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It’s not only the founders of a disputed GoFundMe campaign that raised $ 400,000 for a homeless man who find themselves in hot water . NBC Philadelphia reports Kate McClure, Mark D’Amico, and Johnny Bobbitt will face charges of conspiracy and theft by deception for allegedly concocting a false story to…
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has warned taxpayers to be “on high alert” for phone scammers demanding payment through bitcoin ATMs. It said payments via BTC cash machines have now overtaken iTunes vouchers as the most common method of scam payment reported to the tax authority.
Tax Month November Is Prime Time for Fraudsters
Around one million Australians are due to pay their taxes to the ATO on Nov. 21. In a statement on Wednesday, ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said fraudsters are growing increasingly sophisticated. They hope to exploit vulnerable people, often using aggressive tactics to swindle people out of their money or personal information, she lamented.
“November is a prime time for scammers as they know lots of people have tax bills to pay. Be wary if someone contacts you demanding payment of a tax debt you didn’t know you owed,” Anderson warned.
She added that the tax collector “will never ask you to make a payment into an ATM or via gift or prepaid cards such as iTunes and Visa cards, or direct credit to be paid to a personal bank account.” If uncertain about the legitimacy of a call, Anderson advised taxpayers to “hang up and call us.”
Bitcoin Scams on the Rise
Incidents of bitcoin scams are on the rise throughout the world. In November last year, police in Canada said more than 40 people had lost 300,000 Canadian dollars (U.S. $ 228,000) to phone scammers, who compel victims to make bitcoin ATM deposits on the threat of arrest for tax default.
Similarly, a Canadian woman suing for $ 48,125 sent to a phone scammer over a bitcoin ATM lost her court case in October. A judge of the Charlottetown Provincial Court ruled that the fiat money deposited by the woman into the teller machine belonged to Instacoin ATM Canada Inc., owners of the digital cash dispensing unit.
In Australia, scammers have made off with $ 1 million Australian dollars (U.S. $ 720,000) since the beginning of July after fooling people over tax according to the ATO. During the period, the tax body attended to more than 28,000 reported cases of scam attempts.
Anderson, the tax office assistant commissioner, stated that ATO officials would never demand immediate payment of a debt, use aggressive or rude behavior, or threaten taxpayers with arrest. She said:
That’s just not how we do business. We understand that it can sometimes be difficult to pay tax bills on time, so we urge anyone who is worried about paying to contact us as soon as possible as there are a range of ways we can help.
Phishing for Financial Information
Australians with tax bills of under $ 72,000 have the option to set up a payment plan with the authority, said Anderson, warning people against sharing their personal information with strangers. Since July, about 6,000 taxpayers have given away their personal or financial information to fraudsters through phishing scams.
“Your identifying information like tax file numbers, bank account numbers or your date of birth are the keys to your identity, and can be used by scammers to break into your life if they are compromised,” she warned. Some of the signs that give away scammers include aggressive or abusive behavior, threats of immediate arrest, and requests for payment through bitcoin ATMs or gift cards.
What do you think about the rising incidences of bitcoin ATM tax fraud in Australia? Let us know in the comments section below.
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The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday that it’s looking to shut down the “largest overseas real estate investment scam” it has ever encountered: an unfinished luxury development in Belize whose owners, the agency said, bilked people out of more than $ 100 million.
The scheme’s perpetrators…
Election Day is finally becoming a referendum on something that really matters: immigration. Who gets to live here? What does citizenship mean? What kind of country do we want? These are not small incidental questions.
Maplechange, a small Canadian cryptocurrency exchange, has ceased operations following the purported theft of all the funds it was holding. Despite promises of an investigation into the matter, many have accused the exchange of attempting to stage an exit scam.
Canadian Exchange Drained of Holdings
Maplechange took to Twitter to announce the hack, which took place one day after it had conducted “maintenance” to revamp its website. It claimed that “due to a bug, some people have managed to withdraw all the funds” it had been holding. The exchange said it had launched a “thorough investigation” and insisted that it couldn’t offer refunds to customers until it had concluded its probe. “We are extremely sorry that it has to come to end like this,” it added.
Some sites claimed that Maplechange had deleted the initial tweet within an hour, along with its Telegram and Discord accounts. Those reports cited another tweet from the exchange stating that it would cease business and shut down its social media presence, because it had been completely drained of funds and was left unable to pay its customers back.
However, Maplechange returned to Twitter five hours after it reported the hack, amid widespread accusations that it was staging an exit scam. “We have not disappeared,” it said. “We simply turned off our accounts temporarily to think this solution through.”
The company opened a Discord server for refunds an hour later, stating that it would be unable to refund any BTC or LTC that had been lost. However, it vowed to try “to refund everything else.”
Significant Trading Spike Prior to Hack
Maplechange saw a significant spike in trade volume in the week preceding the hack. After posting daily trade volume of between $ 2,000 and $ 3,000 for the majority of the second and third weeks of October, it bounced between approximately $ 10,000 and $ 65,000 in the days leading up to the hack, before falling to roughly $ 5,000 during the website maintenance period on Oct. 27. At the time of the purported hack, CCX/BTC and LMO/LTC were the two most traded pairings on Maplechange.
