Selling Fake Bomb Detectors Lands UK Businessman In Jail

fake bomb detectors
What Bolton and McCormick really deserve. (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

Back in April we brought you the story of James McCormick, who was found guilty in a British court of selling fake bomb detectors to several nations, including Iraq. When I was traveling in Iraq I saw his useless products, based on a novelty golf ball detector, being used at checkpoints everywhere. McCormick endangered the lives of countless people, including myself, and I’m glad to report that he’s now serving ten years in jail.

Well, not totally glad. A life sentence would be far more appropriate, but corrupt businessmen so rarely end up behind bars I’ll take what I can get.

Now another UK businessman has been sent to jail for peddling fake bomb detectors.

Gary Bolton, 47, of Chatham, Kent, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for selling what he claimed were sophisticated electronic devices. In fact, they were simply little plastic boxes with handles and antennae. The prosecution proved that Bolton knew they didn’t work yet his company Global Technical Ltd. sold them for thousands of dollars apiece to numerous security and law enforcement agencies in half a dozen countries, including Mexico and Thailand. Bolton also claimed they could detect drugs, cash, tobacco and ivory.

It appears Bolton may have been inspired by the success of McCormick’s bogus device, as one of them was found in Bolton’s home.

Who’s up for a good, old-fashioned tarring and feathering?

Craigslist user scams New York Times writer in London

Being victimized by internet scam artists isn’t hearsay–it’s happening all over, to all kinds of people, and all of the time. New York Times writer, Seth Kugel, published his personal testimony yesterday–a testimony of innocent trip-planning gone wrong.

While organizing his pending trip to London, Kugel found himself on Craigslist looking for attractive sublets in good neighborhoods. When he came across a Notting Hill studio available for a seemingly fair price (around $73 a night), he emailed the address in the ad and was responded to right away.

When the respondent requested that Kugel wire the money directly to his bank account, red flags should have been waving wildly in his face. But in Kugel’s defense, he’d recently lived in Brazil for two years; a country he claims utilizes wire transfers for even everyday expenses, like medical bills.

But he was duped. And that’s really all there is to it. Myriad are the ways in which internet scammers trick users out of their money, but it sure seems like accommodations, be them temporary or ostensibly permanent, are among scam artists’ favorite lures.

The good news? Kugel pieced together an insightful and resourceful list of ways in which we all can better avoid being scammed. You should read it here.

[photo by Elizabeth Seward]

Five chilling facts about Cyber Monday Shopping

cyber mondayOkay, your goal should be NOT to conform to what you see below. The travel industry, riding something of a recovery this year, is set to come out with some solid sales on Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day of the year. So, as you click among hotel, airline and online travel agency sites, it will pay for you to be aware of the biggest risks you face.

Despite the many risks associated with online shopping – and the fact that they have been shoved in the public’s face since the early days of internet commercialization – people still roll the dice with their financial security. When you get excited about cheap tickets or a real bargain on the excursion of a lifetime, take a moment to make sure you aren’t getting scammed. Your savviest purchase may be the one you never make.

So, what are the risks? Let’s take a look at five scary facts from web security firm Webroot:1. Don’t trust page one: a high placement in Google search results shouldn’t be a sign of trust. According to Webroot, 59 percent of survey respondents trust the results they get in the first few pages, up from 39 percent last year. Unfortunately, this placement is “a target for malicious links.” Interestingly, the number of people using search engines is falling: “48 percent of online shoppers frequently if not always use search engines to find gifts online, compared to 52 percent in 2009,” Webroot reports.

Solution: Watch brand. If you recognize the company’s brand, you can be more comfortable with the purchase. Also, watch where the link sends you. For an extra layer of protection, enter the company’s address into the browser yourself instead of clicking the link in Google.

2. Risky wifi behavior: 18 percent of shoppers are likely to use public wifi for holiday shopping, Webroot reports, up from 12 percent in 2009. This can be risky, especially with 23 percent of respondents feeling comfortable using free public wifi.

Solution: Do your online shopping at home or at work. Stealing wifi from your neighbor so you can toss your credit card number onto the web is probably pretty stupid.

3. New site, new password: are you planning to jump on a deal from a company you haven’t used before? Well, this is the point of many of the Cyber Monday travel deals you’ll see: companies want to lure you away from your ol’ stand-by sites. Do take advantage of the hot promotions, but be smart. Using the same password everywhere is like hiding a house key under your doormat.

