You will have read about or heard about cyber currencies such as Bitcoin. There are constant adverts trying to get people to buy Bitcoins with promises of instant wealth. While it’s true that Bitcoin has gone up in value massively – it is extremely volatile so is dangerous as an investment. Also, the value only exists on computers and there have been break-ins at places where ‘bitcoin’s are stored on computer and large scale thefts have happened.

 

A UK based operation  is creating PayperEx which is a new online market in cyber currencies.

It calls itself “The world's first alternative share market for cryptocurrencies and private companies based on blockchain technology”.

Blockchain Technology

For the everyday currencies that we all use,  banks hold records of how much we have (or owe) and so do other financial organisations, retailers and many others. They have ledger systems for keeping these records and audit trails to prove the figures are genuine. This is a very centralised way of keeping records and relies on the banks and other organisations who make a lot of money by managing this process.

Block chain is a method to allow de-centralised records that don’t need the involvement of banks or other financial organisations and hence transactions can be carried out at much lower charges.   This is only possible with cyber currencies that use block chain.

When a digital transaction is carried out, it is grouped together in a block with other transactions that have occurred in the last 10 minutes, encrypted  and sent out to the entire network.  The transactions are validated by a process called “mining” which is not described in this article.

The way this distributed record works is by having a network of replicated databases that are synchronised across the Internet and can be seen by anyone in the network.

Some of these networks are private but others are open so anyone can see the records. They cannot see the confidential details of people making the transaction though. That is still private.

PayperEX

PayperEx say their goal is to give people from all over the world a fair, easy and affordable chance to enjoy the benefits of the share market by buying "Paypers" - share based units on cryptocurrencies and private companies.

Blockchain technology is used to make the network secure and transparent.

PAX Private Wallet is to be a peer-to-peer payments service that allows people to send and receive funds in a simple

Pax Cyber Coins

The new coin is called PAX or PAX token and it is the only one used on the PayperEx network.

Each activity in the PayperEx network is performed using PAX, making the token an integral part of the network and the driver of its economy.

The Paypers

Paypers are shares based units on financial assets such as Bitcoin or a private company that will issue their shares in the network.

For every underlying asset, PayperEx will issued a limited quantity of Paypers.

Two types of Paypers will be issued: “BULL” and “BEAR”.

A "BULL Payper" for those who think that the price of the underlying asset will rise and a “BEAR Payper” is for those who think that the price of the underlying asset will fall.

For example, you believe that Bitcoin is going to rise, so you buy the “Bitcoin Bull Payper”. If Bitcoin does rise then you sell the Payper to another PayperEx participant and you have made a profit.  

The Paypers – Paypers are shares based units. To trade on the PayperEx network, users need to buy Paypers, each instrument (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.) will have a limited amount of Paypers that will be issued.

PayperEx is a UK company, whose founders have more than 15 years of experience in the finance industry,

Will this new venture work?

We will see!

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Colourful Robots

Social bots  are used in social media networks to automatically generate messages including Tweets and posts,  in order to advocate specific ideas, support campaigns, counter other social media postings and sometimes to pretend to be a person and attract followers etc.  

 Social bots appear to have played a significant role in the United States presidential election in 2016 but they have been in use since 2010.

 Twitterbots are already well-known examples, but there are corresponding bots on Facebook and other social media networks.

 Social bots are expected to play a growing role in elections and national votes unless legislation is enacted to restrict their impact.

 

Oxford University Study

 A study by Oxford University says “Facebook and Twitter Bots Are Starting to Influence Our Politics” and this is a warning that the influence of social bots should  can no longer be ignored.

 The report from Oxford University looked at the effect that social media bots pretending  to be real users online, had on the 2016 president election. Researchers aimed to determine whether the bots were actually able to affect the flow of information.

 The finding was that bots did have a significant influence on digital communication during the 2016 U.S. election,.

 Social bots are used "for spreading disinformation, political attacks and amplified perspectives," the study said. Research shows that politicians and campaigns have used bots in the United States and abroad in the past, allowing them to "manufacture consensus" and "democratize online propaganda" — meaning their views appear to be supported by a mass of real people.

 Propaganda Bots

 These are social bots pretending to be real people and these are increasingly being used on social media to affect public opinion in many countries. These fake profiles are common in Russia, the US and Germany among other countries.

 Jeremy Corbyn's election campaign in 2017 campaign was boosted by fake Twitter accounts, regardless of whether his people had any involvement in setting them up. They were churning out an average of 1,000 messages a day  favouring Labour.

 A study by the FT reported that during the BREXIT referendum campaign, "the 20 most prolific accounts … displayed indications of high levels of automation". This supported research last year, again from Oxford, that found that "on average 12.3% of traffic about UK politics is generated by highly automated accounts".

 Bots with large numbers of followers are the ideal conduits for disinformation, sharing fake news within the echo chambers that have grown out of the content display logic of social media algorithms.

 Junk News

 One in eight political stories shared on Twitter in the run-up to the general election is from a "junk news source", according to latest research.

 The study found content about the Labour Party dominated traffic in the 2017 General Election.

 Research was based on an analysis of political news links shared by UK users in the first week of May 2017

 UK users shared one link from automated bot accounts promoting "junk" information for every four links to professionally produced news, according to the Oxford Internet Institute.

 Of those shared, 53% linked to professional news and information sources, while 13% linked to junk news - stories that are misleading or conflate opinion and fact.

 The rest of the sample included links to content created by politicians, experts and blogs.

 

Cambridge Analytics

 The Guardian has run several stories claiming that Cambridge Analytics is “a shadowy global operation involving big data” that also made a difference in the U.K. Brexit vote.

 The company claim they can persuade people to take a particular action by triggering psychological cues but the results are mixed and they have famous failures including when they backed Senator Ted Cruz to become Republican nominee and that didn’t happen.

