Monthly Archives: December 2016

Congress Bans Ticket Bots

Courtesy Stuart Miles

Courtesy Stuart Miles

You have asked this question more than once; “How the hell did the concert sell out in five minutes?! Let me answer that question for you, Bots!

Bots are computer programs operated by ‘cyber-scalpers ‘ that buy thousands of tickets in a split second to re-sell them at astronomical mark ups. That is how bots cheat ordinary fans like yourself out of a fair chance to buy tickets.

Ticket bots work by using multiple IP addresses.  Such software, which is illegal in New York state, can bypass a ticket-selling websites’s security measures, such as CAPTCHA. According to the New York Times the secondary ticket market is an $8 billion a year industry.

The House of Representatives and the Senate have  passed the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, or BOTS Act, with rare bipartisan support. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued a state from his government website  saying, “These bots have gotten completely out of control and their dominance in the market is denying countless fans access to shows, concerts, and sporting events and driving prices through the roof. With this soon to be new law that will eliminate ‘bots’ and slap hackers with a hefty fine, we can now ensure those who want to attend shows in the future will not have to pay outrageous, unfair prices.”

The BOTS Act makes it illegal to circumvent a ticket sales website’s  security measures. The Federal Trade Commission will be charged with enforcing the law. Critics say bots feed a high-priced resale market that pushes ticket prices out of reach of ordinary consumers, particularly for hot events like the play “Hamilton” or a Beyonce concert. I mean, c’mon! How do you think the play “Hamilton” sold out for the next year? And the price for some a tickets have reached $10,000!  Really?

Here is the catch to a great move by congress. Many ticket bots operate with software and computers located outside the U.S. Because of this enforcement can be difficult. The New York Times reports that European governments are considering governments similar legislation.

Ticket scalping is legal. Companies like StubHub and Ticketmaster are well known ticket re-sellers. And yes, their ticket mark up can reach as high as 50 percent. So the law does not outlaw scalping it outlaws bypassing a website’s security measures. 

Passage of the BOTS Act is the culmination of years of frustration among the public, artists and producers infuriated by ticket hoarding bots that profit from their work while gouging the public. Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer of  the Broadway play “Hamilton,”called scalping “a usurious, parasitic business that only serves to create a new profit center between the artist and the consumer.”

Consider the recent visit by the Pope  to United States. Tickets to the parade were issued for free. But bots managed to gobble up thousands of them and they suddenly appeared on sites like eBay and Craigslist for hundreds of dollars.

Now you know.

 

Breach Brief – Yahoo! Again! A Billion This Time!

Yahoo-headquartersYahoo! admitted today that the previous data breach was just a warm-up act. The latest bad news reveals that user data recovered by authorities uncovered a different hack entirely. Now there are over a billion compromised accounts. Yes, I said a BILLION! 

This the second record breaking data breach of Yahoo! customer data. The previous hack endangered  more than 500 million Yahoo! accounts. It took years for that breach to come to light. 

Bob Lord, Yahoo!’s  Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) said, in a press release,  “As we previously disclosed in November, law enforcement provided us with data files that a third party claimed was Yahoo! user data. Based on further analysis of this data by the forensic experts, we believe an unauthorized third party, in August 2013, stole data associated with more than one billion user accounts.”

Yes, you read that right. More than a billion Yahoo! customer accounts have been vulnerable for over 3 years now.

It seems that Yahoo! employees simply don’t give a damn. Yahoo! admitted that some employees were aware of the breach announced in September as early as 2014. But someone inside Yahoo! decided to dropped the investigation.  

Yahoo! has advised, as it has before,  that “potentially affected users” change their passwords. Clearly Yahoo! has some serious  security  issues.  At one time Yahoo! was one of the biggest, most well known and respected Internet companies.  My how times have changed.

Now the company may die a sad death. At one time Verizon was considering buying the failing company but that could change and there are few other suitors.  According to Business Insider Yahoo! has admitted that Verizon may very well back out of the deal after this latest news.

Craig Siliman,Verizon’s chief lawyer, told reporters that the telecom giant has a “reasonable basis” to believe that Yahoo!’s monstrous data breach is equal to a material impact that lets Verizon trash the $4.83 billion deal.  

If that were to happen we could witness the death of the first giant Internet company. It would be historic but no unprecedented in the business world. You remember PanAm Airlines don’t you?

Samsung Note 7 Sentenced to Death

samsung-note-7Samsung has passed final judgement on the arson prone Note 7. And the sentence is death.