Solution: Use a new password every time you create an account with a travel website. Also, be one of the 72 percent of online shoppers who uses a “complex” password – i.e., a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

4. Social should be personal: 26 percent of respondents to the Webroot survey indicated that someone else had used their social media or email accounts to send friends messages in their names. With travel companies increasingly turning to social media platforms to market their deals and bolster their brands, expect a lot more interaction this year … which brings hefty doses of risk with it.

Solution: Take a look at your sent messages from time to time, and look at your Twitter stream from the perspective of another user. Make sure you recognize everything you’re putting out into the world.

5. Look for safety: 52 percent of Webroot’s respondents don’t check to see if a site uses SSL, and 50 percent don’t look for the padlock in the lower right corner of the web browser. This is like not twisting the doorknob after you lock it.

Solution: pay attention to where you make purchases online. In addition to getting comfortable with the company website, you also want to be aware of the security in place. If something feels off, play it safe: don’t buy. No deal is worth the consequences of risky online purchasing behavior.

[Via Insurance Information Institute, photo by InfoMofo via Flickr]

Five ways to protect your wallet on Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is around the corner, and the travel business is getting ready to hit you up with some great deals. If all goes as planned for them, you’ll rush to pry open your wallet and book your next trip at a fantastic discount. Ready? Well, not so fast …

There are a lot of other people who want access to your credit card, too. But, they don’t want to give you anything in return. The scammers will be out in full force, and it’s incumbent upon you to protect yourself.

Jeff Horne, threat research director at web security company Webroot, has a few ideas for how you can keep your cash safe on Cyber Monday – and all the time, frankly. Let’s take a look at five recommendations from a guy who’s in the business of knowing what the online bad guys are up to:
Horne recommends the following actions:1. Horse’s mouth: don’t click a link to make a purchase. Instead, go straight to the site. This will protect you from the risks associated with malicious links. If an airline, hotel or online travel agent offers up a deal, just go straight to the company to buy it.

2. Password discipline: don’t use your mom’s maiden name on every site where you have an account. Mix it up a bit to add some protection for your online shopping activity.

3. Pay attention: Horne suggests looking for the “signs of security,” such as “https” in the address bar. Make sure that the travel company is putting some security measures in place to protect you. In addition to keeping the thieves at bay, it also shows that a company is interested in taking care of you, making it worthy of your purchase and your loyalty.

4. Choose carefully: use a credit card instead of a debit card to stop payments immediately if something goes awry. Also, your risk will be limited to available credit, rather than the entirety of your bank account. PayPal users: monitor the account from which PayPal draws to make sure it isn’t compromised.

5. ‘Tis the season: if you get a “confirmation” email that doesn’t have a tracking number, delete it. If you aren’t sure about whether a purchase has been confirmed, go back to the travel site where you made it and view your order history.

[Via Insurance Information Institute, photo by TheTruthAbout via Flickr]

Airlines getting scammed online, fighting back

Airlines lose a boatload of cash – tens of millions of dollars a year – because of online fraud. Think about it: you pay for your pillow and to check a bag because some degenerate can’t bother to work for a living. The airlines are keeping their customers in mind (shockingly), though, and they’re fighting back. Better protection systems, increased staff and a higher priority for prevention are now on the agenda as carriers seek to protect their coffers.

The stakes are high, and airlines are exposed. A Deloitte UK survey conducted in 2009, with 50 U.S. and global airlines responding, report that 48 percent have seen increases in fraud year-over-year, with average losses of $2.4 million a year. Yet, it could be far, far worse. CyberSource and Airline Information conducted a poll and came to an estimated loss amount of $1.4 billion in 2008.

According to USA Today:

“The general feedback from everybody … is that they see it getting worse,” says Graham Pickett, partner in charge of aviation services for Deloitte UK, which conducted its survey for the International Association of Airline Internal Auditors. “The main driver has been … the Internet, and in particular credit card type bookings.”

Airlines have invested in protecting their profits over the past two years, especially the larger companies. Of course, they aren’t all that willing to talk about specific measures:

“Common sense on this issue limits a discussion of what we do to track, prevent and seek prosecution of such occurrences,” says Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines. “We’re just not interested in providing a ‘how to’ lesson on the subject.”

The cyber-attack on airlines comes after online travel agencies, such as Orbitz, steeled their systems. For a while, they were the primary targets, with Orbitz, for example, getting spanked for millions of dollars a month by fraudsters.

The anti-fraud measures appear to be working. AirTran‘s team has reduced fraud losses to less than 1 percent of revenue, and Southwest says it has cut fraud by 73 percent.

How much does this matter? Think about all the small cuts you’ve had to deal with as a passenger. Every dollar matters to the airlines. Cutting fraud losses is just putting cash back in your pocket.

[photo by jepoirrier via Flickr]