Saturday, September 10, 2005

Fraud Relating to Katrina in Full Swing

As predicted, the cyberscum element is jumping on the fraud band wagon in the wake of the Katrina disaster. According to Louis Reigel (FBI assistant director Cybercrimes), "There were roughly 2,300 Katrina-related sites by midday Thursday. The number had more than doubled just since Tuesday. New sites are popping up faster than we can pound them down. The number of sites and the money being donated already exceeds what the FBI saw following the tsunami."

Before I move on with this post, you can help the FBI deal with cyberscum by reporting suspicious activity on line at the Internet Fraud Complaint Center. Although, you are unlikely to get a reply, or find out what happens due to the confidential nature of criminal investigations, the information can be valuable intelligence to the authorities.

In fact, U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has announced that they will form the "Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force." The task force will be run by Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher and will include resources several agencies including the Postal Inspectors, FBI and Federal Trade Commission.

Of the roughly 2300 suspected sites, the FBI has only been able to look at 800 of them. The majority of them (60 percent) are international. Please note that not all of these are fraud related, but many will probably prove to be scam sites.

Here is a story that hit the press about someone, who was already caught. Matthew Schmeider of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania sent out thousands of SPAM e-mails from the phony international aid group dubbed "Mercy Corps." When he was caught, he admitted he was going to use some of the money himself, but of course, he also intended to send some of it to legitimate charities. Schmeider had only received $150.00 in donations when he was confronted by the authorities.

As I have said in previous posts, the best way to a donation is directly to charities that are recognized as legitimate. There are third party entities that solicit, but if you give to them, they take a cut of the proceeds for their efforts. There is a previous post I did, which has a lot of resources on legitimate charities and how to check out if any charity is legitimate:

On the State level, Florida and Missouri are already taking action. The Florida Attorney General (Charlie Crist) filed a civil lawsuit against a Robert Moneyhan for allegedly creating several Katrina related sites, which were not legitimate charitable operations. Missouri's Attorney General (Jay Nixon) has also filed against a man in St. Louis (Frank Weltner) for similar reasons.

The level of activity being reported is astronomical and seems to be everything from Spam marketing scams for sexual aids to phishing and pharming activity related to financial and identity theft. Security experts are also warning that "cybernasties" (trojans, malware, spyware etc.) are being embedded in pictures of the disaster sent out on Spam e-mails. Best bet is to not open anything with pictures and never download anything that is suspicious.

Here is a link to a page from Scambusters (which is highly recommended) on a lot of the Katrina Scams:

Friday, September 09, 2005

Getting Revenge on Phishers

Recently, I was contacted by Robin Grimes, who has launched a site: Many of us receive numerous phishing e-mails daily, which can be extremely annoying. On Robin's site, you can submit a URL and the phisher will receive fake entries over and over again. The site describes how to (hover) over a link, or click (copy and paste) to get it's true URL, which you can then submit on the site. With malicious internet activity on the rise, I recommend using the "hovering" method versus actually opening anything on your computer by clicking on it.

More and more sites are showing up where you can catch all kinds of nasty software that can be used to steal personal and financial information. Viruses (malware, spyware, worms, etc.) are also known to be passed via attachments on e-mail. There are a lot of posts on my site about this, but here is a link to one that might be helpful:

Please note that this is one of many posts dedicated to this activity and I have a search box at the top if anyone cares to research it further.

Here is another post, I did on other sites that fight fraud and phishing by harrassing our friendly fraudster community:

Artists against 419 and the Ebola Monkey Man are pretty interesting. I hear that the lads (dudes), who run Artists against 419 are shutting down fake sites on a consistent basis.

Again, a lot of these activities will serve to frustrate the internet fraudster, but it is prudent to be extremely careful given the people you might be dealing with. I wouldn't actually open any attachments, or go to a site where you might jeopardize yourself. I would also highly recommend that if you choose to engage in any of this activity that you ensure the protection on your computer is top notch and up to date.

As always, I have to strongly recommend that any suspected internet crimes be reported to the authorities. Here is a site from Anthony Elsop, which contains resources to report fraud over a wide spectrum:

Robin has joined our small community of people, who are sick and tired of this activity and want to do something about it. I welcome him to the effort!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Advance Fee Scams with Katrina

It was a matter of time, but the Advance Fee a.k.a. (419) scams have started using the Katrina disaster. 419 is the penal code in Nigeria for the advance fee scam. This scam involves tricking someone to pay an advance fee for untold riches they will receive at a later date.

In urban legend, the scam is Nigerian based; however it is now being done all over the world. These scams have not only been traced to Nigeria and Western Africa, but also to Europe, Canada, Australia and even within the United States. Historically, it would be a letter, or e-mail sent from a foreign prince etc., who had a lot of money that he was willing to share with you for passing it through your account. Besides tricking someone into sending money, if they got enough of your account information, they would wipe out the balance.