Although roughly 90 percent of the phones have been returned to the company plenty of people are still carrying around the Galaxy Note 7.  Soon the phone will be absolutely useless. In a statement issued Friday Samsung announced that it will release the software equivalent of a lethal injection to U.S. distributed Note 7 phones. The software update will prevent the phone from charging or working as mobile devices. Basically once the battery dies the phone is is dead forever. Remember Samsung recalled the phone because of explosions and fires. Because of this the FAA decided the phone was a hazard to aviation safety. A little over a month ago Samsung used software that capped charging on the Note 7 at 60 percent.

Samsung offered owners of the phone financial incentives to exchange their phones. Samsung has also issued updates in various countries that crippled, but didn’t kill, the phone. But Samsung customers are a loyal and hardy bunch and there are still people that have decided to keep their explosive devices…err phones.

But the day of reckoning is here. Samsung has spoken; Death to the Note 7.

Here is the full statement from Samsung.

“Consumer safety remains our highest priority and we’ve had overwhelming participation in the U.S. Note7 Refund and Exchange Program so far, with more than 93 percent of all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices returned.

To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19th and will be distributed within 30 days. This software update will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices. Together with our carrier partners, we will be notifying consumers through multiple touchpoints to encourage any remaining Galaxy Note7 owners to participate in the program and to take advantage of the financial incentives available.

Anyone who has not yet returned their device should immediately power it down and contact their carrier to obtain a refund or exchange, or visit our website at Samsung.com/us/note7recall for more information.”

But is the sentence final? Apparently not.  The Verge is reporting that Verizon is refusing to pass along the update to the Note 7 on it’s network.   According to a Verizon statement killing the phone poses a risk to Galaxy Note 7 owners who do not have another phone.

The statement went on to say, “We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note 7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.”

Breaking It Down

Ok, so this looks like the makings of a pretty good legal fight. It looks a though Samsung is doing the right thing by recalling the Note 7. They understand that the defect in the phone is dangerous and could potentially kill someone. They have taken urgent measures to get the dangerous device off the market. Its the right thing to do.

So the question is all about liability. And lawyers love that. Verizon, a retail distributor of the product, is refusing efforts by the manufacturer to get a defective product off the market. Is Verizon liable if the recalled Samsung phone catches fire onboard a plane causing it to crash?  Or is Samsung liable if the phone suddenly dies and someone is unable to call the police or ambulance?

 This is a dangerous game of chicken being played by two huge corporations. Both companies have a responsibility to the safety and satisfaction of their customers. Both companies believed they are doing the right thing. Verizon wants to protect its customer from sudden outages and Samsung wants to avoid more lawsuits from sudden fires.

But the bottom line is that Samsung has the upper hand here. Why? Because Samsung will recover and probably release a kick-ass phone in the future. If Verizon refuses to play ball then Samsung may refuse to provide Verizon with the new phone in the future. That is a powerful incentive for Verizon to get those phone back. Let’s face reality, people love a new cellphone. Thats why they are constantly being updated and new models hit the market so often. If you don’t have the gadget then your customers go where they can get it. Verizon can’t afford that in the competitive cellphone service market. Get those phones back Verizon.

Online Holiday Shopping 2016 – Fake Apps & Online Stores

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Courtesy Stuart Miles

Holiday shopping for the best deal is a chore. Like most smart shoppers you use whatever tools you can find to get that great deal. But avoiding holiday scams is a real job and you have to be alert. Fake shopping apps and online stores are making your job a lot more difficult.

The holidays offer cyber criminal a great opportunity to fool customers into downloading malware . Once this malware is on board your computer, laptop or smartphone it can easily steal your personal and banking information. Criminals can and do create perfect replicas of popular brands and websites that draw unsuspecting customers to their site or mobile app.

A recent FBI press release warns consumers about fake app scams. These scams are often disguised as games. But don’t be fooled by fake apps that mimic well-known brands like Nordstrom’s and Nordstrom’s Rack, Dollar Tree, Dillard’s  and other popular stores and websites. Smartphone users can be fooled into downloading the app and then connecting it to their Facebook account or email. Like most things connected to Facebook the victim willingly  gives away personal information. These apps can also infect your phone or tablet with malware.

Just because you downloaded an app from the Apple App store or Google Play do not assume that you are safe. Recently Apple found and removed hundreds of fake shopping apps from its app store.

Chris Mason, co-founder of Branding Brand warns consumers to look for red flags before downloading shopping apps.  Warning sign of a fake app include typos and run-on sentences in app descriptions. Mason says to look beyond a brand’s logo when you download an app from Google Play or the Apple Store. Don’t download the first one you see. Check customer reviews for poor or one-star reviews or numerous user complaints about excessive advertising. All these could be a red flag that the app is fake.

