Apple profits from scam apps in the App Store

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If you search for “Microsoft Excel” in Apple's App Store, the top result is a $30 “Office Bundle," advertised as a way to "create Word, Excel and PowerPoint Documents." In reality, it's just a bunch of templates for Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, but that's not made clear in the description. The $30 purchase price is split between the publisher (2/3) and Apple (1/3). '

It turns out that the App Store is filled with scam apps like this.

From How-To Geek:

Let’s be blunt: these customers were ripped off, and Apple pocketed $10 each. And you’ll only see these comments if you scroll past the two five star reviews that mention the word “app” numerous times. Both of those reviews, by the way, were left by accounts that haven’t reviewed any other apps in the Store.

Search for other Office applications and you’ll find more template bundles, disguised as official applications to varying degrees.

There are also several $20+ applications that put Microsoft’s free online version of Office into a dedicated browser. Then there are the actual “apps” capable of opening and editing Office files, many of which use terms like “Microsoft Word” in their names. They appear to be slightly modified versions of open source applications, but we’re not about to buy them to find out.

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Life as a fake reviewer of women’s lingerie

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"This was not easy money, it was the most soul-crushing task ever," says Rohan Danish, who spent a summer writing 3,000 fake reviews and 1,000 shill comments for an online lingerie company. From Images:

“500 reviews done by you have been cancelled because of similar wording,” the email said. “Please reframe them by going through the products once more and using your imagination to describe them in a different manner. Don’t use adjectives to praise the product but just tell us how you felt after using them – even if you haven’t. Or just use a thesaurus.”

Great! Forty-eight hours of my work had just been scrapped, I thought, but responded with a polite apology, seeking time to fix the reviews.

Rohan doesn't say which site the reviews were for, but he was paid a total of $60 for a summer's work. (This was in India.)

See also: \FTC complaint filed against lingerie retailer Adore Me for deceptive marketing practices Read the rest

Anatomy of the IRS phone scam

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If you're like me, you get frequent calls from scammers based in India pretending to be from the IRS. They threaten to come to my house or place of work to arrest and jail me unless I pay them alleged back taxes in the form of gift cards(!). They are laughably bad at trying to con money (see my post "An IRS scammer called me and I made him mad"), but they do well with seniors and immigrants.

According to an article on Vox, "IRS Inspector General Russell George said his department heard from about 2 million people who said they received these calls — about 10,000 of whom admitted to paying the scammers, to a tune of about $50 million. And that’s just the people who contacted them."

In order for these scams to work, the Indian scammers need to employ criminals in the US to deal with the gift cards. On Thursday 20 people in the US were arrested for allegedly participating in a fake IRS ring.

This flowchart describes how the IRS scam works.

Previously: Indian call center employees posing as the IRS may have bilked Americans out of millions A tech support scammer explains his trade Read the rest

Terrific takedown of fake DIY phone charger tutorial

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The fakers at ADDYOLOGY posted a scam video purporting to create a homemade wireless smartphone charger that is both dangerous and useless. The always-entertaining ElectroBOOM did this epic takedown and electronics tutorial. Read the rest

Artist who denied authenticity of painting wins in court

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Artist Peter Doig, accused of damaging the value of a painting simply by denying that he was its creator, prevailed in court this week. U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman found that there no evidence that Doig created the work, but plenty that it was by someone else: one Peter Doige, with an "e".

Doig maintained from the beginning that he was the victim of a opportunistic "scam" enabled by similarity of the two artists' names and the recent death of Doige. Meanwhile, the plaintiff claimed Doig was "embarrassed" by a juvenile work that happened to expose a youthful stint in prison [Doige, not Doig, was imprisoned.]

Doige's sister, Marilyn Doige Bovard, testified that the painting was her brother's work.

As Doig's work sells for millions of dollars, much was at stake; the case was watched closely by artists and dealers concerned about an outcome that made it dangerous to discuss their own work lest they be sued by hungry speculators.

Others were angered that the judge had let the case go to trial in the first place, costing Doig heavy sums to defend himself even after producing ample evidence the painting could not possibly be by him.

The case is unusual because disputes over the authenticity of a work of art normally arise long after an artist has died. When artists are alive, it is widely accepted that their word on whether a work is theirs or not is final. Mr Fletcher claimed Mr Doig had renounced the work to avoid admitting he had spent time in prison.

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An IRS scammer called me and I made him mad

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One of those lame IRS scammers called me this morning.

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Famous artist says a painting isn't by him, gets sued for ruining its value

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This garage sale-worthy painting would be worth millions if it were by famed artist Peter Doig. But it isn't, says Doig. So its owners are suing him for interfering with their ability to sell it.

The owner, a former corrections officer who said he knew Doig while working in a Canadian detention facility, said the famous painter created the work as a youthful inmate there. His suit contends that Doig is either confused or lying and that his denials blew up a plan to sell the work for millions of dollars.

Doig says he was never anywhere near the detention facility in Thunder Bay, would have been only 16 at the time, and that his lawyers tracked down the real artist, Peter Doige ( with an 'e') who died recently. Doige signed the work—with an 'e'—and his family reports that he served time in Thunder Bay.

He died in 2012, but his sister said he had attended Lakehead University, served time in Thunder Bay and painted. “I believe that Mr. Fletcher is mistaken and that he actually met my brother, Peter, who I believe did this painting,” the sister, Marilyn Doige Bovard, said in a court declaration.

The prison’s former art teacher recognized a photograph of Bovard’s brother as a man who had been in his class and said he had watched him paint the painting, according to the teacher’s affidavit.

The plaintiff got the judge to bring it to trial, though, meaning it'll be very expensive for Doig (without an e) irrespective of who gets paid. Read the rest

'Spam King' Sanford Wallace gets 2.5 years in prison for 27 million Facebook scam messages

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A hacker who called himself 'Spam King' and sent 27 million unsolicited Facebook messages for a variety of scams has been sentenced to 30 months in jail.