 There is little evidence that their support for Donald Trump’s campaign was helpful.

 Trump’s Twitter following is estimated to be only 30 percent fake. That’s a lower percentage than, @barackobama — or The Washington Post. So you can see how widespread this problem has become.  

 

Out of Control

 Some people think that social bots are out of control and give too much power to those with the technology, but a lot may simply be good Marketing by these companies selling the technology.

 It is very likely that the effects of social bots will grow as they become battlegrounds in major votes.

 Maybe something has to be done about this.

 Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

If you have been defrauded of money or assets and the Police do not prosecute, then you may  consider a private prosecution – but it’s not easy.   

Criminal Prosecution

The Police recommend that you report any fraud to Action Fraud, who collate the information and where relevant pass cases onto the appropriate Police Force. 

The Police do not, however, have the resources to investigate every case.

If your case is successfully investigated it will be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service who will determine whether or not to prosecute.  This may be in a Magistrate’s Court or in the Crown Court

Private Prosecutions

If there is no criminal prosecution, you can consider a civil prosecution., which can result in a fine for the fraudster but not a custodial sentence or similar.

Anyone can bring a civil prosecution, but it can be expensive to pay for an investigation and prosecution so is usually only pursued in high value cases by people with significant financial assets.

Anyone contemplating a private prosecution should seek professional legal advice from a specialist solicitor or barrister.

Civil Litigation and Asset Recovery

As a fraud victim you may decide to seek compensation and recover assets by suing the fraudster (the defendant) in the civil courts. Breach of contract is the most common use for this.

A wide range of factors will influence the prospects of recovering your losses:

•             whether the money, or the fraudster, is located overseas;

•             the total number of claimants;

•             the availability of the fraudster’s assets;

•             the size of the total loss; and

•             the willingness of law enforcement agencies to cooperate and share information with the claimant (particularly when a criminal case has already been pursued).

Many lawsuits result in out-of-court settlements. Those cases that do go to trial are dealt with by the County Court or High Court, where they are allocated to an appropriate ‘track’ according to their value and complexity.

Costs

You can check online whether or not you qualify for legal aid at https://www.gov.uk/check-legal-aid

It is likely that you will need to pay your own legal fees, investigation costs and out-of-pocket expenses (known as ‘disbursements’). But other funding options are sometimes available.

Some of your legal expenses may be covered by an existing insurance policy. Otherwise, it may be possible to buy ‘after the event’ insurance, with the premium paid up-front, before proceedings start.

If you are one of a number of victims affected by the same fraud, you might agree to share costs by acting collectively, in a class action.

Credit Card Provider

If you pay for something using a UK-issued credit card and are defrauded, you might be able to recover your losses from the card provider.

Purchases between £100 and £30,000 made wholly or partially with a credit card are protected by Section 75 of the UK Consumer Credit Act 1974. This makes the card provider and the retailer jointly liable if something goes wrong.

As the cardholder, the most for which you will usually be liable is the first £50 of any unauthorised withdrawals or purchases (unless, for example, you have been grossly negligent such as not keeping your PIN secure).

Contact your credit card provider and give full details of what happened.

Insurance

It is worth checking your insurance policies to see whether you are insured against fraud, theft and/or dishonesty.

This may be through a stand-alone policy – for example, for card protection (individuals) or employee dishonesty/fidelity (businesses) – or as part of a wider insurance product such as home contents, travel, or legal expenses.

You can sometimes buy insurance after a fraud has taken place. This is called ‘after the event’ insurance. You might need this kind of policy to help fund the costs of civil litigation, asset recovery and/or insolvency. Such policies do not really provide insurance against fraud loss, but against the high cost of trying to recover those losses through legal proceedings.

Civil actions require a lower standard of proof than criminal proceedings - they only need to establish the case on a balance of probabilities.

This information is provided by The Fraud Advisory Panel.

For further information go to https://www.fraudadvisorypanel.org/uk-victims/recovering-your-money

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Which Magazine LogoThe consumer magazine “Which” has been going since time began.

 They have always campaigned for changes to the law to help consumers and to stamp out bad practices and they have special legal powers to make this easier on behalf of all consumers.

Which? is a brand name used by the Consumers' Association - a registered charity, based in the United Kingdom. It exists to promote informed consumer choice in the purchase of goods and services by testing products, highlighting inferior products or services, raising awareness of consumer rights and offering independent advice. The association owns several businesses, including Which? Financial Services Limited (Which? Mortgage Advisers), Which? Legal Limited, and Which? Limited, which publishes the Which? magazine.

The Consumers' Association is the largest consumer organisation in the UK, with over 573,000 subscribers to its magazine.

Super-complaints

The Consumers' Association has the power under The Enterprise Act of 2002 to take action on behalf of consumers, including the ability to bring a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). A super-complaint can be made about any market that is not working properly for consumers. The OFT has 90 days in which to assess the complaint and decide what to do about it. It can reject the complaint in part or as a whole, it can launch a market investigation, take action under competition law or consumer law, or refer the market to the Competition Commission for further investigation.

Which? made its first super complaint about private dentistry in 2001.It later made complaints about care homes, the Northern Ireland banking sector and credit card interest calculation methods. In March 2011 it made a super complaint about unfair debit and credit card payment surcharges made by retailers. 

Online Fraud Super-Complaint

In September 2016 Which? filed a super complaint against banks that routinely refuse to reimburse victims who have been scanned into transferring money into fraudsters’ accounts. Which? said banks should “shoulder more responsibility” for such fraud, much as they already reimburse customers who lose money through scams involving fraudulent account activity, or debit or credit cards.

According to official industry data, cases in the UK reported totalled  1,007,094 in the first half of 2016. Which? said: “Consumers can only protect themselves so far. People cannot be expected to detect complex scams pressuring them to transfer money immediately, or lookalike bills from their solicitor or builder” that are copied from genuine bills but have had the bank account number and sort code changed.”