The company has since pledged to transfer all of the coins it still possesses back to the coin developers. At the time of this writing, it had said that it had already returned funds to Lumeneo (LMO) and Carbon Credit Coin (CCX).
Maplechange first launched an LTC/CCX pairing on Oct. 11. “Amazing volume today thanks to LMO,” it posted on the following day. “Make sure to grab a boatload for yourself.” It also introduced an XMR/CCX pairing on Oct. 2, and thanked its LTC/LMO pairing for producing “rock solid” daily volume on Oct. 3.
Do you think the purported hack of Maplechange sounds suspicious? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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A woman suing for 62,500 Canadian dollars ($ 48,125) sent to a phone scammer over a bitcoin ATM has lost her court case, local media reported. On Friday, Charlottetown Provincial Court chief judge Nancy Orr ruled that the fiat money deposited by the woman into the teller machine belonged to Instacoin ATM Canada Inc., owners of the digital cash dispensing unit.
‘Unfortunate Victim of Sophisticated Fraud’
“It’s most unfortunate that she was victim of such a sophisticated fraud,” judge Orr is quoted as saying, when she handed down her decision. However, she added that “It’s up to the bitcoin purchaser to know what they’re doing.”
The woman, unnamed for security reasons, deposited 62,500 Canadian dollars into a bitcoin automated teller machine believing she owed taxes. It was a fraud. A man claiming to represent the Canada Revenue Agency called her, threatening the new immigrant with arrest and deportation for tax default.
According to a report by CBC News, the case centered on who legally owned the money she deposited into the ATM, later seized by police in cash. In court, the woman spoke of how the scammer had her on speed dial, and of the intimate detail he held about her family. She testified that as a new immigrant, she believed the threats of arrest and deportation and that this could be avoided by sending the large sum of money demanded.
Over two days in February, the woman made a series of withdrawals from her bank, which she deposited into a bitcoin machine at a restaurant in Charlottetown, said the article. She transferred the money to a bitcoin address supplied to her by the unknown man on the phone.
“It’s really hard. I need that money back,” the woman told local media, tearfully. “I want other people to know what happened to me, so it doesn’t happen to them,” she sobbed.
Bitcoin ATM Fraud Rising in Canada
Incidences of bitcoin scams are on the rise in Canada. In November last year, police said more than 40 people had lost 300,000 Canadian dollars to phone scammers, who compel victims to make bitcoin ATM deposits on the threat of arrest for tax default.
In Charlottetown, lawyer Michael Drake, representing Instacoin ATM Canada Inc., “argued that the company merely provided a financial service to the woman, by converting cash to bitcoin currency, and sending it to the computer address she provided,” the report said. The woman supplied the bitcoin address of an unknown telephone fraudster, in this case, it detailed.
Jonathan Coady, the woman’s legal counsel, argued that at the time of the ATM deposit, the woman acted “under duress.” The judge wouldn’t have it. “Both sides involved in this case are completely sympathetic to the woman…but Instacoin did not put her under duress,” said judge Orr, adding that while anonymity was a key feature of cryptocurrency, it was also its weakness where cases of fraud are concerned.
What do you think about the outcome of this case? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock and Instacoin.
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U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Connecticut has announced Homero Joshua Garza (Josh Garza) has been sentenced to “21 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, the first six months of which [Mr. Garza] must spend in home confinement, for his role in his companies’ purported generation and sale of virtual currency.” The so-called stablecoin founder was also ordered to pay restitution of more than $ 9 million. After sentencing, he was released on bond, having been also ordered to report for incarceration at the start of next year.
Josh Garza Is Finally Sentenced, 21 Months in Prison, $ 9 Million Fine
Slightly more than four years ago, nearly a lifetime in the crypto space, Mr. Garza, 33, is alleged, over an eight-month period, to have “through GAW, GAW Miners, Zen Miner, and Zen Cloud, companies he founded and operated, defrauded victims out of money in connection with the procurement of virtual currency on their behalf,” according to a press release from the US Attorney from Connecticut.
Mr. Garza and cohorts were involved in selling miners, access to them, and an alternative cryptocurrency called Paycoin, described as one of the first stablecoins, along with what were known as hashlets. According to the complaint, subsequent indictment, and eventual conviction, a hashlet “entitled an investor to a share of the profits that GAW Miners or Zen Miner would purportedly earn by mining virtual currencies using the computers that were maintained in their data centers. In other words, hashlet customers, or investors, were buying the rights to profit from a slice of the computing power owned by GAW Miners and Zen Miner.”
He was also alleged to have made false promises to potential and real investors, including “that GAW Miners’ parent company purchased a controlling stake in Zen Miner for $ 8 million and that Zen Miner became a division of GAW Miners,” prosecutors maintain. He pushed hashlets, a kind of early cloud mining, which the government claims was fraudulent. His “companies sold more hashlets than was supported by the computing power maintained in their data centers.”
