Category: Fight Back

Fake Website Gang Sentenced

Six people have been given jail sentences after defrauding the public out of more than £37m in one of the largest UK online crime cases brought to court.

The group set up and operated a number of “copycat websites”, which impersonated official government services to sell British passports, driving licences and other key documents at very high prices. The convictions and sentences followed one of the biggest investigations undertaken by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team.

Peter Hall, Claire Hall, Syed Bilal Zaidi, Collette Ferrow, Liam Hincks and Kerry Mill received sentences of varying lengths.

The criminals plan was to create copycat websites mimicking websites of government agencies that charge  for documents such as passports, car tax etc. and spend the time and money necessary to ensure their websites come top of Google searches for people looking at how to get or update their passport etc.

They used the company name Tadservices Limited between January 2011 and November 2014 and their fake websites mimicked those of 11 government agencies and departments.

Customers were conned into paying more than they needed for new or replacement passports, visas, birth and death certificates, driving licences, driving tests, car tax discs and the London congestion charge.

The criminals then expanded their operation to make copycat websites mimicking similar government websites of the American, Cambodian, Sri Lankan, Turkish and Vietnamese official visa sites where travellers could apply and pay for electronic visas.

The illegal profits funded a glamorous lifestyle for the defendants, with extravagant spending on expensive cars and luxury holidays.

“These convictions represent an important milestone in the fight against online fraud,” said Lord Harris, the chair of National Trading Standards. “This was a huge fraud and a very large number of people lost money as a result of the malicious actions of these criminals.”

Handing down sentence on Tuesday, Judge Sean Morris said: “The internet is now the most frequently used marketplace. It is full of busy people in a rush who don’t have time. There is a lot of money to be made by dishonest people out of the honest people who don’t have time to check that a site is an official government service.”

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Councillor Pothole

Councillor Roy Owen got tired of just attending council meetings and decided to tackle some of the council’s problems by hand – potholes, litter, rubbish dumping etc.

Roy lives in Caernafon and the streets have a serious pothole problem but the council is short of money and the complaints from the residents pour in.

So, Roy armed with his van, asphalt, a blow torch and some tools started filling the holes.

Now, he does this for much of the week and also helps to get rid of rubbish piling up and other jobs as the residents need. He does have to skip some council meetings – what a shame.

Roy, who is 60, has been carrying out repairs for the last two years in his Seiont ward in Caernarfon and it’s all due to the number of complaints he receives from residents about potholes and that the council cannot deal with them in a timely manner.

Roy’s only cost apart from his own time is about £26-a-week spent on asphalt, paid from his councillor’s allowance.

He is trained in road repairs but the council is not so pleased with his actions and says that the work should always be carried out by a highway authority.

“I go out and deal with the problem head on,” he has said.

Unsurprisingly, his residents love him and he wins his council ward election by a huge margin each time.

Roy is what a councilor should be – someone who gets the job done and makes a difference.

Nice one Roy. You are an honorary Ninja.

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Stop Badware

https://www.stopbadware.org/

The site claims that “Our work protects people and organizations from becoming victims of viruses, spyware, scareware, and other badware”. That sounds useful.

The StopBadware project started at Harvard University and was turned into an independent nonprofit organization in 2010.

What is Badware?

Badware is software that overrides a user’s choice about how his or her computer or network connection will be used.

Some badware is specifically designed for criminal, political, and/or mischievous purposes.

These purposes might include:

  • stealing bank account numbers, passwords, company secrets, or other confidential information
  • tricking the user into buying something that they don’t need
  • sending junk email (spam)
  • sending premium text messages from a mobile device
  • attacking other computers to prevent them functioning properly
  • distributing badware to other computers

Badware is sometimes referred to as malware. It includes viruses, Trojans, rootkits, botnets, spyware, scareware, and more.

The StopBadware programme:

 

  • provides Internet users with important and timely information about badware
  • helps website owners, particularly individuals and small businesses, protect their sites from badware; offers resources and community support to owners of compromised sites
  • engages web hosts and other key service providers to help them effectively and transparently address badware websites within their zones of control
  • encourages companies to proactively share data and knowledge with one another; leads collaborative information-sharing efforts that create greater security for all stakeholders
  • conducts high-impact research on malicious websites, cybersecurity econometrics, and critical infrastructure, to name just a few

Some badware may not have malicious intentions, but still takes away the user’s control.

For example, a browser toolbar that helps you shop online more effectively but does not mention that it will send a list of everything you buy online to the company that provides the toolbar. In this case, you are unable to make an informed decision about whether to install or use this software.

