Copyright Pre-Settlement Virus A Lucrative Scam

from the scammers-love-a-new-scam dept

With all of the highly questionable pre-settlement lawsuits out there demanding cash from people to avoid a lawsuit for copyright infringement, we've heard of a few different scams designed to use the same tactics: accuse someone of copyright infringement and demand cash to avoid a lawsuit... even if the operation demanding cash has nothing to do with the copyright holder. One recent example of this was a bit of malware that, once installed on a computer, would generate fake infringement warnings from the RIAA/MPAA, demanding cash settlements. TorrentFreak points us to a report from Brian Krebs who got his hands on some documents from ChronoPay, the operation that was used to handle the payments in this scam, showing just how lucrative the scam has been. The documents only cover the past two months, but in that time, 580 people paid up, handing over $283,000 to scammers. Of course, this is only marginally less legit than the standard shakedown from various lawyers who are working with the copyright holders. But, the success of these scammers' operations is almost certainly driven in part by the success and press coverage of those lawyers who are sending out those mass pre-settlement letters. People are hearing about this and thinking any such threat is legitimate, even when it's a pure scam. Of course, this means you should only expect to start receiving plenty more such scam requests, demanding you pay up to avoid a lawsuit. Kinda makes you wonder if it will make the "actual" letters sent by copyright holders less effective as people just assume they're scam letters.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 10:44pm

    Perhaps the malware can secretly install infringing content on the computer and then direct lawyers to sue you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Zauber Paracelsus (profile), Mar 7th, 2011 @ 10:49pm

    Re:

    The MAFIAA has already been planting fake evidence of copyright infringement. I have absolutely no doubt that they would resort to such a tactic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    johan, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 10:56pm

    There was actually someone who was sued in one of the mass discovery cases in DC who thought just that--they initially ignored it until they learned this one wasn't going away...

    http://arstechnica.com/?old=mobile#!/tech-policy/news/2011/03/far-cry-p2p-defendant-pens- a-heartfelt-not-guilty-plea.ars

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Patent Litigation, Mar 7th, 2011 @ 11:39pm

    Similar story

    Here is a similar story

    Every day, millions of computer users share files online. Whether it is music, games, or software, file-sharing can give people access to a wealth of information. You simply download special software that connects your computer to an informal network of other computers running the same software. Millions of users could be connected to each other through this software at one time. The software often is free and easily accessible.

    Sounds promising, right? Maybe, but make sure that you consider the trade-offs. File-sharing can have a number of risks. For example, when you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unknowingly allow others to copy private files you never intended to share. You may download material that is protected by the copyright laws and find yourself mired in legal issues. You may download a virus or facilitate a security breach.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 12:00am

    Re: Similar story

    Talking about similar.....

    Do you think talking about IP Infringement is justified when you actually have fully copied this WHOLE comment from the University of Washington's P2P File Sharing Information Guide - part of the "2008-2010 UW General Catalog" (c) 2010??? [found 08MAR2001 http://www.washington.edu/students/gencat/policy/p2pshare.html ]

    Now being IP Solicitors (attorneys) do you think this in any ways shows unethical or unconscionable behaviour, or is it just highly similar to what you are trying to tell others not to do.

    For those wanting more information about similar comments: http://www.google.com.au/search?q=%22Maybe,+but+make+sure+that+you+consider+the+trade-offs.+File-sha ring%22&hl=en&safe=off&biw=1278&bih=855&prmd=ivns&filter=0

    ;)

     

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  6.  
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    Miff (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 12:41am

    So these scammers made hundreds of thousands of dollars and are still chugging along, but Wikileaks gets pulled within days?

    Shouldn't /this/ kind of thing be against Visa and MasterCards's policies?

     

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  7.  
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    Ben (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 1:26am

    Suggests those people might have a guilty conscience. I'd be surprised to find anyone under 40 who hasn't illegally downloaded content at some time. My Mum is 64 and does it daily. If she got one of these scam letters she'd pay up without question.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 2:23am

    You know you have a bad business model when the scammers steal your idea to make more money than you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 2:41am

    Re: Similar story

    What the hell? Are there people out there still using Kazaa?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 2:45am

    Re: Re: Similar story

    My favorite is the link to Brittany Beauty School, apparently a hotbed of file-sharing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 3:17am

    You would think anyone hit with this would do a little investigation before paying. If I live in say the US and the payment is through a website with headquarters in the Netherlands, Russia and Latvia, I might be a bit suspicious. Maybe just a little.

