was a viral marketing stunt, which it wasn't," Toby de Havilland, CEO of Flipcode LTD, the distributor of the Hidden app, told ABC News.

But any doubts were erased late Tuesday when the Oakland police were alerted by a call to the police media relations department.

"A media outlet called to ask if it was a hoax or if it was true. It was the first I had ever heard about it, so I located the burglary report he made back in March. As I did more research, I realized this wasn't a hoax -- it was a guy trying to locate his laptop," Joshi said.

Shortly after, the department notified Kaufman that there was movement with his case. Less than an hour later, he received a call from the Oakland Police informing him that a suspect had been arrested.

The suspect, 27-year-old Muthanna Alde-Bashi, was interviewed by investigators and has made some admission statements, according to police.

Now that Kaufman has been reunited with his laptop, there is growing hope for others. De Havilland said "Hidden" has seen a bump in website traffic and new users since Kaufman launched his Tumblr.

The application was initially created by a group of friends after one of their laptops was stolen. After using the program internally, the company released it to the public a few years later. It's since picked up hundreds of thousands of users.

Perhaps "Hidden" has earned a user for life in Kaufman. "Joshua has thanked us! We're really thrilled he got his MacBook back!" de Havilland said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio