Category: information

Research into Mass Marketing Fraud

There is a project led by Professor Monica Whitty of the University of Warwick and it involves a number of Universities, enforcement agencies and private sector businesses.

DAPM (Detecting and Preventing Mass Marketing Fraud).

Project Outline:

The DAPM (Detecting and Preventing Mass Marketing Fraud) project will develop novel techniques to detect and prevent online mass marketing fraud (MMF), a major and growing problem that generates significant social anxiety and psychological impact. DAPM will establish new foundations for:

  • Detecting assumed identities and persuasive messaging used by fraudsters
  • Delivering much needed insights into the psychological and technical factors that lead to poor decision-making on the part of existing and prospective victims of such frauds

Through a multi-disciplinary approach and close focus on co-designing solutions collaboratively and testing them ‘in the wild’, the project will generate not only new scientific understanding of the anatomy of MMF, but also tools and techniques that can form the basis of practical interventions in tackling such fraud.

Importantly, this work brings together academic and non-academic partners. Each organisation has different knowledge to share and can tackle the problem using different methods. Combining academic research with technical knowledge provides much greater capability to prevent and detect MMF.

The outcomes of this project will enable:

  • Increased trust in the digital economy by citizens due to developed science around MMF detection and prevention
  • Improvements in public safety and fewer victims of MMF crime.
  • Changes in industry tactics and public policy around detection and prevention of MMF

Background

Mass Marketing Fraud is a serious, complex and organised crime. Examples include foreign lotteries, advanced-fee scams and romance scams. Some are low value, one-off scams involving large numbers of victims; others involve developing a relationship where money is defrauded over time. The internet has opened up a vast array of opportunities for criminals to target potential victims and to trick people into making financial transfers in the name of charity, investment or love.

In the UK Action Fraud estimate that less than 10% of victims actually report this type of crime. Victims are unlikely to recover losses, offenders are often not caught and many victims are affected psychologically – often to a degree outweighing the financial loss.

Go to https://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/wmg/research/digital/csc/dapm

for further information.

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New Internet Domains

Brooklands Radio is obviously a radio station and the new Internet domain “.radio” has come available.

So in theory we could buy the domain name BrooklandsRadio.radio or Brooklands.radio or something similar if we wanted to.

“.radio” is an example of a domain name suffix or top level domain as they are called.

Many of these such as .com or .co.uk can be bought by anyone for maybe £5 – £20 per year.

And some are incredibly valuable such as Google.com or Microsoft.com or bbc.co.uk.

Some have protected registrations which means you can only own the domain if it is relevant to your business.  “.radio” is protected so only radio stations and business in the field of radio can buy such a domain name.

Why is there a need to protect domains? There are unfortunately a lot of people (claim jumpers) who buy domain names they think will be valuable then try to sell them at a profit to someone who needs that one.

If .radio was not protected then someone could buy up the domain bbc.radio for example and then sell it at an extortionate price to the BBC if they wanted it.  This can prevent people getting the domain names that they should have for their business.

Some of the recent new top level domains coming to market are

.beer

.blackfriday

.church

.fish

.horse

.ink

.irish

.rehab

.shoes

.tienda

And so on.

There’s a world of new domain names to choose from.

But, most businesses still use .com or .co.uk in the UK as these are so well known.

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Understanding Website Cookies

Almost every website you visit asks you to accept cookies, and typically we just click yes rather than taking the time to read exactly what the cookies are being used for.

Cookies are tiny files containing a small amount of data about the browsing in progress. These cookies are either stored in memory or on your computer’s disk.

Types of Cookies

There are session cookies which enable a website to remember each page accessed and your login. These disappear when you leave the website.

There are persistent cookies which remember user preferences and allow you to access websites without having to login again

Then there are 3rd party cookies and these are basically tracking your browsing for the purposes of advertising and marketing.

Advertising and Tracking

In most cases, cookies are useful. It would be annoying of a website asked you to login again each time you clicked onto a new page on the same website. Plus you do want that shopping trolley to remember what you’ve added when you looking for something new to add.

However, many companies, spammers and scammers use 3rd party cookies to track your activities.

If you prefer adverts that are tailored to your tastes then you might agree to 3rd party cookies but if you hate the idea of being tracked so avidly then you may want to deny such cookies.

