Eric Abramovitz is a gifted musician, who can currently be found fulfilling the role of associate principal/E flat clarinetist at the Toronto Symphony: a position that thousands of musicians around the world would kill for. Back in 2014, he applied for another position that these same musicians would think kill-worthy, too: a placement with the Colburn Conservatory as a student. The conservatory is insanely hard to get into – only two students are accepted a year. When Abramovitz received an email from the Conservatory that denied him a spot with them, along with the scholarship he had applied for, he was gutted like a fish: music was his life and being able to study under renowned clarinet instructor Yehuda Gilad was a dream that was so close to coming true. To have it snatched away? Ouch.
But here’s the thing: Abramovitz was accepted into the program, scholarship and all. His girlfriend at the time, fellow musician Jennifer Lee, didn’t want him to leave her to further his education. So, she did what any young sociopath in love would do: she accessed his email account and deleted the acceptance message from the Colburn Conservatory. Next, she opened up a fake Gmail account in Yehuda Gilad’s name and used it to write to Abramovitz, saying, more or less, "tough shit, keep playing music, but you won't being doing it at the Colburn School." Pretending to be Gilad, Lee offered her sweet baboo the chance to attend one of Gilead’s other classes at the University of Southern California, knowing full well that he would not be able to afford the tuition required to do so. Read the rest
A man who helped bilk elderly Americans out of millions as part of a "calling about your Windows" tech support scam must pay $136,000 in fines to the FTC--and may never offer tech support again. Behold the merciless justice of the federal authorities.
Under the settlement, Brar — who operated Genius Technologies and Avangatee Services and does not admit or deny the allegations, according to court documents — “is permanently restrained and enjoined from advertising, marketing, promoting, or offering for sale, or assisting in the advertising, marketing, promoting, or offering for sale of Technical Support Services.”
The settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, and must still be signed by that court’s judge.
Phone-scamming seniors is and will remain a lucrative line of work in America, for those whose stomach for it. Fortunately for them, they can count the relevant regulators in that group. Read the rest
Centurylink is a giant, scammy telco notorious for larding its customers' bills with fraudulent charges, and instructing its customer service reps to do everything possible not to waive those charges; they also open fake accounts in their customers' names, a la Wells Fargo, and then rack up charges against them.
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.cm is the top-level domain for Cameroon, and the major use-case for .cm domains is typosquatting -- registering common .com domains as .cm domains (like microsoft.cm or apple.cm), in the hopes of nabbing traffic from users who fatfinger while typing a domain, and sometimes serving them malware or directing them to scams.
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If you have something to sell, and a buyer asks to pay using Venmo, you could lose both your money and your item. Jennifer Khordi is one of many who got scammed and wants to help others avoid her fate. Read the rest
Artist Jenny Odell created the Bureau of Suspended Objects to photographically archive and researched the manufacturing origins
of 200 objects found at a San Francisco city dump; last August, she prepared a special report for Oakland's Museum of Capitalism about the bizarre world of shitty "free" watches sold through Instagram influences and heavily promoted through bottom-feeding remnant ad-buys, uncovering a twilight zone of copypasted imagery and promotional materials livened with fake stories about mysterious founders and branded tales.
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Devumi is a sleazy Twitter-bot farm founded by German Calas, a serial liar who buys wholesale Twitter bots from even scummier bottom-feeders than him, and pays a series of low-waged patsies to direct them to follow people who want to seem more popular and influential than their actual Twitter follower-count suggests.
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Former NASA-JPL engineer Mark Rober explores carnival scam science and has a few tips on how to win, at least occasionally.
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Ever since I read Michael Pollan's advice to avoid any food whose packaging makes any nutritional claims, I've been a happy man -- but never so much so as I realize that this rule means I would never fall prey to the latest shitty scam from the Quaker oats people. Read the rest
Richard Branson got a call from the UK Secretary of State for Defence asking for his help in a covert ransom payment of $5m to rescue a ranking diplomat from kidnappers; Branson recognised the man's voice but he was suspicious of the plan to validate the scheme by sending an assistant to lobby of a government building to meet the Secretary's secretary and exchange codewords. Read the rest
Ziemowit Pierzycki bought a $1500 used lens from an Amazon seller who turned out to be a scammer with an ingenious trick: the crook researched a recently widowed person across town and sent them a parcel with a couple of baking mats addressed to the deceased "or current resident." Read the rest
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
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
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
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 -- 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
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:
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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.