Category: The Authorities

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: Are You on a Sucker List

Scammers trade a list between themselves of people who have fallen for scams and it’s called a “sucker list”.

Sucker lists, which include names, addresses, phone numbers, and other information, are created, bought, and sold by scammers, spammers and some dishonest telemarketers. Scammers know that people who have been tricked once are easier to trick again. As a result, these people are flooded with letters, e-mails and phone calls about inheritances, lottery wins, health cures, investments etc.

In 2015, almost 200,000 people appeared on 13 different “suckers lists” that were seized by fraud investigators. Trading Standards said those listed were being sent mailshots inviting them to take part in lotteries, prize draws, competitions and special offers etc.

The average age of people on the list is 75. You can see how scammers target the elderly and vulnerable.

If you’ve ever been scammed, chances are your name could be on one.

How Do You Know if You’re on a Sucker List?

If you have been scammed online and get more scam messages and mail than others then chances are you are on a suckers list and there is no way to get off the list except by not responding to any scam messages for a long time. Evenetually they may lose interest in you.

How to Avoid Getting on a Sucker List:

Ensure you are registered on all mail and telemarketing opt-out or do-not-call lists.

The following article explains how to do register with the various preference services.

http://www.fightbackonline.org/index.php/fightback/17-how-to-fight-back/30-how-to-stop-spam-letters

Don’t reply to offers of money, miracle cures, competition wins etc. If you didn’t enter a competition then  you cannot have won one.

If you are truly being bombarded, consider changing your email address and/or phone number, and keep them confidential/unlisted.

In 2017, sucker’s lists held by National Trading Standards contained nearly 300,000 names.

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Anthem Agrees Huge Fine for Data Breach

Anthem Inc., is one of the largest U.S. health insurance companies and it has agreed to settle litigation, over hacking that happened in 2015, for a total of $115 million. The hack compromised  79 million people’s personal information.

Anthem said in February 2015 that an unknown hacker had accessed a database containing personal information, including names, birthdays, social security numbers, addresses, email addresses and employment and income information. The attack did not compromise credit card information or medical information, the company said.

Some of the money will be used to pay for two years of credit monitoring for people affected by the hack. Victims are believed to include current and former customers of Anthem and of other insurers affiliated with Anthem through the national Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

“We are very satisfied that the settlement is a great result for those affected and look forward to working through the settlement approval process,” Andrew Friedman, a lawyer for the victims, said in a statement.

The Indianapolis-based company did not admit wrongdoing, and there was no evidence any compromised information was sold or used to commit fraud.

Companies do not want the bad publicity of a data breach so most do their best to protect against such events. But some don’t make enough effort and maybe this huge pay-out  will convince them that it’s cheaper to protect the data than it is to fight court cases.

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Starting a Small Claims Court Case

Before starting a small claims case in the courts, you should have made a serious attempt to resolve the problem or your case could be rejected for that reason.

But if that fails, then you need to know who the defendant is – you cannot start a court case without clearly identifying the defendant.  It also makes a great deal of sense to take legal advice before starting a case so you will have a legal opinion on whether you have a winnable case.

The next step is to gather all relevant evidence and if you believe you have a good case then go to the government website https://www.gov.uk/make-court-claim-for-money/overview

The fees involved are for example £100 – £170 for cases where the money in dispute is between £1,000 and £3,000, but the full list of fees is available from that page.

Start your case.

You can start a case on paper rather than online but the fees are higher and the process will take longer.

To use the online service you need to have a Government Gateway login and password. If you don’t have this then get it in advance as it will take days to receive the details in the post. Go to http://www.gateway.gov.uk/ to register.

Make sure you have a strong case before going down this route and make sure you have exhausted other simpler options first.

The steps involved are further outlined in the article http://fightbackonline.org/index.php/guidance/12-explanations/70-using-the-small-claims-court-to-sue-a-scammer

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Teenage Hacker Jailed

Adam Mudd has been jailed for two years for setting up a computer hacking business that caused chaos worldwide.

At 16 he created the Titanium Stresser program, which can be used to attack websites by flooding them with requests until the website crashes. This was used in more than 1.7m attacks on websites including Minecraft, Xbox Live and Microsoft.

He earned £400,000 in US dollars and bitcoins from selling the program to cybercriminals.

Mudd pleaded guilty and was sentenced at the Old Bailey. The judge, Michael Topolski QC, said the effect of Mudd’s crimes had wreaked havoc “from Greenland to New Zealand, from Russia to Chile”. He said that the sentence must have a “real element of deterrent” and refused to suspend the jail term. “I’m entirely satisfied that you knew full well and understood completely this was not a game for fun,” he told Mudd. “It was a serious money-making business and your software was doing exactly what you created it to do.”

