Scammers target hot tub buyers as coronavirus fraud surges

Scammers target hot tub buyers as coronavirus fraud surges

Criminals are duping customers into paying for advertised products that never existed Let me say that I do not want to try to explain how cryptocurrencies work at a technical level. I would like to talk about how to start in this space. % Cryptocurrencies latest news and history organized by date that contains 1000000+ news archives. Click here to read what world was saying about cryptocurrencies.

With the heat beating down throughout last month, there was a surge in sales of hot tubs as people sought to while away their lockdown days in some comfort. But many of those buying the tubs had to put their plans on ice when they found they had been scammed by buying products that never existed.

The hot tub scam is one of a number of frauds that have emerged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Cars and kittens have been advertised online, with buyers told they cannot see them before paying because of the lockdown restrictions, when the real reason is that they don’t exist. People working from home who find their computer needs repair have unknowingly employed fraudulent online repair sites, which have installed malware on their machines. Some who have been bereaved by coronavirus have been targeted by criminals claiming they have inheritance to pass on, only for their bank details to be taken and used for fraud.

Behind the spate of scams are gangs and individuals in the UK and abroad who cost consumers hundreds of millions of pounds every year through cyberfraud. The pandemic has given them new ways to defraud people who are already nervous because of the spread of coronavirus. This has illustrated how criminals can react and profit from changing events.

Cyberfraud has become rife across the world in recent years as criminals use information gleaned from the internet to encourage people to give away their bank details or transfer money. This happens in a variety of ways: from a threatening text message apparently from the tax man saying money is owed to an email saying you could be convicted of a crime if you don’t pay a fine.

Now those same gangs have switched their focus to a variety of frauds themed around the coronavirus.

“Criminals will use every opportunity to defraud innocent people at the end of the day and they continue to exploit every possible angle of this pandemic to do so,” says DCI Gary Robinson of the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit, a specialist police unit funded by the banking industry that investigates the criminal gangs responsible for fraud.

There have been well over 2,300 victims of coronavirus-related scams with losses of more than £7m since February, according to Action Fraud. While many people are adept at spotting some of the older scams, this new wave of fraud opens up the possibility of more unsuspecting victims.

Kate Smith of pensions provider Aegon says scammers are adept at reinventing their tactics. Pensions scams are amongst the most frequent frauds as criminals attempt to convince vulnerable people to transfer their pension pots to them.

“It’s easy to think that we need to be on our guard from cold calling or phishing attempts, but mounting evidence shows scammers don’t rely on these methods alone,” she says. “They can just as easily turn their hand to creating convincing websites or another online presence, which people can inadvertently fall prey to when searching online.”

How the new scams work

Increased home working has led to a spike in fake calls from payroll departments and internet service providers asking for personal information, according to TSB Bank.

Just like the hot tub fraud, people are also being convinced to hand over money for Nintendo Switches, pedigree dogs, rental properties and cars that don’t exist. The fraudster will tell they cannot be viewed because of lockdown restrictions. The rise in staycations this summer has led to a series of caravan frauds along the same lines after the vehicles are put up for sale online.

Action Fraud says the majority of coronavirus-related scams reported to it involve online shopping for face masks, hand sanitiser and testing kits, which either never arrive or when they do, are of unusable standard.

Track and trace scams involve people being contacted to say they have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus. They are then encouraged to click a link or call a number, according to TSB and Cifas, the fraud prevention service.

Emails have been sent claiming to be from government, which state the recipient can get a free evaluation for emergency Covid-19 tax relief but if you click on the link it leads to a site set up specifically to deceive the victims and garner their personal information.

Other emails purporting to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) say the recipient should download an attachment, which allegedly contains the results of the first human Covid-19 vaccine test. Opening it can result in usernames and passwords being passed on to the fraudsters.

Last month, Mohammed Khan (20) from Camden, London, pleaded guilty to sending out a large number of fraudulent text messages linked to Covid-19. The messages claimed to be from the UK government and offeried a tax refund as a result of the pandemic. A link in the messages led to a form on a webpage imitating official government websites, with the aim of tricking customers into giving away their personal and account details.

A growing problem

The scale of cybercrime has ballooned in recent years, both in terms of the number of victims and the number of people taking part either as part of a gang or individually.

