Tag Archives: law enforcement

Cops Offer Safe Zones for Internet Transactions

Safe TransactionOne of the beautiful things about the Internet is the ability for people to buy and sell from one another.  However the Internet also can bring you in contact with some pretty bad characters who have no intention of conducting an honest transaction.

There have been many stories in the news of people robbed, assualted and even murdered as a result of meeting with people from person-to-person websites like Craigslist.

As a result of the rise in crime of this nature police and sheriff’s departments nationwide are creating areas at their stations for people to complete transactions that began online. These areas are known as Safe Zones or Safe Havens.

Although this trend started several years ago the idea has caught on.  As many as 70 police agencies stretching from Boca Raton, Florida to Bedford, Texas, have created safe transaction zones. They are usually in parking lots or lobbies according to websites that track the programs. Safe havens located inside buildings are normally open only during office hours and no reservations are required. Parking lots are usually available 24/7.

Because these areas are literally inside the police station or on police property and under surveillance theives are detered from committing crimes. The program does have its skeptics who believe the police accept some liability  if a transction goes wrong. But many police departments said they felt obligated to do something as a result of crimes carried out as part of an online transaction.

According to a report by the AIM Group, a classified-ad consultancy, 87 killings were tied to Craigslist interactions in the U.S. since 2007, including 22 last year and six so far in 2015.

Jim Buckmaster, Craigslist’s chief executive accuses AIM of unjustly portraying the website as fraught with risk for criminal activity. AIM has done studies of crime connected to Craigslist by its competitors.

Craigslist does offer an advisory on its “Personal Safety” page that reads: “With billions of human interactions facilitated, the incidence of violent crime is extremely low.” Among several precautions the company suggests is to “consider making high-value exchanges at your local police station.”

Where the service is available people seem to aprove. Atlanta Craigslist user Derek Lee said news reports of people getting murdered after connecting online caused him to complete his transactions at a police station.

That “is your ultimate safety zone,” he said. “It’s not just personal safety. I think people are less likely to rip each other off, like selling a bogus product or counterfeit product.”

Law-enforcement officials said it is too early to determine whether the zones are reducing crime, but some contend initial results are promising.

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Simda Botnet Taken Down

canstockphoto23093500You may think you are in control of your computer but are you? Have you ever heard the termin the background?” That is computer terminology meaning your computer is performing a task while you the operator are doing something else.

Most programs that run in the background are harmless and helpful. But your computer may be part of a botnet. A computer that is part of a botnet is known as a zombie.  Now the question for black people remains; what is your computer doing behind your back?

On April 9th, 2015 a joint effort of international law enforcement bodies and private security and technology companies came together to shut down one the largest botnets in history. The Simda botnet is believed to have infected more than 770,000 computers in more than 190 countries around the world including the US, Canada, Russia and United Kingdom.

Last week’s botnet takedown is just the latest international operation to shut down a botnet. Another separate takedown targeted Beebone, an extremely elusive botnet that provided a captive audience of PCs  that were infected with a backdoor. A backdoor is a method that a hacker uses to gain remote unauthorized access to a computer often remaining undetected. This backdoor provides access to criminals who were looking for an easy way to quickly install malware on large numbers of computers and impact huge numbers of people around the world.

The AACR keeps things simple. A botnet is a network of computers that are communicating with one another or a master computer and working together to perform a task. These computers are usually working together to launch denial of service attacks against a target computer or network.  This means that hundreds or thousands of computers that have become enslaved in a botnet are instructed to contact a particular website repeatedly causing the website, computer or network to become overwhelmed and stop working. It happens almost everyday and your computer could be part of the attack and you would never know.

Botnets are also designed to steal personal information including passwords, social security numbers, credit card details, email contacts, addresses and telephone numbers. This data may be used in crimes including identity theft, fraud, spamming, and malware distribution. Now suddenly the question becomes relevant to any black person who owns a computer; What is your computer doing behind your back?

The Simda botnet was known for distributing banking malware, installing backdoors on hundreds of thousands of machines across the world. One of them may have been yours.

To determine if your computer was part of the Simda botnet visit the Kaspersky Labs Simda Botnet Free Scanner.

Breaking It Down

The number of computers affected was put at over 770,000 machines. That number will surely get bigger as law enforcement continues their investigation. By some estimates the number could be as high as 2 million computers. And that is just this botnet. There could be thousands or hundreds of thousands of botnets big and small all over the Internet. You have to know if you are in control of your machine. Practice computer safety and security and use the tools like the Kaspersky scanner to make sure your machine is yours alone. 

Don’t play around with this. Your computer could literally be committing crimes whenever you turn it on. Hackers are clever and have done really sinister things like using other people’s computers to store information in hidden files. And the owner of the computer has no idea. It is very possible that you could be a victim of a hacker and not know it. Be suspicious and ask yourself; what is my computer doing behind my back?

 

 

 

 

Reacting to Online Fraud

You want to see a black person mad? Have them pay for something and not get what they paid for. Fraud is a reality whenever you shop online. And nothing is more frustrating than not knowing who to call when you discover you have been ripped off.