Which? asked the financial regulator, to ensure banks better protect customers who are tricked into sending money to a fraudster. However, the regulator is not yet convinced that banks should be responsible for money lost to bank transfer scams.

Which? need more people to share their scams experiences with them and help put pressure on the regulator to deliver this change.

 Go to  https://campaigns.which.co.uk/scams-fraud-safeguard/ to add your name to the campaign.

Campaign - PPI Mis-Selling

Payment protection insurance (PPI) was usually sold with products that you need to make repayments on, like a loan, credit card or mortgage.  It was designed to cover repayments in certain circumstances where you couldn’t make them yourself. These include if you were made redundant or couldn’t work due to an accident, illness, disability or death.

As many as 64 million PPI policies have been sold in the UK, mostly between 1990 and 2010.

But Which found that PPI was often mis-sold. More than £27bn has already been paid back to people who complained about the sale of PPI.

Campaign – The Big Change

Which don’t think banks always treat their customers fairly and wants bankers to start putting customers first.

The public deserve better and banks should be publicly held to account for their customer service

Which? need your support to convince the regulators, government and banks to deliver better everyday banking

http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/better-banks/  to add your name to the campaign.

Campaign - Challenging Whirlpool

Which? want to make Whirlpool do more to prevent faulty dryer fires

Some 750 fires have reportedly been linked to Whirlpool’s faulty tumble dryers. Despite beginning a repair programme, Whirlpool’s fire-risk dryers continue to pose a potential threat to people’s homes. Whirlpool’s seemingly slow, and Which? think inadequate, response has further highlighted problems with the current product safety system. Join them in challenging Whirlpool to sort this mess out quickly.

Go to https://campaigns.which.co.uk/challengingwhirlpool/ and add your name to the campaign.

Campaign - Nuisance Calls and Texts

Which? are working with the Government to take action on nuisance calls and text messages.

Which want to stop you from being bombarded by this menace.

Sign their petition and report your nuisance calls to keep up the pressure 

Go to http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/ and add your name to the campaign.

 

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

 

Fat Prairie Dog

In the past, when almost everyone had to work physically hard to get enough food, obesity was not a major problem.  But nowadays, many of us have sedentary lives, get little exercise and have access to a huge range of foods many of which are calorie dense, meaning you don’t have to eat much to get a lot of calories – chips, pasta, sweets, cake, biscuits etc. And we love this stuff, feeding ourselves on processed foods to save time or money or just because we prefer the mix of salt, fats and sugars the manufacturers often load into the products.

1.     The Problem

Obesity is very much a serious problem in the advanced countries and the weight-loss industry is enormous but not necessarily very effective.

In the USA from 1980 to 2000 obesity rates doubled. In 2001, the U.S. surgeon general announced that obesity had reached “epidemic” proportions. Now, around 37% of adults are classed as obese . In Europe the picture is little better with most countries having more than 20% obese and the UK the worst at 28%.

Diets, supplements etc.  clearly help some people, but the problem of obesity continues and ever more fad diets and methods for weight loss keep appearing and sadly many are complete scams, perpetrated by people simply seeking to take advantage and make money for nothing.

The weight-loss industry is worth more than $100 billion worldwide.

2.     Losing Weight

Two of the most commonly used diet methods are the 5:2 diet and the Mediterranean diet which both have good scientific evidence to support them.

But, in theory, you can lose weight on pretty much any diet - as long as you eat fewer calories than your body  consumes in your daily activity.

Many weight loss programmes are quite ridiculous and have no scientific evidence to back them, but people are taken in by Marketing, celebrity endorsements and quite frankly a lot of lies.

Most diets work by making us eliminate certain foods from our diet. Remove one food (or many foods), eat other foods, and you will lose weight. But stopping eating favourite foods is not easy and is difficult to maintain long-term.

Diet regimes where the weight loss is at a moderate rate and can be sustained for a long run stand far better chance of long term weight loss than any of the quick fix methods.  But you can understand why people choose the quick fix rather than the long term slow approach.

The average on most successful short term diets is about 2 -3 pounds per week.  The more fat you have to lose the quicker the process at least initially. It gets harder to lose the last few pounds than the first few.

Even weight loss of one pound per week over a year gives 52 pounds and that’s a lot of weight loss if you can avoid putting it back on again.

3.     Scams and Ridiculous Methods

There are endless ridiculous diets on the market, including:-

·         The wine and eggs diet

·         The baby food diet

·         The cookie diet (seriously, just cookies)

·         The cigarette diet

·         The tapeworm diet (yuk)

·         The chocolate diet (I’d try that)

·         The magnetic diet

Ettc.

Some examples of scams

e.g. Grandma and Grandpa Rapid Weight Loss

Scammers like to pick unusual groups or places from which suddenly emerges a magical secret that can give rapid weight loss or increased brain capacity or a diabetes cure or banish cellulite or even a  cure for Cancer.

One latest one is about how Grandpa Dan and Grandma Sylvia were flying home when Dan had a heart attack and the plane had to land in Germany where they were taught a unique 2 minute ritual that magically melts away belly fat.

So much so that Dan and Sylvia between them have lost 68 pounds of unwanted weight.

https://fightback.ninja/grandma-and-grandpa-rapid-weight-loss/

Another magic weight loss secret (this one is soup) that lets you lose up to 37 pounds in just 20 days. In reality, you’d have to have your mouth sewn shut to have any hope of achieving that speed of weight loss.

Here’s another one.  Apparently, breakthrough research has discovered a fat burning ingredient in a common fruit and this can lead to 47 lbs weight loss in just 30 days. To get that rate of weight loss  I assume they kidnap you, chuck you in a prison and completely starve you for the 30 days. I can do without that.