TSB reported that one of its customers in the north-west who has cancer was convinced by a man claiming to be a registered carer to hand over their card so he could do their shopping, only for the fraudster to withdraw money from their account. Another customer was convinced a bike for sale apparently by a self-isolating NHS worker could not be viewed but had to be paid for in advance. When they turned up to collect it, they met someone else also there to pick up the same non-existent bike.

“Because people are feeling vulnerable at this time, people are falling for it,” says Robinson. “Fraudsters think that it is faceless and that they can sit at home with their powerful smartphones and laptops or tablets and they can get away with it. But we are working hard to track down those responsible for fraud and bring them to justice.”

Be aware

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has launched an alert system to report online scam adverts although MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis has said it is not a perfect solution to the problem. The system is responding to concerns about online ads linked to fraudulent schemes, especially around cryptocurrencies. There has been a rise in the number of fake Bitcoin investment ads, which are aimed at people worried about the possibility of recession.

The problem of pensions scams has led Canada Life to advise people to be wary of anyone offering to help access your pension savings before age 55, as it is rare to be able to do so.

HMRC will never make contact by email, phone or text about a tax refund so delete or ignore these contacts. In a similar way, the police and banks will never ask to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account nor will they ask to reveal a full banking password or pin.

Jason Costain, head of fraud prevention at NatWest, says: “Customers should try where possible to use a credit or debit card when making a purchase online, purchase from a trusted seller, follow the security advice on the website and avoid making payments directly to an unknown seller.”


Author: Shane Hickey

Cryptocurrencies: how to start?

Cryptocurrencies: how to start?

Let me say that I do not want to try to explain how cryptocurrencies work at a technical level, it is a complex topic that I would not be able to deal with and I would probably only confuse the readers even more, having said that, I would like to talk about how to start in this innovative space.

I’ve been interested in cryptocurrencies for about two and a half years. 

Contrary to what one might imagine, my interest did not start from Bitcoin (the first cryptocurrency and the most famous) but rather from Ether and particularly from blockchain technology, which is the very novelty that is revolutionizing the way transactions and relationships between people are managed. 

Only afterwards I started to be interested in cryptocurrencies as possible speculative assets and I started (very cautiously and with ridiculous figures) to do some trading. 

I have therefore discovered that there are thousands of cryptocurrencies (currently about 1800) and it is thus possible to have a wide choice to attempt different operations.

In this period of time (but especially in the last 3 months) increasingly more friends and relatives are asking me about cryptocurrencies, whether they are a safe investment, how to enter this mysterious world and what can be done with a cryptocurrency. 

After various explanations and more or less fortunate attempts, I realized that the best way to explain the crypto world is to use a comparison. After some thought, I found what in my opinion is the most fitting comparison: casinos.

We all pretty much know what casinos are and how they work: you go in, go to the cashier and change the money into chips and then you can start playing inside the casino. 

People with a minimum of common sense know that it is wise to change into chips only the money they can afford to lose, without ever risking burning their life savings as there is no guarantee of winning. 

Well, the same rules apply with cryptocurrencies, after deciding how much money we can lose we can change our euros into cryptocurrencies. Admittedly, changing euros into cryptocurrency is a bit more complicated and takes longer than showing up at the casino cashier’s desk and getting the chips, but the concept is the same. 

In the crypto world, the equivalent of the casino is what is called Exchange, just as there are many casinos in the world where you can go to play there are many exchanges that can be used to operate with cryptocurrencies. 

So the first thing to do is to register on at least one exchange, registering means providing all the information that the various exchanges require to create an account, like the username and password. 

Just like every casino offers different games and possibilities compared to the others (of course everyone will have roulette) so the various exchanges are different for particular features or services offered or for cryptocurrencies listed, so sooner or later you will have several accounts open on different exchanges to make the most of each opportunity. 

After opening an account on at least one exchange we will need to make a transfer from one of our accounts for the amount we want to ‘play’ with, it may take several days before the transfer is credited to our exchange account. 

Once we have euros on our exchange account we can make our first crypto purchase, and from this moment on it’s like we’ve walked into the casino with our chips, now we can quickly and simply start trading cryptocurrencies: we can buy and sell, and if we’re skilled and lucky, increase the number of crypto assets in our possession. 

One difference from the casino example is that each casino only recognizes its own chips, basically I can’t walk out of a casino with my chips in my pocket and hope that another casino will accept them for me to play. 

In the crypto world, on the other hand, it is possible to transfer crypto assets between the various exchanges without any problem and this is also usually a very fast operation (in the order of minutes in most cases). 

