Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lawyers conned in job scam on CraigsList

Quite often, fraud victims don't want to go public with what happened to them. In my limited experience, this can be especially true -- when dealing with victims -- who hold prestigious credentials.

Fortunately, not all of them remain silent, and by speaking out, they protect others from becoming victims of the same thing that happened to them.

Here is a story by Arin Greenwood, an attorney -- who was the victim of what seems to be one of the more sophisticated job scams -- I've read about:

This is the story in which you learn how a graduate of Columbia Law School—that’s me—and almost 80 other people, who really should have known better, got suckered into giving away all our personal details as well as up to two months of our lives for “jobs” that never actually existed. And then you learn why it all happened the way it did.

How I Got Involved With The Scam

An intriguing Craigslist job ad turned up on June 21 of this year at a time when I was feeling particularly bleak. I had spent the better part of that morning losing at online Scrabble and wondering if I had enough money to get a small falafel for lunch.
Apparently -- Arin wasn't the only highly educated person taken in on this pretty elaborate job scam, which originated, where a lot of job scams do -- on Craigslist:

This lack of information was disquieting, but the Global Speculator team was reassuring: lawyers, researchers, writers, computer programmers, designers, administrators, executive assistants, and the one mathematician named Kermit, some of whom had been working since early June, when I first saw the Craigslist ad. And I trusted the wisdom of the group: There were almost 80 people working on this project. That is a lot of people, too many for everyone to be as silly and desperate as me. Surely someone in the group had a good reason to be there, and I thought I’d ride along on their coattails. Plus, one of my new co-workers was, it turned out, someone I’d worked with on Saipan, and I marveled at this reassuring coincidence; I knew this guy was smart, and if he was willing to believe that this was a legitimate enterprise then perhaps it really was. Unfortunately, I think he might have applied some of that reasoning to me.
In the end, no one is really certain what the intent was in committing this scam. If anyone wants to speculate, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

One of the speculations made from several of the people (who were scammed) was that this was part of an elaborate fraudulent investment scheme.

Arin Greenwood's story (courtesy of the Washington City Paper), here.

Michael Webster -- a noted attorney in Toronto, I've written about in the past -- writes about the importance of performing due diligence when making an investment. In this case, the people scammed certainly invested a lot of their expert time.

He has a very interesting and educational website that covers "due diligence," which I highly recommend reading.

Investment scams can be highly complex and the scammers can often appear to be pretty influential. Right now -- there is a lot of furor, over a person by the name of Norman Hsu -- who allegedly ran some pretty high dollar investment scams. The reason for all the furor is Mr. Hsu was making large political contributions to certain candidates.

Michael wrote an interesting article about the Norman Hsu phenomenon, here.

On a closing note, Arin should be commended for writing about what happened to her. Too many victims of fraud would prefer not to say anything about it -- and when they don't -- they make it easier for the fraudsters behind the schemes to continue victimizing people.

Awareness and communication are the probably the most effective tool against fraud.

Job scams are becoming more and more common, another good resource to learn more about this problem is at the World Privacy Forum's job scam page.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DIY (do it yourself) crimeware kits designed to steal personal information are for sale on eBay

Do it yourself (DIY) crimeware kits being sold on the Internet make it easy for non-technical criminals to commit fairly sophisticated (technical) crimes.

DIY crimeware kits have been credited with fueling the information (identity) theft crisis.

Ran into this interesting post on Cappnonymous (The Modern Day Beatnik Refuses to Die), which quotes a press release from PC Tools about crimeware for sale on eBay. The original press release from PC Tools points to eBay links, which have been deactivated.

Fortunately for those of us, who might be interested in taking a look at this, Cappnonymous was able to recreate a visual demonstration (screenshots) showing this illicit software being sold on eBay.

From the original press release from PC Tools:

Online auction site, eBay, is unwittingly selling software that is used to hack eBay user accounts and steal personal information, according to research from online security experts PC Tools.

A number of software items for sale on the world’s leading online auction site contain a variety of programs including keyloggers, trojans and other malware making devices that are aimed at helping users hack computers, websites and even individual user accounts.
The release quotes Mike Greene, VP Product Strategy at PC Tools as saying:

It is ironic that something intended ultimately to steal a consumer’s identification and financial information is being sold via what is one of the world’s number one targets for the ID theft.
Cappnonymous added his own sage comment:

Note a couple of the hilarities such as payment via Paypal and the Square Trade seal.

The seller’s feedback is 100%, so he/she must have some very happy buyers.

Cappnonymous post, which contains an excellent visual demonstration of this problem, here.

Although, eBay is frequently the subject of fraud articles, I'd like to point out that tools to commit cybercrime might be for sale on a variety of auction sites.

They are also being sold in a lot of other places on the Internet. Because the sellers are motivated to sell as many of them as they can, they will migrate to the best places to market their seedy products.

Some of them even provide technical support.

The Anti Phishing Working Group issued a detailed report last October regarding this problem, which can be seen, here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sophisticated Russian check fraudsters arrested in Fresno

Eastern European organized crime, particularly that of the Russian variety, has become a huge problem, worldwide.

On September 18th, six people of Russian origin got caught in what appears to be a pretty large check scam. The press and Fresno PD can only speculate, whether or not, the people arrested were organized criminals. I'll let the reader come to their own conclusion.

Nonetheless, the story reflects what many consider a growing trend in criminal activity becoming more organized.

CBS 47 in Fresno is reporting:

Fresno Police said ten people were involved in this very complex case involving multiple schemes. In one of the scams they would allow someone else to write check on their account.

They would then go back to the originating bank and claim someone had stolen their checks and was writing illegitimate checks. The bank would then refund their money and the suspects would essentially double their funds. They would even file police reports to make it look legitimate.

The case took Fresno Police more than a year to sort out. It appears the group was involved in hundreds of cons and scams.
The reason only six of the ten were arrested is that four of them fled the country.

CBS 47 story, here.

Organized criminal activity has become a huge problem in recent years. In California, where this occurred, the Attorney General issued a pretty extensive report detailing the problem, here.

The amount of known groups in the activity (not only Eastern Europeans) is getting out of control (my opinion).

I've also written a few things about organized crime, primarily from a financial crimes perspective, which anyone can read (if they're interested), here.