Malware May be Using Real GPS Data to Scam Speeders

There is a new malware scam hitting computers in Pennsylvania posing as an email containing a speeding ticket and containing a link that loads malicious software onto the user’s computer. The emails claim to be from the police department of Tredyffrin, Pennsylvania, and masquerading as an official body is nothing special for malware. What is interesting is that the data used in the tickets is said to be accurate, including the street names, their speed limits and the actual speed that the perpetrator drove at, according to the Tredyffrin Police Department.

Exactly where the data is coming from is unknown, but the current suspect is that the source is a phone app with access to the user’s GPS data and perhaps other personal information that provided the attackers with contact details. This source could be from either a legitimate app that has been compromised and hands over data to the attackers or a purpose-built malicious app that has been uploaded to the internet. It is common knowledge that GPS data can be used to determine speed as well as location, which would make GPS-using apps a good method for obtaining the data.

Thankfully for many, this malware scam seems to be highly localized to the Tredyffrin area, but it gives a good view of a new type of attack emerging. Possessing data that normally only legitimate sources would have makes a great way to deceive people into believing that they are the sources they claim to be. Despite this, this scam chooses not to offer a payment link for the fictional speeding ticking, in lieu of downloading malware, but other parties may make use of this method to different ends on a much larger scale in future.

Seller of Indian $4 Smartphone Accused of Fraud

Recently an Indian company revealed that they would be selling a smartphone for only $4, however, 30,000 unit sales later, it has turned out that it may just be too good to be true. The company has been accused of fraud by congressman Pramod Tiwari, with another MP, Kirit Somaiya calling the operation a huge Ponzi scam and requested the government launch an investigation into the company. This is hardly the first trouble for the $4 smartphone too, with an early prototype of the device being uncovered as a phone belonging to another company as well as being subject to a government raid making the device seem less and less of a reality.

Set to be launched by a small company named Ringing Bells, the $4 Freedom 251 device originally impressed many by packing a decent set of specifications for the price. A 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1,450 mAh battery, 4-inch 960 x 540 qHD display, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and a 3.2-megapixel camera was what it was capable of on paper, far from the expensive flagship phones launched by big companies, but for 251 rupees, it seemed incredible. Pankaj Mohindroo, the founder and president of the Indian Cellular Association told CNN that the sum cost of the Freedom 251’s components, even when using the cheapest possible, would cost at least 2700 rupees ($40) to manufacture. The device’s 3.5-inch touchscreen alone would cost more than the $4 that the entire device was to sell for.

Adding to this, at the launch event for the phone, the sample handsets given out by Ringing Bells looked nothing like the previous renders of the phone, which were later revealed to be Chinese Adcom Ikon 4 phones with the branding covered up. Ringing Bells founders Mohit Goel and Ashok Chanda claimed that the branding was present on the devices as the screen components had been sourced from Adcom and the device was a quickly put together prototype to show off.

It doesn’t stop there either, with Ringing Bells having faced a government raid on one of its offices due its lack of credentials and attempting to market a device without having a Bureau of Indian Standards certification. Ringing Bells hadn’t even begun manufacturing the phones by the time they were selling them, with the money raised from pre-orders to be put towards purchasing the manufacturing unit to create them. The final falsehood from the company is their participation in the government run Make in India program, which they were proud to be a part of. Except they were planning to make the devices in India with no subsidies and the Indian Government confirming that the company had nothing to do with the program.

With so many deceptions and inconsistencies floating around, it is hard to consider that this device could really materialize. Even now Ringing Bells has stopped taking orders for the device, reportedly to work on creating the phones already ordered. Whether those who have ordered their devices ever see them materialize, it is hard to tell, but with the release date for the handset targetted for June, we may not have to wait too long.

“Pay The Ransom” Says FBI Ransomware Advice

Ransomware is a significant threat to huge corporations as it is to you and me, the notion of every single byte of your personal files being locked up is a frightening thought to those who have treasured memories in the form of images and documents. How effective is Ransomware? It turns out very considering the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) is warning companies that they may be better of paying the ransom to the attackers in order to see their files again.

This centres on the success rate of Cryptolocker, Cryptowall and also other forms of ransomware that utilizes ultra-secure encryption algorithms in order to lock up data.  Joseph Bonavolonta who is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s CYBER and Counter intelligence Program in its Boston office was speaking at the Cyber Security Summit 2015 where he stated that “The ransomware is that good”.

This form of attack has been around for more than a decade which is slightly surprising considering one associates this technique as a newish phenomenon. Although the last three years have seen attacks rise sharply via both malicious email attachments and also drive by downloads which include Malvertising.

According to the FBI, Cryptowall is the most common form of ransomware considering it had received 992 complaints that totalled $18 million in losses. The FBI still wants firms to contact their local law enforcement agency, but, if a company’s data is locked then in all probability the FBI will not be able to retrieve it without a ransom payment.

An interesting element is the feeling that if attackers keep ransoms low for consumers, a bigger percentage will just pay, after all, many people have expendable income and may be inclined to pay.

I am not sure this advice from Joseph Bonavolonta is necessarily helpful, granted, I can understand his sentiments that the FBI may not be able to retrieve any data without a ransom payment, but, if you advise people to pay then this will keep happening over and over again. Criminals partake in these practices in order to make money; if they are making money then I am sure they would feel it’s worthwhile.

Also, there is no guarantee that you would actually gain access to your data once a ransom has been paid, after all, there is no incentive to do so despite Mr Bonavolonta’s reassurances that “You do get your access back”

The best prevention is to be aware of any email attachments or links contained within spam emails and to Not Click on them, if you’re expecting an attachment from a known source, always verify the email just in case said source has been hacked themselves. Any attachments should be scanned to be on the safe side if you trust the email, if you don’t, don’t download or click anything, I know that Nigerian Billionaire sounds tempting, but it’s not worth it, also, always keep your system backed up for a variety of reasons.

