Saturday, May 14, 2005

Nigerian Ring Busted in Toledo

Primarily, we hear from victims, but here is an example of how far reaching Nigerian Fraud can be. Two Nigerian nationals were caught in Toledo, Ohio. In their possession were stolen ID's from Ohio to California. Allegedly, they were doing check fraud, credit card fraud, or anything they could turn into cash.

They also had credit bureaus in their possession, which bespeaks the nationwide problem of criminals being planted in organizations to steal information.

The Detective, who arrested them, likened them to "financial terrorists". I'm afraid, I have to agree.

Here is an earlier post on the "Postal Money Order Scam" going around. This scam has been a nasty form of on line fraud recently, normally involving lottery, or auction scams. Although not exclusively originating from Nigeria, it has been traced there.

Beware of Porn Sites

Daily, a lot of internet surfers, are bombared with solicitations to enter porn sites. In a recent study from Eblocs, 100 sites were tested and it was found afterwards that- 98 percent of them use some form of Spyware, or Adware, 15 percent of them use porn dialers that send you to other porn sites, 95 percent of them install Spyware/Adware (which later launch pop-up ads) and 5 percent of them install Browser Hijackers.

If they are putting all these things on your computer, there is also the risk for "Phishing/Pharming", where you could become a victim of identity theft. Most of these sites ask for a credit card, or check card of some sort. This information could also be used in credit card fraud.

Here is a earlier posting on "Phishing". Phishing is where a victim is induced by fraud e-mail, or going to a fraudulent site on the internet to give up personal information, which is used in identity theft.

In this country, we are free to view this sort of material, within certain limits. If one chooses to do so, be careful it isn't a front to defraud you of your hard earned money. It might also be wise to have the most updated virus and malware protection on your computer.

Adoption Fraud Scheme

There are those, who take advantage of couples having to wait long periods to adopt a child. In a recent scam, people were solicited by a bogus agency all over the United States and paid $200.00 each. Once they had paid, they never heard from the agency again.

The majority of the solicitation were from ads placed on the internet.

People attempting to adopt children are advised to check into the agency carefully and get references.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Phishing Statistics

"Phishing" (a form of on line fraud where identities are stolen) seems to be in the news a lot lately. Quoting a survey done by "Integrated Payment Systems", 43 percent of us have been the target of a "phishing" scam and 5 percent of us have given up information. This normally happens when a fraud e-mail is received that appears to be from your financial institution. The fraud e-mail directs you to a fraudulent site. Once you are on the site, they start asking for your personal information.

Also mentioned is "Pharming", where people are misdirected to fraudulent sites on line that are developed to look legitimate. This normally happens by fraudsters changing a web site address, ever so slightly.

No legitimate institution will ever ask you to verify personal information via an e-mail, however they do seem to ask a lot of personal information when you call them.

Estimates put this type of "internet fraud" costing consumers about 1.2 billion a year in 2003, but it also should be noted that many institutions don't seem to want to comment on exact figures.

Here is a site with relevant information to protect yourself:

Anti-Phishing Working Group:

Meanwhile, it has been reported that Mastercard has shut down 1400 phishing sites in the past eleven months. As a result of this, law enforcement was able to make 27 arrests. This is good news, but the "APWG" states that in March of this year, there were 2870 active "phishing" sites.

In the end, a lot of this "on line" fraud comes from nations that don't enforce this type of crime. The best way to protect ourselves from this activity is communicaton and education.

Education goes a long way to resolving most issues!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Internet Hoaxes

While not necessarily on line fraud (unless money is exchanged), internet hoaxes can clog up e-mail systems, waste payroll and spread political agendas. They might also be used to spread viruses, worms, or trojans in order to "Phish". "Phishing" is a form of internet fraud where a victim is enticed, either through a fraud e-mail, or by going to a fraudulent site to give up their personal information. The information is normally used to steal their identity.

Here is a site dedicated to exposing "hoaxes" and some of them are pretty amusing.

ID Laws and Increased Border Control

Congress has approved an additional 82 Billion for the war in Iraq. Attached to this are measures to hire additional border security agents, toughen asylum laws, build fences at both borders and requires the states to begin issuing more uniform driver's licenses. It also requires them to verify the people getting them more carefully.

Besides protecting ourselves from terrorists, identity theft has doubled recently. A lot of this can be attributed to internet fraud.

As I stated in a earlier post, this will (and has) raised privacy issues.

In the end, it will be interesting to see if any of this stems the flow of fraud and what the criminals will do to go around the enhanced measures. Interestingly enough, we have enhanced the security features around our currency and we still have a lot of counterfeit money going around. Here is a story on some of the latest counterfeit money going around.

