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  • Geebo 10:06 am on January 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: crowdfunding, , New Jersey,   

    NJ proposes crowdfunding scam law after GoFundMe debacle 

    NJ proposes crowdfunding scam law after GoFundMe debacle

    If you’ll recall, you may remember hearing a story in the news about a New Jersey couple who raised close to $500,000 on crowdfunding site GoFundMe in order to help a homeless veteran that they claimed showed them kindness in a time of distress. The story made national headlines and even resulted in the trio being interviewed on several national news reports. Then as the months went by after the story was initially reported it was discovered that most of the story was fake. The man was a homeless veteran but he was talked into the scam by the couple. Now, all three are facing charges of fraud. GoFundMe has stated that there is very little fraud on their platform and have refunded donors to the fraudulent campaign and vow to assist law enforcement when it comes to phony campaigns. Now, one New Jersey legislator is trying to make it so it never reaches that point.

    New Jersey State Assemblyman Ron Dancer has introduced a bill that would increase the penalties for crowdfunding theft in the Garden State. The bill calls for a $500 fine for each fraudulent contribution collected. Considering how many people donated to the fraudulent campaign that could rack up a very hefty fine in no time. The bill also suggests that the money collected through fines could be used to assist New Jersey citizens who are in danger of losing their homes. While the law is noble in its intentions could it have unintended consequences? Could it be applied to failed campaigns on sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo if the campaign failed to deliver its promised product? If so then the bill would definitely need some fine tuning.

    As far as consumers go, should you be wary of crowdfunding campaigns like this? Absolutely. While GoFundMe maintains that fraud is low on their platform that doesn’t mean it’s non-existent. If a story sounds too good to be true or farfetched it probably is. You don’t have to donate to a campaign just because everyone else is. While it’s important to be charitable when someone is down on their luck it’s just as important to protect yourself from being fleeced by a phony sob story.

     
  • Geebo 10:19 am on January 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Ajit Pai celebrates bipartisan defeat of net neutrality, except that’s not what happened 

    Ajit Pai celebrates bipartisan defeat of net neutrality, except that's not what happened

    If you’re old enough to remember the second Gulf War you may remember that Saddam Hussein had a spokesperson who would frequently appear in the media making outrageous claims about how the then dictator of Iraq was going to defeat the US Armed Forces while tanks were rolling into Baghdad. His statements were so outlandish that the American Media nicknamed him Comical Ali. Now it seems that FCC Chairman has taken a page out of his playbook.

    After Congress failed to reinstate net neutrality protections during their latest session, Pai released the following statement to the media

    “I’m pleased that a strong bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives declined to reinstate heavy-handed Internet regulation,” Pai said in a statement. “They did the right thing — especially considering the positive results for American consumers since the adoption of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order.”

    Except, that’s not even remotely close to what happened. While Pai makes it sound like there was unilateral support for his ironically named Restoring Internet Freedom Order that’s not what happened. As Ars Technica points out

    The Pai-led Federal Communications Commission repealed Obama-era net neutrality rules, but the repeal could have been reversed by Congress if it acted before the end of its session. Democrats won a vote to reverse the repeal in the Senate but weren’t able to get enough votes in the House of Representatives before time ran out.

    So, it wasn’t bipartisan support as much as it was the Democrats not being able to get enough votes in the Senate. That’s not bipartisan support, that’s just Congress voting along party lines.

    Sadly, this is just a symptom of a larger problem within this administration as the current regime seems to have an edict that if you tell the same lies long enough they’ll become perceived as truth. It’s hard to think of another administration that represents the dystopian future of George Orwell’s 1984 any more than the current one.

     
  • Geebo 10:15 am on January 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , make money on Amazon,   

    It’s not that easy to make money on Amazon 

    It's not that easy to make money on Amazon

    Have you ever come across an ad online that poses as an employment ad promising that you can make money beyond your wildest dreams? Usually, these ads are for Multi Level Marketing schemes or MLMs. MLMs usually require you to buy a certain amount of the product they’re trying to sell and then you have to not only try to sell the product but you have to try to get your friends to become marketers too. What these MLMs don’t tell you is that it’s almost mathematically impossible to get people underneath you on the MLM ladder to recruit more marketers. Now there’s a newer ploy that borrows heavily from MLMs and involves the biggest online retailer in the world, Amazon.

    According to The Atlantic, there is a cottage industry of people who want to teach you how to make incredulous wealth by becoming a third-party seller on Amazon. These classes are said to teach you how to sell cheap products made in China on Amazon for a huge markup. These so-called Amazon entrepreneurs often display the money they’ve made off of Amazon and imply that you can make the same kind of money. In reality, they’re usually more interested in getting you to sign up for their classes which can be priced in the thousands of dollars. If you search YouTube for how to make money on Amazon, you’ll find scores of videos like this.