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Four years later, Popehat's favorite con-artist is indicted

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More than four years ago, I blogged about how former federal prosecutor Ken White had tracked down a con-artist who sent a fake invoice to his firm. Now, finally, the scammer has been indicted. Read the rest

Scammers stole $2.3 billion in "business email compromise" attacks, FBI reports

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Businesses around the world have lost billions of dollars over the past few years to an increasingly popular internet scam in which criminals pose as company executives, and send faked emails to their staff ordering subordinates to transfer money into financial accounts controlled by the scammers. That's all according to an FBI alert issued this week.

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Cunning malware scam targets drivers whose GPS data is leaking

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A Philadelphia-area police department is warning locals about fake emails sent in its name to try and get people to install malware. The clever part: the emails contain accurate speeding data, targeting drivers whose GPS data is leaked to the scammers by shady apps.

It's suspected that the data is coming from an app with permission to track phone GPS data. That could either be a legitimate app that has been compromised, or a purpose-built malicious app that was uploaded online. As anyone who has used a GPS navigator knows, location data can be used to roughly calculate your travel speed. The emails ask for payment of the speeding ticket, but no apparatus is set up to receive such fines. Instead, a link that claims to lead to a photo of the user's license plate instead loads malware onto the user's device. This particular scam appears to be hyperlocal at the moment, however, it does show how these scams can progress. Like con artists, most of these scams rely on fooling users into thinking they're from a legitimate source.

An example email:

From: Speeding Citation To: (Accurate Email Removed) Date: 03/11/2016 03:08 PM Subject: [External] Notification of excess speed First Name: (Accurate Name removed) Last Name: (Accurate Name removed) Notification of excess speed Route: (Accurate Local Township Road –removed) Date: 8 March 2016 Time: 7:55 am Speed Limit: 40 Detected Speed: 52 The Infraction Statement contains an image of your license plate and the citation which must be paid in 5 working days.

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Man has fun pranking email scammers

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I'm enjoying James Veitch's weekly video series where he has fun with email scammers. In this episode, James has an exchange with a US soldier named Mary Gary who discovered a buried safe while on a routine patrol and wants to share the $15 million booty with James. Read the rest

Convicted Christian con artist Jim Bakker now just literally selling buckets of Bibles on TV

Noted Con Artist is at it again.

Behold, how the mighty have fallen.

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Awesome dance track made of clips of scamming televangelist who is also famous for his farts

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You know, I thought it wasn't possible to create anything funnier than “Farting Priest,” a now classic viral video in which scamming televangelist Robert Tilton is revealed as the gassy fartbag he truly is. Read the rest

Megachurch televangelists lay hands on Donald Trump, ask Jesus to vote for him

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GOP presidential candidate and noted scumbag Donald Trump met with a bunch of televangelists, Tea Party “teavangelicals,” and preacher profiteers at his Trump Tower office Monday afternoon.

The elite group, which included some megachurch chiefs who have previously been investigated by the federal government for misuse of donations, prayed while performing the “laying on of hands” to infuse him with the Holy Spirit. The goal: Jesus, get our man elected. Read the rest

Inside the profitable world of shill Yelp reviews

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I use Yelp and Trip Advisor reviews to help me decide which restaurants and hotels to visit. I assumed many businesses purchase shill reviews to boost their ratings and try to take that into consideration, but I did't know that the "review dealer" business was so large. You can buy 5-star reviews for your own business and 1-star reviews for your competition. From Atlas Obscura:

A 2012 Cornell University study found that, after a one-star increase in a hotel's overall review score, that hotel could raise its room rate by 11 percent and wouldn't scare away any new customers.

Jeremy Burke says he contacted the "not-shady-at-all sounding" Silverman Slim's review dealer posing as someone who'd like to get paid to write reviews for businesses:

A representative explained via email that once Silverman Slim's got "sales" for reviews in my area, they would kick me the link. Once I completed each review, I would get compensated through PayPal.

After expressing my enthusiasm for review assignments in both Brooklyn and Toronto—places I legitimately frequent — I didn't hear back for a few days. I sent an email asking for an update. They responded by asking me to share their information with local businesses, negotiate a deal myself, and write the review. And after all that, they'd still take a cut of the profit.

It didn't seem to add up.

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Inside a click-spam ad campaign

I'm fascinated by conspiracy theories and their origins. I'm also fascinated by the real people behind click-bait and spam email scams. This story brings them both together.

Reporter Zack Beauchamp went looking for Frank Bates, the face of a "FEMA hates this!"/"The secret Obama doesn't want you to know!"-style online ad campaign that sells overpriced dehydrated food (and lots and lots of fear) to middle-aged conservatives. He quickly discovered that Bates doesn't actually exist. Instead, the company Food4Patriots is the work of a salesman named Allen Baler who was just tired of working in an office and wanted to run his own business.

Unlike Bates, Baler doesn't live off-the-grid. He doesn't appear to be under any threat from FEMA and/or the Obama administration. It's not even clear that he's particularly conservative. But Baler is making an awful lot of money pretending to be Bates.

I wouldn't normally link to ThinkProgress, which generally seems to exist for the sole purpose of getting liberal people outraged about things. (I'm not particularly fond of the Outrage-Industrial Complex, no matter which side is participating.) But this story is a fascinating look at what goes on behind the scenes of scammy ad links you see all over the Internet and I think it's worth reading.

Baler started dabbling in this field in his free time after work. His first foray — a campaign he refers to as “How To Train Your Pug Dog” — got noticed by his boss, who told him to choose between making cheapo pug training videos and his “multiple six figures” salary.

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