That text informing you that you've been drafted into the US Army? It's fake. For now.

Apparently there's been a rash of fraudulent text messages informing recipients that they have been drafted in the United States Army and they should call the recruiting office immediately. I'd bet that the phone number is actually an international toll call and most of the fees go to the scammer, like the common "one-ring call" scams. From the US Army Recruiting Command:

The decision to enact a draft is not made at or by U.S. Army Recruiting Command. The Selective Service System, a separate agency outside of the Department of Defense, is the organization that manages registration for the Selective Service.

"The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual,” according to the Selective Service System’s official Facebook page. “In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft."

And of course that's highly unlikely, right? RIGHT?!?

image: Maj. Jessica Rovero Read the rest

Palm reader arrested for scamming $71,000 to banish demon from victim's daughter

Palm reader Tracey Milanovich, 37, of Somerset, Massachusetts, was arrested for conning $71,000 out of a client in cash and property. According to police, Milanovich "convinced the victim that her daughter was possessed by a demon, and that cash and household items were needed in order to banish the spirit from her daughter."

From CNN:

(Milanovich) is charged with six counts of obtaining property over $250 by trick, attempt to commit a crime, criminal harassment, larceny over $1,200 and intimidating a witness, a spokesman for the Fall River District Court in Somerset, Massachusetts, told CNN...

Through a business called Tracy's Psychic Palm Reader, police said Milanovich convinced a client that she needed to provide cash and purchase household items, including towels and bedding...

image: Google Maps Read the rest

The three biggest Chinese business scams that target foreign firms

Just in time for the holidays, the China Law Blog (previously) rounds up the three most common scams in China that target foreign firms: "Come to China and celebrate our deal" (foreign business person concludes a deal, goes to China, and is roped into paying for a banquet, gifts for the Chinese company boss, and filing fees -- there is no deal); "New bank account" (foreign business is told that an existing supplier has changed banks, wires payments to a fraudster); "Fake company" (a fraudster offers to register copyrights/trademarks/patents in China and just disappears with the cash -- or strings along the mark for ever-larger sums, concluding with fake evidence of registration that leaves the target company vulnerable to future counterfeiting). Read the rest

Man "registers" hive of bees as service animals

In Prescott Valley, Arizona, David Keller was annoyed by the number of people he believes are falsely registering their pets as service animals so they can take them anywhere they want. So he visited a site called USAServiceDogRegistration.com and registered a hive of bees as his service animals. Of course, as service dog trainer Jaymie Cardin told AZFamily, these sites "don't mean anything. You can go pay for a registry on one of those web sites, and basically, you're just paying for a piece of paper and to put a name on a list."

From ADA.gov:

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof...

Also, Federal Law states that only dogs and miniature horses can be officially recognized as service animals.

In any case, Keller called his prank a success due to the, er, buzz it generated. "(These sites) are making people believe all animals are service animals when they're not," Keller said. "And there's a clear difference."

image: "Western honey bee" by Andreas Trepte (CC BY-SA 2.5) Read the rest

As news outlets were shutting down for Thanksgiving, the University of North Carolina quietly gave white nationalists $2.5m to settle a lawsuit that hadn't even been filed

On November 27, just as the courthouses were closing and newsrooms were going to a skeleton crew, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina -- lately stuffed with GOP operatives and seemingly bent on destroying the university -- announced that it would settle a lawsuit with the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- a white nationalist organization devoted to installing the "traitors' flag" of the Confederacy across the south -- for $2.5m, diverting millions from educational purposes to building a Klan museum. Read the rest

Airbnb's easily gamed reputation system and poor customer service allow scammers to thrive

Vice's Allie Conti got scammed by an Airbnb host who promised her a really nice place, then made up a story about its toilets being clogged and shifted her to a derelict, filthy wreck of a house. When she tried to get her money back, she discovered that Airbnb had no effective systems for following up on the kind of scam she'd encountered, so she began digging. Read the rest

Here are five scams visitors to Prague should know about

Honest Guide is a YouTube channel for people interested in visiting Prague. It's got tips and cautions that are great to know about in advance of going there. I wish there were similar YouTube channels for other places.

In its latest episode, Honest Guide describes five common scams that tourists should watch out for. The most interesting one is not so much a scam, but a sucker bet. Some guy has built a structure with a horizontal bar, sort of like a pull-up bar. He sets it up in the middle of Wenceslas Square and has a sign that tells people that if they can hang from it for two minutes, they make 5 times the money they paid for. But no one can do it because the bar spins, making it impossible to hang from.

The host also recorded a recent encounter with a scammer who drove up to him in a Mercerdes while he was sitting on a sidewalk bench. The scammer explained that he had lost his wallet and needed to buy gas. He gave the host his "valuable" ring as collateral, but the host started recording the scammer. The scammer threatened to call the cops, and when the host encouraged him to do so, the scammer quickly drove away.

(One of the many reasons I like Japan is that in the 8 times I've been there, no one has ever tried to cheat me.) Read the rest

UK readers, beware of this fake VISA credit card scam

Jim Browning, who runs the YouTube channel called Tech Support Scams, recorded this call from fraudsters who "are robo-calling thousands of people in the UK with alarming messages apparently from 'VISA.' These messages are designed to alarm potential victims and is a ruse to gain access to people's bank accounts via remote access software." Read the rest

DOJ indicts 80, many based in Nigeria, in business email scam and money laundering

The Justice Department today announced indictments for 80 individuals on charges they ran a massive business email and money laundering scam that operated in part out of Southern California.

DoJ's 145-page indictment was unsealed Thursday, and charges 80 named individuals with conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud, plus aggravated identity theft and money laundering.