    The RIAA should applaud these efforts since it will help deter some people from further file sharing, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 3:28am

    Re:

    Russia is like the Nigeria of Europe LoL

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 4:54am

    Re:

    1) pass laws such that it is impossible to not break some
    2) send out extortion letters
    3) profit

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 4:56am

    Re:

    "The RIAA should applaud these efforts since it will help deter some people from further file sharing, right?"

    It is probably viewed as competition and therefore will be rubbed out

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 6:21am

    the success of these scammers' operations is almost certainly driven in part by the success and press coverage of those lawyers who are sending out those mass pre-settlement letters.

    Oh Mike, come on. Talk about working hard to try to slam "the industry" in one way or another. Do you have anything at all to back this up? Is there any suggestion of proof?

    I doubt it. By your logic, they are responsible for the success of the Nigerian scammers too, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    IrishDaze (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    Re: Re:

    Source for this tidbit -- "already been planting fake evidence"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    IrishDaze (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 6:37am

    Re:

    Or that the business model is brilliant but incompetently executed ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Blaine, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 7:22am

    I'm confused "Kinda makes you wonder if it will make the 'actual' letters sent by copyright holders less effective as people just assume they're scam letters."

    What do you mean "assume they're scam letters?"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 7:53am

    Re:

    You would think anyone hit with this would do a little investigation before paying. If I live in say the US and the payment is through a website with headquarters in the Netherlands, Russia and Latvia, I might be a bit suspicious.

    Easy enough for those of us who understand... but how is the average internet user going to know how to do that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    Nigerian scammers are generally preying off someone's greed in a too-good-to-be-true situation (someone's gonna transfer millions of dollars into my bank account and I get to keep it!).

    Both the scammers in this article and the RIAA/MPAA are preying off people's fear and ignorance.

    Now that I actually put it like that, the copyright industry looks to be a few levels below Nigerian scammers in the ethics department.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    No, but they're shining the light on how NOT to treat your employees.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 9:13am

    Re: Re:

    The question is fault. Mike is blaming the lawyers for enabling a scam. It's a pretty big claim, especially considering he has absolutely nothing to back it up with except his opinion. He is quick to slam people in comments who work from opinion, but we are suppose to swallow this concept whole because it comes from him?

    Freaking amazing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Simon, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    What's her address?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    ScytheNoire (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 9:32am

    Thanks MPAA/RIAA for helping criminals profit! Good work!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    Re:

    You know, like those 419 scams. Only with 'US Copyright Group' at the top, instead of 'Nigerian Embassy'.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    The eejit (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's an opinion. I share it. Does that make me a Fox Newscaster?

    ...Actually, it might. Scratch that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Re:

    Perhaps the malware can secretly install infringing content on the computer and then direct lawyers to sue you.

    Like Viacom and Youtube?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Richard (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Mike is blaming the lawyers for enabling a scam. It's a pretty big claim, especially considering he has absolutely nothing to back it

    He doesn't need anything - it's obvious to anyone with a brain and a little common sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 8th, 2011 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Similar story

    Why is this being flagged as SPAM? It may or may not be factually accurate (though I tend to agree that people sharing files online tend to not check their settings and may allow files to be uploaded to their system as much as they download them from others,) it certainly shouldn't have been flagged.

    People, use the report option to flag comments that are obviously spam, not comments that you don't agree with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:05pm

    Re: Re: Similar story

    People, use the report option to flag comments that are obviously spam, not comments that you don't agree with.

    But, Mr. Mike "censorship is always bad" Masnick provides censorship buttons on every single post so we can all censor each other while we talk about how terrible it is to censor anybody.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The question is fault. Mike is blaming the lawyers for enabling a scam. It's a pretty big claim, especially considering he has absolutely nothing to back it up with except his opinion. He is quick to slam people in comments who work from opinion, but we are suppose to swallow this concept whole because it comes from him?

    Freaking amazing.


    It is a ridiculous, unsupported claim. Gonna have to say it... faith-based FUD.

    Mike strikes again. What's new?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:27pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm confused "Kinda makes you wonder if it will make the 'actual' letters sent by copyright holders less effective as people just assume they're scam letters."

    What do you mean "assume they're scam letters?"


