With so much focus on Nigerian-based scams, many Nigerian scammers now seek to use middlemen to help with things like bank accounts to keep suspicion levels lower. There are plenty of stories of people in the US, Europe and elsewhere who take "jobs" that involve having a local bank account through which scam money flows to Nigeria -- where they're allowed to keep a percentage of the cash. Often, they are not otherwise involved or knowledgeable about the scam.
That appears to be the case with one woman in Australia, who has now gotten in trouble... because she scammed the scammers out of $33k while managing the pass through bank account (found via Slashdot). She apparently had no idea of the scam that was going on (involving bogus online used car sales), but decided to keep some extra amounts of money. Of course, when some of those scammed in the car deal sought to track down the scammers... the focus shifted to her, where her own thievery from the thieves was discovered.
The story notes that the woman has now pled guilty to "aggravated fraud," though it's unclear if the fraud was for the original fraud from her "bosses" in the Nigerian scam ring... or for scamming the scammers themselves. Somehow I doubt they would press charges.
Two separate stories of two different fairly amazing scams by engineers have come out recently. The first one is the more incredible one, and it involves a guy named William Grayson Hunter, who apparently secretly had two separate full time jobs at two different companies, but barely spent much time at either, instead "spending his days at bars, amusement parks and movie theaters," but sent in time cards, including some that billed for more than 24-hours a day. One of his two full-time employers, Aerospace Corp., just agreed to pay the government $2.5 million after it was investigating Hunter's work that was billed to the government at a premium. Of course, there's no punishment for Hunter, who died in 2010.
The other story is a bit more conventional. A network engineer at Verizon Wireless repeatedly used the company's warranty contracts with Cisco to order replacements parts that weren't needed, and then sold them off and kept the money -- which apparently added up to $4.5 million. Like Hunter above, Michael Baxter had interests outside of work:
[Baxter] spent the proceeds on jewelry, cars, international travel and multiple cosmetic surgeries for his girlfriend, prosecutors said.
Apparently, controls and audits on such things have gone out of style.
The sheer chutzpah of Universal Music is really quite stunning. As you may recall, in 2009, it came out that the major record labels had been screwing over musicians in Canada with a bit of sleight of hand called "exploit now, pay later if at all." The way it worked was that labels would put old works on compilations without getting artists' permission, then put the artists' names on a "pending" list, which was supposed to mean that payment to those artists was "pending." Except the pending lists were never touched and the royalties were never paid. Labels not paying artists royalties is a pretty common issue, but here they weren't even getting any credit at all. Pretty sneaky. Realizing they had been caught red handed, the labels "settled" by agreeing to pay the $45 million in royalties owed.
However, it turns out that Universal Music Group actually seems to think that its insurance company should be paying the $14.4 million it owes (UMG's share of the $45 million). It's now suing its insurance company for refusing to pay. If you think about it for a second, you realize just how insane this claim is. Basically, Universal Music is claiming that it can simply not pay any royalties at all, then wait to get sued... and if it loses and has to pay, it believes its insurance company has to foot the bill. Now there's a business model!
We've seen similar scams for a few years now, but with the French three strikes administrators, Hadopi, sending out 650,000 first strike notices, it should come as no surprise that the scammers have jumped in to try to take advantage of people. They're sending notices to people pretending to be infringement notices from Hadopi. They ask people to click through to access their report. Following the link brings you to a cleverly faked Hadopi website, which asks for a registration code and provides the following instructions:
“To get the access code by SMS: Send CODE to 81083. For the confirmation code by SMS: send CODE to 81015. To get the access code by phone: call the following number: 0899 230 141. Confirmation code by phone: call the following number: 0899 230 148.”
And that's where the scam part comes in. The numbers are apparently premium access numbers, meaning that sending those text messages will end up costing quite a bit. Pretty sneaky. Yet another example of the kind of collateral damage created when you set up systems that treat people as guilty without any hearing or trial. It leaves itself wide open for abuse from scammers.