Another example is when you install a piece of software, and that software installs additional software that you weren’t expecting. This can be especially troubling if the additional software does something you dislike or doesn’t uninstall when you remove the original software.

STOP BADWARE!

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3 Tools That Block Online Tracking

A lot of our activities online are tracked by a variety of organisations. The various tools described below operate in different ways and none can guarantee to eliminate 100% of trackers so it’s trying them to see if they suit what you want.

Sometimes this is just so they can display relevant adverts or to offer location specific answers (e.g. local restaurants), sometimes to learn about their customers and sometimes for less acceptable reasons. However, if should be our choice how much is tracked – not the software makers and users.

 

Ghostery   https://www.ghostery.com/products/ 

This has a large database of tracking entities i.e. software that will track you. You install the browser add-on then it can detect these entities and block them as you browse.

On each website, Ghostery displays a list of trackers from that site in the upper right corner of the screen.. You can then go to the settings page and block individual trackers or block all trackers.

The browser add-on is available for the most browsers.

Disconnect https://disconnect.me/

The browser add-on blocks trackers as it finds them, but allows requests that it considers to be necessary for loading content.

Disconnect detects trackers based on the number of requests they’ve made for your information, and displays them in one of four categories: advertising, analytics, social and content. You can choose to block or allow each tracker.

Privacy Badger https://www.eff.org/privacybadger

This tool is belongs to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and uses an algorithm to “learn” which social or ad networks are tracking you over time.

It initially allows third-party trackers until it detects patterns in third-party requests. Then it will start automatically blocking what it considers “non-consensual invasions of people’s privacy”. This approach may mean the tool identifies new trackers more quickly than its competition but it takes longer to be effective.

Privacy Badger is available for Google Chrome and Firefox.

You can see these tools operate in a different manner, all attempting to block online tracing without stopping anything you find useful.

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The Safer Internet Centre

https://www.saferinternet.org.uk

The safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three leading organisations: Childnet International, Internet Watch Foundation and SWGfL, with one mission – to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people.

South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) Trust is a not-for-profit charitable trust providing schools and other establishments with safe, secure, managed and supported connectivity and associated services, learning technologies to improve outcomes, and the toolkit for being safer online.

The partnership was appointed by the European Commission as the Safer Internet Centre for the UK in January 2011 and is one of the 31 Safer Internet Centres of the Insafe network. The centre has three main functions:

  1. Awareness Centre: to provide advice and support to children and young people, parents and carers, schools and the children’s workforce and to coordinate Safer Internet Day across UK
  2. Helpline: to provide support to professionals working with children and young people with online safety issues
  3. Hotline: an anonymous and safe place to report and remove child sexual abuse imagery and videos, wherever they are found in the world

The UK Safer Internet Centre is funded under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) programme of the European Commission. As such we contribute to the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) core service platform to share resources, services and practices between the European Safer Internet Centres and advice and information about a better internet to the general public.

The website pages are – About,  Safer Internet Day, Blog, Training & Events, Research, Get Involved, Translate

Advice Centre, Hotline, Helpline, Pupil powered e-safety

It contains a lot of advice and information, largely to do with young people, parents and carers but much applicable to anyone so it is a useful resource.

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SCARS Act Against Scams Campaign

https://againstromancescams.org/

The Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams (SCARS) claims to represent more than 25,000 people, dedicated to changing the world of online fraud for the sake of everyone.  They have been running a large campaign across 2017 and 2018.

SCARS say they are committed to doing everything possible to eradicate the plague of online scams.

To support that goal, they have developed a campaign for 2017 / 2018 to enlist the public’s help in providing direct information in the local community. they are asking SCARS Members to begin organizing opportunities in their towns and communities to inform and expand awareness about romance scams and other forms of fraud.

SCARS asks those that are interested, once they are approved for participation in the Campaign, to contact local community organizations, from schools to civic groups, private clubs, and even work with your local police, to better educate your fellow residents about these severe crimes and how they affect us all.

SCARS will provide you with a complete training kit that will help you learn more, and that you will use in conducting these presentations. The materials are designed to provide a 30 to 45 minute presentation, and allow for additional time for questions and answers. This will make it easy to cover the right information, regardless of your knowledge or experience. This helps you make a huge difference in the safety of your local community.

The SCARS™ Act Against Scams™ Campaign Kit consists of:

  • Introduction Brochure – for attendees
  • Introduction graphics to promote your presentation (can be used on social media)
  • Introduction Video – to allow you to promote your presentation (cane be used on social media)
  • Official PowerPoint Presentation
  • Presenters’ Guide
  • How To Report Online Crime Guide
  • An Official SCARS Presenter ID Card

All of the above are provided for you without cost, for download by the Campaign participant, and can be emailed to the entity or organization that will host your presentation. If you are producing significant results, SCARS may provide additional materials, including signs, etc.