Keep in mind that the crypto market is very young and not yet fully regulated, this means that it is possible, sometimes within a few hours or a few days, to have percentage variations that are impossible to see in the world of traditional currencies, I am talking about variations of 30% – 50%, in some cases even 100%. 

Well, as long as we stay inside the casino with our crypto everything is quick and easy, but suppose at some point we get tired of playing and we want to get out of the casino and change our chips into fiat currency. In the casino, all you have to do is show up at the cashier and they immediately change your chips into euros and the next moment you’re ready to spend the euros you earned in the casino. 

Just as changing euros into crypto was more difficult than swapping euros/chips at the casino entrance, the reverse operation is just as difficult and time-consuming when deciding to change crypto assets back into euros. 

First of all not all exchanges provide the possibility to make an outgoing euro transfer, only some allow it, so we will have to have an account on these exchanges, transferring the cryptocurrencies we want to sell, selling them for euros and then making the transfer to our current account (several days will pass before we see the euros on the account). 

For the moment it is not yet clear and simple how to transfer the counter value of cryptocurrencies back to one’s own current account and, above all, how to justify (to the bank, to the tax authorities) the origin of this money, so the message I want to pass on is that, at the moment, everything you have in cryptocurrencies is not immediately and easily convertible into euros. 

But apart from these operational aspects, there are some interesting considerations to make, some in favour of crypto and some not: 

What happens if the country I live in declares exchanges or even cryptocurrencies illegal? 

Certainly, it is a very remote hypothesis, but given that cryptocurrencies can put the traditional financial system in crisis (basically banks would no longer have control over the issuance and value of these electronic currencies), everything is to be expected from a state that would lose its control (and its tax revenue) over the liquid assets of its citizens. 

Well in the first case (exchanges declared illegal) there is the possibility of registering on any exchange in the world so this would not be a major obstacle to the use of cryptocurrencies (perhaps it would be a bit more complicated to enter and exit with euros, but it would still be feasible to ‘triangulate’ on another currency, dollars for example). 

Whereas in the second case (making cryptocurrencies illegal) the thing is certainly more complex and risky, not so much because it would be more difficult or impossible to obtain cryptocurrencies (it is as if they declared it illegal to take more than one shower a day, very difficult if not impossible to prevent/verify) but the fact remains that a sense of guilt is installed in you, for which the simple possession of cryptocurrencies makes you feel guilty and brings you into the world of illegality, certainly a disincentive to use them for many people. 

Certainly decisions of this kind should be agreed and shared between different countries (at least in the European Union) and this makes everything more lengthy and complicated for the various government institutions of the member countries of the Union to accept. 

Let’s now analyze also the positive aspects: what if more and more people, companies, associations, states, etc… acknowledge and facilitate the use of crypto assets? 

It is as if casino chips were also accepted by shops, banks, companies and states. Basically, you don’t have to worry about changing your chips when you leave the casino; you go out with the chips in your pocket, walk into the restaurant in front of the casino and pay with the chips. 

Same for refuelling the car, depositing at the bank, paying taxes etc… surely this scenario is much simpler and more attractive for the saver/consumer than the previous ones. 

In conclusion, my opinion is that the crypto world can currently offer excellent opportunities (it is not easy to take advantage of them because a minimum of skills is required, but nothing that is impossible), but so far it is not guaranteed that these opportunities can be ‘converted’ into the real world for everyday use.

I am convinced that there are many people in the world who today have a fortune in cryptocurrency but cannot use their capital to buy goods that have to be paid for with traditional currencies. 

I think it’s worth a try, one round at the casino table (with a minimum amount of capital to lose) can be worth it, if we are lucky, in a few months/years, someone will be able to ‘clear’ the chips so that they can be spent and used everywhere. 

Paolo Ciccioni


Author: By Contest Writer
– 21 Jun 2020

Apex Crypto News - Blockchains Are an Excellent Solution for Privacy, Part 1

Apex Crypto News – Blockchains Are an Excellent Solution for Privacy, Part 1

Several data violations, like the Cambridge Analytica scandal, have brought forth questions regarding how companies and governments should deal with the data entrusted to them, and they have also increased the search for the development of new technologies to preserve the privacy of companies and users.

Consequently, countries and regulators have rushed to set new compliance requirements to deal with user privacy and data collection — like the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe or the General Data Protection Law in Brazil, to name a couple. Parallel to that, there has been a new trend to seek new technologies like blockchain to solve privacy problems.