An Early Crypto Ponzi
Then there were the alleged pump and dump schemes. According to authorities, he “also stated that the market value of a single Pay Coin would not fall below $ 20 per unit because [his businesses] had a reserve of $ 100 million that the companies would use to purchase Paycoins to drive up its price. In fact, no such reserve existed.”
All of it turned out to a be a classic Ponzi, whereby Mr. Garza is alleged to have taken money from one company to prop up another, essentially borrowing from newer investors while trying to keep older ones from getting too concerned. “The payments were money that the companies owed the older investors based on the purported mining GAW Miners and Zen Miner had done on the investors’ behalf. Through this scheme,” the government charges, he “defrauded hundreds of individuals around the world of a total of $ 9,182,000. Judge Chatigny ordered [Mr. Garza] to pay restitution in the equivalent amount.”
It was one of the very first US crypto crime cases, involving multiple law enforcement and regulatory agencies from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the US Department of Justice. Summer of last year, Mr. Garza struck a plea deal with authorities over criminal matters. A suit by the SEC remains ongoing, however, and could very well dampen things for Mr. Garza even further.
Was justice served in the Garza case? Let us know in the comments section below.
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Since a deadly 2015 earthquake, Nepal’s 2,600 trekking companies have had to lower their rates to attract a smaller pool of explorers eyeing Himalayan peaks. They’ve made up for the lost income with what a government report describes as a multimillion-dollar insurance scam involving tour operators, helicopter companies, hotels,…
It sounded too good to be true. Now, officials say it really might have been. In mid-July the South Korea-based Shinil Group announced it had discovered the wreck of the Russian Imperial Navy cruiser Dmitrii Donskoi and that the 200 tons of gold it was carrying when it sank in…
This week, researchers uncovered empirical data confirming what most in the crypto Twittersphere already know – the space if flooded with scam bots: 15,000 of them to be exact, according to Duo Security.
Researchers Find 15K Twitter Crypto Scam Giveaway Bots
Don’t @ Me: Hunting Twitter Bots at Scale by Duo Security’s Jordan Wright and Olabode Anise is 46 pages of intense fine-tooth combing of data related to the phenomenon of Twitter bots. “Social networks allow people to connect with one another, share ideas, and have healthy conversations. Recently, automated Twitter accounts, or ‘bots,’ have been making headlines for their effectiveness at spreading spam and malware, as well as influencing this online discussion,” the authors began.
Over three months on their way to present findings at Black Hat USA 2018, researchers detail how they “identified botnets, including a spam-spreading botnet case study,” Mr. Wright and Mr. Anise explain, though they “specifically looked for automated accounts, not necessarily malicious automated accounts.”
Their key findings, published open source, were achieved as they “gathered a dataset of 88 million public Twitter profiles consisting of standard account information represented in the Twitter API, such as screen name, tweet count, followers/following counts, avatar and description. As API limits allow, this dataset was enriched with both the tweets posted by accounts, as well as with targeted social network information (follower/following) information. Practical data science techniques can be applied to create a classifier that is effective at finding automated Twitter accounts, also known as ‘bots.’”
Duo Security is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and just this month announced being acquired by Cisco. Cisco is interested in the firm because of its zero-trust authentication solution in order to buttress Cisco’s own network and cloud security offerings. The deal is worth well over $ 2 billion, and is expected to finalize in late October of the present year.
Case Study of At Least 15,000 Bots Spreading a Cryptocurrency Scam
“By monitoring the botnet over time,” the researchers continued, “we discover ways the bots evolve to evade detection. Our cryptobot scam case study demonstrates that, after finding initial bots using the tools and techniques described in this paper, a thread can be followed that can result in the discovery and unraveling of an entire botnet. For this botnet, we use targeted social network analysis to reveal a unique three-tiered hierarchical structure.”
Furthermore, the paper “provides an in-depth description of the entire process for finding Twitter bots, from gathering the data to performing the analysis.” Many of Duo Labs employees “use Twitter as a way to connect to the infosec industry. We were familiar with automated Twitter accounts, and had read previous academic papers covering both techniques on building a dataset of Twitter accounts as well as using various techniques to identify automated accounts from a previously shared dataset.”
For its part, “Twitter announced that they are taking more proactive action against both automated spam and malicious content by identifying and challenging ‘more than 9.9 million potentially spammy or automated accounts per week.’ In a follow-up blog post, Twitter also described their plans to remove accounts that had been previously locked due to suspicious activity from follower counts,” the researchers noted.
The team doesn’t consider the problem solved, however. “We’re excited to see these efforts by Twitter and are hopeful that these increased investments will be effective in combating spam and malicious content,” they laud. Still their case study “demonstrates that organized botnets are still active and can be discovered with relatively straightforward analysis. By open-sourcing the tools and techniques developed during this research, [they] hope to enable researchers to continue building on [their] work, creating new techniques to identify and flag malicious bots, and helping to keep Twitter and other social networks a place for healthy online discussion and community.”
Have such bots lessened your time on Twitter? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images via Pixabay, Duo Security.
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