I can't find it now, but just a few months ago I got into a discussion in our comments with someone who insisted that newspapers or paywalls were always going to be a better place for advertisers because they actually knew who their readers were and could verify and audit that information. I noted that the newspaper industry has a long history of boosting circulation numbers through fraud. In response, I was told that doesn't happen any more. That seemed laughable. Indeed, reports have now come out that the Wall Street Journal Europe was involved in a complicated scam to massively boost its circulation numbers by giving companies cash to buy copies of the paper at greatly discounted rates. Even worse, it appears that some of the deals involved signed contracts with the WSJ, where they promised positive coverage of one of the organizations that would participate in this scheme:
The Guardian found evidence that the Journal had been channeling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal's true circulation.
The bizarre scheme included a formal, written contract in which the Journal persuaded one company to co-operate by agreeing to publish articles that promoted its activities, a move which led some staff to accuse the paper's management of violating journalistic ethics and jeopardising its treasured reputation for editorial quality.
Coming on the heels of the voicemail hacking scandal, this is another black eye for Murdoch's News Corp, but it looks significantly worse, given the generally positive reputation around the Wall Street Journal, when it comes to reporting and editorial ethics.
Apparently it's not that hard to scam a big company out of millions of dollars these days. You can just send a single email, pretending to be from a vendor of that company. That's apparently what a guy named Andy Surface discovered when he set up a bank account for an operation he called "Quad Graph," likely designed to be similar to Quad/Graphics, the giant printing company that prints many big name magazines. He then sent a single email to magazine giant Conde Nast, leading the magazine company to send that new account $8 million:
In early November, Conde Nast received an "Electronic Payment Authorization” form by email at its offices in ... New York. The form appeared to have been sent by Quad/Graphics. The form requested that Conde Nast direct payments for Quad Graphics to the Quad Graph Account, and provided account information. Conde Nast filled out the form and returned it by facsimile from its offices in ... New York to the facsimile number provided in the form. Following Conde Nast's receipt of the "Electronic Payment Authorization" form, Conde Nast started making payments for Quad/Graphics bills by ACH transfer from a Conde Nast account with JPMorgan Chase Bank in New York to the Quad Graph Account.
The whole thing was discovered when the actual printer noticed that it was no longer getting paid and asked Conde Nast what was up. Conde Nast went to the feds, who arrested the guy and amazingly discovered that all $8 million was still sitting in the bank account.
The various mobile operators have been making tons of revenue off of premium "short code" SMS programs. These are ways to add charges for various things directly to your phone bill. For example, they've become popular with various charities, so you can support them simply by texting a message to a particular short code. Of course, in many cases, the mobile operators charge you or take a cut for allowing this. And, of course, as with anything like this, it's been left open to scammers... and those scammers have moved in. Just as we saw with phone service cramming, where charges would be added to your landline phone bill, there's been a growing set of operations cramming premium SMS offerings.
Broadband Reports highlights the saga of JAWA, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company that's at the center of allegations of cramming. The company and a bunch of shells allegedly send text messages to people that say:
"Text back STOP if you don't want to subscribe."
Most people, of course, don't text back because they think it's a scam. What they don't realize is that even if it's a scam, it's the not replying that lets the telcos start adding fees to your bill. The big question here: why does any mobile operator allow charges to be put on your phone bill for inaction?
The blog AZDisruptors (normally about Arizona startups) has been calling attention to the company, including putting together this video explaining how the cramming works, how JAWA's CEO Jason Hope is apparently building the largest house in the US (complete with a 3-story night club), and how AT&T pretends (falsely) that it can't do anything about it:
Oh yeah, Broadband Reports also notes that Hope's former blog, which was all about the Lamborghinis and other luxury cars he was acquiring, has suddenly changed to point to a page about his philanthropic work.
The thing is, JAWA has been doing its thing for quite some time. After Texas regulators began investigating, Verizon Wireless finally realized it needed to do something and sued. Amusingly, JAWA's defense to the lawsuit appears to be that it employs lots of people and is good for Scottsdale. However, it also points out that it's made Verizon Wireless tons of money, and even complains that Verizon Wireless seems to be withholding money owed.
While it's nice that Verizon Wireless has filed suit, it appears this only happened after Texas regulators began investigating, and after they made money from JAWA for a period of nearly four years. AT&T now claims that it's investigating too, but only after AZDisruptors demonstrated company representatives blatantly lying to him about whether or not they make any money from this and whether or not they can stop it.