The court heard that Mudd, who lived with his parents, had previously undiagnosed Asperger syndrome and was more interested in status in the online gaming community than the money.

Mudd admitted to security breaches against his college while he was studying computer science. The attacks on West Herts College crashed the network, cost about £2,000 to investigate and caused “incalculable” damage to productivity, the court heard.

On one occasion in 2014, the college hacking affected 70 other schools and colleges, including Cambridge, Essex and East Anglia universities as well as local councils.

There were more than 112,000 registered users of Mudd’s program who hacked about 666,000 IP addresses, of which more than 52,000 were in the UK.

He developed the distributed denial of service, or DDoS, software from his bedroom, and started selling it to criminals when he was at school aged 16.

At his sentencing hearing, the court heard the Titanium Stresser programme had 112,298 registered users.

One hacker can cause a great deal of damage intentionally or otherwise and there appears to be a community of hackers sharing knowledge and software.

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General Data Protection Regulation

The 1998 Data Protection Act was passed by Parliament to control the way information is handled and to give legal rights to people who have information stored about them.

Other European Union countries have passed similar laws and there is the complication that often data is held in more than one country.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)  comes into force in May 2018. It is an EU regulation and takes effect in the UK regardless of the BREXIT situation.

With so many businesses and services operating across borders, international consistency around data protection laws and rights is crucial both to businesses and organisations, and to individuals.

Who does the GDPR apply to?

The GDPR applies to processing carried out by organisations operating within the EU. It also applies to organisations outside the EU that offer goods or services to individuals in the EU.

It  does not apply to certain activities including processing covered by the Law Enforcement Directive, processing for national security purposes and processing carried out by individuals purely for personal/household activities.

It applies to ‘controllers’ and ‘processors’. The definitions are broadly the same as under the Data Protection Act (DPA) – i.e. the controller says how and why personal data is processed and the processor acts on the controller’s behalf. If you are currently subject to the DPA, it is likely that you will also be subject to the GDPR.

If you are a processor, the GDPR places specific legal obligations on you; for example, you are required to maintain records of personal data and processing activities. You will have significantly more legal liability if you are responsible for a breach.

However, if you are a ‘controller’, there are still obligations where a ‘processor’ is involved – it places further obligations on you to ensure your contracts with processors comply with the GDPR.

Does the GDPR apply to Personal Data?

Like the DPA, the GDPR applies to ‘personal data’. However, the GDPR’s definition is more detailed and makes it clear that information such as an online identifier – e.g. an IP address – can be personal data. The more expansive definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, reflecting changes in technology and the way organisations collect information about people.

For most organisations, keeping HR records, customer lists, or contact details etc., the change to the definition should make little practical difference. You can assume that if you hold information that falls within the scope of the DPA, it will also fall within the scope of the GDPR.

The GDPR applies to both automated personal data and to manual filing systems where personal data are accessible according to specific criteria.

 

Basically, if you are subject to the DPA then you need to plan to ensure compliance with the GDPR .

More information available at http://www.eugdpr.org/

Post Office Tears Up Scam letters

The Royal Mail has promised to destroy millions of letters sent by scammers. Also, where the Post Office believes letters are carrying money from UK citizens to scammers, they will be impounded and checked.

The Royal Mail makes a lot of money delivering “Marketing” letters of course so it’s not surprising they haven’t wanted to take action to stop the flood of scam letters included in that. The scammers were even able to use Royal Mail bulk mail contracts and have Royal Mail stamped on the envelopes.    This gave the letters a ‘trust’ factor.

However, pressure from newspapers, complaints and a word from the Prime Minister have brought about a change of heart and Royal Mail have introduced a new code of practice with all suppliers that lets them open letters they believe are scams.

Campaigner and broadcaster Esther Rantzen who has investigated postal fraud in the past said “I’m delighted Royal Mail is taking action to stamp out these appalling crimes against the most vulnerable people.  I’ve been horrified by the number of elderly people who’ve been victims of these fraudsters”.

Also, Royal Mail have said they will stop letters being sent to known scammers and where cash is involved – return it to the victim.

Royal Mail will also contact any homes they suspect of being targeted by scammers and will send warnings by recorded delivery to ensure they get to the intended recipient.

Good for Royal Mail and about time too.

To complain to the Riyal Mail about scam letters, emails or calls you have three choices

By post:              FREEPOST SCAM MAIL

By Email:            scam.mail@royalmail.com

By Telephone:    03456 113 413 (message service only)

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Russian Mass Spammer Arrested

An alleged Russian hacker has been arrested in Spain at the request of the American authorities.

Pyotr Levashov should have realised that going on holiday to a country that has extradition with America was a bad idea. He knew the Americans wanted him as he is responsible for the Kelihos botnet and has been on the top ten list of the world’s biggest spammers for years.