Image source

At Least 30 Managers Behind VW Emissions Scam

The Volkswagen emission saga continues, as German news company Spiegel reports that at least 30 VW managers are suspected to be involved with the VW emissions scandal, as a result of the ongoing internal investigation. Up until now, VW has proclaimed that only a small group of executives had overseen the installation of the software used to manipulate the emissions results of millions of engines worldwide. If true, that certainly isn’t the “small group” of managers it was once thought to be. However, a Volkswagen spokesman rejected the claim, saying “the number is without foundation”.

It is thought that the emission device responsible for this scam dates back to 2008 and can be found in over 11 million cars worldwide. Meanwhile, as the investigation progresses and uncovers more facts, VW lost yet another manager! The newly elected Skoda Chef Winfried Vahland left the Skoda division owned by VW over differences of opinions. Whatever way you cut it, this is not looking good for VW as the investigation progresses.

Despite VW losing a significant amount of its shares over the last month, alongside the risk of being fined billions for their fraudulent activities, do you think VW will be able to pull through? Let us know down in the  comments below.

Thank you Spiegel for providing us with this information.

Roaming The Open World Of GTA V Money Generator Scams

Grand Theft Auto is a franchise which has captured the imagination of fans with an engrossing open player world and also regular updates which never fail to entertain. But, with every tech development lays the reality of scammers and hackers who regularly target consumers with the notion of “free” items which are not as generous as they appear to be.

This time around it’s the good old-fashioned money generator scams which are attempting to persuade GTA V players with the promise of free money to be used within the game. So, what are the potential traps for those who stumble onto the wrong site and decide to commit a bit of GTA of their own?

Example – gta5moneyserver(dot)com

This site is in the business of counterfeiting news articles from popular legitimate websites, this is with the aim of touting its own service while convincing consumers of its own credibility. There are problems which are easy to spot; firstly, the articles are badly written which is a red flag in itself; secondly, none of the articles appear on the genuine sites if cross referenced and the formatting is uneven.

OK, let’s imagine I believe this, I don’t of course, that would be idiotic, the perpetrators of the site would need to implement a technique in order to send users free GTA cash. According to them, they have “exploited a cloud server through a very private 264bit encrypted DNS IP”  If a user submits a gamer tag through the site then he/she would be promoted to fill in a scam survey, which has plagued the internet for what seems like forever and a day. You won’t be receiving your coins anytime soon so it’s best to avoid.

All sites purporting to offer free in-game, well, anything, that is not from an official URL address site or provider is in all probability too good to be true. It will either contain a survey, virus or some .exe file which is little more than a fake, it might also ask for personal details which is also to be avoided. Oh, and while you’re at it, avoid any sites which “offer” in game Money, free DLC generators, rank improvements, account unbanning and any kind of DNS code tricks.

These scams will vary in order to seem relevant, but it will be in all likelihood the same outcome.

Thank you malwarebytes for providing us with this information.

Tax Credit Refund Scam Is affecting UK Based Individuals

Tax credits are a hot topic at the moment, this is in part to the Conservative death by a thousand cuts, I said cuts, plans which are set to reduce the income of many of the poorest in society by an average of £800 a year. Unfortunately, the adverse media coverage has been picked up by scammers who have devised a fraud which promises tax credit refunds.

Individuals have received messages within the last few days to a week which utilizes the Goo.gl shortening URL to redirect victims to what appears to be a compromised website: The message reads “Dear valued customer, we are happy to inform you that you have a new tax credit refund from HMRC. Click on the following link [URL] to claim your HMRC refund”

These messages have been sent via texts although you may want to keep a look out for other forms including emails in case the scammers diversify. The stats are below concerning this fraud, as you can see, it’s shocking to note that there have been 731 clicks so far considering the scam is pretty new.

  • 731 clicks so far, with the majority of them coming from the UK.
  • 440 of those were on iPhone, and 252 were using Android. Just 31 people were browsing via Windows.
  • The shortened link is around 1 week old, so the scam is pretty fresh.

The phishing page is located at – savingshuffle(dot)com/hmrc/Tax-Refund(dot)php:

The scam page appears to be from HMRC, but to be clear it is certainly NOT from the official government-backed site. The page would like many personal details which includes the following

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone
  • Email
  • telephone number
  • card details,
  • Sort code and account number.

Scroll further down the page and the scammers would also quite like a piece of “Identity Verification” in the form of a driving license number, national insurance number and mother’s maiden name. There’s also a pre-filled refund amount of £265.48 next to the submit button.

This is fake; this is a scam and please DO NOT under any circumstances click on any link which purports to offer any kind of refund. The official HMRC do not send any messages which purport to offer any kind of refunds in the first place. An official bank or government-backed service wouldn’t start a message with the words “Dear Valued Customer” Also, be aware just in case you receive a message with your name offering a refund, this would also be a scam with absolute certainty.

There will be inevitably more variants of this scam which prey on people’s financial circumstances; always be suspicious.

Thank you malwarebytes for providing us with the information.

Windows 10 Ransomware Discovered

Well this didn’t take long! A new form of ransomware has been discovered which if downloaded, will automatically encrypt your files before demanding a fee to unlock them. The distributors of this malicious code are attempting to impersonate Microsoft by “offering” users a free upgrade via email. This scam takes full advantage of the Windows 10 download process, which asks consumers to virtually wait in a metaphorical line for the upgrade.

So how does it work?

The distribution works by sending an email to consumers offering them a free Windows 10 upgrade. A sample of this type of email is below, firstly, the “from” address on the email is spoofed, (update<at>microsoft.com). This is not actually from Microsoft but from an IP address in Thailand. The attackers are also using a similar colour scheme to that of Microsoft with the aim of luring consumers into associating this email as genuine.

The next red flag is courtesy of the letter format which does not parse properly. This could be due to the targeted audience, a demographic using a non-standard character set, or the character set the adversaries were using to craft the email. Another suspicious but sneaky technique is the mail virus scanner which indicates the email is fine, it links to an open source mail scanner, but this is designed to trick users.

What is the Payload of the virus?

