Tag Archives: scams

Square scammed out of millions by woman selling bogus travel vouchers

Square has fared pretty well in the mobile payments business, and now the company, founded by Jack Dorsey, is preparing to go public. As part of that process, Square has given potential investors a deeper look at the risks and uncertainties that it regularly contends with. And while Square hasn’t dealt with too many unforeseen crises, one case mentioned in the company’s S1 filing stands out. A scammer who posed as a seller of travel vouchers on Square has cost the company millions. $5.7 million, to be specific — though that number may be Square citing the worst-case outcome. BuzzFeed News did some digging and discovered that the person responsible is 30-year-old Patricia Urbanovsky, who used Square under the name of Creative Creations, her events planning company based in Nebraska.

This wasn’t exactly what you’d call a genius criminal scheme. Urbanovsky sold “bogus discounted travel vouchers,” according to the report, and when buyers demanded refunds, Creative Creations ignored the requests and never paid anything back. That left Square on the hook, since the company admits that it’s often ultimately responsible for chargebacks and making things right with buyers who are targets of fraud. Square told Omaha police that it processed over $7 million in card payments from Creative Creations between last October and March, according to BuzzFeed News, and so far it’s had to eat $2.8 million in chargeback fees. At least 1,500 customers allegedly fell for the ploy, and both the FBI and IRS are now investigating the case.

It’s very unlikely that Urbanovsky will come up with the money necessary to cover millions in refunds, her frustrated lawyer admitted to BuzzFeed News. “This is a case that I didn’t charge enough money for,” he said. Square has already said it’ll “take the loss” brought on by the scheme. Square’s loss rate for transactions is typically lower than rivals like PayPal, so it’s not like the company gets suckered to this extent very often. But it’s still an embarrassing black eye for Square as it heads for an IPO and a new era in the company’s history.

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Apple customers targeted by fake iTunes email scam

A phishing scam asking users to click refund links in a legitimate-appearing email purporting to be from Apple is doing the rounds

Apple customers are being targeted by a phishing iTunes invoice scam designed to trick them into clicking a link to claim a refund for a purchase they did not make.

An email purporting to be sent from Apple is currently in circulation, appearing to bill the recipient for £34.99. The invoice contains the line: ‘If you did not authorize this purchase, please: Click here for Refund’ [sic] in an effort to trick users into entering their Apple ID into a fake login page, according to internet security blog Malwarebytes.

After entering their Apple ID and password, victims are then prompted to enter credit or debit card information, including their card number, address and full name.

The scam emerges in the wake of the news that TalkTalk’s website was subjected to a “significant and sustained” DDoS attack which may have compromised millions of users’ personal information, including names, email addresses, financial information and telephone numbers.

The attack, which took place on Wednesday October 21, is the third time TalkTalk has been targed this year alone. In August, its mobile sales site was targeted and personal data breached and in February, hackers were able to steal account numbers and names of TalkTalk customers.

The Metropolitan Police Cyber Crime unit said it was currently investigating the attack.

Earlier this week, it was reported that fraudsters were imitating Apple’s remote help site in an effort to gain access to victim’s computers.

Scammers typically try to trick users into landing on such falsified support sites by targeting them with false warnings and pop ups warning of something wrong with their computer.

When legitimate sites ask for sensitive information such as financial or personal details, a padlock icon is displayed in front of the url to indicate the presence of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.

Fraudulent sites impersonating Apple’s iTunes pages and banks including Natwest and Halifax have been wrongly issued with the authentication certificates recently, which can instill users with false confidence when inputting their details.

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This algorithm monitors Twitter for fraud in real time

The system, developed by an undergraduate at Harvard University, can mine Tweets for suspicious links in real time

Social media sites have become the primary medium for fraudsters to entice unsuspecting users with links to financial fraud websites. To help stop this, Daniel Rothchild, an undergraduate at Harvard University, has developed a program that automatically searches Twitter in real time for suspicious links appearing in tweets.

According to the results published in the Journal of Technology and Science, his program found more than 70,000 suspicious tweets in 24 hours, with 56pc of the tested links appearing fraudulent.

The most-tweeted fraudulent link, to a purported weight-loss program, was tweeted more than 12,000 times, and all of the top 10 most-tweeted links were found to be fraudulent.

This suspicious site ranked 1 out of 50 and had a count of 12,095 tweet occurrences. This image was captured from on 3/5/2015 but by the time of writing had been taken down.

A 2014 survey by the Get Safe Online initiative, a joint project by the UK government, the National Crime Agency and the telecoms regulator Ofcom, among others, found that 51pc of Britons surveyed were victims of identity theft, hacking or abuse on social media, while losses from online fraud are £670m a year.

In many cases, fraudsters lure victims to websites they have set up in order to collect their personal or financial information or to present them with advertisements that make deceptive offers – unsurprisingly this is increasingly done through social media websites including Twitter and Facebook.

But Rothchild’s algorithm turns cyber-criminals’ tool against them to proactively discover pockets of criminal activity before they get taken down. “Continuously monitoring social media data might allow consumer protection groups to become aware of fraudulent websites much faster than they could otherwise,” Rothchild wrote in the paper.

Having a more complete record of suspicious activity on social media could also prove invaluable to law enforcement when prosecuting fraudsters who try to conceal the extent of their fraud.

To help users protect themselves, Rothchild suggested it would be possible to create a browser extension that would warn users when they click on a link through Twitter that has been automatically identified by the tool as suspicious.

How it works

Rothchild wrote a Python script to search for keywords in Twitter’s real-time stream. The keywords are terms loosely associated with common types of fraud, namely: muscle, weight, diet, acai, cambogia, lose fast, and miracle pill. These were taken from a report on online fraud published by the US regulatory body Federal Trade Commission which identified several terms that may be associated with fraudulent offers, including weight, diet, exercise, weight-loss, prize, sweepstakes, lottery, and winner. The exact choice of keywords doesn’t matter, because it can be swapped to use any keywords that are suspected of being associated with fraud.

The algorithm searched in particular for links tweeted an unusually large number of times, as this suggests that a bot, rather than a human, is behind it.

The 8 distinct URLs found to be suspicious. The count is the number of times a URL which redirected to these listed URLs appeared in a tweet.

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