4.      The Most Popular Diets of 2017

A diet is simply any fixed plan of eating and drinking designed to  achieve weight loss or maintain a weight or in some cases to gain weight.

1. Atkins diet

The Atkins diet, focuses on controlling the levels of insulin in the body through a low-carbohydrate diet.

People on the Atkins diet avoid carbohydrates but can eat as much protein and fat as they like.

2. The Zone diet

The Zone diet aims for a nutritional balance of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fats, and 30 percent protein in each meal. The focus is also on controlling insulin levels, which may result in successful weight.

3. Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet has been used for decades as a treatment for epilepsy and is also being explored for other uses. It involves reducing carbohydrate intake and upping fat intake. It sounds contrary to common sense, but it claims to let the body burn fat as a fuel, rather than carbohydrates.

4. Vegetarian diet

Many people choose a vegetarian diet for ethical reasons, as well as health.

There are many varieties of vegetarian diet including lacto-vegetarian (includes milk products).

5. Vegan diet

A vegan does not eat anything that is animal-based, including eggs, dairy, and honey. Vegans do not usually adopt veganism just for health reasons, but also for environmental, ethical, and compassionate reasons.

6. Weight Watchers diet

Weight Watchers focuses on losing weight through diet, exercise, and a support network.

Dieters can join either physically and attend regular meetings, or online. In both cases, there is lots of support and education available for the dieter.

There are thousands of other diets available of course.

5.     Scam, Fad or Both?

The FTC has provided a checklist, which is intended for advertisers but can also protect consumers from their own gullibility. Think twice before purchasing a product that promises any of the following:

·         Weight loss of two pounds or more a week for a month or more without dieting or exercise.

·         Substantial weight loss no matter what or how much you eat.

·         Permanent weight loss even after you stop using the product.

·         Blocking the absorption of fat or calories to enable you to lose substantial weight.

·         Safely lets you lose more than three pounds per week for more than four weeks.

·         Substantial weight loss for all users.

·         Substantial weight loss by wearing a product on the body or rubbing it into the skin.

6.     The Future

No doubt there will be a constant stream of ridiculous diets and fads for people to follow - celebrity diets, super-foods, supplements and any number of ‘magic’ ingredients to make dieting easier. Many will not work and some will be dangerous.

The successful dieters are most likely those with a very good reason to stick to a diet and those following the straightforward diets such as 5:2 and the Mediterranean diet and those going to Weight Watchers.

Maybe something that is magical in its effect on our weight will happen one day. But I’m not holding my breath waiting for it.

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

 

 

Ransomware

1.     Ransomware

Ransomware started around 2012 and is where your computer pops up a message saying that your files have been encrypted and you can only get them back if you pay a ransom.

Sometimes these messages are just what is called ‘scareware’ i.e. its an empty threat and if you don’t pay then nothing is lost. But the warning can also be real and you find your files have been encrypted and the chance of getting them unencrypted without paying the ransom is very slim.

Even if you do pay the ransom you may not get your files back.

Ransomware usually gets into your computer when you open an email attachment that contains the malicious code,  disguised as a legitimate file. However, WannaCry can jump from one computer to another without the user doing anything.

 

 

2.   Wannacry

 

The story of how WannaCry was so successful in propagating itself starts with the US government.  The NSA discovered a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows but didn’t warn Microsoft. The company did later find the vulnerability and issued security patches to fix it. But not everyone keeps their Windows computers fully up to date with security patches.

The vulnerability was used in a piece of software called EternalBlue which was published on the Internet by a hacking group called Shadow Brokers. Many believe the software was created by the NSA for their own use.

The WannaCry ransomware attack started in May 2017, The ransomware demands users pay $300 worth of online currency Bitcoins to retrieve their files, but the price goes up if they don’t pay on time. Even paying the ransom does not ensure a decryption key will be made available.

A UK cybersecurity researcher (known by the Twitter handle @malwaretechblog)  with the help of Darien Huss from security firm Proofpoint looked at the ransomware and discovered the name of a website which was being accessed by the ransomware. The website address hadn’t been registered by anyone so he bought the domain name. This was to track the progress of the Ransomware, but turned out to be a kill switch. Once there was a website at the domain name then Wannacry stopped spreading.

Back in March 2017, Microsoft  issued security bulletin MS17-010, which explained the flaw in MS Windows and announced that patches had been released. Two months later when Wannacry hit, some organisations had not installed the security patches and hence their systems were vulnerable to the attack.  The day after the attack started Microsoft issued emergency security patches for Windows 7 and Windows 8. Microsoft also later released patches for unsupported Windows XP  and Windows Server 2003.

 The way that Wannacry encrypted files meant that in some cases a decryption key could be generated. This method was posted on the Internet and  a tool known as WannaKey was developed  which could use this method on Windows XP computers.

WannaCry is estimated to have infected around 200,000 computers across 150 countries. According to Kaspersky Lab, the four most affected countries were Russia, Ukraine, India and Taiwan.

The strange thing about Wannacry is that it does not seem to have been designed to make money.  It turned out later that the way Wannacry demands payment by Bitcoin does not give the fraudsters enough information to create  decryption keys per organisation even if they wanted to.  

Previously common ransomware such as J.Lockey made millions of dollars for its perpetrators. But Wannacry only collected around $140,000. Once victims knew they couldn’t get a decryption key – they stopped paying.  

What was it all about?

3.   The NHS

Wannacry was rapidly spread across Europe and Asia and happened to hit the NHS very hard for a series of reasons including that they had old Windows 95 machines on their network and because their network has a huge number of computers attached to it. 

The attack affected many National Health Service hospitals in England and Scotland, and up to 70,000 devices – including computers, MRI scanners, operating theatre equipment and more were affected in some cases.

 On 12 May, some NHS services had to turn away non-critical emergencies. This was life threatening for some.