More recently, the scam has mutated into getting someone to think they have won a lottery, or that someone wants to buy something they placed on a auction. I have even seen a variation where they are approached by a (alleged) beautiful foreign model on a dating site, who needs their help to negotiate some financial instruments. In the end, the victim is duped into sending money and is left at a loss. This can be severe if they have negotiated a lot of money for them. In these more recent mutations, the fraudsters are sending counterfeit cashiers checks (cheques) and counterfeit money orders and duping their victim into to cashing them and wiring the money back. In a lot of instances, the items are intitally cashed and discovered to be counterfeit after the money has been wired (normally overseas).

For the person, who cashes these items, at a minumum they are financially liable. There are reports that people have had criminal charges brought against them as a result of passing the instruments.

Besides getting people to send them money in advance these criminals are very adept at stealing personal and financial information. This might include invading a computer if someone opens an attachment and using software to obtain what they need to do their misdeeds. The best thing to do is avoid these people like the plague.

Right after the Tsunami disaster and London bombings, the letters surfaced and today it is being reported that Katrina is being used in yet another variation. In an article from Gregg Keizer, it was reported that a letter is being circulated from an illegal Mexican national, who has discovered hidden treasure (boxes full of currency).

It amazes me that this variation still is out there despite all the publicity it has drawn.

Of more concern will be the phishing and pharming activity, which I wrote a previous post on:

In this post, I've listed recommendations from the FBI (who is noting a lot of sites being registered for Katrina) on how to avoid becoming a victim. In case you are interested on more detailed information on this scam and variations thereof, feel free to use the search box by keyword located at the top of the page.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

FTC Publishes Telemarketing Fraud Legal Actions

In case anyone is interested the Federal Trade Commission is publishing it's results detailing their actions against telemarketing fraud on a new web site.

The FTC gathers a lot of data, which is available to law enforcement, including data on internet crimes, fraud in general and in particular identity theft.

For the main website, which has a lot of legal and political resources available, go to:

There is also a place to file any complaint you might have regarding fraud. They also sponsor the Do Not Call registry, which is a good start in avoiding telemarketing fraud and the pains associated with receiving unwanted calls!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina Commission

This weekend, I've been blogging for Katrina. Since this blog is primarily about fraud, I've tried to cover issues relevant to the subject matter I write about. Since most of the fraud is yet to come, I'm stepping outside my normal subject matter for the time being.

Please note until the people are safe, we should be focused on that task. There is nothing more important than people. Even before we are very far in this crisis (which took a large public outcry to speed up government resources) when history is written, many opportunities will be revealed.

As a former Marine, I kept expecting to see the Marines from Camp Lejeune, as well as, the 82nd Airborne from Fort Bragg dispatched to deal with this crisis. Having been stationed at Camp Lejeune and having done joint exercises with the 82nd Airborne, I am acutely aware that they probably could have had their lead elements in place within hours.

Several days into it, after a lot of public outcry, our Commander in Chief dispatched these elements (along with sister elements from Kentucky and California) and guess what? Their lead elements were in place within a few hours. If we were having problems mobilizing the National Guard, which isn't intended to be a "force in readiness", other options should have been considered.

Perhaps fewer would have been murdered and raped if they knew they were going to face an armed Soldier, or Marine? After all, the individuals, who took advantage of the confusion and mayhem, were not the heroes and in fact, I would deem them low-life cowards. There is no doubt that the people in certain areas in the aftermath of Katrina faced situations that parallel any combat situation, we have faced in recent history.

This isn't meant to downplay the brave men and women in the thick of the crisis, who tried to do their best in spite of the overwhelming odds. They performed in an admirable manner and deserve the respect and thanks of the nation for their efforts. I would vote to recognize the Coast Guard, who are some of the real heroes who came out of this. They set all time records, worked without rest and saved a lot of people in spite of odds that were against them. There are other people that need recognition also. This includes the doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police, private citizens and other emergency personnel that didn't evacuate to save human lives.

There were a lot of good people on the ground and they had to been wondering when their relief would arrive.

We cannot change history and we must remain focused on dealing with the human perspective of this crisis, but at a later date, we will need to learn from our mistakes. Perhaps, the politically correct society, where every job is segmented and restricted is to blame? There are many saying that there were too many chiefs, with differing views of their responsibility and no one wanted to step on each other's toes? This is a sad commentary on our society today and at some point, we must deal with it. In any crisis, the keywords must be improvisation and adaptation if we are to emerge in a good light.

Some are also saying that our lack of response was due to racism. While possible, I would offer a opinion that it in the end, it probably had more to do with their financial status, or that they were poor. Sadly, money talks in our society and it can do wonders for those who have it, no matter what race they are. Whether it was racisim, money or a combination of the two, this is sonething that most Americans do not tolerate and isn't in the nature of our collective being.

About four hours ago, Senator Hillary Clinton called for a Katrina Commission. I would call for all our politicians to join her in a bipartisan effort to examine and evaluate what went wrong in this crisis. In the world that we live in today, our very survival might depend on it. Now is the time to forget our differences and focus on our similarities, which is that we are all Americans and part of what many consider the greatest society today.

After all, might the established protocols (based on bickering and pettiness) have caused the failures exposed in the Katrina crisis? Bashing each other (depending on which end of the political area we are on) will solve nothing and will only lead to further breakdowns, which will prevent us from learning from our mistakes.

