Category: Fight Back

BT Call Protect

BT Call Protect is BT’s new free service to help their users block out the scam callers, cold callers and other undesirables.

Nuisance calls take many forms – they can be malicious calls, unsolicited sales propositions, scams or simply someone dialling the wrong number.

Getting nuisance calls at home can be intrusive, may disturb your home life and, when they happen repeatedly, can be upsetting.

For BT home phone customers, BT Call Protect is free and works in three ways:

  1. BT blacklist: Numbers identified as nuisance callers by BT’s experts are added to a BT blacklist and sent automatically to your junk voicemail.
  2. Personal blacklist: If you get an unwanted call you can add the number to your Personal blacklist. All future calls from that number will be sent to your junk voicemail.
  3. Individual call types: Send calls from specific categories (such as withheld or international) straight to your junk voicemail.

Features

  • BT Call Protect is easy to set up

All new and existing BT customers can opt in at bt.com/callprotect. Once it’s set up  you can manage your settings  and add phone numbers to your personal blacklist by going online to bt.com/btcallprotect or by calling 1572 from your home phone (no charge) at any time.

  • You control who calls your phone

If you get an unwanted call hang up, dial 1572 and follow the simple instructions to add the last number to your personal blacklist. All future calls from that number will be sent to your junk voicemail.

You can also choose to send international, withheld and unrecognised numbers to your junk voicemail further reducing the amount of unwanted calls received.

  • BT’s Expert knowledge

BT has a team of experts based in Oswestry who identify nuisance calls and create the BT blacklist. Numbers on this blacklist will be sent directly to your junk voicemail. The team is continually updating the list with new unwanted numbers, so you can be sure it’s up to date. The blacklist also includes the phone numbers of scammers detected by the BT Security team.

The list is continually being updated and new numbers added, helping to reduce the number of nuisance calls.

Alternatives to BT Call Protect

There are various products on the market that can block unknown callers etc. The most well known is truCall but Gigaset and Panasonic also make home phones with call blocking features.

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The Royal Mail Deals with Scam Mail

Royal Mail say they take the issue of scam mail very seriously and are  coordinating an industry-wide response to tackle fraudulent mail at its source.

They have developed an industry-wide code of practice and invited all mail operators in the UK to sign-up. This code sets out how the industry can actively work together, and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail.

The Code of Practice

Companies signing up to the code of practice will voluntarily commit to meeting the following obligations:

  1. Actively work together and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail
  2. Proactively share intelligence of confirmed scam mailings and suspected scam mailings
  3. Terminate any mailing identified by law enforcement agencies as being used to attempt to scam the recipients
  4. Include anti-scam terms and conditions in contracts
  5. Forge closer ties with law enforcement agencies and the broader communications community to prevent scams through letters, electronic communications, telephone calls and other means
  6. Provide help and support for victims of scams by sharing information received in our enquiries with appropriate partners including the National Trading Standards Scams Team, law enforcement and other agencies.

What Can You Do?

If you think you or a family member are receiving scam mail, you can report it to Royal Mail by completing a form online and posting it to Royal Mail. https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/303 and click on ‘completing an online form’).

The Freepost address is below where you can send the form along with the original envelope and any items of mail you have received that are relevant.

Alternatively, let them know your full name, address and a contact telephone number via the email or telephone options below and they will send you a form to complete together with a prepaid addressed envelope in which to return the form with examples of the scam mail received.

By post:              FREEPOST SCAM MAIL

By Email:            scam.mail@royalmail.com

By Telephone:    03456 113 413 (message service only)

As the largest deliverer of spam and scam letters, it was high time the Royal Mail did something to stop the flood of such items, especially to vulnerable people.

Let’s hope this permanently blocks a large chunk of the spam and scam items.

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The Hearing Clinic Fined £220,000

Claims Management Companies are the ones that make most of the cold calls – on behalf of their clients.

The Claims Management Regulator (part of the Ministry of Justice)  licenses firms and individuals to provide claims management services. It also has the power to take action when a regulated claims management business breaks the Conduct of Authorised Persons Rules.

The CMR received hundreds of complaints from recipients of calls from “The Hearing Clinic” about claims for noise induced hearing loss. Many complainants had previously subscribed to the “do not call” Telephone Preference Service, so the calls breached the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

Having investigated, the Regulator imposed a £220,000 fine on Aurangzeb Iqbal, the owner of “The Hearing Clinic” and various other businesses including “Industrial Disease Services,” “Hedging Redress,” and “We Claim 4 U.”

Various conditions were also imposed which applied to all claims management services operated under Mr Iqbal’s Regulator licence.

These included having to inform the Regulator on the 5th of every month of each TPS complaint received over the previous month. Mr Iqbal also has to provide the Regulator with full details of all subcontractors he proposes to appoint, plus an explanation and evidence of how he proposes to monitor these suppliers to ensure their compliance.

In its press release, the Regulator reported that from a peak of 3367 in 2011 the number of claims management companies has now fallen to 1752, with 105 having their licences removed in 2014. Further investigations by the Regulator are apparently ongoing and could lead to more sanctions.

Richard Lloyd, from consumer watchdog Which? said: “Hopefully this is the start of a concerted crackdown by Regulators, using their new powers to send a clear message that nuisance calling won’t be tolerated. This company made millions of unwanted calls so we welcome the Claims Management Regulator baring its teeth.

“The size of this fine should make other firms think twice before bombarding people with cold calls. We also need to see senior executives held personally accountable if their company makes unlawful sales calls.”

To complain to the Regulator, go to  https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/claims-management-regulator

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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.

Wayne and Jill Scambaiting

Every year tens of thousands of people in the UK are conned by online scammers, but it is not only the authorities taking action – “scam baiters” take the fight to the scammers.