If this email is taken as a genuine correspondent from Microsoft, you will be asked to download a zip file which contains an executable file. Once run, the below screenshot will pop up. The payload is CTB-Locker, a ransomware variant and is currently being delivered to users at a high rate, whether it is via spam messages or exploit kits, adversaries are dropping a huge amount of different variants of ransomware. The functionality is similar to this kind of ransomware with a few extra features which include, the use of elliptical curve encryption which provides the same public/private key encryption but it’s a different type of algorithm with lower overheads.

Another feature for this locker includes using hard-coded IP addresses on non-standard ports to establish communication. There is also a significant amount of data being exchanged between systems, which are largely uncharacteristic for ransomware. An analysis of network traffic reveals that there were ~100 network streams to various IP addresses.  The most common ports being utilized are 9001, 443, 1443, and 666.

So how do I protect myself from this threat?

Be very careful with emails of this nature, look at the details and if unsure, research it, this is a powerful weapon at staying current and educated on the nature of these threats. Always question a “Free Upgrade” which is sent to your inbox, never open or install executable or any other file without checking the authenticity of the email and file. If in doubt, don’t open it.

These scams are becoming more sophisticated for the average user with the aim of virtually locking your files up. Always perform regular backups and use an up to date antivirus scanner as a matter of course.

Thank You to Cisco Blogs for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of digitallife

Google Ex-Employee Claims “Theft of Money From the Publishers by Google”

Pull up a chair, get your favourite drink, because you’re in for a long read here! A supposed ex-Google employee has spilled the beans on what may be a huge scam. To make matters worse, it seems the ones committing it is Google! Using methods of banning accounts to prevent them having to payout to the publishers, but only banning them close to a payout period to maximize the amount of cash Google can withhold from them, whilst also maximising their own profits; a pretty serious allegation I think you’ll agree.

I am a former Google employee and I am writing this to leak information to the public of what I
witnessed and took part in while being an employee. My position was to deal with AdSense accounts,
more specifically the accounts of publishers (not advertisers). I was employed at Google for a period of
several years in this capacity.

Having signed many documents such as NDA’s and non-competes, there are many repercussions for me,
especially in the form of legal retribution from Google. I have carefully planned this leak to coincide with
certain factors in Google such as waiting for the appropriate employee turn around so that my identity
could not be discovered.

To sum it up for everyone, I took part in what I (and many others) would consider theft of money from
the publishers by Google, and from direct orders of management. There were many AdSense employees
involved, and it spanned many years, and I hear it still is happening today except on a much wider scale.
No one on the outside knows it, if they did, the FBI and possibly IRS would immediately launch an
investigation, because what they are doing is so inherently illegal and they are flying completely under
the radar.

It began in 2009. Everything was perfectly fine prior to 2009, and in fact it couldn’t be more perfect from
an AdSense employees perspective, but something changed.

Google Bans and Ban Criteria

Before December 2012:

In the first quarter of 2009 there was a “sit-down” from the AdSense division higher ups to talk about
new emerging issues and the role we (the employees in the AdSense division needed to play. It was a
very long meeting, and it was very detailed and intense. What it boiled down to was that Google had
suffered some very serious losses in the financial department several months earlier. They kept saying
how we “needed to tighten the belts” and they didn’t want it to come from Google employees pockets.
So they were going to (in their words) “carry out extreme quality control on AdSense publishers”. When
one of my fellow co-workers asked what they meant by that. Their response was that AdSense itself
hands out too many checks each month to publishers, and that the checks were too large and that
needed to end right away. Many of the employees were not pleased about this (like myself). But they
were successful in scaring the rest into thinking it would be their jobs and their money that would be on
the line if they didn’t participate. The meeting left many confused as to how this was going to happen.
What did they mean by extreme quality control? A few other smaller meetings occur with certain key
people in the AdSense division that furthered the idea and procedure they planned on implementing.
There were lots of rumors and quiet talking amongst the employees, there was lots of speculations,
some came true and some didn’t. But the word was that they were planning to cut off a large portion of
publisher’s payments.

After that point there was a running gag amongst fellow co-workers where we would walk by each other
and whisper “Don’t be evil, pft!” and roll our eyes.

What happened afterwards became much worse. Their “quality control” came into full effect. Managers
pushed for wide scale account bans, and the first big batch of bans happened in March of 2009. The
main reason, the publishers made too much money. But something quite devious happened. We were
told to begin banning accounts that were close to their payout period (which is why account bans never
occur immediately after a payout). The purpose was to get that money owed to publishers back to
Google AdSense, while having already served up the ads to the public.

This way the advertiser’s couldn’t claim we did not do our part in delivering their ads and ask for money
back. So in a sense, we had thousands upon thousands of publishers deliver ads we knew they were
never going to get paid for.

Google reaped both sides of the coin, got money from the advertisers, used the publishers, and didn’t
have to pay them a single penny. We were told to go and look into the publishers accounts, and if any
publisher had accumulated earnings exceeding $5000 and was near a payout or in the process of a
payout, we were to ban the account right away and reverse the earnings back. They kept saying it was
needed for the company, and that most of these publishers were ripping Google off anyways, and that
their gravy train needed to end. Many employees were not happy about this. A few resigned over it.
I did not. I stayed because I had a family to support, and secondly I wanted to see how far they would
go.

From 2009 to 2012 there were many more big batches of bans. The biggest of all the banning sessions
occurred in April of 2012. The AdSense division had enormous pressure from the company to make up
for financial losses, and for Google’s lack of reaching certain internal financial goals for the quarter prior.
So the push was on. The employees felt really uneasy about the whole thing, but we were threatened
with job losses if we didn’t enforce the company’s wishes. Those who voiced concerned or issue were
basically ridiculed with “not having the company’s best interest in mind” and not being “team players”.
Morale in the division was at an all-time low. The mood of the whole place changed quite rapidly. It no
longer was a fun place to work.

The bans of April 2012 came fast and furious. Absolutely none of them were investigated, nor were they
justified in any way. We were told to get rid of as many of the accounts with the largest
checks/payouts/earnings waiting to happen. No reason, just do it, and don’t question it. It was heart
wrenching seeing all that money people had earned all get stolen from them. And that’s what I saw it as,
it was a robbery of the AdSense publishers. Many launched appeals, complaints, but it was futile
because absolutely no one actually took the time to review the appeals or complaints. Most were simply
erased without even being opened, the rest were deposited into the database, never to be touched
again.

