Archives for Rip-Off

The Psychology of Piracy

piracyWe’ve all seen the ads that explain why piracy is theft. And yet a lot of people use torrent sites to access bootlegs copies of their favourite shows, movies, and music with an easy conscience. But why? New research by Australian PhD student Robert Eres has shed some light on the phenomenon.

Eres’ home country, despite its population of only about 23 million, leads the world in Game of Thrones piracy. Australians aren’t all thieves though, right? Eres studied the brain activity of a person stealing via file sharing compared to someone doing something obviously criminal like shoplifting. Here’s the catch – our brains won’t let us feel the same guilt about piracy.

Eres’ study proves the human brain cannot process the same level of guilt in a crime where physical objects are not involved.

“The findings from the two brain imaging experiments suggest that people are processing the intangible and tangible objects very differently within their brains,” Eres was quoted as saying in a CNET article. He connected these findings to the rise in online bullying and hacking, suggesting that the same logic might apply.

Credit Card Cloning Scam Shocks Connecticut Town

Visa credit cardA recent credit card theft in Clinton, Connecticut proves our money may not be as safe as we think. Hundreds of dollars have been stolen due to credit card cloning, which exploits the 40-year-old magnetic stripe on the back of cards. This leaves both credit and debit cards vulnerable.

Two men were caught on a security camera at a convenience store in Clinton making hundreds of dollars’ worth of fraudulent purchases. The card they cloned belonged to a man in the Hartford area.

“The technology is the problem,” resident Robert King was quoted as saying in an NBC article. “I think they’ve got to find a way to make it more fool-proof.”

And King is right. Experts believe that the process of cloning a magnetic stripe card is relatively easy for a tech-savvy person with the right computer and card reader. It could be harder to accomplish with the newly introduced chip-and-PIN cards.

As always, experts are recommending consumers keep tabs on their credit card statements and never let credit or debit cards off their person. Cash is still the safest way of protecting against this kind of scam, which can be frustrating in an increasingly card based world.

Spotify User Information Posted Online

SpotifyHundreds of Spotify accounts were compromised when a list containing personal details was posted on Pastebin last weekend. The list includes vulnerable information such as passwords, email addresses, username and account type. Thankfully, payment information was not revealed.

Although Spotify maintains the “records of the users are safe,” users themselves are more concerned. Some noticed playlists on their accounts they did not create and others had unfamiliar tracks in their “recently played” tab. Most worrisome, some users have even been locked out of their accounts.

All this occurred within the same frame of time as the records being posted online, leaving a rather obvious correlation. It’s not the first time this has happened: last November, more than 1,000 Spotify email logins and passwords were hacked, making their information public and locking users out of their accounts for three days.

Clearly Spotify, like other web-based services, will have to work to upgrade its security and protect the privacy of its users. In the meantime, change your Spotify password if you’ve been hacked or not, just to be safe.

*Source: Tech News Today

FCC Hands Down $51M Fine in Lifeline Scam

FCCThe Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is handing down a massive fine to a telecom company that defrauded the government of nearly $10 million. The FCC announced the $51 million fine against Total Call Mobile in a press release last week, alleging the company signed up tens of thousands of duplicate and ineligible consumers to the Lifeline program.

“We reserve the strongest sanctions for those who defraud or abuse federal programs,” said Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc, in the press release. “Any waste, fraud, or abuse in the Lifeline program diverts scarce funds from the consumers they are meant to serve and undermines the public’s trust in the program and its stewardship.”

The Lifeline program offers phone service to low-income consumers at a reduced rate, allowing them to connect with jobs, family and emergency services. Eligible phone service providers receive $9.25 per month for each consumer receiving the service, with the intent of passing on the reimbursement to the customer. The Total Call Mobile fine is the largest ever handed down for Lifeline infractions.

“The Commission alleges that since 2014, Total Call has requested and received an estimated $9.7 million dollars in improper payments from the Universal Service Fund for duplicate or ineligible consumers despite repeated and explicit warnings from its own employees, in some cases compliance specialists, that company sales agents were engaged in widespread enrollment fraud,” states the release.

Total Call Mobile offered the service in at least 19 states. An Enforcement Bureau investigation found the company was aware of issues surrounding duplicate enrollments up to a year before authorities raised the issue with Total Call. In late 2014, there is evidence as many as 99.8 percent of the company’s enrollments were made by overriding the third-party verification system designed to catch duplicates.

One sales agent was arrested and charged with identity theft after they allegedly used ID from a stolen wallet to register 10 Lifeline cell phones. When the agent was taken into custody they had 12 additional Lifeline cell phones and the stolen wallet in their possession.

In addition to the fine, the FCC says it may take action to strip Total Call’s authorizations to operate as a common carrier and Lifeline provider.

Oracle Files Lawsuit Against Google

oracleSoftware creator Oracle has filed a $9.3-billion lawsuit against Google, alleging the tech giant illegally used its Java software in developing the Android OS. Oracle has some experience facing off against Google in civil court – its previous lawsuit ended with uncertain results in 2012.

Android is the most widely used OS in the mobile world with an 80.7 percent market share. Oracle maintains it is looking for a fair share of this success and has increased its damages by 10 since the 2012 lawsuit. If Oracle wins this suit, it will be the biggest copyright verdict ever, seconded only by the $1.3 billion won by Oracle from SAP in 2010.