They will also provide support to promote your events, and a webpage where interested persons can sign up for your presentations. This will also provide a means for you to follow up with the attendees for your presentations, enabling future local victims’ support.

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Scammers Targeting Elderly Are Caught

A Canadian con man who was caught on video bragging about stealing from the elderly was among 200 people charged by US Authorities with defrauding seniors.

Andrew John Thomas boasted about his sweepstakes scheme at a 2016 conference for postal scammers in Whistler, British Columbia, authorities said.

“My ability to whore my beautiful talent to sell this s— to people who don’t need it. It’s hard to be, it’s hard to be proud of it, but well I’m good at it.” said Thomas.

Authorities say Thomas masterminded the swindle of more than $4.5 million annually by duping senior citizens into believing they had won large sums of money. He targeting elderly Americans typically notifiying them via mail that they’d won a sweepstakes prize and all they needed to do to claim it was to pay a processing fee and money for taxes.

The mailings instructed recipients to return a response card with a processing fee in order to accept the bogus winnings. They received no money — only more solicitations. While many stopped sending money after realizing they had been duped, others continued to do so in hopes of claiming the prize.

U.S. law enforcement officials  announced what they labelled as the largest ever fraud enforcement action involving elderly Americans, charging more than 200 people and bringing civil actions against dozens more.

Agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, (the enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service), executed search warrants at 14 locations that some of the same fraudsters have run for years.

Officers from the Vancouver Police Department in Canada served dozens of search warrants as part of the enforcement action.

This was a clearly a well organised and effective take-down of a lot of scammers by co-ordinated action between US agencies and the Canadian Police.

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The Virus Checker Website

The website VirusTotal at https://www.virustotal.com was created to help people identify computer viruses. It does this by analysing infected files or URLs supplied to it and it’s a free service.

VirusTotal inspects items by using 70+ antivirus scanners and URL/domain blacklisting services, plus a range of tools to extract signals from the studied content.

How to use the Website

You can select a file on your computer and upload it to VirusTotal in your browser.

There is also the option of desktop uploaders, browser extensions and a programmatic API if this is to become a regular practice.

As with files, URLs can be submitted via several different means including the VirusTotal webpage, browser extensions and the API.

How Does the Virus Checker Work?

A submitted file or URL is scanned and the results shown on screen. The data and results are shared with VirusTotal partners who use the results to improve their own systems. As a result, by submitting files, URLs, domains, etc. to VirusTotal you are contributing to raise the global IT security level.

Scanning reports produced by VirusTotal are shared with the public VirusTotal community. Users can contribute comments and vote on whether particular content is harmful. In this way, users help to deepen the community’s collective understanding of potentially harmful content and identify false positives (i.e. harmless items detected as malicious by one or more scanners).

Commercial Service

The service provides qualified customers and anti-virus partners with tools to perform complex criteria-based searches to identify and access harmful files samples for further study. This helps organizations discover and analyse new threats and fashion new mitigations and defences.

VirusTotal not only tells you whether a given antivirus solution detected a submitted file as malicious, but also displays each engine’s detection label (e.g., I-Worm.Allaple.gen).

This is a valuable resource in the fight against computer viruses.

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Keurboom Communications Stopped

Keurboom Communications Ltd has been handed the highest ever fine of £400,000 for nuisance calling after more than 1,000 people complained about automated calls.

The calls, made during an 18 month period, including road traffic accident claims and PPI compensation. Some people received repeat calls, even on the same day and during unsociable hours. The company also hid its identity, making it harder for people to complain.

The law says that companies can only make automated marketing calls to people if they have given consent. Keurboom ignored this and called without consideration.

The government is working on a new law to allow prosecution of Directors and fine them up to £500,000. This is because some companies deliberately closed down to avoid the fines imposed on them.

Following the ICO’s investigation, Keurboom Communications Ltd has been placed in voluntary liquidation. The ICO says it is committed to recovering the fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.

How to Block Nuisance Callers

  1. Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) then reputable companies will no longer make sales and Marketing calls to your number.
  2. Use your phone to block repeated unwanted callers and caller ID withheld numbers. Some phones allow you to do this and some services such as BT Call Protect enable this.
  3. Use the magic phone number when a website demands your number. (More information at https://fightback.ninja/a-magic-phone-number-and-call-blocking/)

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

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