The big question in all of this really should be why the mobile operators allowed this to happen at all. Why would they ever allow charges to be added to an account as a result of inaction, rather than through direct acceptance?
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.
Homeland Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) group sure know how to create "international incidents" left and right. The latest (as pointed out by Slashdot) is that as part of the process of reviewing the cases of a bunch of Indian students who were allegedly duped by an operation called "Tri-Valley University" in California, ICE agents have put GPS tagging ankle-bracelets on the students to track their movements. According to the reports, Tri-Valley was a "sham" that helped foreign nationals gain immigration status in the US. That certainly sounds like it's broken the law, but to then go and tag the students with GPS monitoring bracelets while ICE sorts this all out seems rather aggressive -- and officials back in India are protesting the way the students are being treated:
But New Delhi is not happy with students being treated like criminals. Expressing "serious concern," a government spokesman said India has conveyed to the US authorities that the students, "most of who are victims themselves, must be treated fairly and reasonably, and that the use of monitors on a group of students, who were detained and later released with monitors in accordance with US laws, is unwarranted and should be removed."
It's almost as if ICE's goal is to make the US government an even bigger laughingstock for being the stereotypical over aggressive law enforcement cowboys often portrayed in the movies.
While it was definitely interesting to look at the reasons why Facebook was able to crush MySpace in the social networking world, it's also true that there are more and more questions about the sustainability of Facebook. We recently wrote about the claims of a potential toolbar scammer being one of Facebook's top advertisers, and while Facebook denies the company has ever advertised with them, others claim they're still seeing those very ads. Either way, a new research report suggests that scammers are increasingly targeting Facebook -- with some level of success. It appears this may quickly become Facebook's next big challenge. Historically, Facebook was more immune from scams and spam due to its private nature. However, as the company has continually pulled back on privacy and pushed people to open up more, it's also allowed in all sorts of openings for spam and scams.
Rikuo: the viewer's Kinect 1.0 would pick up the voice command and respond accordingly...by pausing or stopping the stream and going to the TV mode. I find that hilarious I also find the concept of Kinect 2.0 hilarious. So if you've got a bunch of people on the couch watching a movie...don't move a muscle. Stare blankly. Don't move your arms at all or say anything, or the Kinect 2.0 will think you're giving it a command. If you move your arm back to point to the liquor cabinet to tell the wife to pour you a shot of whiskey, the Xbox One will think you're swiping silverscarcat: *Spies something interesting in the Crystal Ball* Well, that's interesting. I'm not sure what to think. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of the guy, but considering what the gov't did, I support him in that endeavor, but this... Seems to go too far. dennis deems: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/22/1210687/-Obama-s-leak-freakout Best political cartoon ever? Top 10, surely Hey the green bars are back! Jay: Hmmm... Gonna have to hack my PSP... silverscarcat: I need a new battery for my PSP. :( It keeps shutting off if it's unplugged for more than 2-3 minutes, even on a full charge. Mike Masnick: green bars are back, and hopefully functioning better than before. :) silverscarcat: Oh look, AJ's having a cow and the internet tough guy is trying to be a stereotypical high school bully. *Rolls eyes* Hey, Mike, I know it's not in your nature to ban someone, but, damn, something needs to be done about this sometimes I think. Rikuo: unfortunately, nothing can be done. IP address block? Useless since either AJ is on a dynamic IP or he's on a static but using someone else's equipment. Username block? That would only add fuel to the "CENSORSHP" fire silverscarcat: Well, I think I'm going to leave for the day. That troll that plays the internet tough guy really should get laid, I think. It might help him think straight. Rikuo: holy fucking shit...I want to be this man http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/05/fios-customer-discovers-the-limits-of-unlimited-data-77-tb-in-month/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arstechnica%2Findex+%28Ars+Technica+-+All+content%29 Warning - Home Server pornz on that link BentFranklin: in that article, where it describes his rack, what does 1u, 2u, 4u etc mean? Jeff: @Bent - 1U, 2U, 4U are units of measurement for server racks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rack_unit Dark Helmet: Hell, I"m just a silly tech services sales guy and I knew that... yaga: DH you should have just stopped at silly.