According to the  FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3 there were 262,813 complaints of Internet crime filed with the agency last year alone. Of that number 119, 457 or 45% reported actual financial losses. So how much money was lost to online fraud in 2013? How about $781,841,611! Yeah; I used an exact number because you need to see exactly how much money the criminals are raking in. The average victim lost $2,975  to online fraud. Again, exact numbers. You can see all the stats in the IC3 2013 Internet Crime Report.

Imagine how much larger those numbers would be if all the crime was actually reported. It is believed that as much as 15% of online fraud is never reported because the victims are just too embarrassed. 

Shopping or conducting business online is fairly secure if you take the right precautions. But what if you lose money to a fraud or scam? Who do you report it to? First let me say this; if you call your local police they may be woefully untrained on how to handle a cyber crime. Its not their fault. Investigating cyber crime is a specialized task that is beyond their pay grade. If you got ripped off by a fake charity that comes to your door they may be able to help. But a cyber crime that may originate half a world away is just out of their league.

One of the most common scams that strike people online is the phishing attack.  A phishing scam is when a cyber criminal tries to trick you into revealing potentially valuable information. The same information that was stolen from JP Morgan.

The criminal will create an email that is a near perfect duplicate of an email from your bank or other trusted source. The email may warn you about a potential security incident then provide you a link to click on for further information,  or to go to the website or a security patch or something like that.

If you click on the link one of two things are going to happen. You may be taken to a duplicate website and asked for your user name and password. Or you may download some form of malware that could steal valuable information. Most banks and other financial institutions do not communicate this way. My advice is never, ever click on a link you are not absolutely certain of what it is.  But if you do…

1) Forward the phishing email and link along to the company being imitated. If they impersonated your bank or other financial service provider make sure you let the bank know and forward the email to them as well.

2) Contact your local law enforcement and at least complete a police report. Also report the incident to the Internet Crime Complaint Center or IC3.

3) Remember that a paper trail is your best friend. Your bank or credit card company keeps excellent records. You should too. Keep a record of all the calls  you make and to whom you spoke with, your statements with the suspicious transactions and any other correspondence or documentation required.  If enough people report this scam it could trigger a community alert. Inform a government consumer protection agency or relevant tech firm.    

4) Delete the message once you’ve done all this and add the email address to your spam folder so you never have to see it again.

Most legitimate online shopping sites will offer a way for customers to dispute a sale or charge or report fraud of any kind.

For example if you get caught up in PayPal themed phishing campaign you will need to contact PayPal’s fraud department.  Do a simple web search for PayPal Phishing or PayPal Fraud. Remember that these cyber criminals can craft an absolutely flawless copy of a PayPal site or email so don’t click on or respond to anything suspicious. Once you are in touch with the real PayPal they will tell you exactly what to do. Nearly every bank and online merchant will have a procedure to report phishing and fraud. Use it. And the next question is; if they don’t why are you doing business with them?

I shop online regularly. And I worry about what happens if I don’t receive what I ordered. This rarely happens. But what if it did?

Disputing charges or an order is a skill you have to master if you shop online. You have to learn who and how to report it. How to return it and if necessary how to get your money back? Or what if you are overcharged? You need to learn how to dispute and get the correct product or money back.  Here are some effective steps for dealing with disputed or fraudulent transactions.

1) Contact the organization where the charges are coming from. Most legitimate organizations  have a fast and efficient system to help the customer. They want to correct the situation as soon as possible. And they will. These merchants will provide return shipping and refunds if the order or the price is not right. I have even returned items and got a coupon for the next time I shop on their site. They want your business.

2) But if that’s not the case or doesn’t solve your problem, contact your bank or credit card provider. You may be able to block the charges or even get your money back. Some credit card issuers and banks have fraud protections for their card holders. Merchants take notice when the bank or a credit card company calls. They don’t want that kind of trouble.

3) You may need to contact law enforcement or the Better Business Bureau or the IC3. Don’t hesitate if you think you’ve been ripped off. And don’t be afraid to take to social media and let them have it! You’ll be surprised what happens if you send out a Tweet.

Sites like eBay and Amazon are market providers. They simply create the online site where people sell directly to each other. There are many sites that specialize in providing a marketplace for buyer and sellers. Some online marketplaces carry very specific or unique products and others carry just about everything like Craigslist. A very dangerous place if you don’t know what you’re doing and how to protect yourself.  Now eBay and Amazon and many other online marketplaces are very diligent at protecting their customers and their reputations. But using these sites means you have to protect yourself.  Learn how they fight fraud before you get involved with them. eBay has an excellent system in place to judge the sellers on their site and are very responsive to complaints. Same for Amazon. Learn how to use their systems. But if something does happen you’ll need to follow their specific instructions for handling fraudulent sellers. Amazon and eBay are definitely ready to fight fraud with you and for you. 

Remember there are ways to fight online fraud. You have to educate yourself to spot it before it happens and how to react when it does happen. There is no software that is going to do the job for you.

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