"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated? Now you can find out the truth."
That's a banner on the website for SMS Privato Spy, which advertises smartphone spyware that allows customers to secretly monitor a spouse or co-worker's phone and collect that person's calls, texts and GPS locations.
According to security experts, however, the truth is that customers have been getting nothing for the $50, $75, $100 or $125 they paid for one of Privato Spy's four packages.
"There is no such product as SMS Privato Spy," Symantec security expert Peter Coogan said in a blog posting.
Calls and emails to Privato Spy and to 1 and 1 Internet Inc., the Chesterbrook, Pa.-based domain registrar hosting the site, were not returned.
Coogan said that when people attempt to purchase the spyware, they obtain a voucher PIN code from an online payment site called PaySafe. They use the code to register and "purchase" Privato Spy. Customers receive a message that their order is being processed and will be finalized within 24 hours.
That's the extent of the legitimate communication, Coogan wrote. From there, the payments go to the operators of the site, and the unfortunate customers receive nothing.
User comments on an Oct. 21 blog posting by an employee from the Lynn, Mass.-based private investigation firm Murphy & Associates echoed Coogan's claims that the spy software was a scam.
"I have sent them the money through PaySafe card," a user named Christos wrote. "They replied to me that they have received the money and they will send me the user name and password within 24 hours. Until this moment I haven't received anything from them. They don't even reply to my emails. I fell into their trap and I will try to find a way to take them to court."
D. Wayne Patterson, another commenter, wrote Nov. 22 that Privato Spy "is simply a scam perpetrated by two young men in their early 20s."
A Pastebin post announcing SMS Privato Spy appeared Oct. 10. The announcement, signed "Steven Pattrickson," included an address of 1250 Oakmead Parkway, Sunnyvale, Calif.
SecurityNewsDaily found that an office building, Pacific Business Center, exists at this address. A building representative told SecurityNewsDaily no company called Privato Spy has office space in the building.