Hydroxychloroquine doesn't work against COVID-19 and may cause heart problems, largest study of its kind shows

Yet another medical study says hydroxychloroquine, the drug much hyped by Donald Trump, is not effective against COVID-19 and could also cause deadly heart problems. Read the rest

Big Clive examines a fake UV disinfection lamp sold on eBay

YouTuber Big Clive bought a "UV disinfection lamp" on eBay. He tested it first by turning it on and aiming it at the back of his hand for a few seconds and then sniffing his hand for "skin damage." There was no odor, which was a good sign that it's not really producing UV-C radiation, at least not in sufficient quantities to work as a germicide. He then took it apart to see what was inside and found "standard near UV LEDs." He says it is simply a "cheap near-UV disco light commonly sold on eBay in various color options... that's a bit naughty." Read the rest

Eggs and bananas frequently play role in curse removal scams

I never really thought about what goes into running a curse removal scam.

Westside Today:

According to the LAPD, Lee operated a psychic reading business in Culver City and met the victim, a Hollywood resident, several years ago. The LAPD says that during an eight-year period, Lee gained the victim’s trust and claimed the victim was afflicted with negative energy that was adversely impacting her life.

“Lee ‘verified’ the extent of the curse through a ritual involving eggs, and then required large sums of money to be given to her to further the ‘curse removal work.’ Lee told the victim the money would ultimately be returned to her, but this never occurred,” the LAPD said.

Detectives have spoken to two other victims with similar accounts and believe more may exist, according to the department.

“These types of scams are more common than one may think and target emotionally, physically and spiritually vulnerable victims. The scams often involve eggs and/or bananas to determine the extent of a curse, and a promise to return any money or valuables the victim may provide the suspect. Victims are often reluctant to report these incidents out of embarrassment and fear of being ostracized and scorned by their friends and family,” the LAPD said

Read the rest

This researcher learned how "triangulation fraud" works when she bought a used Nespresso machine

Nina Kollars is a professor at the Naval War College inside the Strategic and Operational Research Department. Here she is at DEF CON 27 explaining how she learned about triangulation fraud when she started buying Nespresso pods on eBay at a discount. Not only did she get the pods, she also received a new Nespresso machine worth $280. It sounds like a good deal, right? As you'll learn as Kollars tells her fascinating story, it wasn't a great deal -- it was a scam.

[via Dooby Brain] Read the rest

$1 million stolen in UK coronavirus scams

Criminals are tricking people who want to buy protective masks

In the United Kingdom, vulnerable people who are afraid of coronavirus have lost more than 800,000 british pounds ($1 million in US dollars) to coronavirus scams in the last month. Read the rest

The illegal things that unscrupulous auto dealers do to close a sale

Very few people enjoy the process of buying a new or used car from a dealer. ("Let me check with my sales manager." "How much can you afford per month? I'll make it work.") But while those tactics are obvious and annoying, some dealers will run schemes that are downright illegal just to close the sale. Over at Jalopnik, professional car shopper Tom McParland reveals some of those activities as reported by two consumer protection attorneys. Here's one thing attorney Steve Lehto says to watch out for:

Dealers that curbstone. They have a hard time moving the car off their lot so they advertise it on craigslist and pretend it is a private sale. (This may be legal in some states but it certainly is shady). The key? Beware of a private seller claiming they have a dealer doing the paperwork as a favor.

And attorney Daniel Whitney calls out these dealership tricks:

Inflating income and deflating monthly rent on the credit application.

Finance managers are notorious for inflating income so a consumer will qualify for a car that they cannot afford. At the same time, they decrease the consumer’s monthly rent for the same reason. I have seen many consumers with credit applications that say they pay no rent because they “live with family,” who also are stated as making double or triple their actual monthly salary...

The dealership steals the GAP (guaranteed auto protection) and/or extended warranty money.

The fraud here is simple. The customer pays for GAP and an extended warranty, but the dealership never pays the premiums.