The Kelhios botnet is a huge array of computers setup to send out vast quantities of scam emails.

He was arrested on a U.S. computer crimes warrant and will be extradited.

Levashov’s arrest drew immediate attention after his wife told the Russian network  RT that he was linked to America’s 2016 election hacking. She said when she spoke to her husband on the phone from the police station, he told her he was told he had created a computer virus that was linked to Trump’s election win. This may be a red herring designed to attract attention to his case.

According to the cybersecurity site KrebsOnSecurity, Levashov was allegedly responsible for “running multiple criminal operations that paid virus writers and spammers to install fake antivirus’ software. “There is a lot of  evidence that he is the cybercriminal behind the Waledac spam botnet, which infected more than 70,000 computers and was capable of sending up to  1.5 billion spam messages a day.”

The U.S. authorities announced that they are working to dismantle a global computer network that sent hundreds of millions of spam emails worldwide each year.  The U.S. Justice Department said it was working to take down the sprawling Kelihos botnet, which at times was made up of more than 100,000 compromised computers that sent phony emails advertising counterfeit drugs and work-at-home scams, harvested users’ logins and installed malware that captured their bank account passwords.

Controlling the vast network since 2010 was Pyotr Levashov, a 36-year-old described in U.S. court documents as “one of the world’s most notorious criminal spammers.”

The investigators’ efforts are showing early signs of success in disrupting the botnet.

It is a huge global problem combatting these operations  that are well organised and well equipped and few governments can do much to stop them.

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The Disrespect Nobody Campaign

You may have seen some strange adverts on the TV and on posters in city centres. This is part of a campaign called Disrespect Nobody and is aimed at teenagers.

The Disrespect NoBody campaign helps young people to understand about healthy relationships, re-think their views of controlling behaviour, violence, abuse, abuse and what consent means within their relationships.

It aims to challenge attitudes and behaviours amongst young people that abuse in relationships is acceptable.

The campaign is targeted at 12 to 18 year old boys and girls and aims to prevent them from becoming perpetrators and victims of abusive relationships.

There are four TV adverts

  • A talking bra
  • Talking underpants
  • Talking eyes
  • A talking hand

DISRESPECT NOBODY

“There’s a person attached to every body, respect both”.

“Healthy relationships are all about respecting each other. You should feel loved, safe and free to be yourself”.

“Relationships can be confusing and it can be difficult to understand what is and isn’t normal behaviour”.

“But disrespectful and unacceptable behaviour can come in many forms. It isn’t limited to just physical behaviour; it can also go way beyond that”.

The UK Government backed and funded the “Disrespect NoBody” campaign.

The campaign has been criticised as it video doesn’t acknowledge that men can be the ones experiencing abuse in a relationship and uses key phrases like “Do you turn to violence when your GIRLFRIEND disagrees with you”

There are documents on the website for teachers and group leader to use in discussions with teenagers

https://www.disrespectnobody.co.uk/

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Chancellor to Stop Subscription Trap Scam

The Chancellor Phillip Hammond will announce on Wednesday 8th March his plan to stop the scam known as the Subscription Trap and end misleading consumer practices.

This is where you agree to buy a product or take free samples, only to find out later that you’ve been subscribed and money is being taken from your account or credit card regularly without you authorising it.

This is a very common scam and unfortunately you can’t get your money back as it has been legitimate, though morally wrong of course.

The Chancellor promises the new measures will represent a crack-down on misleading consumer practices, including those which end up costing people money they aren’t expecting.

  • End subscription traps. The Government says people can end up in ‘subscription traps’ after they sign up to a paid-for service without intending to – for example, when a paid subscription starts automatically after a free trial. To address this, it plans to develop options to put a stop to this and ensure customers are notified in good time before a payment is taken. The Citizens Advice Bureau estimates that 2 million consumers have problems each year cancelling subscriptions.
  • Shorten and simplify small print. The Government will consider options for making terms and conditions clearer to consumers, including making the key terms much more obvious, examining the use of tick boxes, introducing rankings on good practice and improving understanding of which terms cause most confusion. (some mobile phone contracts run to 40,000 words).
  • Create new powers to fine companies that mistreat customers. Consumer enforcement bodies such as the Competition and Markets Authority will receive powers to ask civil courts to fine companies – including those in unregulated markets – which breach consumer law.

“Whether you’ve signed up to a music or TV streaming service, shopping service, wine club or beauty club, the key is to look out for these subscription traps when joining and diarise when to cancel if you don’t want it.

The details in these proposals will hopefully become clear over the next few months as the Business Department work on this and the Business Secretary will introduce the changes in a consumer green paper.

This package, once it becomes law, should eradicate a lot of bad business practice and make life easier for consumers.

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