Several publishers launched legal actions which were settled, but Google had come up with a new policy
to deal with situations such as that because it was perceived as a serious problem to be avoided.
So they came up with a new policy.

After December 2012: The New Policy

The new policy; “shelter the possible problem makers, and fuck the rest” (those words were actually
said by a Google AdSense exec) when he spoke about the new procedure and policy for “Account
Quality Control”.

The new policy was officially called AdSense Quality Control Color Codes (commonly called AQ3C by
employees). What it basically was a categorization of publisher accounts. Those publisher’s that could
do the most damage by having their account banned were placed in a VIP group that was to be left
alone. The rest of the publishers would be placed into other groupings accordingly.
The new AQ3C also implemented “quality control” quotas for the account auditors, so if you didn’t meet
the “quality control” target (aka account bans) you would be called in for a performance review.
There were four “groups” publishers could fall into if they reached certain milestones.

They were:

Red Group: Urgent Attention Required

  • Any AdSense account that reaches the $10,000/month mark is immediately flagged (unless they are part
    of the Green Group).
  • In the beginning there were many in this category, and most were seen as problematic and were seen
    as abusing the system by Google. So every effort was taken to bring their numbers down.
  • They are placed in what employees termed “The Eagle Eye”, where the “AdSense Eagle Eye Team”
    would actively and constantly audit their accounts and look for any absolute reason for a ban. Even if
    the reason was far-fetched, or unsubstantiated, and unprovable, the ban would occur. The “Eagle Eye
    Team” referred to a group of internal account auditors whose main role was to constantly monitor
    publisher’s accounts and sites.
  • A reason has to be internally attached to the account ban. The problem was that notifying the
    publisher for the reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks. The exception: The exact
    reason must be provided if a legal representative contacts Google on behalf of the account holder.
  • But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most
    amount of money accrued/earned.

Yellow Group: Serious Attention Required

  • Any AdSense account that reaches the $5,000/month mark is flagged for review (unless they are part of
    the Green Group).
  • All of the publisher’s site(s)/account will be placed in queue for an audit.
  • Most of the time the queue is quite full so most are delayed their audit in a timely fashion.
  • The second highest amount of bans occur at this level.
  • A reason has to be internally attached to the account ban. Notifiying the publisher for the reason is not
    a requirement, even if the publisher asks. The exception: The exact reason must be provided if a legal
    representative contacts Google on behalf of the account holder.
  • But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most
    amount of money accrued/earned.

Blue Group: Moderate Attention Required

  • Any AdSense account that reaches the $1,000/month mark is flagged for possible review (unless they
    are part of the Green Group).
  • Only the main site and account will be place in queue for what is called a quick audit.
  • Most bans that occur happen at this level. Main reason is that a reason doesn’t have to be attached to
    the ban, so the employees use these bans to fill their monthly quotas. So many are simply a random pick
    and click.
  • A reason does not have to be internally attached to the account ban. Notifying the publisher for the
    reason is not a requirement, even if the publisher asks.
  • But again, if a ban is to occur, it must occur as close to a payout period as possible with the most
    amount of money accrued.

Green Group: VIP Status (what employees refer to as the “untouchables”)

Any AdSense account associated with an incorporated entity or individual that can inflict serious
damage onto Google by negative media information, rallying large amounts of anti-AdSense support, or
cause mass loss of AdSense publisher support.

  • Google employees wanting to use AdSense on their websites were automatically placed in the Green
    group. So the database contained many Google insiders and their family members. If you work or
    worked for Google and were placed in the category, you stayed in it, even if you left Google. So it
    included many former employees. Employees simply had to submit a form with site specific details and
    their account info.
  • Sites in the Green Group were basically given “carte blanche” to do anything they wanted, even if they
    flagrantly went against the AdSense TOS and Policies. That is why you will encounter sites with AdSense,
    but yet have and do things completely against AdSense rules.
  • Extra care is taken not to interrupt or disrupt these accounts.
  • If an employee makes a mistake with a Green Level account they can lose their job. Since it seen as
    very grievous mistake.

New Policy 2012 Part 2:

Internal changes to the policy were constant. They wanted to make it more efficient and streamlined.
They saw its current process as having too much human involvement and oversight. They wanted it
more automated and less involved.

So the other part of the new policy change was to incorporate other Google services into assisting the
“quality control” program. What they came up with will anger many users when they find out. It
involved skewing data in Google Analytics. They decided it was a good idea to alter the statistical data
shown for websites. It first began with just altering data reports for Analytics account holders that also
had an AdSense account, but they ran into too many issues and decided it would be simpler just to skew
the report data across the board to remain consistent and implement features globally.
So what this means is that the statistical data for a website using Google Analytics is not even close to
being accurate. The numbers are incredibly deflated. The reasoning behind their decision is that if an
individual links their AdSense account and their Analytics account, the Analytics account can be used to
deflate the earnings automatically without any human intervention. They discovered that if an individual
had an AdSense account then they were also likely to use Google Analytics. So Google used it to their
advantage.

This led to many publishers to actively display ads, without earning any money at all (even to this day).
Even if their actual website traffic was high, and had high click-throughs the data would be automatically
skewed in favor of Google, and at a total loss of publishers. This successfully made it almost impossible
for anyone to earn amounts even remotely close what individuals with similar sites were earning prior
to 2012, and most definitely nowhere near pre-2009 earnings.
Other policy changes also included how to deal with appeals, which still to this day, the large majority
are completely ignored, and why you will rarely get an actual answer as to why your account was
banned and absolutely no way to resolve it.

The BIG Problem (which Google is aware of)

There is an enormous problem that existed for a long time in Google’s AdSense accounts. Many of the
upper management are aware of this problem but do not want to acknowledge or attempt to come up
with a solution to the problem.

It is regarding false clicks on ads. Many accounts get banned for “invalid clicks” on ads. In the past this
was caused by a publisher trying to self inflate click-throughs by clicking on the ads featured on their
website. The servers automatically detect self-clicking with comparison to IP addresses and other such
information, and the persons account would get banned for invalid clicking.