In this regard, contrary to the initial perception of many, blockchain technology may not only be compatible with the GDPR but may also help increase privacy levels and data protection, and return the property of data back to the individuals. As such, blockchain technology can be used as a privacy tool. For that reason, many industry players have started competing for leadership in this area.

Blockchain technology allows a significant number of interactions to be codified and increases reliability, eliminating the political and business risks associated with the process managed by a central entity. Moreover, they reduce the need for traditional validators of authenticity (intermediates).

On top of blockchain architecture, it is possible to execute applications of different companies and even of several kinds together. That allows an extremely efficient and continuous interaction. An audit trail is now possible where any person can verify and ensure that the processing is correct.

However, when talking with companies regarding the creation of applications in blockchain, two main inquiries always come up: scalability and privacy. 

Regarding privacy, there are already countless blockchain projects in development for implementation (as we are going to see in the second part of this series). Many of them are perfectly compatible with the current stage of legislation and technology. However, it is essential to know what privacy is.

Privacy is the capability of determining what kind of information is collected from the data we make digitally available. It is the capacity to decide what data websites are permitted to collect when shopping, the kind of music we listen to, or the times of the day when we like to buy things.

Protection is the safety of the data once it has already been collected.

The former is a user’s right, which is frequently violated in the current digital culture. The latter is under the data collector’s responsibility.

As professor of business management at Harvard Business School Shoshana Zuboff teaches, we are in what her book is titled The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. In other words, it is a market of human behavior prediction. Large companies and corporations have been gleaning behavioral data, using new technologies, and have started to build the essential fuel that drives capitalism as an economic system.

At that point, the rights to privacy require a forward-looking privacy framework that positively delineates privacy parameters also under the umbrella of emerging technologies to avoid invasions, violations and problems.

There are seven different kinds of privacy: privacy of the body, correspondence, data, finance, identity, location and territory. In this article, we will go over the privacy of correspondence, finance, location and territory. 

  • Privacy of correspondence and communication. The first perspective concerns the right to communicate privately. In the 1980s, due to corruption, cryptography was considered a military-grade weapon in several countries. And many of them tried to prohibit it because they did not want people to have access to private communication. 
  • Financial privacy. The second kind of privacy refers to privacy in financial transactions and interactions. On Oct. 31, 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto released Bitcoin’s white paper with the hopes of ushering in a new era of financial privacy after the economic crisis of 2008 via a novel technological network called a blockchain.
  • Privacy of movement (location and territory). The third kind of privacy relates to the freedom of movement — without being constantly tracked. That has been the talking point during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The world has learned in the most challenging way that users’ privacy protection needs to be considered in the early stages of designing products, especially when dealing with data. Moreover, it is worth considering the blockchain properties as a way to increase the level of privacy.
  • Companies and consumers have very different demands when it comes to privacy. Companies usually require privacy in the form of transaction data. Examples include the name of the product, amount, price, address, personally identifiable financial information, and so on.

    The participants of the network are usually known. Nevertheless, depending on the functions they perform in the company, they may have access to specific data in the system that is blocked or selectively limited to other participants.

    Imagine, for instance, a broker who does not need to learn the content of a specific shipping container, but only that it has arrived.

    In comparison, while companies are usually subject to substantial commercial regulations about privacy, consumers wish to protect their identity, credit card information or other sensitive data to avoid fraud or identity theft. However, the fact is that they have shown less awareness and concern for privacy.

    Privacy, in other words, is not usual in the daily life of consumers. Most people voluntarily sacrifice their privacy for convenience or free access (accepting cookies, using free Wi-Fi, surfing on the tracked web, etc.).

    After these considerations, we will dig deeper by taking a look at how the records occur on a blockchain in part two.

    This is part one of a three-part series on privacy with blockchain technology — read part two here and part three here.

    The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

    Tatiana Revoredo is a founding member at Oxford Blockchain Foundation and a strategist in blockchain from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Additionally, she is an expert in blockchain business applications from MIT and the CSO of Tatiana has been invited by the European Parliament to the Intercontinental Blockchain Conference and invited by the Brazilian Parliament to the Public Hearing on Bill 2303/2015. She is the author of two books — Blockchain: Tudo O Que Você Precisa Saber and Cryptocurrencies in the International Scenario: What Is the Position of Central Banks, Governments and Authorities About Cryptocurrencies?


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    Scammers target hot tub buyers as coronavirus fraud surges

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