Five Dollar Bills are bleached and then a hundred dollar bill is photocopied on top of it. These are showing up all over and the best way for a lay person to identify them is by holding them up to the light. On the counterfeit items, the watermark on the right side is Abraham Lincoln versus Benjamin Franklin. These items defeat the counterfeit pens routinely used by businesses to identify counterfeit currency.

In the technologically advanced world of today, there is a counter measure developed for every measure put out there. In the end, education and communication are probably the best way to defeat what ails us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More on Postal Money Order Scam

This article from the Herald Tribune states that the origin of most of the counterfeit money orders is Nigeria, however they are also coming from Ghana and Eastern Europe. Many of the victims are being initially contacted by fraud e-mail, or in chat rooms and being duped into internet schemes, involving on line fraud.

Because the people cashing these items are generally regarded as victims and the criminals are overseas, it makes prosecution of these crimes difficult. Lately, I've suspected that everyone involved in this isn't as innocent as they let on. It is now being proven that people are knowingly cashing these items and thus far, 160 arrests have been made since October by the Postal Inspection Service. The key to arresting these people is proving that they knew what they were doing in order to establish intentional wrongdoing.

This might not be hard to prove in some instances. In a lot of cases noted, the dollar amount paid far exceeds the worth of the product being purchased.

If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Quite simply, the government seems to be getting aggressive in going after this. These schemes rely on greed and getting involved in them could have consequences.

Link, here.

Please note that the newest form of check fraud is coming from Qchex.

Link, here.

Counterfeit items originating from this company are showing up in a lot of internet scams.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Counterfeit Postal Money Orders

Lately, in a lot of the auction scams (E-Bay, Craig's List etc.), high quality counterfeit U.S. Postal Money Orders are being used to dupe victims out of their goods. Fraudulent e-mails, (internet fraud schemes) have been seen from Nigeria offering the counterfeit money orders as payment. It would be prudent to be cautious if someone tries to pay for goods, or services with them.

Be especially careful if you are asked to cash them and wire the money.

I hear that they are now showing up in Canada too!

Click on the title for information on how to ensure Postal Money Orders are legitimate.

If you are given an item you believe to be counterfeit, please notify a Postal Inspector.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ahmed Chalabi, Former Minister in Iraq and Convicted Fraudster

The amount of stories about fraud coming out of Iraq is amazing. Ahmed Chalabi, now former deputy prime minister, was convicted in Jordan for embezzling $288 million dollars in an investment fraud scheme. He lost his post on Sunday, but is obviously very much in the political mix over there. During the 90's, he was a prominent lobbyist in Washington pushing for a regime change in Iraq.

Although a long time favorite of our goverment, he fell out of favor when he allegedly provided Iran with secret U.S. intelligence.

Of course, according to Chalabi, all of these allegations are "politically motivated".

Presently, we are placing our young men and women in harm's way in Iraq. Daily, some of them are making the ultimate sacrifice and it is believed that insurgents cross the border (daily) to join the "jihad".

Having leaders like this in Iraq cannot help our cause and could help inspire additional violence.

Counterfeit Identification

In order for criminals to commit fraud, they need identification made up in their "assumed identities". Not only is this a fraud issue, but it also is a threat to our security in general. Counterfeit identification, such as driver's licenses, state identifications, military ID, green cards and even passports are easily available to criminals. With advances in computer technology, the quality of these counterfeits has increased dramatically.

Besides financial crimes, these documents can be used to gain entry into the country and even sensitive facilities. They can also be used to purchase firearms, despite the background checks that most areas require. Quite simply, if the identity is "clean", the firearm is sold. Of even greater concern is that they could be used by terrorists.

It is a known fact that there are a lot of illegal immigrants working jobs in the country. Any employer knows that they are required to identify an employee with identification documents that the government requires. Therefore, we must assume that the majority of these people have obtained "false identities" and or "fake identification" in order to gain employment.

I predict that this will become a "hot topic" in the years to come and in fact it already has. There are security issues, as well as, privacy issues to consider.

Here is a link to a GAO (Government Accounting Office) report.

Here is a link to report fraud to the GAO.

Pyramid and MLM Scams

Too many people are getting sucked into "Pyramid and Multi-Level Marketing Scams". The crooks behind these scams go to elaborate lengths to convince their victims that there are legitimate goods and or services to sell. In the end, all they are doing is taking the money from new recruits and paying off some of the early stage investors.

These schemes always claim they will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. Eventually, the pyramid collapses and a lot of people are out their hard earned money. Before investing money in any enterprise that promises an unrealistic return, it is prudent to do your homework carefully.

Here is a link to information at the "Securities and Exchange Commission".

Reporting suspected scams goes a long way in discouraging this shameful activity and bringing the criminals behind it to justice. Here is a link where you can report this activity directly to the "Federal Trade Commission", which investigates this type of fraud.$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01