Suspicion re Cestagi

I received this email:

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2012 15:06:16 +0000
Subject: Curriculum Vitae for Scientists and Researchers
From: Olivia Frogous olivia.frogous@gmail.com

Dear Kai Von Fintel,

I would like you to consider Cestagi when updating your curriculum vitae for this upcoming academic year. Cestagi is a web application that allows you to create and manage your CV with ease using academic best practices. Your personalized CV page can be monitored using Google-like visitor analytics and easily exported offline into Word, Latex, or PDF using various templates including NSF and NIH standards.

I encourage you to take some time and learn more about this free service by visiting:

http://www.cestagi.com/

Please recommend Cestagi to your colleagues and friends who you feel would benefit from it.

Best regards,

Olivia
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology

I know of no “Olivia Frogous” at MIT and a search verified that there is no such person here. A Google search revealed at least one page where another institution was warning about this person (who had identified themselves as being affiliated with that institution in an email). So, appropriately suspicious, I looked at the advertised web service for sharing CVs.

At first glance, it looks legitimate and includes a privacy policy and terms & conditions of use. But there’s no information whatsoever on the site about who is behind the service and where it is run from. The whois information on the domain is deliberately uninformative as well, it just states who their registrar and webhost is.

There is a Quora query about this service with a positive reply from someone calling themselves “Mark Frendrope”, whose only presence on the web appears to be to tout Cestagi in a few places.

At this point, I can only assume that this may well be a fraudulent enterprise, perhaps designed to harvest personal information from those who upload their CVs to it. I would stay away from it at all costs and look for other ways of sharing academic information about yourself (Academia.edu comes to mind, or just posting your CV on your own webpages).

To repeat, following up on the fraudulent claim in the email signature that “Olivia Frogous” is affiliated with MIT somehow, I have found no evidence that Cestagi is a legitimate service with identifiable people standing behind it.

Update (2012-11-20): After I posted this note, I was immediately contacted by anonymous staff at Cestagi and asked to take the note down. I said I would update it if they gave me relevant information and and if they explained the spam campaign. It took quite a while but the website is now updated and identifies the owner (and sole staff?) of the site as Adrian M. Kopacz, a recent Mechanical Engineering PhD from Northwestern University.

I’m still awaiting an explanation for the spam campaign and the fraudulent affiliation claims by the spammers. By the way, a friend reported getting similar emails: from “Ann Mrego”, purportedly affiliated with Northwestern University, and “Stan Latuga”, “from” UC Berkeley; both institutions my friend has had e-mail accounts with. Google searches did not turn up any results for these people at these institutions. So, it does seem like there was a systematic campaign and I hope it’s not continuing.

Update (2013-01-29): I still have a bad feeling about this operation. Adrian Kopacz emailed me as follows: “I wish for you to remove this content, including my personal information, as it reflects negatively on the branding of Cestagi.” I do not intend to take this down nor to revise its cautionary tone unless and until the spammy character of the enterprise is cleaned up. I fail to see why this individual would not want his personal information to be associated with his own project, unless, of course, the project is not one that he can be proud of.

In the mean time, another MIT affiliate reports receiving an email touting Cestagi, this one from “John Merlocke”, another name that does not turn up anything via Google search, except a shell Google+ profile. So, the spamming campaign from made-up people does seem to be continuing. [I do wonder which fake name generator is being used to make up these names.]

One more update (2013-01-29): Word now that the spam/phishing campaign definitely continues unabated. Researchers at the United States Geological Survey have been receiving identical emails touting Cestagi from someone called “Stacy Ferando” (again a name that yields no Google hits other than a shell Google+ profile).

The template that the campaign currently uses is this:

Dear $X,

I noticed you have an outdated curriculum vitae web page. You should keep it up-to-date while working at $Y.

You may want to take advantage of Cestagi to create and maintain a curriculum vitae following academic regulations and best practices:

http://www.cestagi.com/

Please let others know about this free platform. I believe it will be of great benefit to everyone.

Warm regards,

$FAKE-NAME

Needless to say, my correspondents do not have outdated CVs.

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