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U.S. Charges 14 Over $147 Million Scam

Federal prosecutors criminally charged 14 defendants with involvement in a $147 million stock manipulation scheme orchestrated in a New York boiler room, which swindled dozens of senior citizens and other investors.

Employees of My Street Research, based in Melville, New York, obtained shares at below-market prices from insiders of five public companies, and conducted wash trades and other manipulative trading to drive prices up, according to  acting U.S. Attorney Bridget Rohde.

My Street Research described itself as providing “unbiased stock research” and “top notch, detailed unbiased research.”

Prosecutors instead describe it as a boiler room operation that used high pressure sales tactics to inflate prices of shares which they or co-conspirators owned in a pump and dump operation – pumping up prices, then dumping stock on clients.

Victims were repeatedly pressured in cold calls and emails to buy shares and sign up for stock tips, and five defendants tried to launder $14.7 million of proceeds from the scheme, which ran from January 2014 to recently.

One such email, for the company Grilled Cheese Truck Inc, said “URGENT!!! MUST WATCH THIS LINK REGARDING THE ‘GRILLED CHEESE TRUCK'” and provided a link to a Fox Business Channel video titled “Soup Nazi Hits the Road with New Food Trucks”.

Prosecutors said the defendants Erik Matz, of Mt. Sinai, New York, and Ronald Hardy, of Port Jefferson, New York, managed the alleged boiler room My Street Research, which was previously called Dacona Financial, Power Traders Press and Trade Masters Co.

Other defendants include cold callers, people involved with stock research, and insiders or marketers affiliated with Grilled Cheese Truck, CES Synergies Inc, Hydrocarb Energy Corp, Intelligent Content Enterprises Inc and National Waste Management Holdings Inc, prosecutors said.

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

Warning: As Shown on Shark Tank

Shark Tank Is an American TV series about entrepreneurs pitching their new product or service to a group of very successful business people. If they like it then they may invest their own money in the new company.

It’s a similar format to Dragons Den shown in the UK, which is based on a Japanese show and lots of countries now have their own version.

Shark Tank is a big ratings success and won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Structured Reality Program three times. A ninth season is currently being planned.

However, all is not as it seems. The sharks don’t have long to assess the businesses, products and services in front of them and a lot has to be taken on trust.

Many, and possibly a majority, of the deals made on the show are never enacted, due to the investors’ vetting process following the deal, which includes product testing and the examination of the contestants’ personal and business financials. In some cases, the entrepreneurs themselves have backed out of the deal after admitting that they only wanted to appear on the show for the publicity.

Lots of spam and scam emails for products include “As Seen on Shark Tank” and use quotes from the programme.

These may or may not be fake but appearing on Shark Tank really does not prove anything is genuine. Being liked by the Sharks does not prove a product is any good.

Many of the deals made on Shark Tank never happen because due diligence shows up the entrepreneurs either lie about their situation or product or something goes wrong in tying up the deal.

So if you see something advertised as ‘As Seen on Shark Tank” then reach for the salt and certainly do not believe it.

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The Worst UK Nuisance Callers

The figures are for one week in 2017 and show the huge volumes of nuisance calls happening.

BT has analysed the data from its call protect service, that lets people block nuisance callers, to generate these statistics.

Number Categories Volume Proportion
1 Accident claims 12,211,599 41%
2 Personal details (Scam) 5,439,781 18.50%
3 PPI 1,892,479 6.40%
4 Computer scam 3,593,103 12.60%
5 Debt collection 2,212,713 7.50%
Other 4,131,102 14%
Total 29,480,477

Stupidest Scam or Spam of the Week

So, what’s the dumbest scam or spam on the Internet this week?

If you’re a trained carpenter or at least very experienced and proficient at woodwork then you might consider making a wooden boat. Clearly even a one man boat is a major piece of work for which you need the right tools, workshop space and a significant commitment to completing the build.

But there’s a moron who keeps sending out spam emails offering 518 boat building plans – step-by-step guides plus videos.

“It’s a simple yet BRILLIANT process to build boats … quickly and effortlessly”. “Anybody can do it”.

He claims to have just finished his second boat last week ready for a fishing trip.

Is there anyone dumb enough to believe that building a wooden boat by hand is effortless?

I hope there isn’t

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The Fundraising Preference Service

Charities have long been an established part of life, carrying out everything from hospice care to cancer research to caring for orphaned children to seeking responsible treatment of animals etc.

In Britain there are well over 200,000 registered charities and estimated to be a lot more that aren’t registered as they are too small.

Charities have a good name and do a good job but in recent years in the UK, many large charities became too focussed on collecting money and using unscrupulous methods to do so.

From reports of chuggers (the charity collectors in the street who stop you and wont let go till you’ve signed up) to the ones that trade names of donors so they can each cold call more people to those using boiler room tactics on cold calling. Some people have reported getting hundreds of such calls per week and being frightened to leave their phone connected.

There is now the Fundraising Preference Service.

You can register online at https://public.fundraisingpreference.org.uk/

Or call 0300 303 3517. You register yourself (or another person) so as to not be bothered by the charities you elect to block.

You need to supply your name and address and pick which charities to block.  That’s all there is to it.

You can register someone else on the service and they will be sent a message informing them of the registration. This is so that carers and family members and neighbours can register people unable to do so themselves.

Most of the charities have learned to behave better following the bad publicity but this will hopefully make them more responsible as well and stop a lot of the unnecessary bothering of people that still goes on.

In its first days, the FRP was receiving 114 requests per ho0r so you can see this service is very much needed.

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Facebook Adverts Target the Family

Facebook is introducing a new household audience feature that will let companies direct adverts to entire families or to specific people within a household. The tool could help aim adverts at people who influence purchasing decisions and other adverts to the people making the actual purchases.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The company selects the audience they want to target
  2. They uploads the custom audience data to Facebook (names and address, email addresses etc.). This may be data from their own systems or purchased data.
  3. They turn on the household audience feature to reach not just the person they’re targeting, but also other people in the same household.

Facebook is open about wanting to shift TV advertising to their platform.  Facebook executives said they’ll be able to identify members of the same household based on data, such as their familial relationships on Facebook, but also based on the frequency of shared check-ins or where they access the internet i.e. clever guesswork.

The tool might also be used to reduce wasted advertising spend. For example, if someone has already bought a household-specific product or service e.g. Netflix subscription, an Airbnb reservation—then based on the customer database, the marketer and Facebook know to stop showing such adverts to that household.

Along with the added targeting, Facebook is adding additional measurement capabilities. This will appear in the Adverts Reporting dashboard and show how campaigns perform in terms of getting results across members of a household. Metrics will include how many households the advertising reaches, along with the frequency at which they were reached. It’ll also potentially show how an advert shown to one person affected a purchase made by someone else.

Examples of how the new feature may be used:-

  1. A husband purchased products from Sonos, so he’s in the company’s customer database. Sonos might then try to influence his wife to get him a gift or their kids to buy him something.
  2. One member of the household who sees a hotel advert in France will find others in the household have seen it too, leading to the family making holiday plans.
  3. It could show parents ideas for their children and husbands the items his wife likes to look at.

This could spoil surprises or even expose cheating partners.

Many people already find the adverts that follow them around the Internet to be creepy. You look at a pair of shoes on Amazon then find every website you look at is showing you those same shoes.  This new Facebook feature could take that creepiness to a new level.

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