4.     Who Created Wannacry?

Linguistic analysis of the ransom notes indicated the authors were likely fluent in Chinese and proficient in English.

Cybersecurity companies Kaspersky Lab and Symantec have both said the code has some similarities with that previously used by the Lazarus Group (believed to have carried out the cyberattack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and a Bangladesh bank heist in 2016—and linked to North Korea). This could also be either simple re-use of code by another group or an attempt to shift blame. North Korea denies being responsible for the cyberattack.

 

5.     The Future of Ransomware

Wannacry seems to be about disruption rather than collecting money.

Plus it has the ability to jump from one computer to another – this makes ransomware much more dangerous than the versions that simply demand a few hundred dollars.

It can be expected that there are people working hard to create a new ransomware with that jumping capability but looking to make a lot of money.

The problems at the NHS showed that such ransomware can endanger life.

Hopefully many people will have been woken up by what happened and realise they have to put in the funds to keep their systems fully up to date with security patches and put more effort into maintaining the confidentiality of their customers and staff as the next generation of ransomware may be designed to capture confidential data as well.

As to the people who just want to cause disruption or deny us access to data – we can probably expect more such attacks and with a variety of reasons behind them.

Keep your online security fully up to date.

Do you have an opinion on this matter? Please comment in the box below.

 

One EuroIf you’ve been scammed, then you need to notify the Police and get a crime number as you will need that when reporting the crime to your insurance company and others.

 Depending what happened, you may have insurance that covers the loss so it’s always worth checking.

If the Police do not prosecute the fraudsters, it can be possible to make a civil prosecution yourself in some circumstances, but you would need to take legal guidance on your case to see if that can be done.

Assuming you have lost money in the scam, then there are different ways to  try to get your money back depending on how the money was paid.

 

1 Credit Cards

If you've paid for goods or services with a credit  card, you may be able to get your money back from the card provider.

Credit cards have the greatest protection, as you can make a claim against your card provider under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (because it means the credit card company is liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the seller). This only applies to purchases between £100 and £30,000.

2 Debit Cards

If you used a debit card, you may be able to ask your bank to get your money back through the chargeback scheme.

Chargeback is part of Scheme Rules, which participating banks subscribe to.

It applies to all debit card transactions including goods costing less that £100.

There are no guarantees your bank will be able to recover the money through chargeback, but you can try this route.

Chargeback also applies to credit card transactions and is particularly useful where the goods cost less than £100.

3 Unauthorised Card Transactions

If there is a transaction on your card you know nothing about, then you can make a claim from your card supplier as it is an “unauthorised transaction”.

If you hand over your card to have a specific  amount debited from it e.g. to pay a restaurant bill, and then you find more money has been taken without your permission, or a sum has been taken by someone else, you can make a claim for this extra amount. Make sure you report the unauthorised transaction as soon as you become aware of it.

The Payment Services Regulations 2009 and the Banking Conduct of Business rules place obligations on banks and building societies to provide a refund in these circumstances if specific rules are met.

4 Bank transfers

If you've been conned into transferring money into another bank account than you should contact your bank immediately, so they can try to recover the funds.

if somehow the bank has contributed to the fraud or if they've failed to try to recover the funds properly, you might have grounds to complain

If your bank doesn’t  give you a refund, then you can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (and do warn the bank)

You should also contact the police to get a crime number as this may be necessary for your claim.

5.         Direct Debit

Contact your bank immediately if there has been an unauthorised direct debit on your account or the amount of a direct debit is higher than you expected.  These are sometimes setup by the fraudster to take small amounts of money regularly in the hope you wont notice.

6 Money Transfer

If you’ve transferred money to a scammer using a money transfer service such as Western Union then it’s almost impossible to get your money back as it’s untraceable.  It’s effectively the same as giving cash.

Money transfer services provide advice on how to avoid fraud and scams, so it’s a good idea to take note of it before using such a service.

7.         Paypal

If the scammer has taken payment for an item through PayPal and then hasn’t sent it to you, you may be covered by PayPal Buyer Protection. But do claim quickly.

In some cases scammers set up a fake PayPal payment form which actually just collects your bank details. In this case, you have no protection under the PayPal Buyer Protection Scheme as you didn’t use the genuine PayPal screen.

 

A scammer may pay through PayPal, take delivery of the order, and then claim that they didn't receive it and make a claim through PayPal Buyer Protection. If you’re caught by this scam you’ll probably want to make a claim under PayPal Seller Protection. PayPal will investigate what happened.

8.         Payment by Mobile Phone

Paym, Pingit and other mobile services  offer means to pay for goods and services using your mobile phone.

If there are any problems in payment then you need to contact the relevant shop, online retailer or whoever took the payment as soon as possible. Plus of course you notify the payment provider (Paym etc.)

If you are defrauded and made the payment by mobile phone then contact the payment provider.

If you have made an electronic payment but to the wrong account then talk to your bank immediately.

Improvements to industry procedures made in January 2016 make the process of attempting to get your money back more straightforward than previously but do act fast.

 Be careful when making any payment and consider whether or not you would be covered in the event of fraud.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-wasters do let me know – go to the About page then Contact Us.

 

Euros

There are innumerable financial scams – largely because of the attraction of large sums of money to the victims and for the fraudsters there’s the reality of taking money from people for nothing, largely by using their own greed against them.

Online fraud is a huge industry with countless victims and it’s getting worse.

UK statistics show:-

Financial fraud losses across payment cards, remote banking and cheques totalled £755 million in 2015, an increase of 26 per cent compared to 2014.

Card Fraud is split up as follows:-

·         70% is remote purchases – i.e. where stolen card details are used

·         13% is lost and stolen cards

·         2% is card not received i.e. the card is stolen in transit

·         8% is counterfeit cards

·         7% is card ID theft – the fraudster uses the person’s identity information to get their card details

We all need to be more aware then ever of these scams and how to avoid them.

