Saturday, August 05, 2006

419 Artists Arrested and Tie to Funding Terrorists Suspected

Nigerian fraud has become "Internet folklore" and there are many sites on the Internet about it.

In recent years - a unit of law enforcement professionals have been waging war against fraud in Nigeria - and as a result, it's not very safe to commit fraud in Nigeria anymore. Here is a story of a recent arrest, where it appears that 419 (advance fee fraud) might have been helping fund a terrorist group:

"The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, have arrested a terrorism suspect in a raid on a cybercafe, NetXpress, located on Road 51, Festac town, Lagos. The commission disclosed that 13 other suspects caught in the act of sending scam mails to Europe and America, were also arrested."

"The suspect who claimed to represent a faceless terror group, Terrorist International was caught demanding payoff from a multinational oil company to forestall the kidnap of its expatriate staff in the Niger Delta. The other suspects were caught sending scanned documents purportedly issued by Chief Executives of Nigerian government agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC."

Link from the EFCC site, here.

Of note, Nigeria recently passed a pretty strict law on advance fee (419) activity entitled the Advance Fee Fraud Act. This law allows for cyber-cafe owners and even the landlords to be arrested if 419 activity is occurring on their premises.

Advance fee activity is a worldwide problem and it's not only done by Nigerians. Catching this group undoubtedly saved a lot of people in other countries from being victimized.

There seems to be a lot of speculation from the law enforcement community that Internet fraud (a worldwide problem) is being used to fund terrorist groups. In this recent case, the EFCC has helped validate this.

Here is a previous post - with links to others - regarding concerns by law enforcement that Internet fraud might be a source of terrorist funding:

Great Britain Creates National Fraud Squad to Fight Organized Crime and Terrorists

Friday, August 04, 2006

Fraud Steals from the Truly Needy

My blogging friend, Mr. T. L. Stanley, author of the New Rosemead Times wrote a post (Poverty Caused by Corruption) that made me do a little thinking.

Mr. Stanley writes:

"Fighting poverty seems to be hot ticket for politicians every time world leaders get together and want to show everyone they are in a giving mood. For some reason, America wants to throw money at worldwide poverty. Unfortunately, the money that is aimed at poverty is usually stolen by corrupt leaders of poor countries. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is just one example of corruption. This president has driven a highly productive country into bankruptcy in 20 years. Because, political corruption is common. And, this president made the mistake of assuming that productive outputs would continue in the face of economic and political oppression."

For the full post (highly recommended) link, here.

Not only are we throwing good money at "not-so-good" countries, but we can see a lot of the problem, right here at home. Unfortunately, the Katrina hurricane and other allegations about "fraud and abuse" in programs intended to help the poor (a noble cause) help support Mr. Stanley's thoughts.

There is a lot of evidence showing that a substantial amount of the money intended to help the "poor," lines the coffers of corrupt individuals. Since the money never reaches the people it was intended for - corruption truly does cause poverty. Fighting poverty is a "noble cause," but it's also important to ensure that the resources are reaching the people that need it.

What is needed is a "zero-tolerance" approach to the people taking advantage of the poor.

If we did this - perhaps our social programs wouldn't be "going broke."

Cybercrime Treaty Hailed as a Violation of Privacy by the EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is concerned that a law (soon to be voted on in the Senate) would violate the privacy of Americans.

Specifically, the argument against it is that it would subject Americans to laws that aren't a crime in this country.

Hours ago - it was announced that this law was ratified by the Senate.

Here is what the EEF is saying:

The Convention on Cybercrime is a sweeping treaty that has been waiting in the wings of the Senate for nearly three years. Now the administration is putting pressure on the Senate to ratify it in the next two days. If it does, it would mean the U.S. would enforce not just our own, but the rest of the world's bad Net laws. Call your Senator now, and ask them to hold its ratification.

