Don't use Venmo for merchant transactions, example 1,001

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

In-depth investigation of the Alibaba-to-Instagram pipeline for scammy crapgadgets with excellent branding

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. Read the rest

New York Times profiles a sleazy Twitter follower-farm, the sleazy serial liar who made millions on it, and the celebs, politicians, sports figures and "influencers" who paid him

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. Read the rest

The science of carnival game scams and tips to beat them

Former NASA-JPL engineer Mark Rober explores carnival scam science and has a few tips on how to win, at least occasionally.

Read the rest

Quaker Apples & Cinnamon has "35% less sugar" because they've cut the portion size by 35%, while the price remains 100%

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

A talented impersonator is scamming Richard Branson and pals for millions

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

Amazon scammers' new trick: shipping things to random widows in your town

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

$12k-a-ticket Fyre Festival tells staff they're not going to be paid

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

Teacher: Jostens Yearbook is a giant scam that stole from our school for years

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

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

How a fishing guide's WordPress site became home to half a million fraudulent pages

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's tax-dodging offshore billions are sunk into Treasury Bills that pay out using Americans' taxes

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

Apple profits from scam apps in the App Store

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:

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.

Read the rest

Life as a fake reviewer of women’s lingerie

"This was not easy money, it was the most soul-crushing task ever," says Rohan Danish, who spent a summer writing 3,000 fake reviews and 1,000 shill comments for an online lingerie company. From Images:

“500 reviews done by you have been cancelled because of similar wording,” the email said. “Please reframe them by going through the products once more and using your imagination to describe them in a different manner. Don’t use adjectives to praise the product but just tell us how you felt after using them – even if you haven’t. Or just use a thesaurus.”

Great! Forty-eight hours of my work had just been scrapped, I thought, but responded with a polite apology, seeking time to fix the reviews.

Rohan doesn't say which site the reviews were for, but he was paid a total of $60 for a summer's work. (This was in India.)

See also: \FTC complaint filed against lingerie retailer Adore Me for deceptive marketing practices Read the rest

Anatomy of the IRS phone scam

If you're like me, you get frequent calls from scammers based in India pretending to be from the IRS. They threaten to come to my house or place of work to arrest and jail me unless I pay them alleged back taxes in the form of gift cards(!). They are laughably bad at trying to con money (see my post "An IRS scammer called me and I made him mad"), but they do well with seniors and immigrants.

According to an article on Vox, "IRS Inspector General Russell George said his department heard from about 2 million people who said they received these calls — about 10,000 of whom admitted to paying the scammers, to a tune of about $50 million. And that’s just the people who contacted them."

In order for these scams to work, the Indian scammers need to employ criminals in the US to deal with the gift cards. On Thursday 20 people in the US were arrested for allegedly participating in a fake IRS ring.

This flowchart describes how the IRS scam works.

Previously: Indian call center employees posing as the IRS may have bilked Americans out of millions A tech support scammer explains his trade Read the rest

Terrific takedown of fake DIY phone charger tutorial

The fakers at ADDYOLOGY posted a scam video purporting to create a homemade wireless smartphone charger that is both dangerous and useless. The always-entertaining ElectroBOOM did this epic takedown and electronics tutorial. Read the rest

Artist who denied authenticity of painting wins in court

Artist Peter Doig, accused of damaging the value of a painting simply by denying that he was its creator, prevailed in court this week. U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman found that there no evidence that Doig created the work, but plenty that it was by someone else: one Peter Doige, with an "e".

Doig maintained from the beginning that he was the victim of a opportunistic "scam" enabled by similarity of the two artists' names and the recent death of Doige. Meanwhile, the plaintiff claimed Doig was "embarrassed" by a juvenile work that happened to expose a youthful stint in prison [Doige, not Doig, was imprisoned.]

Doige's sister, Marilyn Doige Bovard, testified that the painting was her brother's work.

As Doig's work sells for millions of dollars, much was at stake; the case was watched closely by artists and dealers concerned about an outcome that made it dangerous to discuss their own work lest they be sued by hungry speculators.

Others were angered that the judge had let the case go to trial in the first place, costing Doig heavy sums to defend himself even after producing ample evidence the painting could not possibly be by him.

The case is unusual because disputes over the authenticity of a work of art normally arise long after an artist has died. When artists are alive, it is widely accepted that their word on whether a work is theirs or not is final. Mr Fletcher claimed Mr Doig had renounced the work to avoid admitting he had spent time in prison.

Read the rest

More posts