The five most common online financial frauds in the UK are:-

 1. Cold Callers

The victims may receive telephone calls offering them an investment opportunity with very high returns (20% or 40% or more.). The scammer warns that the offer is only open while on the call so the victim has to make a fast choice or lost the opportunity.  There may be a complicated story to explain why the offer is possible and cannot last.  The scammer will want payment by bank transfer or via a money transfer business such as Western Union. The bank account would be emptied once the payment is received ad payment via money transfer cannot be tracked or reversed.

2. Phishing

These are scams where the scammer pretends to be working for a trusted organisation such as a bank or electric company, local government, BT, Microsoft, and Google etc. Their aim is to get your details so they can access your online accounts, empty your bank account or use identity theft to pretend to be you and take out loans etc.

3. Pensions

Since the government changed the law so that people could take out some or all of their pension pot before retirement, people over 55 have been bombarded by cold callers offering “wonderful” schemes that supposedly give the victim access to their funds and still protect their pension.

Some of these schemes are genuine but carry such heavy charges that they are a very bad deal for the victim and many are just fake – they are simply a way for scammers to get your money.

4. Homebuying Fraud

Buying a home is the largest money transaction most people ever make and this is why scammers love it.

If they can get into your emails or those of your solicitor then they monitor what’s going on and wait for the opportunity to create their own email claiming to be from the solicitors telling you which account to pay into.

It’s their account of course and the money will quickly transferred out and gone. This scam intercepts cash transferred as a home deposit to a solicitor in the lead up to exchange and completion.

5. Free Offers

There are numerous free offers, free trials etc. available for all sorts of products from cosmetics to foods.

To get the free items, you hand over your credit card details or bank details and you may get something free. But the scammers create a direct debit or recurring payment and you may not notice for a some time the money being drained from your account. Once you notice it’s difficult to get through to the company and get the payments stopped.

These are personal frauds but there are the very large scale frauds that happen such as these two examples.:-

The Traffic Monsoon Ponzi Scheme

Pyramid investment scheme worth £160 million was shut down after taking money from 162,000 people

Traffic Monsoon, run by Charles Scoville, claimed to make people money through online advertising ‘AdPacks’ but   Scoville, an American “entrepreneur” has a history of similar schemes that collapse.

https://fightback.ninja/the-traffic-monsoon-ponzi-scheme/

OneCoin Cyber Currency

Emails about OneCoin claim this is the new cyber currency that has made more than 300 millionaires already. It is a claim of money from nowhere and the authorities in multiple countries are investigating the company.

OneCoin says it is a digital currency similar to bitcoin but with key differences such as it uses a centralized hub for exchange, storage and transaction logging. This difference has led some to claim that OneCoin isn’t a cyber currency at all.

It’s just a scam.

https://fightback.ninja/onecoin-cyber-currency/

 

Be wary.

TrackingIf you visit a website that sells say clothes, then the website will almost certainly include some kind of tracking.

 This is so the owners can look at how people shop on their site – which pages are accessed the most, what do people do after marking an item for purchase – do they go straight to the checkout or keep browsing etc.?

They can use this analysis to improve their website and hence make it a better place to shop.

This makes sense and isn’t really intrusive – you pretty much expect the website owners to be interested in how people shop on their site and how to improve it.

Targeted Advertising

It is very common now that you look at items for sale on one website then find those items appear as adverts on other websites you visit.

The basic idea is that advertising can be targeted at people who have already shown an interest in specific products.

This happens a lot with Amazon – you view some items then the next websites you visit show ads for those items whether or not you actually bought them.

 For some people this is an improvement on adverts for completely random items, but for others it’s an intrusion into their privacy as it shows information on your browsing habits appears to be getting passed from company to company.

That isn’t entirely true as what happens is that, for example:-

A.      You visit Amazon and view boat shoes

B.      You then visit company B which has a deal  with Amazon to let Amazon shows its adverts on the website

C.      Amazon knows you have looked at boat shoes and picks adverts for those products to show on the website of company B.

D.      You see ads for the boat shoes you viewed on Amazon, but data has not changed hands.

Closer Targeted Advertising

Companies are trying more closely targeted advertising. For example Facebook recently announced a new feature that lets businesses target families. One member of a family may look at a travel site of Italian villas then the rest of the family see targeted advertising of Italian villas as well.

Again, for some people it’s better to see adverts they may possibly be interested in rather than random ones, but for others this is an invasion of privacy.

How Do They Track My Browsing Activities?

Tracking cookies can collect a lot of information about your device, including Your IP address, screen size, time-zone, plug-ins, and operating system. These items add up to become your “browsing fingerprint”.

These identifiers are not unique per person but less than one in a million will have the same browsing fingerprint.

If a company has trackers in lots of different websites across the internet, they can recognise you by this fingerprint.

They use tracking cookies (and website logs if they own the website) to record your browsing history.

What Profiles Are There On Me?

That depends on which websites you browse, which search engines you use and which if any add-ons you have installed.

In the European Union, companies have to show you the information they have on you if you ask for it, due to European privacy laws which include the statement  “Anyone interacting with an EU company or government agency can, for any reason, request all the data that entity has about oneself, and the company or government agency must comply”. 

These profiles may well contain errors so if you get copies of it then you can ask for changes to be made.

However, you will have to prove who you are and the companies will store that information about you.

Google

Google basically stores everything – every search whether typed in or spoken.

If you go to “Google Adverts settings” then you can see a little of what Google knows about you.

If you go to Google Settings you can delete your browsing history and cookies etc. if you wish. Note that deleting cookies may mean websites that remembered you will not next time.

Google's location history, or timeline page, brings up a Google Map and allows you to select specific dates and times and see where you were. Its accuracy depends on whether you were signed into your Google account and carrying a phone or tablet at the time.

If you want to delete this, then on the timeline page click the settings button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen and select delete all.