There are also FBI warnings about fake deals from unfamiliar sites. The holidays are prime season for fake pop-up websites. And these sites are not so easy to spot. Cyber criminals are extremely clever at making these stores look legit. According to Inc.com these fake sites price most products competitively, but you can also find ridiculous deals designed to entice shoppers. Regular priced items mixed with the unbelievable deals make them look like a real store. But remember two things; “If it looks to good to be true it probably is,” and just because a store shows up in Google search doesn’t mean it’s legit.

 

Online Holiday Shopping 2016 – Best Gift Card Sites

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Photo courtesy of Nirots

There is a magical gift that, no matter what, is always exactly what the person wanted or needed. It is adaptable to any situation or occasion. This gift can be from the recipient’s favorite store or any store anywhere. And this gift can purchased for less than face value.  What is this super gift? The gift card of course!

One of the best gift cards to give is the reliable VISA ,MasterCard  or AmericanExpress Gift card. These three are perfect for gift giving because they can be used anywhere the credit cards are accepted and some are even re-loadable. How can you possibly go wrong when the gift card can buy anything from auto parts to nice dinners to clothing and jewelry. Using these cards as holiday gifts is a no brainer.

But should you have someone with particular tastes or if you know there is some place they get a special kick out of shopping then you can buy specific store gift cards. Almost every store provides gift cards and the top gift cards of 2016 can be found by clicking here.

And since this is the giving season lets look at the top gift cards sites. As I always say, “Black people don’t play when to comes to money!” So for African-Americans looking for the best deal on holiday gift cards there are a few sites you need to check out. These sites sell gift cards for below face value and these deals can save you some big money.

gift-card-granny-logoLets start with GiftCard Granny. The most amazing thing about GiftCard Granny is that you can actually download the Chrome extension and the apps for Apple and Android devices. GiftCard Granny offers over 150,000 gift cards from just about every store you can imagine and the discounts are nice. As much 20 percent off in some cases.  You can also sell your unused gift cards through the site. 

 

 

ebatesNext up is Ebates. This is another superstore of gift cards and they advertise discounts of up to 30 percent. And yes there  are thousands of stores and millions of cards to choose from. The deals are there but… You have to surrender your email address to even shop there. The site won’t even let you browse without surrendering some data. A definite turn off during the holiday season and good reason to move on to other gift card sites. 

 

raiseRaise.com is yet another excellent discount gift card website. This site lets the buyer shop using several parameters that include price, card type (physical or electronic),  and about twenty different categories of gift cards.  And if you are in Chicago you can check out the specials there as well. I am sure more cities will be offered soon. But trust me they have all of the major retailers  and hundreds of other specialty store and restaurants from Taco Bell to specialty steak houses. Right now it is also offering a new  sale section for additional discounts.

 

cardcashCardCash.com allows the user to buy and sell gift cards with awesome discounts.  And CardCash offers a 45 Day Buyer Protection Guarantee against those ever present holiday scam artists.  This site also allows you to search by physical or electronic cards and numerous different categories. You can find discount cards for hotel stays, restaurants, even frozen dinners. Here you can find gift cards discounted as much as 30 percent.

 

whizwalletWhizWallet.com offers discount cards from numerous different sites. According to their website they aren’t following the model that other sites use. Sites mentioned already buy and re-sell the gift cards. But WhizWallet compiles the inventory of the best discounted gift card sellers.  Using WhizWallet can help the customer find the right credit card, buy retail cards and discount cards. As always the selection is pretty expansive and you are bound to find the store you are looking for.

 

giftcardsGiftcards.com is another excellent gift card site that offers several different cards from various stores and providers. This site allows the user to even customize the gift card for special occasions. Y0u can get eGift cards delivered to your smartphone and again, every store is represented.

Holiday season is extremely busy and stressful for everyone. Trying to find the right gift for someone special can be a real headache.  But a gift card can definitely help. You literally have millions choices from stores to locations to type of gift. There are gift cards that allow you to give some special person a cruise or a vacation if you have that kind of money. May we suggest a Neiman Marcus Gift Card?

 But you may still need a little help. So WalletHub has released 2016’s Best Gift Card List  to help you choose. You can also check out their 10 Tips for Getting the Best Gift Card.

Finally, some people say that gift card are lazy gifts and seem impersonal. But research indicates 42 percent of Americans appreciate gift cards and cash over being mis-gifted.