By the way, in 2011 the EU decided that cookies were potentially a privacy problem and mandated that website owners obtain visitors’ permissions. This means the very annoying question ‘do you accept cookies’ on most website you visit.

  1. Should you accept a cookie request?

Session and persistent cookies help the browsing experience but it’s those 3rd party cookies that are the annoying and potentially intrusive ones.

Tips for protecting your privacy

Don’t automatically accept every cookie. You could even try to deny all cookies and see if it has adverse consequences, such as wasting time to fill in your personal details on a shopping site.

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

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The Website SEO Pitch Changes

Years ago, emails started to flood in offering website design services. Some were real offers by companies and many were real but from individuals as it is the sort of work that can be done easily from home.

Then lots of scammers saw this as an opportunity – offer these services but take the money and do nothing or subcontract at low cost to an idiot who will do a bad job.

After some years of this, the offers turned a bit more aggressive – stating such as that they had checked my website and found it lacking and giving a random general list of faults that they could fix.

These messages were annoying in their volume and being told our website was no good.

Some businesses offering website design moved on to saying that although our website was very good in some ways, it needed more work on some specified things. The scammers copied this new approach.

Again, these were general comments as the scammers never actually viewed the website they were talking about. When you are sending out these messages by the million – you don’t have time to actually view websites.

Then the scammers moved on to offering SEO services. After a while these changed into starting with insults about the lack of SEO on our site and how better SEO can bring in more customers.

You can see the pattern here – the changes often start with genuine businesses offering the services in a new way then the scammers catch on and copy the approach.

Next was social media optimisation and then onto web chat facilities and recently onto chatbots and some have moved on to AI chatbots.

A recent email to the radio station first of all compliments us on our great website design and SEO then offers statistics on why just getting people to the website is pointless unless you have an automated way to get them to make a purchase. The message has pages of boring stuff about how effective these new services can be and eventually some links for us to try their demonstration.

No thanks – any email that starts with a lot of lies about us and our website (however complementary) could never lead to business.

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

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The Extent of Spam Messages

Around 45% of all emails are spam i.e. they are messages you do not want, have not signed up to receive and would stop if you could. But spammers send out billions of such unwanted messages every day in the hope of getting your attention and probably also wanting to make money out of you.

Spam is very wasteful – it clogs up your inbox, takes up your time and is almost entirely pointless.

Messages you don’t want to receive very little attention and nobody wants to buy from a business that has annoyed them.

Spam messages are most commonly some form of advertising (36%), finance (26%), social media notifications, reminders you don’t need, hoaxes, fake warnings, people trying to get attention and so on.

This does not include scams which is where the sender is intent on defrauding the recipients in some way.

There are millions of people and businesses sending out spam messages but around 80% of world-wide spam comes from about 100 scam groups that treat the sending of such messages on behalf of their clients as a viable business.

The cost of such time-wasting to business is estimated to be somewhere between ten and twenty billion dollars world-wide per year. This includes the cost of anti-spam services, employee time identifying spam messages and technical staff.

More spam emails originate in China than anywhere else, but vast amounts also originate in America and Europe.

Most spam is harmless but increasingly it is used to carry malware and that can be dangerous as thieves seek to copy your identity or infect your computer.

Q. Why is spam called spam?

Spam is a cheap tinned meat product that has been around since the 1930s. Some claim that the name Spam meaning unwanted emails comes from a 1970 Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch in which a group of customers in a Spam-themed restaurant sing about Spam and everything on the menu is full of spam.

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

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The Email Spam Providers

Every day there are billions of spam messages sent out. Estimates suggest that number is between 10 and 15 billion per day and rising each year.

A large proportion of these are trapped and deleted by the email service companies but many get through as the systems cannot identify every unwanted message.

You might wonder who can possibly send out so many messages, but you might also have received spam messages offering exactly that service.

e.g.  One recent spam message sender claims to have 2 billion email addresses and you can buy that list, or they will send out your spam messages for you at a cost of $30 per month to send up to one million messages every day. That’s 30 million messages sent out for just $30.

The fact that the cost is so low is why so many people send out their rubbish messages by the million.

The sender of this offer has used a disposable and hence untraceable email address to send the messages and uses a different one for any return messages (milliondata @outlook.com).

We can only hope that one day there will be a way of stopping all unwanted emails but for the time being we are stuck with this inundation of garbage sent by cretins.

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

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