But there was something forming under the surface. A competitor or malicious person would actively go
to their competitor’s website(s) or pick a random website running AdSense and begin multiple-clicking
and overclicking ads, which they would do over and over again. Of course this would trigger an invalid
clicking related ban, mainly because it could not be proven if the publisher was actually behind the
clicking. This was internally referred to as “Click-Bombing”. Many innocent publishers would get caught
up in bans for invalid clicks which they were not involved in and were never told about.

This issue has been in the awareness of Google for a very long time but nothing was done to rectify the
issue and probably never will be. Thus if someone wants to ruin a Google AdSense publishers account,
all you would have to do is go to their website, and start click-bombing their Google Ads over and over
again, it will lead the servers to detect invalid clicks and poof, they get banned. The publisher would be
completely innocent and unaware of the occurrence but be blamed for it anyways.

Their BIG Fear

The biggest fear that Google has about these AdSense procedures and policies is that it will be publicly
discovered by their former publishers who were banned, and that those publishers unite together and
launch an class-action lawsuit.

They also fear those whose primary monthly earnings are from AdSense, because in many countries if a
person claims the monthly amount to their tax agency and they state the monthly amount and that they
are earning money from Google on a monthly basis, in certain nations technically Google can be seen as
an employer. Thus, an employer who withholds payment of earnings, can be heavily fined by
government bodies dealing with labor and employment. And if these government bodies dealing with
labor and employment decide to go after Google, then it would get very ugly, very quickly ….. that is on
top of a class-action lawsuit.

An accusation like this isn’t going to go away overnight, we expect we’ll be hearing further updates on this very shortly. No doubt many users of Google AdSense, which is just about every website around, will want answers too and Google has certainly got a lot of explaining to do, either to disprove these claims, or put things right.

FTC About to Mail out 55 Thousand Checks Worth $1.9 Million

Multi-level marketing, or MLM for short, is an old scheme rarely used anymore because people aren’t stupid enough to fall for it now. It isn’t that long ago that it wasn’t the case and BurnLounge made a small fortune with their pyramid scheme.

A pyramid scheme and multi-level marketing aren’t completely the same, and some forms are even legal in some places, but let us just say it is one thing for the sake of this article. BurnLounge promised the path to riches with its digital music store concept, but the only ones that got rich in the experience were the founders.

The site promised six-figure incomes, but most people didn’t even make back their initial investment. The company was shut down in 2007 after the FTC filed a suit against it. Since then BurnLounge has been fighting the case, hoping to end up as a winner. In 2011, a US District Judge issued a judgment that this was a pyramid scheme and illegal. That was appealed and BurnLounge lost again earlier this month.

On Monday, the FTC announced that it is mailing 52,099 checks totaling nearly $1.9 million (~£1.2 million) to consumers who paid to become BurnLounge “moguls.” A long case finally closed.

It worked the way that BurnLounge customers got their own online music store on a pre-made web page. There were several pre-paid plans and selling music led to rewards points, which could be traded for cash if the consumer paid to join the Mogul program for an additional fee. The company guaranteed a minimum commission of just 50 cents for selling a $9.90 album, while offering bonuses of $10 to $50 for selling product packages—in other words, for recruiting. The FTC’s expert found that 90 percent of the bonuses paid, minimum, would be for packages tied to recruitment, not for music.

Thank you ArsTechnica for proving us with this information

Mars One Colonising Mission a Scam, According to Finalist

Non-profit Mars colony mission Mars One, currently in the process of narrowing down the candidates it intends to send to the Red Planet, is a scam, according to finalist Dr. Joseph Roche. Roche, an assistant professor at Trinity College’s School of Education with doctorate degrees in physics and astrophysics, has called out Mars One in an interview with Elmo Keep on Medium.

Mars One claims to have selected its 100 finalists, of which Roche is one, from a pool of 200,000 applicants, but, according to Roche, the real number is just 2,761. He also accuses some of the finalists of buying their way onto the list.

Roche also claims that the multi-billion dollar Mars One project is pressuring finalists to donate money earned from guest appearances to the non-profit, which is odd considering the relatively low figures finalists would make out of such appearances.

Roche says that the finalists who appeared in a recent documentary about Mars One, produced by The Guardian newspaper, were only given that exposure since they generated the most money for the organisation.

Finally, he claims that the publicised psychological and psychometric tests Mars One supposedly used to narrow down the candidate shortlist never took place – Roche has never even met a member of the organisation, and his only interaction with the organisers was a 10-minute Skype interview.

Though Roche was reluctant to go public, fearing that it could erode public trust in future Mars ventures, he felt that he could not be silent about something that might ultimately damage the public’s perception of science.

Source: TechSpot

Phone Tech Support Scammer Threatens to Kill Sceptical Mark

Ten years ago, the most common internet-related scam was the infamous “419” confidence trick, e-mails promising vast wealth in exchange for a small investment. So infamous, in fact, that few people fall for it anymore. So, criminals had to evolve their approach, instead tricking their mark (or victim, to us) into thinking that they are getting a legitimate service for their money.

Thus was born the fraudulent technical support phone call, preying on people’s ignorance of computers to fool them into giving the tricksters unrestricted access to their computer. Thankfully, call victim Jakob Dulisse of British Columbia, Canada, wasn’t naive enough to fall for the fake tech support call he received, refusing them remote access to his PC to install malware and branding the caller a crook; the scammer didn’t take kindly to being called out.

“You do understand we have each and every information, your address, your phone number. We have our group in Canada. I will call them, I will provide your information to them, they will come to you, they will kill you,” the tech support scammer threatened.

Dulisse recorded the call two weeks ago, and the recording was picked up by CBC News:

Dulisse told CBS that he found the threats “chilling, but hard to take seriously.”

“He was still trying to get me to do what he was trying to do with my computer,” Dulisse said. “He was actually threatening me as a tactic.”