The treaty requires that the U.S. government help enforce other countries' "cybercrime" laws - even if the act being prosecuted is not illegal in the United States. That means that countries that have laws limiting free speech on the Net could oblige the F.B.I. to uncover the identities of anonymous U.S. critics, or monitor their communications on behalf of foreign governments. American ISPs would be obliged to obey other jurisdiction's requests to log their users’ behavior without due process, or compensation.

Link to EEF story, here.

Interestingly enough - this was a big story on Digg. Here it is - along with a lot of comments:

World's Worst Internet Law Sneaking Through the Senate

Just thought I would pass this on - I would hate to investigated because I wrote something about a "fraud problem" in a foreign land that doesn't recognize the right of "free speech."

If anyone would care to write their Senator and express their opinion (positive or negative), you can find their e-mail address, here.

Hopefully Alberto Gonzales is right when he said "the cybercrime pact strengthens international cooperation in "obtaining electronic evidence" while still honoring constitutional protections of free speech and privacy."

I'm all for going after cybercrimals, but if it violates our constitutional rights, we need to take a closer look at it.

After all, our constitution is what made this country great!

SEC Sends a Message to Insurer - It's Not Nice to Trick the Military

Taking advantage of our military in time of war is despicable. Here is some positive news that the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) is protecting those who protect us.

From the SEC press release:

"Washington, D.C., Aug. 3, 2006 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today sued a Waco, Texas, insurance company and its affiliates for targeting American military personnel with a deceptive sales program that misleadingly suggested that investing in the company’s product would make one a millionaire. Since 2000, approximately 57,000 members of the United States military services purchased the product. The vast majority earned little or nothing on their investment."

The good news is that money from the law suit will go to the service members victimized by the misdeeds of this insurance company.

Press release, here.

There are a lot of "get rich quick schemes" popping up in "in-boxes." In many instances, this means someone getting "rich" at the expense of someone falling for their pitch.

Here are some great tips from the SEC on how to avoid securities fraud:

Be wary of promises of quick profits, offers to share "inside" information, and pressure to invest before you have an opportunity to investigate.

Be careful of promoters who use "aliases." Pseudonyms are common on-line, and some salespeople will to try to hide their true identity. Look for other promotions by the same person.

Words like "guarantee," "high return," "limited offer," or "as safe as a C.D." may be a red flag.

No financial investment is "risk free" and a high rate of return means greater risk.

Watch out for offshore scams and investment opportunities in other countries. When you send your money abroad, and something goes wrong, it's more difficult to find out what happened and to locate your money.

If a company is not registered or has not filed a "Form D" with the SEC, visit the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association to find your state securities regulator.

The SEC also has an excellent web page to help you investigate before you invest:

How to Avoid Investment Scams

Being an informed consumer is imperative in the Internet age. There is a lot of information on government sites that help the common person do this.

You can report suspected "suspicious activity" to the SEC, here.

All too often - when we spot a scam - we move on without thinking "someone might actually fall for this." If everyone reported what they suspect is a scam, we would see a lot less of it going on.

Of course, education is a powerful tool, also.

And if it seems to good to be true, is probably is NOT!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dollar Tree Suspected as Point of Compromise in New Debit Card Breach

KCRA Sacramento is reporting that a large number of people have had their debit cards compromised in Northern California. They all have one thing in common, they used their card (legitimately) at Dollar Tree.

Dollar Tree is a nationwide chain with about 3100 locations that sells everything for a dollar, or less.

From the KCRA story:

Dozens of local victims have come forward in a massive debit card fraud investigation involving Dollar Tree stores.

Federal, state and local investigators are looking into hundreds of fraud complaints from people who suddenly found hundreds of dollars stolen from their bank accounts by a sophisticated ring of electronic bandits who recreated ATM debit cards and are believed to have stolen more than $600,000.

Although KCRA is local to Sacramento, they reported similar activity is suspected from another Dollar Tree location in Northern California (Modesto) and Oregon.

According to a previous article by KCRA, the Oregon breaches occurred in May and June. Of course, Dollar Tree isn't commenting, but is cooperating with law enforcement.