    I think the argument is that it's all the lawyers' fault that people are getting scammed. The people who consciously broke the law and brought on the lawyers in the first place--they did no wrong. And by the way, piracy is not O.K.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2011 @ 8:29pm

    Of course, this is only marginally less legit than the standard shakedown from various lawyers who are working with the copyright holders.

    So the shakedowns are legit? Weird. I would think that the shakedowns would be illegal, while the lawyers, on the other hand, are working within the law. Weird.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Mar 9th, 2011 @ 12:03am

    Re: Re: Re:

    no, stop trying to put words in out mouths.

    In the case of Evan Stone, there were serious ethical violations. In the case of uSCG, it was actually a case of copyfraud.

    Not once has Mike said that breaking the law should be punished; he's said that the law is asinine and should be changed. The lawyers I mentioned above were simply after money.

    And please remember there's a difference between civil infringement and criminal infringement. You seem to forget this. It's like the difference between a parking violation and supplying meth. One of them is not a criminal offence unless it happens a lot; the other will get you into a lot of trouble.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    mirradric, Mar 9th, 2011 @ 12:03am

    Re: Re: Add a 3 strikes law

    Add a 3 strikes law and we'll have a legal backed form of DOS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 9th, 2011 @ 1:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Similar story

    Actually if you read my reply to the actual comment you will notice that I flagged it quite specifically for infringing on the University of Washington's Guideline for Students.

    It wasn't specifically Spam at that point, though if you click on my second link you will notice with the amount of links found that have the exact same wording in other blogs by the same commentor that it could absolutely be classified as SPAM in the original context of SPAM [Stupid Person's AdvertiseMent]

    *the sound you are currently hearing are the dying cries of shrill trolls everywhere being pwned*

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    IrishDaze (profile), Mar 9th, 2011 @ 3:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Appreciate the response. I read through those links and have to say that either I misunderstood the intent of your previous post (possible), or you're equating two completely different concepts (also possible).

    In the post previous to yours, AC referenced "secretly install[ing] infringing content on the computer" prior to sic-cing attorneys on the owner. Your response referenced the *AA "planting fake evidence of copyright infringement."

    Interpreting these two comments together, *I* thought that you were describing drive-by downloads, disguised torrents, virus infestation, or other possible malware-type methods by which the *AA (or their agents) were underhandedly "pushing" copyrighted content onto the computers of the ignorant just to send them a shake-down (read: blackmail) letter.

    I was astounded to hear this, and dug around a bit. I couldn't find anything similar. Maybe there was an accusation during the discovery phase of a lawsuit that I'd somehow missed? Maybe this was breaking news you heard before I did? So I asked you for your source/s, and you provided enough to show me that we're simply not talking about the same thing at all.

    Both of the links you sent me were about the DHS domain seizure dragnet.

    The first link tells about the presence of both non-copyrighted and copyright-holder-or-agent-submitted content being cited as reason for inclusion in the domain name seizure. The second link mostly talks about a specific website cited for the copyright-holder-or-agent-submitted content and how absurd this has been.

    The first link is about the technical ignorance/incompetence of the DHS, and the second is about the situation of the myriad music industry arms not knowing what each is doing.

    Per the second link, the industries "various subsidiaries and independent promoters and DJs and mixtapes, and all sorts of stuff that the labels very specifically support with one hand" sometimes conflict with their other hands, and they seem to be unclear on the larger picture. Add the artists themselves, the executives, and the fans, mix well . . . And the industry is such a mess that the *AA has found it easier to call in a flock of attorneys and the DHS to resolve the idiocy of their own cannibalistic business model.

    I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt in that I misunderstood your original intent, because you really can't be unhinged enough to be equating the orchestrated, engineered blackmail of innocents and simple, garden-variety incompetence that collaterally damages innocents, right? ;-)

    But, by all means, if you *are* attempting to equate the two, do share! :-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 9th, 2011 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Similar story

    Actually if you read my reply to the actual comment you will notice that I flagged it quite specifically for infringing on the University of Washington's Guideline for Students.

    True, but even if it was copied verbatim from UoW's website, it is still speech. If I copy someone's website verbatim for a point I am trying to make (although I'd personally consider that to be extremely lazy, and thus wouldn't do such a thing,) I am still trying to make a point and that should be discounted on its merits, not hidden by a flag which means we have to click on the link in order to see it.