Source: Ars Technica

Guy Calls Shameless Internet Scammers Pretending to be an Elderly Person

We’re all aware of those fake virus webpages that say “your computer is at risk”. Sometimes you get a big pop-up pretending to be some anti-virus, telling you that you’ve got millions of viruses on your computer, while other times you get a phone number, saying that “an official technician” can solve the problem.

While eTeknix readers may find such websites laughable, some inexperienced ‘silver surfers’, might not. Their limited knowledge when it comes to computers and the web might mean they’re willing to give over everything to get rid of the frightening message on their screen. YouTuber Jack Vale decided to simulate such a scenario. He came across one of the offending websites, and gave the number a call. He delivered his best old person impersonation and complied with everything the scammers said.

The most shocking thing was when he asked how much it would cost to ‘fix’ the problem. Jack told the scammers that “we’ve only got about 400 dollars left that we can spend.” Not a problem for the scammers – apparently it only costs “$399” to get the computer up and running again.

Watch the full call below.

Source: aplus

Thieves Attempted to Use An iPod nano to Take Credit Card Information

We’ve all been warned of the many ways thieves can take our card information from ATMs. There’s all the elaborate card readers, cameras and other devices that criminals secretly attach to cash machines in an attempt to take our card information. Never have we seen one like this though.

Greater Manchester Police have shared details of a plot by thieves involving an iPod nano taped to the top of a cash machine. The 5th generation of the nano came with a tiny camera on its rear – something the criminals thought would be useful in snatching card numbers as people used the machine.

They taped up the iPod in a small box and attached it to the top of the machine. With the video recording, anyone that used the machine would expose their details to the camera, allowing the thieves to snatch the information.

The iPod in question is now in the possession of Greater Manchester Police and is being used to warn the public about this type of activity.

Source: Engadget

Woman Buys PlayStation 4, Gets Box of Bibles

In a repeat of a story from last week, a woman from California bought a PlayStation 4 as a Christmas gift for her boyfriend discovered, when her boyfriend opened the gift on Christmas morning, that the console had been replaced with two heavy bibles.

Sandra Ortiz bought the PS4 from a local Target store, with no clue that there could be anything out of the ordinary lucking within the console’s box. Ortiz told CNN that her boyfriend reacted in good humour, saying, “He said he didn’t want the Bibles unless they were autographed by Jesus himself.”

The most likely scenario is that a customer bought the console, swapped it for the two bibles, and returned it to Target for a refund, granted without re-checking the contents of the box. When Ortiz return the PlayStation to the store, Target employees “immediately apologized for any inconvenience and exchanged it for a new one.”

Source: CNet

Man Buys PlayStation 4, Gets Bags of Rocks Instead

A man from Denver, Colorado who bought a PlayStation 4 from his local Walmart was shocked to find upon opening the box that the console was missing, its place taken by two taped-up bags of rocks.

Igor Baksht bought the PlayStation 4 as a present for his niece and, despite the store clerk informing him that the console he was buying was a returned item, he did not check its contents until he was home. Baksht said that, before he wrapped the present, he opened the box, “Just to make sure everything was inside, that all the contents were inside, all the games were inside. When I opened it, I said, ‘Oh my God.” He says the clerk who served him commented about the weight of the box.

When Baksht returned to Walmart with the console box, he was initially told that there was nothing that could be done, and that they could not give him a refund. Only after pursuing the matter did the store manager call Baksht to offer him his money back.

Source: Kotaku

Wal-Mart Duped Into Selling PS4s For Just $90

Just a few days ago we reported on Wal-Mart’s price matching scheme, with which they have decided to match the price of a number of retailers, including Amazon.

Well some customers have taken advantage of this already, scamming the retail giant into selling them PlayStation 4 consoles for an unbelievable $90. The customers in question exploited the fact that all you need to list an item on Amazon is a registered selling account, which allows you to list practically anything you like on the site at any price. Presumably the customers listed the PS4 as sold out so they didn’t end up receiving any real requests from people wanting to buy one.

Once they had that account and the fake listing, all a customer needed to do was display a screenshot of the webpage to a cashier, ‘proving’ the lower price with which Wal-Mart promises to match.

“We’re committed to providing low prices every day, on everything. So if you find a current lower online price from an online retailer on an identical, in-stock product, tell us and we’ll match it.”

It’s not yet known how many have taken advantage of the scam, but we don’t doubt for a moment that  you won’t be able to take advantage of it for much longer.

Source: NBC News

Razer CEO Warns of Fake Nabu eBay offerings

As announced on his Public Facebook page yesterday, Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan warns of fake Razer Nabu smart bands becoming available on eBay.

His official statement reads:

I’ve been informed that there have been eBay, Craigslist, etc listings of the Razer Nabu and some of the prices listed have the Nabu for over US$400 or more with many customers already pre-ordering the unit at that price.

We have NOT shipped any Nabus to third parties at this time and that we strongly advise against purchasing at any unauthorized third party resellers.

Further – the retail price at the start will be under US$100 – and although you will definitely find scalpers that will resell the launch units for much higher prices (as with any Razer product that we launch) – we highly discourage you from purchasing from them. We know of companies that specialize in buying up Razer products at to resell them for a huge profit at launch and we’re doing everything we can to ensure this doesn’t happen at the detriment of our customers.

The launch units will be exclusively for our Insider members with mass availability to follow after.

If you’re keen to be the first few to get your hands on the Nabu, do check out Insider here at: http://insider.razerzone.com/

PS: Do share this if you can – I’d hate to have anyone scammed because they want to get a Nabu. As with all Razer products – demand always far outstrips the supply but we’ll do whatever we can to keep up with the production for demand.

Please feel free to share this article or click the link above to directly share this status to your friends and family. Although, if you’re going to fall for a triple-priced pre-release offering – maybe you deserve it? We’ve been reporting on Razer’s Nabu offering for a while now, waiting for a release with baited breath. We’ve seen Android app updates be released alongside copious amounts of product information, so please Razer if you’re reading this, stop teasing and give it to us already!

Image courtesy of Facebook

Don’t Fall for the GTAV Beta Scam

It wouldn’t be the first time people have fallen for a scam relating to the release of a AAA game. Grand Theft Auto V is no exception and has made many eager gamers the target with a range of phishing scams, dodgy torrent downloads and more. Of course a little common sense goes a long way, but scammers are getting smarter and it never hurts to be informed.