Of course, Google has refuted Oracle’s claims, saying the case “ignores the statutory standard for copyright damages and fails to offer anything resembling expert analysis,” states an Inferse.com article.

Dealing With Telecom Companies is Like …

dealingwithtelecomcompaniesCould one stupid mix-up rob you of your dream home? According to mortgage broker Robert McLister, it sure can. He hits the nail on the head in his piece from The Globe and Mail – this paragraph accurately describes the struggle of dealing with telecom companies that are reluctant to admit to any wrongdoing, under any circumstances.

“Upon realizing the credit damage, it became an epic battle with the cellphone company. Convincing unsympathetic customer service reps that their employer made a mistake is like persuading Hillary Clinton to vote for Donald Trump.”

While our focus at Schooley Mitchell is business, this column does contain some good information about personal credit and the impact that service providers – more specifically, wireless companies – can have on your credit rating. Hard to believe that just one missed cellphone bill can annihilate a mortgage application. It’s scary stuff.

Schooley Mitchell Lawsuit Watch: A Big Verizon Rip-Off?

verizonIn this edition of the Schooley Mitchell lawsuit watch, a consumer advocacy group is squaring off against Verizon, accusing the telecom giant of scamming customers and diverting the funds to expand its wireless and fiber optic networks.

The New Networks Institute alleges Verizon has overcharged New York landline subscribers to the tune of $1,000 to $1,500 each, spending the money on infrastructure improvements and corporate expenses.  New Networks executive director Bruce Kushnick says Verizon is overcharging for its copper-based landline service and that its other services are a rip-off. For example, call forwarding and call waiting costs $7.95 per month, but only costs the company 2 to 3 cents, he says.

“All the copper networks have been written off,” Kushnick was quoted as saying in a New York Post article. “Copper-based phone services should be $10 or $20 [per month].”

New Networks is planning on filing a lawsuit related to these allegations, while Verizon continues to deny any wrongdoing. Stay tuned …

U.S. Employees Would Sell Their Work Passwords

passwordNearly 30 percent of American office workers at large companies would sell their work passwords to an outsider, a recent study has showed. In total, 27 percent said they would happily exchange their passwords for cash, which is higher than the global average of 20 percent.

The study, which was conducted by research firm Vanson Bourne, is a follow-up to the same survey done two years ago. At that point, only one-in-seven office workers were willing to share their passwords. It’s alarming to think the number of people willing to compromise their employer’s network – and give access to proprietary data – is on the rise.

However, workers are not willing to give away their data for cheap. Over half of the employees said they wouldn’t sell their passwords for less than $1,000. To add a further layer, some said they would change their passwords immediately after receiving the cash.

The survey also revealed that 65 percent of employees use their work password in multiple locations and 32 percent shared their passwords with co-workers.

*Source: CSO Online

Canadian Commissioner to Hear Television Service Complaints

Schooley Mitchell complaintsCanadian consumers with television service complaints will soon be able to turn to the Commission for Complaints for Telecommunication Services (CCTS) for help. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced last week that television service providers would have until Sept. 1, 2017 to become members of the CCTS.

This means the CCTS is now the single point of contact for complaints about all major services, including television, Internet, wireless and landline telephone. Consumers concerned with things such as billing and service delivery are asked to first contact their provider for attempted resolution before filing to the CCTS.

“Since 2007, the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services has been providing a valuable service to Canadian consumers of telecommunications services by helping them resolve their complaints,” said CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais, in a press release. “With an increasing number of Canadians taking advantage of bundled offers including local voice, wireless, Internet, and television services offered by the same communications service provider, ensuring a single point of contact to deal with their complaints has never been more important.”

Read the full press release on the CRTC website.

Mom Fights T-Mobile Rip-Off

T-MobileA New Jersey mother is fighting to restore her credit after a deal with T-Mobile went wrong. Last year Andrea Sanchez switched her services from Sprint to T-Mobile, with a sales associate assuring her that T-Mobile would buy out her Sprint contract and pay off any balanced owed. She agreed to a new T-Mobile promotion, paying $100 for two lines: her iPhone and iPad Mini. She also opted to upgrade her devices.

Sanchez was surprised when T-Mobile shipped back her old iPad just weeks later. When she inquired with the sales associate, she was told to pretend it was a freebie, even though she thought it was too good to be true. She was right – the Sprint bills started rolling in, claiming she had an overdue account.

When she went back to the store to inquire, the manager told her T-Mobile would only cover a certain amount and the rest was her responsibility. Problem was she had a contract that said the full amount would be covered. Soon the matter was sent to collections.

“There’s no amount of money that can make bad credit look good,” Sanchez was quoted as saying in a NJ.com article. “I work too hard. I pay my car and rent on time, and this just made things really bad for me.

“…”I just want them to pay exactly what they owe so I can move on with my life and move into a new home and eventually buy a new car. I can’t do that without good credit. So therefore, my buyout was never done and I was sold a dream that later cost me more than money.”

Once media intervened, Sanchez did receive the money from T-Mobile to pay off the Sprint balance. However, Sprint is refusing to have the matter removed from her credit record, despite it not being her fault. Doesn’t sound very fair, does it?