Here's how to spot a pyramid scheme

Pyramid schemes are the perpetual motion machines of the business world. They seem like they just might work until you do the math. Don't be a sucker.

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Office Depot, OfficeMax fined over faked malware scans

Office Depot, OfficeMax and other retailers will pay $35 million to the FTC over their use of fraudulent software that falsely reported malware infections on customers' PCs.

Customers who took their computers in for a free “PC Health Check” at Office Depot or OfficeMax stores between 2009 and November 2016 were told their computers had malware symptoms or infections — but that wasn’t true. The FTC says Office Depot and OfficeMax ran PC Health Check, a diagnostic scan program created and licensed by Support.com, that tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual “infections,” even though the scan hadn’t found any such issues. Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. Suppport.com completed the services and got a cut of each purchase.

It's likely that anyone reading this knows that handing over your computers to teenagers at big box stores is the exact opposite of computer security and the temptation to victim-blame will be overwhelming. Instead, consider this: if a human was held responsible they'd be jailed, but the humans who did this won't be getting in any trouble at all. Read the rest

FTC fines four robocallers behind “billions” of US calls

The FTC says the 4 companies made 'billions' of pre-recorded calls to phone numbers throughout America.

Yale rescinds admission for student whose parents allegedly paid $1.2 million to get her in

Buzzfeed's Julia Reinstein reports that Yale “has rescinded admission for a student whose family allegedly paid $1.2 Million to get her into the school.” Read the rest

Watch this voice actor's excellent prank on a scammer

Well played, IRLrosie! Read the rest

Fox hit with $179m (including $128m in punitive damages) judgment over shady bookkeeping on "Bones"

Fox has been ordered to pay $179m to profit participants on the longrunning TV show Bones; the judgment includes $128m in punitive damages because the aribitrator that heard the case found that Fox had concealed the show's true earnings and its execs had lied under oath to keep the profit participants from getting their share of the take. Read the rest

Ja Rule has plans for to Fyre up another music festival. Seriously.

Ja Rule, who claims he hasn't watched either of the Fyre festival documentaries, is ready to rise like a phoenix from the, er, flames:

"(Fyre is) the most iconiq festival that never was," he says. "So I have plans to create the iconic music festival." Read the rest

Netherlands court strikes down Dutch grifter's patent claim over Ethiopia's ancient staple grain teff

Teff is one of the oldest grains to have been cultivated, a staple for so long that its original cultivation date is lost to history and can only be estimated at between 1000 and 4000 BCE; it is best known as the main ingredient in injera, the soft pancakes that are served with Ethiopian meals. Read the rest

PayPal bans Laura Loomer, noted racist troll grifter

“They want me to be homeless and die!,” Loomer cries on Instagram as she asks fans to send her $40,000.

Trump's pastor to flock: Give me your January salary or God will punish you

Donald Trump's “prosperity gospel” spiritual advisor Paula White, a pastor who is reported to reside in an 8,000 square foot house and travel on a $2.6 million private jet, is commanding her congregation to cough up their January salaries to her or else God is seriously going to punish them so hard. Read the rest

Watch this trailer for the new Fyre Festival documentary!

The Fyre Festival documentary premieres on Netflix on January 18 and I can't wait. If you remember the Fyre Festival, you definitely weren't there... because, y'know, it didn't happen. And I'm glad, because if it did, we wouldn't have this fantastically ridiculous story. From NetFlix:

Created by Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule, Fyre Festival was promoted as a luxury music festival on a private island in the Bahamas featuring bikini-clad supermodels, A-List musical performances and posh amenities. Guests arrived to discover the reality was far from the promises.

Chris Smith, the director behind the Emmy Award Nominated documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, gives a first-hand look into disastrous crash of Fyre as told by the organizers themselves.

Read more Boing Boing posts about the Fyre Festival. Read the rest

How pyramid schemes work and why people keep getting suckered into them

Pyramid schemes are appealing if you don't understand how they work. This video explains how they work, why they are unsustainable, and the psychological tricks used to recruit victims. Read the rest

Inside the funny accounting that lets the money-losing fracking industry claim to be profitable

Fracking is grossly unprofitable: the fracking industry is losing hundreds of millions of dollars, but it claims to be profitable and august publications like the Wall Street Journal and Reuters repeat these claims as though they were true. How can this be? Read the rest

Megachurch pastor struggles to defend $200,000 Lamborghini purchase

A Lamborghini here, a Lamborghini there, sooner or later it starts to add up. Read the rest

What it's like to be a woman reporter on a cryptocurrency cruise where nearly all the other women are sex-workers

Laurie Penny (previously) got sent on the 2018 CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise -- a four-day cruise filled with "starry-eyed techno-utopians and sketchy-ass crypto-grifters" who solved the fact that there almost no women signed up using the "free market": they paid teen sex workers from Ukraine to ship out with them. Read the rest

Probing a mysterious network of dropshippers, evangelicals, crapgadgets, and semi-vacant Manhattan department stores

Jenny Odell is an artist and critic whose Bureau of Suspended Objects report on dropshipping (previously) was a fascinating dive into the weird, scammy world of crapgadgets and farcically poorly made fashion items sold through a network of "influencers" and turnkey ecommerce tool. Read the rest

Babysitter vetting and voice-analysis: Have we reached peak AI snakeoil?

The ever-useful Gartner Hype Cycle identified an inflection point in the life of any new technology: the "Peak of Inflated Expectations," attained just before the sharp dropoff into the "Trough of Disillusionment"; I've lived through the hype-cycles of several kinds of technology and one iron-clad correlate of the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" is the "Peak of Huckster Snakeoil Salesmen": the moment at which con-artists just add a tech buzzword to some crooked scam and head out into the market to net a fortune before everyone gets wise to the idea that the shiny new hypefodder isn't a magic bullet. Read the rest

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