The current popular scam is that there is a Grand Theft Auto V beta, people are being tricked into signups, handing over their private details, downloading dodgy software and more – DON’T DO THIS. The simple fact is that there is no beta, in fact, the only way you’ll be playing this game prior to its official release is on either the Xbox 360 / PS3 versions. Unless you happen to be a developer, reviewer or press affiliate who works with Rockstar.

Rockstar has even been working hard to inform the masses that this is indeed a scam – so it must be a fairly seriously problem for the developer. The game is set to launch on November 18th for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with the PC release following on January 27th 2015. Don’t fall for the scams, just sit tight and wait for your pre-order or the release day.

Thank you SlashGear for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of SlashGear.

Facebook Scammers Exploit Robin Williams’ Death

Not too long ago, we reported on the tragic and unfortunate death by suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams.

Some people have now decided to utilize this tragedy for their own personal gain. You may have seen a ‘video link’ (as above) on your news feed recently, either though posts from certain Facebook pages or it being shared directly from your friends – do not click!

Once clicked, a webpage will open which forces you to share the link on your own timeline then complete a survey, after which it claims this video will be available to you. When the survey is completed, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no Robin Williams video displayed and you’ve only managed to do one thing – give these guys ad revenue.

Unfortunately, this is another case of “social engineering” which basically means manipulating people into clicking malicious links. Quite often you’ll see things like “Doctors hate him!”, “You’ll never know what happens next!” or even “Click here for this one secret!” – quite often the titles are too good to be true.

So how do you spot out  a malicious advertisement in your news feed? We understand that it’s not always easy. As we said before, usually the information is too good to be true. If it’s shared directly by a Facebook friend it might be worth you sending them a quick message just to ask the legitimacy of their shared link – quite often they might not even be aware of whats going on.

So far this scam has over 24 million shares on Facebook and is growing.

Security expert and blogger Graham Cluley shares similar thoughts on this news:

“The scammers have no qualms about exploiting the death of a famous actor and comedian to earn their cash, and give no thought whatsoever to the distressed family he must have left behind”

Have you seen a rise in this type of marketing scam recently? How do you combat the issue personally?

Image courtesy of Yahoo

Beware of Flight MH17 Facebook Scams Scumbags

The world suffers another tragic event and once again the scum of the earth crawl out of the darkness to take advantage of those who want to help others. The latest scam on Facebook, of which there are many, focuses around fake Facebook profiles of those who died in the Malaysia Airline Flight MH17, claiming that their credit cards were stolen from the crash debris.

Ukrainian MP Anton Garashchenko said on his Facebook page “Death hunters,” speaking of those who collect jewels, cash, credit card details and other valuable from victims, as he urged relatives to “freeze their credit cards, so that they won’t lose their assets to terrorists!”

Pretty serious stuff, but fortunately for the families affected The Dutch Banking Association has assured next-of-kin that they would be compensated for any fallout of credit card theft, which is a likely event given that Journalist Phil Williams noted that it was obvious that handbags, wallets and other valuables had been opened or taken from the site upon his visit.

Facebook is making efforts to shut down the scam Facebook profiles in a bid to prevent them profiting from others on the social media site. The pages were providing a link to a video about the crash, but instead users were taken to pop-up riddled sites for dodgy looking services, no doubt ready to harvest any private details you enter and likely infect your computer with viruses which could do serious damage or steal information.

Remember to do your research before clicking a link on Facebook, if it’s not a post from a well known charity with a long established Facebook timeline, or not someone you know, don’t click it.

Thank you Huffington for providing us with this information.

Half-Life 3 Kickstarter Launched… Then Cancelled, Doh!

This week has played host to something truly cruel in the world of gaming, a Kickstarter was launched to crowd fund the development of Half-Life 3 and no sooner was the campaign started as it was taken down.

The campaign was launched by Christopher James Butler, who claimed to have worked as a game designer at both Valve and EA. It was pretty obvious that the guy was just trolling to scam money off people and it’s a shame that it may have even worked on some people.

The first hint we had that this was a scam was that he didn’t have the relevant experiences listed and that his campaign was set up to raise just £1,500! We know games can be done on the cheap sometimes, but a AAA game like Half-Life isn’t going to happen on a budget that wouldn’t even pay off a few months of my rent, let alone fund a game development studio.

Christopher even took to replying to people’s trolling comments on the campaign, leaving a couple of defensive replied before it was pulled and frankly we hope he gets in some serious s%^t for doing this.

Now the only thing we do need is a REAL Half-Life 3 development fund-raiser, not that I think Valve need the money, but if it helps make the game a reality, I’m willing to pucker up some cash.

Thank you Cliqist for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Cliqist.

Anti-Scam Website Founder Agrees to Pay Millions in Scam Settlement


The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will collect more than £5.8 million in assets from two men that were a part of a mobile phone text messaging scam that tricked millions from users.

Sending “fun facts,” “love tips” and celebrity gossip alerts to customers for a whopping £5.88 per month, subscribers were unaware they were being billed.  The charges were found on bills using confusing names such as “77050IQ12CALL8663611606” and “25184USBFIQMIG,” with customers often not even realizing the charges were added.

The initial lawsuit was filed in December 2013, with defendants receiving a $150 million judgment – though that number was suspended because the two defendants, Andrew Bachman and Lin Miao, were unable to pay the full amount.

Phone “cramming” is a fraudulent behavior that charges unsuspecting phone subscribers with small charges, billed by a third-party company.  Cramming is becoming a more popular illegal tactic that the FTC is trying to crack down on, in an effort to protect phone subscribers.

In addition to the cash in multiple bank accounts, jewelry and cars seized, real estate properties in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, California and Chicago, Illinois also was forfeited.  The criminals lived lavish lifestyles, as a 2014 Range Rover, 2011 Audi and 2008 Bentley were confiscated, along with Tiffany watches and rings, and 10 and eight carat diamonds seized by the U.S. federal government.