Wayne and Jill (not their real names) are scam baiters. Jill explained her approach and some examples on a recent BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme.

“We waste scammers’ time, we waste their resources and we make them believe they are not as good as they think they are,” “Scammers are always going to be there but if we can take them down a peg and take a victim away from them any time we can, then we are doing something good,” says Jill.

The scam baiters often publish online their interactions with the scammers as a way of warning people.

The aim is for these to appear in search engine results, so potential victims will be alerted if they type in the scammer’s name.

The Scam baiters don’t make money from their actions – they do it to stop others being scammed. For Wayne, the motivation is simply the “buzz” he receives from knowing he can help someone.

Wayne’s Set-Up as a Scam Baiter

Wayne’s set-up is rudimentary. He works under various aliases, mostly named after characters from his favourite children’s television shows of his youth.

He often makes himself seem more vulnerable – and potentially gullible – by pretending to have recently broken up from a partner.

Both Wayne and Jill always wait to be approached by scammers, rather than seeking them out. Their names are on a so-called “suckers list” – effectively a database of people thought to be easy to con – which is passed around by scammers online.

The latest to get in touch is a man who emails Jill to say she has won the lottery in Africa. Pretending to be husband and wife, Wayne and Jill make a joint contact back, the aim being to waste the scammer’s time by arguing about which one of them gets the money. Surprisingly, Jill considers her biggest success to be the time she received a death threat from a scammer she had targeted.

“If you get a death threat you know you’ve really wound someone up. I had one scammer driving round Madrid for a day trying to find ‘Lynn’, who had gone to Madrid.

“Of course, I hadn’t gone to Madrid, I was in my front room. Jill tells it as a funny anecdote, but it underlines the seriousness involved.

“I take great care in protecting my online persona,” she says. “I bait with email addresses that aren’t traceable. I don’t use any of my real-life information. All of my characters are based somewhere 100 miles away from where I live.”

Click http://fightback.ninja/scambaiting-with-the-crown-prince/ for an example of Scambaiting.

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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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Warrington Gears Up Against Scammers

Friends Against Scams run awareness sessions around the country to educate people on how to avoid scammers and what they should do if they or someone they know is caught up in a scam.

There was such a session in Warrington recently and it seems to have had a big effect.

All those attended signed-up to be a “Friend Against Scams” or a “Scam Champion” and have pledged to raise awareness and spread the word across communities about the dangers of scams, particularly to Warrington’s most vulnerable residents.

As part of the event, they showed how criminals attempt to trick people with official looking documents or websites, or convincing telephone sales patter, with the aim of persuading them to send a “processing” or “administration” fee, pay postal or insurance costs or make a premium rate phone call.

A relative of a 78-year-old man from Cinnamon Brow who was a recent Warrington mail scam victim said: “I tried intercepting as many letters as I could find in his house and return them with ‘gone away’ but that had no effect on the volume of mail sent. He was still receiving at least one hundred scam mailings a week. “I estimate he has spent at least £30,000 in four years on scam mail products and scam lotteries.

Dr Muna Abdel Aziz, director of public health for Warrington, said: “Scams come in many forms, and scammers will target people of all ages, backgrounds and income levels. We receive complaints from residents who have lost thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands of pounds

“These sessions aimed to empower residents to recognise and avoid scams and to help friends, family and neighbours do the same. Financial loss is not the only cost to victims, as feelings of vulnerability can also have a devastating impact.”

For more information about the campaign and how to get involved visit, go to  http://www.friendsagainstscams.org.uk

Friends Against Scams is a National Trading Standards Scams Team initiative which aims to protect and prevent people from becoming victims of scams by empowering communities to take a Stand Against Scams.’

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The Hero Who Stopped NHS Ransomware Attack

The WannaCry ransomware attack of May 2017 wasn’t aimed at the NHS, it was spread across Europe and Asia and happened to hit the NHS very hard for a series of reasons including that they had old Windows 95 machines on their network and because their network has a huge number of computers attached to it.  The ransomware demands users pay $300 worth of online currency Bitcoins to retrieve their files, but the price goes up if they don’t pay quickly and of course there is no guarantee that payment allows file retrieval.

An anonymous  UK cybersecurity researcher (known by the Twitter handle @malwaretechblog)  with the help of Darien Huss from security firm Proofpoint looked at the ransomware and discovered the name of a website which was being accessed by the ransomware. But the website address hadn’t been registered by anyone. He bought the domain name in order to track the activities of the ransomware but in fact it was a “kill switch” that stopped the ransomware from spreading any further. Well done, if unintentionally.

That didn’t help the people whose computers had already been infected but it stop the outbreak from continuing.

Unfortunately once the scammers realised how the malware had been stopped, they created and released a version that ignored the kill switch. But at least people had time to build defences against another attack.

The researcher, who identified himself only as MalwareTech, is a 22-year-old from south-west England who works for Kryptos logic.

MalwareTech explained that he bought the domain because his company tracks botnets (automated networks of controlled computers), and by registering these domains they can get an insight into how the botnet is spreading. “The intent was to just monitor the spread and see if we could do anything about it later on. But we actually stopped the spread just by registering the domain,” he said. But the following hours were an “emotional rollercoaster”.

He also said he planned to hold onto the URL, and he and colleagues were collecting the IPs and sending them off to law enforcement agencies so they can notify the infected victims, not all of whom are aware that they have been affected.

He said he got his first job out of school without any real qualifications, having skipped university to start up a tech blog and write software.

“It’s always been a hobby to me, I’m self-taught. I ended up getting a job out of my first botnet tracker, which the company I now work for saw and contacted me about, asking if I wanted a job. I’ve been working there a year and two months now.”

Well done hero – he’s now an honorary Ninja.

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