Delete all your online accounts at Deseat.me

If you want to delete profiles that companies hold about you on the Internet, then the Swedish website Deseat.me gives that a go. It uses your Google login to find as many profiles as possible and delete them.

Once you logged in, it brings up your online and social media accounts and allows you to delete yourself from them.

 

This doesn’t cover everything on the Internet about you of course, but it’s a start. And if you use the relevant websites again then they will build a new profile about you.

 

Romantic CoupleThere are countless people looking for love, romance and commitment and scammers think these people are easy marks. Numerous scammers spend their days pretending to be in love with various people and building a relationship to the point where they ask for money and sometimes get it. When the prospective partner stops paying then the scammer moves on to new victims.

 

This is cynical, nasty and immoral.

In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams or confidence fraud were reported to IC3  (Internet Crime Complaint Centre) and that’s up on the previous year. The losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million

How Do They Con People?

Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and use other people’s pictures and background. They typically pick someone on the Internet who is very attractive and copy their photo and details.  They then amend the details to make themselves desirable to the sort of victim they seek. The scammer will ask lots of questions of the victim and use the answers to make themselves appear just what the victim was looking for.

Once they have established a relationship then the requests for money start.  

This might be for requests for  aeroplane tickets to travel to visit the victim, medical expenses, education expenses etc. There is usually the promise that the scammer will one day join the victim in the victim's country. The scam usually ends when the victim realizes they are being scammed and stops sending money. This can be a very embarrassing and hurtful experience for the victims. 

Examples of the Stories Commonly Used

1.       The scammer needs the money for urgent medical treatment (or treatment for a parent or sibling).

2.       The scammer says they haven’t been paid in weeks and just needs cash to tide them over till their salary is released.

3.       The scammer needs money to pay for a passport or flight to meet the victim.

4.       The scammer needs to pay off corrupt immigration officials.

5.       The scammer has had money or valuables seized by customs and need to pay tax before it can be released.

6.       The scammer needs money to pay the phone bill or Internet bill in order to stay in communication

 

The Fake Military Personnel Scam

This is a variant on the usual romance scam, where the scammer pretends to be in the armed forces.

Here’s an excerpt of a typical email interaction between a scammer and a woman (complete with spelling mistakes).

hello dear what is a beautiful woman like you doing here, do yoy mean no men with eyes in [city]..you are beautifull, i am not always here you can drop your email or yahoo messanger id so we could chat more...bye

He has excuses why you cannot phone him, skype, Face time or any other way of seeing him Live as that would show up that he’s not an American military man – just a scammer using someone else photos off the Internet.

The website www.scamwarners.com has a lot of information on the scammers who impersonate military personnel, so if you’re unsure of someone claiming to be in the military, then try scamwarners.com

http://fightback.ninja/the-fake-military-personnel-scam/ for more details.

Professional Daters

The professional dater is different from the standard online scammer as s/he will likely meet the victim face-to-face.

The scammer may ask for gifts from the victim or use a set of stories as listed above to get money from the victim.

In some cases, the professional dater even arranges for a visit to his country. Once there. The victim is taken to lots of places and meets various people working with the scammer (taxi drivers, retailers, hoteliers, restaurateurs etc.). The end result is a very expensive holiday for the victim.

The relationship goes nowhere and the victim returns home lighter in pocket but still believing. The requests for money continue until the victim realises it was a scam.

 

http://romancescams.org/    contains a lot of material about romance scams and the scammers. 

The Warning signs of an Online Romance Scam

You meet someone online and after just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you, and ask to chat with you privately - that may be infatuation or maybe it’s a scammer trying to ensnare you.

·         Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you. E.g.  they say they are university educated but their use of language is very basic.

·         After initial communications, they have an elaborate story and ask for money or gifts.

·         Their messages are often poorly written, vague and seem repetitious.

·         If you don’t send money, their messages and calls become more desperate and persistent. If you do send money, they find reasons to keep asking for more.

·         They don’t keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can't travel to meet you and why they always need more money.

Protect yourself

If you see the warning signs of a scam, then talk with friends or relatives and research online to see if the photos are real (e.g. with Google image search) and check their background.

 

Above all, do not give any money and do not give out confidential information.

 

 

Pillar BoxRoyal Mail say they take the issue of scam mail very seriously and are  coordinating an industry-wide response to tackle fraudulent mail at its source.

They have developed an industry-wide code of practice and invited all mail operators in the UK to sign-up. This code sets out how the industry can actively work together, and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail.

Whistl and UK Mail have confirmed that they will support the code of practice.

The Code of Practice

Companies signing up to the code of practice will voluntarily commit to meeting the following obligations:

1.       Actively work together, and with law enforcement agencies, to tackle the scourge of scam mail

2.       Proactively share intelligence of confirmed scam mailings and suspected scam mailings

3.       Terminate any mailing identified by law enforcement agencies as being used to attempt to scam the recipients

4.       Include anti-scam terms and conditions in contracts

5.       Forge closer ties with law enforcement agencies and the broader communications community to prevent scams through letters, electronic communications, telephone calls and other means

6.       Provide help and support for victims of scams by sharing information received in our enquiries with appropriate partners including the National Trading Standards Scams Team, law enforcement and other agencies.

The Royal Mail are also:-

• Including specific anti-scam mail clauses in all of Royal Mail’s bulk mail contracts. These clauses will enable them to refuse to carry mail that is deemed to be fraudulent

• Engaging at a European level with other postal operators. This is about seeking to attack scam mail on a pan-European basis

• Commissioning dedicated research by Bournemouth University into postal scams. They believe this will be one of the most comprehensive pieces of research into the area. This report will be shared with the rest of the industry and law enforcement agencies.

Legal Obligation

Royal Mail is bound by the Universal Service Obligation and is required by law to deliver all mail entrusted to it. However, they say they are determined to do all they can to prevent scam mail entering the postal system with the help of their customers.

