United Nations Police 419 Scam

419 scams are any scam where you are promised something highly valuable but have to pay small charges to get to that valuable item. These are often carried out by Nigerians – or people claiming to be Nigerian.

Typical examples include someone claiming to have lots of gold and just needs to ship it to your address and you get to keep a big percentage or maybe lots of cash in a bank box that you just need to send in proof of identity and pay some small fees to get the box.

The scammers like to stick to their play as it has been very successful for them, but they do improvise around the central theme.

One latest variant claims to be from the United Nations Police (but uses a Gmail email account)

We hereby inform you that the Scotland Yard Police, Interpol, federal Bureau of Investigation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria and all the African crime fighters leaders have come together to stop scam/Internet fraud in Nigeria and all around west Africa. We have recovered over US $2.6 Bn from the people who we have behind bars.

There really are assorted Police actions in progress in Nigeria to stop scammers but this one described is simply made up.

The email then gives a long list of scammer’s names and scam company names and says they are behind the non-release of your funds.

Lots more details and the statement that there is $5 million waiting for you to collect – you just need to supply some personal confidential information and pay $350 to a Doctor Richard Kelly.

I certainly won’t be replying to these scammers. Money for nothing is always a scam.

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

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The Diabetes Tree

This is another of the supposed magical diabetes cure scams.

It’s somewhat more dramatic than most e.g. “They were scheduled to saw off Kelsey’s leg in a matter of days”.

Her doctors worried a coma was next

And so on.

But the star of the story travelled to Arizona to a house he had never seen and there in the backyard was a non-descript little tree.

You can see this is written like a fairy story, but by an idiot.

The story continues “But the man soon discovered the tree was extremely rare and that people in India have used its properties for thousands of years to cure diabetes”.

In fact, India has a very high rate of diabetes so the country is not a good example of where to look for a cure for diabetes.

Finally, the scammer claims that more than 20,000 American have been cured by this tree’s bark – but also that it’s a secret.

If I wanted to keep something secret – I wouldn’t tell 20,000 people about it.

It’s all pathetic.

Never trust magical remedies and strange things found by ‘ordinary’ folks. Trust your doctor instead.

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Law to Protect Against Bank Transfer Scams

The Financial Services and Markets Bill announced in the Queen’s speech in May 2022 includes measures to better protect scam victims, by making sure the victims are reimbursed if they’ve been tricked into transferring money to a fraudster.

in the past two years, Scammers stole more than £854 million through bank transfer scams (also known as Push Payment Scams and Push Payment Fraud). Forty-two percent of this money was reimbursed by the banks, as the banks have been able to decide whether or not to return the money lost depending on how the scam was carried out.

Which? has been campaigning for the government to stamp out scams since 2015; and in January 2022, they repeated their call for stronger protections for fraud victims after finding more than £700,000 is lost to bank transfer scams every day.

Currently, many banks have signed up to a voluntary reimbursement code, but victims of bank transfer scams face a lottery depending who they bank with, with concerns about it being applied inconsistently.

However, under the new bill, the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) can force banks to reimburse authorised push payments (APP) scam losses.

The bill is also set to cover:

  • revoking retained EU law on financial services
  • replacing it with an approach to regulation designed for the UK updating the objectives of the financial services regulators
  • a greater focus on growth and international competitiveness
  • reforming the rules that regulate the UK’s capital markets to promote investment.

No timeframe has been announced yet for the passage of the bill through the House of Commons.
If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.

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Amazon Merged Reviews Make No Sense

Amazon monitors product reviews by the public and manages to delete most fake reviews, but “merged reviews” are proving to be a problem as scammers are increasingly using them.

Merged reviews are where a seller may have multiple items  that are basically the same item but with very minor differences such as woolly hats where one has a bobble on top and the other doesn’t.

In these cases Amazon allows for the same reviews to appear on both products.

But scammers are merging reviews for entirely different products in order to show popularity for items that haven’t earned it.

Which? magazine investigated this and found for example reviews for headphones that are actually reviews for cuddly toys – done as a way of getting apparently excellent reviews for a new product. Some of the these scammers are dumb enough to do this even where the original reviews have photos attached to show they are completely different products.

Which? found that nine out of 10 of the top-rated headphones on the site earlier this year had glowing reviews for a range of unrelated products.

Amazon took action to remove these products and reviews, once informed of the problem.

But using such reviews for unrelated products is against Amazon’s terms and conditions, because it can make something look more popular than it is.

Which? focused on just one category – Bluetooth-enabled headphones – and followed the reviews for the top 10 products over the course of a month, from February to March this year.

Most of the brands were not household names and were all sold by more than one seller, so Which? was unable to determine whether the brands themselves were implicated in any wrongdoing.

One headphone listing had 863 reviews for a personalised jigsaw puzzle, while a third had 1,386 reviews for beach umbrellas

Only one of the headphones on the list, made by one of the best-known audio electronics firm Bose, showed no evidence of review merging. But its headphones were ranked only eighth best out of the 10 investigated.

Which? magazine focussed on earphones but also found that various other products have the same problem.

If you’re relying on customer reviews, then try to make sure they are genuine.
E.g. check if there is a photo attached that matches the product and ignore any reviews that could conceivably be for anything else.

If you have any experiences with these issues do let me know, by email.

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Three 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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