2Search Promotes Spy/Adware via Deception

Webroot (which is a well respected computer security company) has discovered that "2Search" misdirects users to site that download spy/adware on your system. Apparently, they are able to produce fake "Google" results, which normally lead to "e-Bay" listings (often found on Google results). Quite often, these results if "clicked" upon lead to more spy/adware being downloaded on your computer.

According to Webroot, the reason they are doing this is that it conceals the fact that you are downloading spy/adware. Spy software is becoming big business, generating about $2.4 billion in annual revenue, per a report issued last week by Webroot.

Here is a link describing the difference between spyware and adware from Webopedia.

The Difference Between Adware & Spyware

The differences are minimal and we need to examine this problem from a social perspective. The line between the so-called legitimate uses for business and criminal enterprises is relatively small. Both are invading our privacy and shouldn't be considered legitimate in any form!

Here is a link to a site from the Center for Democracy and Technology listing the current legislation against spy/adware:

I also recommend for those of us, who want changes in the laws to call your representative. Installing spy devices in personal domains is a fundamental violation of our right to privacy.

For those, who might not have protection, Spybot is free and can be downloaded at:

If you wish to purchase products from Webroot, click on the title of this post.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Gouging at the Pump

For quite some time, gas prices have gotten higher for the consumer. Within the same time frame, oil companies have been making record profits. In the wake of Katrina, fuel prices rose before any new (more expensive) shipments arrived. This lead to speculation that some were taking advantage of the situation (gouging).

I read an interesting article from Karen Pierog of Reuters that some of our elected representatives are taking action.

Here are a list of recent actions in some states cited by the article:

"California launched a probe of gas price hikes and state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said he will subpoena refiners' records and threatened to prosecute profiteers.

The federal government responded by releasing 900,000 barrels a day of stockpiled crude, temporarily relaxed fuel standards and asked for emergency international supplies -- moves aimed at mitigating price run-ups and potential fuel shortages.

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro put the state's petroleum council, gasoline marketers and convenience stores on notice, asking them to justify price hikes.

Hawaii on Thursday became the first state to impose limits on gas prices since the energy crisis of the 1970s. The state will set weekly caps on wholesale gasoline prices for different regions of the islands.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue on Friday signed an executive order suspending the state's 7.5 cent-per-gallon motor fuel tax through the end of September. The move must be ratified by the legislature.

New York City, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and others asked Friday for state authority to set a flat, per gallon tax rate to ease gas prices that have jumped over $3.50 per gallon.

Democrats in the Oklahoma legislature proposed suspending the state's gas tax for the rest of the year, saving drivers 17 cents per gallon, or $1 million a day.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has raised the possibility of a temporary suspension of the gross receipts tax on gasoline.

In Ohio, House Speaker Jon Husted said he will push legislation for more widespread use of alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle called on the legislature to pass a bill ensuring gas sold in his state will contain 10 percent ethanol."

We've known since the 70s that it might be a good idea to develop alternative energy sources. The time to do so is now and stop allowing our destiny to be controlled by foreign entities and large corporations that seem to be making more money than ever.

As concerned citizens, we can also reduce our personal consumption of oil products. There are many ways to do this. Here is a link to an article on ways to reduce your consumption of gas:

So far as the gougers, I recommend contacting your attorney general with any business you suspect of gouging. Now might be a opportune time to send a message to those who decide to take advantage of other's misfortunes.

For the article by Karen Pierog, click on the title of this post.

Being Prudent in Donating Money (Katrina)

Here is information on how to give directly to organizations involved in the Katrina Relief Effort. Going through a third party can lead to fraud, or at the very least all of your money may not reach it's intended purpose. Third party fund raising organizations often pay people to solicit and take a cut of the proceeds.

The FBI is warning about fraudulent spoofing, phishing and pharming activity already associated with Katrina. For more information, here is a previous post, I did:

If you give on line, which is a great way, please ensure that the URL (http://) is correct. A common ploy in fraud is to alter the URL and impersonate a recognized and trusted name.

Also, please note, I have a donation box on my blog. This is to support the site and is sometimes used to help victims, who solicit my assistance. Please do not donate any money for Katrina here.

Here is a list, along with proper URL's and some telephone numbers, of organizations that are directly involved in the Katrina Relief Effort.

The United Way,, 800 272-4630.

American Red Cross,, 800-HELP-NOW

Salvation Army,, 800-SAL-ARMY

Network for Good,

Habitat for Humanity,, 800-HABITAT.

Samaritan’s Purse,, 800 665-2843.

Save the Children,, 800 728-3843.

Humane Society of America,, 888 259-5431.

Feed the Children,, 800-525-7575.

America’s Second Harvest,, 800 771-2303.

Craig's List is also doing an outstanding job in getting the information out to help the victims. Here is a link with more resources and recognized charities:

Here are three resources, one can use to check the validity of any organization soliciting donations for Katrina.

Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance,

Charity Navigator,

American Institute for Philanthropy,

Also, here is another post I did with information from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) on how to give wisely and ensure the money get's to the right place.

As always, if you suspect fraud, please report it. Here is a site linked to the FBI, where you can do so: