Legal Aid Fraudster to Pay £22M

John Blavo ran Blavo & Co. solicitors. He specialised in mental health law and clinical negligence.

But his real speciality was creating fake legal aid cases and charging the government for non-existent cases.

In fact, over 23,000 such fake cases in three years.

He and his family lived the high life – mansions, supercars, holidays around the world etc.

His company doesn’t seem to have been especially talented at making the fake cases – but the Legal Aid Agency carried on paying out even when there were no records of the cases he was claiming for.

Eventually the Legal Aid agency did begin to suspect and started to investigate.

Between April 2012 and March 2015, he claimed fees from for representing clients at mental health tribunals in 24,658 cases but only 1,485 cases had actually happened.

In November 2015, Blavo & Co. was shut down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

A high court judge ruled that although Blavo & Co was doing about 1,000 cases per year they were claiming for about 9,000.

As sole shareholder of Blavo and Co, John Blavo was ordered to pay back £22 million but he has not actually been convicted of any offence yet. He is under investigation, but why are the Police taking so long?

No wonder the legal aid is so high if this shows the quality of checks they make before paying out.

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Business Distribution Fraud

This fraud is where criminals pretend to be a well-known UK retailer and order goods from suppliers (usually overseas). The goods are delivered but payment is never made as it’s the criminals who received the delivery.

A recent example of this fraud was perpetrated on Moon Buggy which is a German company making child buggies.

Moon Buggy were contacted by a man they believed to be the purchasing director for John Lewis and they sent him 2 lorry loads of buggies worth £214,000 to a warehouse in South London.

They should have noticed that the man’s email address wasn’t @johnlewis.co.uk but @johnliwes.com  and they should have checked he was the real deal but they didn’t check sufficiently and are out of pocket for a serious amount of money.

The Police response to the crime was not convincing and Eddie Prendergast working in the UK for Moon Buggy started to search for the stolen prams.

He found them on sale on eBay and bought one so he could check the serial number – he had found the stolen prams. He identified names and addresses of the sellers and reported this to the Police.

Again, little response from the Police – just ongoing investigations.

There are numerous examples of this distribution fraud – always make sure to verify who you’re talking to where shipments of any kind are concerned.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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Facebook Secret Emails

The UK parliament has been trying to hold Facebook to account following its lack of control on data sharing and the massive data breach in 2017 which affected 87 million people.

Cambridge Analytica

The Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal in early 2018 revealed that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent and used it for political purposes. This was a shock to many people and showed Facebook had no regard for its user’s privacy or confidential information.

Six4Three

Six4Three are the makers of the app Pinkini and Pinkini was one of many businesses that shared data with Facebook until 2015, when Facebook changed its policies on how information was shared and this meant developers of the app were restricted in accessing data and culminated in the loss of business for Six4Three.

Six4Three then began a year long battle with Facebook.

The company claims Facebook misled developers by encouraging them to build applications based around promised access to data controls and privacy settings and then restricted access to that data.

Emails written by Facebook’s chief and his deputies show the firm struck secret deals to give some developers special access to user data while refusing others.

It is also clear that Facebook deliberately made it difficult for users to be aware of privacy changes to its Android app.

Damian Collins (UK Government chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee)

There was believed to be a secret cache of emails between Mark Zuckerberg and other executives that shows that Facebook knew about flaws in its privacy policy and allowed them to be actively exploited before the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

MPs discovered the documents were in the possession of an American software executive visiting London on a business trip and sent an official from the House of Commons to his hotel to retrieve them.

Parliament

It appears from documents that Facebook had been aware that an update to its Android app that let it collect records of users’ calls and texts would be controversial. To mitigate any bad PR, Facebook planned to make it as hard as possible for users to know that this was one of the underlying features.

Facebook is also known to have used data provided by the Israeli analytics firm Onavo to determine which other mobile apps were being downloaded and used by the public. It then used this knowledge to decide which apps to acquire or otherwise treat as a threat

Conclusion

Another example of how Facebook ignore their user’s right to privacy in the belief that the information provided by the users belongs to Facebook and that Facebook can do anything it wants with that data and can treat other businesses as badly as it wishes to.

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Review of Fifty Scams and Hoaxes

Fifty Scams and Hoaxes is a new book by Martin Fone and is described as a light-hearted investigation into some of the worst examples of financial skulduggery, medical quackery and ingenious hoaxing from history. Along the way we will come across a Pope advocating a drink based on cocaine, a pill to avoid hangovers, a woman who gave birth to rabbits, the man who broke the bank twice and the first examples of insurance fraud and scam emails.

“Author Martin Fone explores the psychology and methodology deployed by the scammers and shows what can happen when avarice preys on credulity and gullibility. The key characteristics he unearths amongst his despicable gallery of scammers includes; incredible claims, creative use of advertising, playing on people’s fears and aspirations, unscrupulous business practices and, when it all goes wrong as it often does, a propensity to flee the scene and leave others to pick up the pieces”.

It’s an easy book to read and is entertaining. We tend to think of scams as either the modern scourge of email, text and Internet scams or the large scale financial fraud such as Ponzi schemes but Martin Fone steers clear of the most well-known scams such as people selling Tower Bridge repeatedly, the South Sea bubble etc. and instead finds nuggets in the world of scams.

People have been scamming each other I suspect since humans began trading and Martin has found some very early examples of scams we think of as modern day.

Such as the 419 scams that we all get via email where the scammer offers a fortune but there is a catch and the victim ends up repeatedly paying small amounts until they realise there is no fortune to be had. Martin found examples of this scam from the days of the French Revolution where prison guards would get names of wealthy people across France and create stories of a servant and his master trying to escape Revolutionary France with a trunk of gold but needs the recipient to look after valuable items temporarily for him.  There are no items of course and the wealthy person is conned into handing over modest monies in return for the said fortune which doesn’t exist.

My favourite story in the book is of a diamond mine scam in the middle of the Alaskan Gold Rush. People already hunting for gold are a good target for further scams and many were tricked till a diamond expert realised the find of diamonds and gems in the same location was an impossibility.

An enjoyable read.

Martin Fone’s website is at http://www.martinfone.com/

Martin Fone’s blog is at https://martinfone.wordpress.com/

You can buy the book at www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/business/fifty-scams-and-hoaxes

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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