More than a dozen individuals were arrested during raids on Thursday, most of which took place in the greater Los Angeles area.

News of the early-morning Southern California raids on Thursday were first reported by LA's ABC7 News.

Zack Whittaker at TechCrunch:

But it’s not immediately known if the Nigerian nationals will be extradited to the U.S., however a treaty exists between the two nations making extraditions possible.

U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna said the case was part of an ongoing effort to protect citizens and businesses from email scams.

“Today, we have taken a major step to disrupt criminal networks that use [business email scam] schemes, romance scams and other frauds to fleece victims,” he said. “This indictment sends a message that we will identify perpetrators — no matter where they reside — and we will cut off the flow of ill-gotten gains.”

These business email compromise scams rely partly on deception and in some cases hacking. Scammers send specially crafted spearphishing emails to their targets in order to trick them into turning over sensitive information about the company, such as sending employee W-2 tax documents so scammers can generate fraudulent refunds, or tricking an employee into making wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the scammers.

Read the rest

Affluent parents surrender custody of their kids to "scam" their way into needs-based college scholarships

Propublica Illinois has identified "dozens of suburban Chicago families" who surrendered custody of their children during the kids' junior and senior years of high-school, turning them over to aunts, grandparents, friends, and cousins, so that the kids claim to be independent and qualify for needs-based scholarships, crowding out the poor kids the scholarship was designed for. Read the rest

When Trump's #TaxScam meant that affluent people no longer had to use the paid version of Turbotax, Turbotax started charging poor people, disabled people, students and elderly people

In most countries, you don't have to pay an accountant to prepare your tax return: the government already knows how much you made, so every year they just send you a pre-filled in form to check over and sign. Read the rest

Enjoy this fantastically weak bike accident insurance scam

From Wuhu in China's Anhui province comes one of the best worst insurance scam attempts ever.

(Newsflare) Read the rest

Google Maps is still overrun with scammers pretending to be local businesses, and Google's profiting from them

We bought a house in 2018 and have been renovating it pretty much constantly ever since: I've had to call out movers, emergency plumbers and electricians, find HVAC repairpeople, hire locksmiths, contract with a roofer, etc etc. Despite the longstanding and serious problems with fraud on Google Maps, I often start my search there, because I am an idiot, because 100% of the time, Google Maps sends me to a scammer. One hundred percent. Read the rest

How con artists use the Ouija board effect for their scams

In 1851, Michael Faraday secretly measured the muscle movements of Ouija board users who believed that the planchette was under ghostly control. According to Faraday, the users were unconsciously moving their muscles and but truly thought a spirit was pushing the planchette. A few decades later, physiologist William Carpenter dubbed this the "ideomotor effect." To this day, the ideomotor effect is a powerful phenomena and one that scammers have used to sell bogus "scientific" instruments. From the Wellcome Collection:

For example, in 2014, James McCormick, a British businessman, was convicted of selling fake bomb detectors to various international police forces. McCormick’s devices were marketed as using principles similar to dowsing, with extreme life-or-death stakes. The operator was supposed hold the device, called the ‘ADE 651’, like a wand, and allow its subtle movements to direct them towards dangerous substances.

The devices themselves have been determined to be entirely non-functional. But thanks in part to the ideomotor effect, they could easily feel functional, especially if the operator were confident in their legitimacy.

Since the late 1990s, non-functional detection devices with names such as ‘Sniffex’, ‘GT 200’ and ‘Alpha 6’ were sold by various scammers to governments throughout the world, including those of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, India, Thailand and Mexico. The World Peace Foundation of Tufts University, which tracks corruption related to international arms trading, estimates that fake bomb detectors generated more than $100 million in profit between 1999 and 2010.

"The psychology of Ouija" (Wellcome Collection via Daily Grail)

Vintage image: SFO Museum Read the rest

How to remove a common Amazon-bought car boot

The Lockpicking Lawyer saw a report about an illegal car-booting outfit in Chicago (embedded below), and decided to see how hard it is to remove the Amazon-bought car boots that scammers use.

It is easily defeated in a few seconds... so long as you have a screwdriver and a lock impressioning tool.

Looks like an angle grinder would make short work of it, too! Read the rest

Why you should never return a robocall - it could cost you a small fortune

You know when your phone rings once, then stops? Don't call back, unless you are willing to risk a very costly international call to Mauritania, even though the called ID shows it as a local call.

From Lifehacker:

If you get a call from a familiar area code, you might feel tempted to return it, but the Federal Communications Commission is now warning consumers not to call any unknown numbers back. If you do, you risk paying huge fees in toll number charges.

According to a recent statement by the FCC, this “Wangiri” (Japanese for “one ring”) robocall scheme is targeting numbers in short bursts, often during the middle of the night, using a “222" country code (located in Mauritania in West Africa). But scammers can mask their area code by “spoofing” or changing their caller ID information to reflect a local area code, according to Alex Quilici, founder of YouMail, a robocall-blocking voicemail app.

Image: g-stockstudio/Shutterstock Read the rest

What it's like in a scam call center

Jim Browning got a look into a Kolkata call center via one of the scammers' insecure machines: "You're looking at the webcam of a scammer named Deva ██████. He's currently uploading the phone numbers of people who will be his next potential victims. All are numbers of people who have previously fallen victim to a popup scam."

These guys are a particularly nasty group from Kolkata in India. They run a refund scam and this video shows what their call center looks like, how they operate, who and where they are. I've sent a link to the unblurred version of this video to the Kolkata Cyber Police (for all the good that it will do).

The offices are "small and cramped" and full of smoke. Read the rest

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