Read the rest

Online mattress sales have given rise to a new kind of con game - reselling filthy mattresses as new

People are tossing old mattresses faster than ever before, thanks to online mattress peddlers who offer easy returns and 100-day guarantees. (It's not surprising -- the last time I visited a brick-and-mortar mattress store it had the same vibe as a sleazy used car joint.) The upshot -- tons of tossed out mattresses clogging landfills and the rise of scammy recyclers who collect filthy, vermin-infested mattresses, give them new covers and resell them as new.

The Guardian reports:

One scam involves fraudsters posing as reputable mattress recyclers. They set up an official-looking website and start offering their services to residents and businesses. When people bite, the fraudsters collect the mattresses, pick the ones in good condition, replace the outer casing, and then wrap in new covers that often have the logo of a reputable manufacturer on it. These secondhand mattresses are then sold as new. “Some of the mattresses you get from the general public are disgusting,” warns Allsopp. “If you strip the outer polycotton layer off a mattress, underneath it’s just a horror,” Scollick agrees. “That, unsanitised, is going into supposedly brand-new mattresses.”

It is easy to fall victim to mattress scammers: a member of Fitzsimons’ own family was duped. “I was agog!” he says. “In spite of all my stories over the dinner table!” A common scam involves a man with a van – often with the name of a reputable firm on the side – who goes door-to-door in residential neighbourhoods. He was meant to be delivering mattresses to a hotel, he’ll say, but there was a problem with the order, and they have surplus, high-quality mattresses.

Read the rest

Robo Revenge automates the process of suing telemarketers

Robo Revenge is the latest brainchild of Joshua Browder, creator of the robolawyer parking-ticket-fighting app called DoNotPay. Robo Revenge gives you a burner credit card, which provides its robolawyer with the contact info for the telemarketer, and then files a suit against them.

Vice has more details:

Robo Revenge combines both features to automatically add you to the Do Not Call Registry, generate a virtual DoNotPay burner credit card to provide scammers when they illegally call you anyways, use the transaction information to get the scammer’s contact information, then walk you through how to sue them for as much as $3,000 per call under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law already on the books meant to protect consumers from calls that violate the Do Not Call Registry. The app also streamlines the litigation paperwork by automatically generating demand letters and court filing documents.

“There are two types of scammers. There are the scammers based abroad who are trying to get your bank details—those people you can’t sue because you don’t even know where they are. But the type we can stop is the businesses like a U.S. based travel company trying to sell you a cruise and asking for your credit card number,” Browder said. “We can take them out with U.S. based laws. If they’re calling someone and every time they’re calling someone, there’s a risk of a penalty, maybe they’ll think twice.”

Read the rest

Fake news network stole from legit sites, flooded Google News and Alerts. Report blames NASDAQ & Thomson Reuters ex-employees.

“As they stole stories from real newspapers, these sites baffled scientists, activists, and journalists. Until now.”

How the infamous India gem scam works

If you go to India, you might encounter a person there who quickly befriends you and tries to build up a relationship of trust over the next few days. It could be that they recognized you as a swell person deserving of their attention, or it could be they are setting you up for a long con involving fake gems, leaving you up to $60k poorer than before you got involved with them. This video has the details about this scam, which is reminiscent of an early Mamet movie. The takeaway: don't do business with people you don't know well.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Shady home builder exposed

Detroit's Rob Wolchek (previously at Boing Boing) turns his ire on a local builder who has become notorious for shafting buyers of his superficially handsome disaster boxes.

The scam works like this: the happy new home-owner takes out a construction loan but the builder gets the money. The builder never actually pays the suppliers and subcontractors, however, whose only remedy is to stop work when they realize and pursue the homeowner, who ends up with a half-built house and a mountain of liens. Read the rest

The cum-ex scam stole $60b from European tax authorities: it's monumentally boring, complicated, and very, very important

Cum-ex (previously) is a technical, boring financial engineering technique that lets fraudsters file multiple tax-refund claims for the same stock transactions (they called it "dividend arbitrage"); from 2006-2011, the EU's largest, most respectable banks, law firms, and investors used the scam to steal $60,000,000,000. Read the rest

Illicit THC dealers are raking in the bucks on Instagram: Report

Not so dank, dudes. Read the rest

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

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