What Can You Do?

If you think you or a family member are receiving scam mail, you can report it to Royal Mail by completing a form online and posting it to Royal Mail. (https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/303 and click on ‘completing an online form’).

 The Freepost address is below where you can send the form along with the original envelope and any items of mail you have received that are relevant.

Alternatively, let them know your full name, address and a contact telephone number via the email or telephone options below and they will send you a form to complete together with a prepaid addressed envelope in which to return the form with examples of the scam mail received.

By post:              FREEPOST SCAM MAIL

By Email:            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By Telephone:    03456 113 413 (message service only)

As the largest deliverer of spam and scam letters, it was high time the Royal Mail did something to stop the flood of such items, especially to vulnerable people.

 

Let’s hope this permanently blocks  a large chunk of the spam and scam items.

 

 

CoinsMany of the perpetrators of Advance Fee Fraud  are Nigerian and this is generally known as the 419 scam, named  after  section 419 of the Nigerian penal code which addresses fraud schemes

 

Typically, the scams promise a large sum of money – an inheritance, money locked up by government, a donation or something similar. They send out tens of millions of spam emails offering the money and wait for replies from people who believe they will get something for nothing.

However, these people end up paying processing fees or release fees etc. and there is no large sum of money.

You might think that most people know of these scams and no-one would get caught out anymore but that is sadly not true. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars flow into Nigeria each year through these scams.

People in other countries do use these scams as well of course but it is predominantly people in Nigeria.

How a Typical Scam Plays Out

1.       The recipient receives an email or letter or fax from an alleged "official" often in a Nigerian Ministry but can be from any government or official sounding body.  It contains an offer to share a large sum of money (usually in the millions) with the recipient.

2.       He receives numerous documents with official looking stamps, seals and logo testifying to the authenticity of the proposal.

3.       He is asked to provide blank company letterhead forms, banking account information, telephone/fax numbers.

4.       Eventually the recipient must provide up-front or advance fees for various taxes, attorney fees, transaction fees or bribes or something similar.

5.       He is encouraged to travel overseas to receive the money.

6.       There is no large sum of money and the scammers move onto their next victim.

 

The most common forms of these scams are:-

  • ·        Inheritance
  • ·         Contract fraud
  • ·         Purchase of property
  • ·         Currency conversion 
  • ·         Over invoiced contracts
  • ·         Sale of crude oil at below market prices
  • ·         Government schemes

The confidential nature of the transaction and its urgency is emphasized repeatedly to make the recipient believe they are part of something big.

Although these schemes have been around for some time, there has been a big increase recently in such activities.

The Nigerian Government blames the growing problem on mass unemployment, extended family systems, a get rich quick syndrome, and, especially, the greed of foreigners.

Illicit Gains

The scammer wants to make the victim believe that he is being drawn into a very lucrative, albeit questionable, arrangement. He will become the primary supporter of the scheme and willingly give large sums of money when the deal is threatened which is common in these scams as a way of getting further money and involvement by the victim.

The recipient is now effectively a partner in this nefarious scheme. To prolong the scam, an alleged problem will suddenly arise e.g. an official may demand an up-front fee that has to be paid before the money can be released. This may be a licensing fee, local tax, attorney fees or anything similar. Each fee paid is described as the very last required. But, oversights and errors in the deal are discovered by the Nigerians and that means more payments are required and the scheme stretched out over a months.

Dangers

There can be dangers beyond that of losing money.

Victims are often asked to travel to Nigeria or a border country to collect the money.  They may be told that a visa is not be necessary to enter the country. The Nigerian con artists then bribe airport officials to pass the victims through Immigration and Customs. However, it is a serious offence to enter Nigeria without a valid visa and this can be held over the victim to extort more money. Threats of violence may follow if money is not paid.  Once in Nigeria the victim is at the mercy of the scammers and they have various ways to get more money from the victim.

Variants on the Basic Scam

The scammers know their scam is well known and they play on that to create variants.

e.g. The Repayment Scam

Scammers send out their messages claiming to be from the United Nations or Interpol or the FBI or similar and tasked with retuning money and paying compensation to those who have fallen for such scams and those on the scammers lists.

One such variant of the scam claims to be from the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It explains that he has been tasked with cleaning up the corruption in Nigeria and stopping the scammers.  Apparently he is working with the Nigerian Police, special FBI and CIA agents in Nigeria and has managed to apprehend numerous scammers.

Then comes the interesting part – he has been authorised to make payments of $5 million to each person on a scam list and guess what?  My name is on that list. Hence I will receive $5 million.

It instructs me not to make any payments to Nigerian Police or anyone else in Nigeria.

To release the funds I just need to pay a UN clearance fund fee to his office at the UN.

This is a creative way to try to get around the bad press that Nigerian 419 scams are getting.

e.g. The Kind Helper Nigerian 419 Scam

Mrs Marina Luda contacted me. She is a US citizen who is 48 and lives in Silver Springs in Florida.

Her story is that she was robbed by Nigerian 419 scammers.

Mrs Luda says she was scammed out of $85,000 and tried to claim compensation but got nothing so she went to the FBI and they told her to contact Barrister James Leo who would help her.

The Barrister did help her and got her $5.5 million in compensation.

Why the compensation is so much higher than the amount she lost is not explained and of course makes no sense.

She says she contacted me because she saw my name and email address on a compensation list. So I have to stop dealing with whoever has been helping me to claim compensation and instead go to Barrister James Leo who will get me millions of dollars.

This is all lies of course and seems a very strange story to concoct.

Anyone who believes they will get millions of dollars in compensation for having lost a small amount is far too open to being scammed and should think again.

As the Nigerian government suggests, where there are greedy foreigners there are likely to be fraudsters wanting to relieve them of their money.

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