$12k-a-ticket Fyre Festival tells staff they're not going to be paid

The organizers of the disastrous Fyre Festival— which charged $12,000 a ticket, splurged the proceeds on celebrity endorsements and other bullshit, failed to prepare the site in time for the rich kids flying there, then delayed the event as they went feral at the half-finished event site in the Bahamas, then flew them all home—has informed staff they will not be paid. But if they want to, they can volunteer!

On Friday, Billy McFarland, the 25-year-old founder of the disastrous Fyre Festival, told his shell-shocked employees that their paychecks covering the past two weeks would not be coming. Nor would he be firing them, a prerequisite for unemployment benefits in most states. Instead, McFarland offered to allow his dozen-or-so employees to stay on in unpaid roles, where they could work to grow the business to a place where they might get paid again.

The meeting, audio of which was obtained by VICE News, wrapped up weeks of uncertainty for the employees of Fyre Media, the company behind Fyre Festival, whose primary job had been building a celebrity and talent booking app the festival was intended to promote. Rapper and Fyre Media co-founder Ja Rule was on the grim conference call, but his role was that of a listener.

“I’m on the phone but I can barely hear you all because of this fucking hum,” Ja Rule said.

The organizers are millionaires and can obviously afford to pay their staff, and the reputation immolation of Ja Rule and McFarland is already complete, so the obvious opinion to take is that they're at the fuck all of you stage, where every last penny represents a tiny fragment of their narcissistic egos and will be pinched. Read the rest

Teacher: Jostens Yearbook is a giant scam that stole from our school for years

Jeromie Whalen is a technology teacher at Northampton High School who recently took over as the school yearbook advisor (one of the many cool projects he's done at his school); when he stepped into the role, he discovered with mounting horror that the school's yearbook contractor, the field-dominating Jostens Yearbook, was "literally a scam." Read the rest

How the "tech support" scam works

Security researchers at Stony Brook deliberately visited websites that try to trick visitors into thinking that their computers are broken, urging them to call a toll-free "tech support" number run by con artists that infect the victim's computer with malware, lie to them about their computer's security, and con them out of an average of $291 for "cleanup services." Read the rest

How a fishing guide's WordPress site became home to half a million fraudulent pages

Ned Desmond shares the scary story of how a small site he managed that advertised fishing expeditions ended up with 565,192 scam pages. He also suggests five ways to avoid the same fate. Read the rest

Apple's tax-dodging offshore billions are sunk into Treasury Bills that pay out using Americans' taxes

Apple -- which is one of the multinational poster children for tax dodging, along with Google, Amazon, Ikea and others -- has billions of dollars "offshore" and in theory they can't bring that money into the USA without paying tax on it; but thanks to some fancy accounting, much of that money is sunk into US Treasury Bills (floated by the government Apple is starving through tax evasion), and the US taxpayers pay Apple, about $600M so far. Read the rest

Apple profits from scam apps in the App Store

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.

Read the rest

Life as a fake reviewer of women’s lingerie

"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

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

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

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.

Read the rest

An IRS scammer called me and I made him mad

One of those lame IRS scammers called me this morning.

Read the rest

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

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

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.

Read the rest

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

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

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.

Read the rest

Cunning malware scam targets drivers whose GPS data is leaking

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.

Read the rest

Man has fun pranking email scammers

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

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