A rare class-action victory over Wells Fargo's fake accounts proves binding arbitration sucks

Wells Fargo got caught ripping off millions of customers by setting up fake accounts in their names, then billing them for "services" related to those accounts, sometimes tanking their credit-ratings, costing them jobs, even their houses -- but the company says you're not allowed to sue them because their employees fraudulently signed your name to a "binding arbitration" agreement that forces you to take your case to a fake judge whose salary they pay. Read the rest

Restoration revealed 1920s roulette table was rigged

Enjoy this simple and surprising tale from The Games Room Company, who were tasked with restoring a roulette table operated in Chicago throughout the 1930s: "we found that it had been completely rigged to defraud people and increase the odds of the house during play."

A button disguised as decorative screw, accessible to the croupier, would cause tiny pins to emerge from the ball track's surface, deflecting balls toward house-friendly ball pockets. Powered by batteries hidden in the legs (and dated by the newspaper used as dampers) the mechanism and its results would be undetectable at speed. Read the rest

Donald Trump, Jr is a patent-troll and his biggest client now does business with the US government

Oklahoma's Anyware Mobile Solutions was founded in 1997 to make PDA software, but after its sales collapsed, it changed its name to Macrosolve and devoted itself to suing people for violating a farcical patent that they said covered filling in questionnaires using an app. 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

Wells Fargo: preventing the customers we ripped off from suing us is doing them a favor

Wells Fargo admits that its employees opened more than 2,000,000 fake accounts in order to run up fraudulent charges against its customers (employees who balked at committing fraud were fired and blacklisted for life from the banking industry); it also says that the customers it stole from can't sue the company because fake account paperwork bearing their forged signatures includes a promise to enter into binding arbitration rather than suing. Read the rest

Tales from the ransomware "support line"

An article at News From the Lab (pdf) has 30 pages of copy from the support chat of a ransomware app: desperate pleas from victims for their files back, or, failing that, discounts on the unlock fee. [via]

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Bank fraud and Dieselgate: how do we design regulations that are harder to cheat?

Tim Harford points out that Dieselgate -- when VW designed cars that tried to guess when they were undergoing emissions test and dial back their pollution -- wasn't the first time an industry designed its products to cheat when regulators were looking; the big banks did the same thing to beat the "stress tests" that finance regulators used to check whether they would collapse during economic downturns (the banks "made very specific, narrow bets designed to pay off gloriously in specific stress-test scenarios" so that they looked like they'd do better than they actually would). Read the rest

Australia's Goldman-Sachs Prime Minister quietly donated $1.75M to himself to secure his narrow win

Malcolm Turnbull, the Goldman-Sachs investment banker turned Australian Prime Minister, secretly donated AUD1.75m to his own 2016 re-election campaign, giving it the funds it needed to squeak into victory. Read the rest

South Dakota Republicans want to block anti-bribery measure that limits lobbyist "donations"

South Dakota voters approved a ballot measure that would limit the amount of money state politicians could receive from lobbyists and other donors, capping "gifts" at $100 annually; now, Republicans in the SD government are seeking to block it, with an emergency resolution, a court challenge and an appeal to the governor. Read the rest

New York Attorney General's lawsuit lays out years of Time-Warner "fraud" against their customers

The New York AG's lawsuit against Time Warner Cable (now a division of Charter) lays out a damning set of accusations of fradulent conduct, including "f sky-high prices, chronic service outages, bait-and-switch plan offerings, lower-than-advertised internet speeds and other indignities." Read the rest

Senate Democrats boycott Trump cabinet confirmation hearings

After a wrangle on tactics that pitted the party establishment -- who feared that filibusters would provoke procedural reforms that allowed for a 51-Senator vote to overrule a filibuster, making future Trump appointments easier -- against party activists who want Senate and Congressional Democrats to stall, refuse and resist trumpism by every means necessary (perhaps banking on early impeachment, before a rule-change could do much damage), the Senate Democratic caucus has announced that it will boycott the confirmation hearings for Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and Steve Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary. Read the rest

19 crooks, 7,000 false identities, 1,800 drop addresses, and $200 million in credit card fraud

The New Jersey DA's office just announced that it had arrested New York's Habib Chaudhry in connection with a $200M credit-card fraud; Mr Chaudhry joins 19 others who've pleaded guilty to the frauds. Read the rest

Investigation accuses French right-wing leader of funnelling €500K to his wife for "fake job"

François Fillon is the French Republican Party's political candidate, the right-wing frontrunner against the neofascist Marine Le Pen. Following an investigation by the Canard Enchainé newspaper, French government investigators have announced an investigation into the period in the late 1990s and early 2000s when his British-born wife Penelope drew a salary of €7,000/month as his parliamentary aide; the newspaper alleged that Ms Fillon was not actually working in Parliament at that time and drew her salary for a "fake job." Read the rest

"Claque": how Trump revived the ancient practice of paid applauders

Trump launched his campaign in front of an "audience" of actors paid $50/each to wear campaign shirts and cheer wildly, and he's brought his paid cheering section with him into the presidency, bringing along staffers to applaud at key moments during his press conferences and other appearances. Read the rest

Accounting fraud admission wipes £5.5b off BT's valuation

The former UK national phone company BT announced that it's writing down the value of its Italian operation by £530m because it has been committing accounting fraud for years, triggering a mass sell-off of its shares, wiping £5.5b off the company's valuation. Read the rest

DoJ indicts six VW executives in total for Dieselgate fraud

It's not just regulatory compliance exec Oliver Schmidt -- arrested last week -- who faces personal criminal repercussions for his role in the Dieselgate scandal: five more VW execs have been indicted and face criminal charges, including the former head of VW R&D, the head of engine development, an engine development supervisor, and another regulatory compliance liason. Read the rest

Chrysler's Dieselgate: 100,000 Chrysler trucks said to have emissions "defeat devices"

The EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) say that since 2014, Chrysler shipped 104,000 trucks with "defeat devices" designed to cheat emissions tests -- like VW's cheating, this software was designed to produce low NOx ratings when the trucks were undergoing emissions tests, but to ramp up NOx emissions during normal road use, trading emissions for fuel-efficiency. Read the rest

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