Current story, here.

Previous story, here.

There was another debit card breach recently, which started in Northern California and spread nationwide. At the time - although never admitted - speculation was that the point of compromise was Office Max.

Here is a post, I did on that:

Debit Card Breaches, A Growing Problem

In case you become a victim of debit card fraud, here is an excellent link from PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) on your rights.

Unfortunately - when it comes to our rights - debit cards don't seem to be as safe as credit cards.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Identity Theft Used to Lure Veterans into Telephone Scam

Fraudsters will go to no end in order to trick people out of their money. Now they are using the "fear" of identity theft to lure veterans into paying $9.99 a minute for "identity theft services."

KATU in Portland Oregon is reporting:

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is warning all veterans of a telephone scam regarding the recent data loss by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Kevin Doyle, a V.A. Police Operations Team Leader, says the scam works like this: The caller talks the veterans into believing that they have a resource to assist them with the lost veteran data.

The veteran is talked into calling a 1-800 number. Once the veteran calls the 1-800 number, the veteran is directed to call a 1-900 number. That is when the vet incurs a $9.99 per-minute charge.

Link to story, here.

900 numbers always cost, most telephone companies have 900 blocking - which is a good thing to have - especially if you have children.

I went to the VA website to see if there was any additional information, but couldn't find anything yet.

I did find another recent alert warning about a "telephone scam," where a company called "Paitent Care Group" is calling veterans and asking for a credit card number so they can have their prescriptions filled.

Link to VA alert, here.

To protect yourself from this - never give out any information when solicited by an unknown source. Before telling them anything of a personal nature - verify who you are communicating with a third party means - such as a telephone directory.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Interpol Website is a Fake

Anyone following crime on the Internet knows that fake websites are (too) frequently used in phishing schemes. Normally, these fake sites impersonate legitimate financial sites and try to lure people into giving up personal and financial information - which is then used in identity theft (fraud) schemes.

On occasion, malware could (also) be injected into a system just by visiting a site.

Now they are impersonating an internationally known and (respected) law enforcement organization.

The Register is reporting:

419 advanced fee scammers have created an exact copy of the Interpol website, which is expected to be used to dupe victims into believing they are dealing with the real International Criminal Police Organisation.

Please note that the website is still active and hosted in China.

Full story from the Register, link here.

Warning from the real Interpol site, link here.

Interpol isn't the only public agency impersonated in recent years, others include the IRS and the FBI.

I wanted to add a thought - which is - neither the Register, or Interpol give any specifics as to what the e-mails ask a person to do. There are references to Nigerian fraud, but the site is hosted in China? It will be interesting to see how this progesses.

If anyone has seen one of the actual spam e-mails, I would appreciate a comment on this post.

Nonetheless, a "scam is a scam," and this looks like a scam to me.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Local Governments Can Sell Your Personal Information

I was reading a Truston Identity Theft Blog post that posed the question of whether - or not - it was legal for local governments to sell personal information on line?

Here is an excerpt from the blog post:

The answer is YES. This article in FindLaw tells a gruesome tale of how state and local government is legally allowed to and has been posting your sensitive personal information online. This data could lead to identity theft and is being sucked out for use by data brokers that maintain files on everyone in the United States—and then sell your information to anyone that wants it. It was written by Anita Ramasastry, an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law.
The point of her article is that laws should be enacted - which place greater controls on this process.
I have to agree!
Link, here.
This pretty scary considering - as reported by the Privacy Rights Organization - about 90 million Americans have been compromised - and some of the biggest compromises have happened at the data brokers making billions off of maintaining and selling your information.
Note that I found the Truston blog a pretty good resource - and the gentleman who writes it (Tom Fragala) is a former victim and current advocate of victims. He is developing a new product for identity theft victims that seems to be a lot more "friendly" than a lot of the current ones - and it even allows you to see if you have a problem before spending a single "penny."