Here is what the FTC complaint read:

“If consumers were able to find a phone number, they have often reached representatives who claim they will provide refunds, but do not.  In many cases, consumers have not received refunds for all of the months that they paid the bogus charges.”

Thank you FTC and Boston.com for providing us with this information.

Scamming Site Offering ‘Free’ Origin Game Keys Discovered

A site offering free game keys for Origin users has been discovered, where users have the freedom to browse through all the games available on Origin and request a ‘free’ key which will be delivered to them 24 hours after they have entered their login credentials in a basic looking form. Now obviously I will stress at this time that if you ever come across a site that appears to be ‘offering’ free keys and there is no hard evidence available to support it, turn around and walk away; these rogue sites are there simply to acquire your Origin login credentials. You can imagine what happens from there.

This new scamming site that has been uncovered runs under a number of URLs – the main one of these being ea-free-origin-keys.weebly.com , although a bit of rooting around has discovered that the site owner, who has built the very basic looking site through Weebly.com, has the domain names ea-origin-keys-4-free.tk and eaoriginkeys4free.tk also registered, pointing to the Weebly domain.  Further investigation shows that the site is hosted on a server in an Amsterdam datacentre in the Netherlands and is registered under BV Dot TK (masking the true owners identity), whilst the name servers suggest the site was registered through the Free Dom domain registration service.

Further more, the YouTube video that ‘shows’ how the keys can be obtained is shown on a page titled ‘BBC’ although the fact that there is only one video on this channel rings alarm bells in itself and the 480p quality is used to try to mask the creators personal details as they ‘demonstrate’ how the keys are requested. Whilst watching the video we see that the users system’s language is French, narrowing down the true source of the scam and in the comment section one watcher asks if this process is illegal – the response from the creator: ‘of corse watch the video ‘.

Whatever way you look at this scam, it is a cheap way of obtaining users Origin identities and considering how simple the site looks and the information behind it that can be found, I doubt it will be long before this site is taken down. I’ll once again re-iterate my word that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is – especially if it looks like a rookie attempt as well.

Source: eTeknix Reader

Microsoft Cold Call Virus Scammer Jailed

If you haven’t had one of those stupid phone calls telling you your computer has a virus, I bet you’ve at least heard from a friend or relative that has. Personally, I have had a couple and they’re great fun for trolling them right back, so long as you understand that it is a scam in the first place.

The scam is that they cold call people and tell them they’ve found a virus on their computer, ask you to pay them money which in this case was between £35 and £150 to remove it. They would then give you access to software that would remove the virus. The scam here is two fold, not only does this give them a way to access your computer and payment details, but also the software they’re providing you is freely available from Microsoft.

Mohammed Khalid Jamil, 34, from Luton hired people in an Indian call centre to operate this scam. As the head of one of many similar scams Jamil was caught in the act and this week was sentenced, receiving a four month suspended jail sentence, ordered to pay a £5,000 fine, £5,665 compensation and £13,929 in prosecution costs.

“We believe it may be the first ever successful prosecution of someone involved in the Microsoft scam in the UK,” said Lord Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board. “It’s an important turning point for UK consumers who have been plagued by this scam, or variants of it, for several years. Many have succumbed to it, parting with significant sums of money, their computers have been compromised and their personal details have been put at risk. Now that one of the many individuals who’ve been operating this scam has been brought to justice, it’s a stark warning to anyone else still doing it that they can be caught and will be prosecuted.”

Unfortunately we doubt this is the end of such scams, but hopefully it will shed light on the scam so that less people fall for it in the future.

Thank you BBC for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Electricpig.

Fake Flappy Bird Apps Are Spreading Android Malware

The creator of Flappy Bird took the game down for moral reasons but that hasn’t stopped people trying to exploit that decision for immoral ones. First we saw people selling phones loaded with Flappy Bird on eBay for grossly inflated prices and now we are seeing scam artists distributing fake Flappy Bird apps loaded full of malware. According to the security research firm Sophos it has discovered a variety of applications claiming to be Flappy Bird in third-party Android market places.

The malware used in most of these dodgy and fake Flappy Bird apps is hardly advanced, once installed they use their privileges to send texts to premium rate numbers at your expense. Other more dangerous forms of malware have also been identified such as those which steal your personal details. Another security firm, Trend Micro, also had similar findings telling users to be wary of all apps from third-party marketplaces, especially those labelled as Flappy Bird. They said malware loaded apps were particularly frequent in third-party apps stores from Russia and Vietnam.

The advice to consumers is simple. Flappy Bird is dead and even if you want to play it again don’t be tricked into downloading shady looking Flappy Bird apps because there is a high chance they will be loaded with malware, especially if it comes from a third-party app store (aka not from Google’s Play Store). Of course Google Play Store apps aren’t totally free from malware either so you’ll definitely need to keep your wits about you.

Image courtesy of Sophos, Information via TheNextWeb

Floor Tile iPads And Wooden TV’s Sold In Latest Scam

Getting ripped off can be a pretty awful idea, scammers use increasingly sophisticated techniques to con people out of their money. With the popularity of devices such as the iPad, it’s not uncommon to hear of people being ripped off while trying to secure themselves a quick bargain on the devices which often costs hundred of dollars.

Ceres, Modesto seems to be at the centre of the latest scam which was scam artists selling fake iPads and flat screen TV’s at great prices, they opened up the boxes and showed people what lay beneath, as you can see from the picture the packaging looks a bit rubbish, but for the most part it looks like there is an iPad in the box.

When customers opened their boxes after purchase they discovered they had actually bought painted floor tiles, the scammers had simply coloured them the same as the back of an iPad and painted an Apple logo on them before wrapping them in bubble wrap. The TV’s the scammers were selling were nothing more than painted wood, so that from a peak in the box they looked like the real deal and of course carried a similar weight to a real TV.

Remember, if it is not from an authorised retailer its likely too good to be true, but even then we’ve heard stories of people buying from stores like Walmart and Target and still finding fake goods in the box as customers abused their returns system, so perhaps it’s always better to check the item over before you leave the store.

Thank you SFGate for providing us with this information.

Images courtesy of SFGate.