    Think of it this way...we don't report all the Anonymous Coward shills here specifically because even though they rarely say anything worth saying, and tend to push the attitude that "Mike is Evol", they still are contributing, albeit very poorly, to the overall discussion. They should be allowed to be seen, so everyone can realize that they are idiots, and not hidden so only a few who press the link discover it. That way, we can make up our own minds quickly about whether their hundredth post to the website is worth a read based on their 99 other posts that were childish rants on why Mike is the anti-christ and the rest of us are just minions to his cult. Hiding the other 99 posts because you don't like their message lessens the whole because all the sudden they come along with the perfect troll and we all get hit by it.

    Censoring any speech (except commercial speech that is not apropos to the discussion,) hurts us all. Freedom of speech isn't just a good idea because it allows everyone to be heard, but because it allows everyone to equally make a fool of themselves, and making a fool of yourself makes you human.

     

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  40.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 9th, 2011 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Appreciate the response. I read through those links and have to say that either I misunderstood the intent of your previous post (possible), or you're equating two completely different concepts (also possible).

    I am not the original responder. I realize we all look the same, but it is always a good idea to identify who is talking before responding. Zauber Paracelsus wrote the comment, you responded asking for evidence, and I provided them.

    But, by all means, if you *are* attempting to equate the two, do share!

    First of all, the first link had nothing to do with DHS. The first link was a report about the Viacom/Google suit where Viacom was accusing Google of copyright infringement for displaying videos without paying Viacom for videos that Viacom or its child-companies uploaded to YouTube. Talk about unclean hands. While I personally believe that there was no maliciousness on the hands of Viacom (left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing and all,) it could be argued that Viacom planted the evidence on YouTube, and then sued Google for having the planted evidence. Exactly what Zauber was saying.

    On the second link, the DHS shut down a bunch of websites, including two websites where they said illegal music was being made available to the public against the wishes of the artists/publishers when, come to find out, the artists/publishers uploaded said material to the website. So the website was shut down because the industry complained that the website was distributing material that they provided to the website.

    TL;DR: In both cases, Zauber could argue, were perfect examples of what you asked for, examples that the industry was planting evidence.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    G Thompson (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 12:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Similar story

    I'm actually in agreement with you in regards to the current usage of the 'report" button.

    The report button is normally in every website I have been in or administrated (and I have administrated/modded older sites like TheWell, Park, Bianca's, TheReef to name just a few) used for users to flag innapropriate comments that could be damaging to the site in question. Those flagged posts are then brought to the moderator/admins attention and it is for the administrator(s) to decide whether it should be hidden, deleted (with appropriate backups kept), moved to an OT thread, or kept in its original form.

    For example if a link was submitted to an what an LEO would classify as an Indecent Image (the average user knows this as CP) then the community as an efficient and fast way to notify the owners and removal is easy.

    As it currently stands with this software, and this is an assumption, after a certain amount of clicks by users the comment is automagically hidden unless you opt-in specifically to see it. Which is absolutely community orientated censorship and can be abused quite easily by a clique of users who do not like a particular commentor or subgroup of commentors.

    Other than changing the software to either highlight the post/comment with an icon like "trolls lurk here" or "Im with Stupid" or even make the thing in red italics This will always occur. Though having been in a wide range of sites, as seen from above, the community group dynamics here are way way way down on the scale that has me concerned that it is being abused in this manner.

    IN fact I quite like the current ranking system of Insightful and Funny in that it is not an arbitrary number out of 10 or 5 stars, which can lead to a lot of problems, and more to the point there is no way, other than for the admins, for anyone to know how many votes each comment actually has for funny or insightful which is fantastic for keeping community cohesion and would stop so many disputes based on ego's.

    Oh and if making a fool of yourself means you are human. I must be so human its uncanny! :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Mar 10th, 2011 @ 11:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Similar story

    Oh and if making a fool of yourself means you are human. I must be so human its uncanny! :)

    I think we all are (though I was in no way making a statement that you were making a fool of yourself at any time during this discussion.) Some of us are a little more honest about it than others. I appreciate the folks that make a fool of themselves and then have the balls to admit it, and strive to do so myself when I am called on it. But I value more listening to folks who have an opinion that is different than mine, because I am constantly re-evaluating my position on things and learning from mine, and other's, mistakes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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