    Much like the MLMs, these Amazon whisperers like to target people who are desperate to make a large amount of money quickly. Now to be fair, it is possible to make money on Amazon this way, however, it’s a very risky venture that could cause you to sink more money into the process and not see a lot of return. When dealing with any kind of financial investment you should never risk more than you can afford to lose since there are no guarantees that the investment will be successful. If you’re struggling to make ends meet then something like this is not for you as it requires a hefty initial investment of money that you probably can’t afford to lose. Remember, there really is no such thing as getting rich quick.

     
  • Geebo 10:13 am on December 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Privacy International   

    Popular apps sharing data with Facebook without users’ permission 

    Popular apps sharing data with Facebook without users' permission

    It only seems fitting that we close out 2018 with another story about Facebook’s questionable data handling practices. 2018 was a tumultuous year, to say the least. It all started with the Cambridge Analytica scandal and just went downhill from there. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to testify before Congress which ended up not leading to much after giving his robotic-like testimony. Then more data breaches became public knowledge which resulted in the potential exposure of millions of users’ data to third parties. Then that all was followed up with Facebook allegedly authorizing a smear campaign of its biggest detractors. Now a report has surfaced that only seems to compound Facebook’s privacy problems.

    A privacy watchdog group called Privacy International studied many of the most popular apps on Android devices. Their findings concluded that a majority of the apps they studied send user data to Facebook. While that’s not really surprising the surprising part is that not only are these apps sending data to Facebook the moment you open the app but you also don’t have to have a Facebook account for the apps to send data about you. Some of the apps in the study included travel apps Kayak and Trip Advisor but also fitness app MyFitnessPal. While Facebook may not have instructed these apps to send the data, they’re not exactly discouraging it either.

    If you’re concerned about Facebook using your personal information, The Detroit News has a great article about what you can do to limit Facebook’s access to your data. Some of these steps include reviewing the privacy permissions you grant your most frequently used apps and minimizing your Facebook presence. While it’s difficult in today’s digital world of keeping all your data out of the hands of companies like Facebook, it’s not impossible to limit that amount of information just by taking the time to stop and read what permissions you’re granting these services.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on December 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Fake Alexa app invades Apple app store 

    Fake Alexa app invades Apple app store

    If you were one of the scores of people who received the Amazon Echo for Christmas, you may want to make sure it was set up correctly. When you first set up your Echo device you need to use a smartphone or tablet app that is directly from Amazon itself. If you used a third-party app that wasn’t from Amazon you may have divulged a little more information that you should have and not to Amazon.

    It was reported yesterday that an app called “Setup for Amazon Alexa” rushed to the top of the Apple App Store’s popular apps after Christmas. The problem with this app is that not only was it not from Amazon but the app asked for much more information that should be given to a random app from the App Store, but you had to give it permission to collect all sorts of data from your iPhone or iPad in order to get your Echo to ‘work’. Of course, the app didn’t actually activate an Echo and received many complaints from Apple users.

    This is unusual for Apple as they have a very stringent process for allowing apps into their App Store. The app has since been pulled from the store but more than likely the damage has already been done to iOS users who already installed the malicious app to their Apple devices. If you are setting up any kind of device in your home that requires a mobile app to activate the device, always use the app from the manufacturer. If you’re having trouble finding it in the app store, go to the manufacturer’s website and they should have a link to the app you need. Below is a video showing you the proper way to activate your Amazon Echo.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on December 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Gift cards may not be the greatest gift idea anymore 

    Gift cards may not be the greatest gift idea anymore

    We’ve talked about gift card scams many times before, but usually, they were about how you should never pay for any online classifieds transaction using gift cards. The reason for that is once you give the fake seller your gift card numbers the scammers then empty the balance of the gift card and never ship the item. Now, with the Christmas holiday behind us and many of us giving or receiving gift cards, there’s a newer scam that consumers should be concerned about.

    If you received a gift card as a present this year, you may want to use it as quick as you can. With this newer scam thieves are getting the numbers off of the gift cards before they’re even purchased. The scammers then monitor the card numbers waiting for the cards to be activated. Once the card is activated the scammers are able to easily and quickly deplete the card of funds. In most cases, there’s little the card vendors or the store that sold them can do.

    While no tip is foolproof, there are ways to better protect yourself when purchasing gift cards. First, you should inspect the sticker or strip that covers the card number and make sure it hasn’t been tampered with and make sure the strips match those of the other gift cards on the rack. You can also try selecting a card from the middle or back of the rack as it’s more difficult for scammers to replace those cards. However, if you really want to give a last-minute gift that you don’t have to worry about, you can always give cash.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on December 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Former Backpage CEO has sentencing pushed back 

    Former Backpage CEO has sentencing pushed back

    Former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    If you’ll recall, earlier this year, the Federal Government seized Backpage.com for knowingly taking an active role in the alleged human trafficking of the girls and women posted to their adult ads section and money laundering. The company was also accused of changing the wording in ads submitted to them to make the prostitution ads seem less criminal. Backpage founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were indicted on over 90 charges after former Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleaded guilty to prostitution and money laundering charges. Ferrer received a plea deal after agreeing to testify against Larkin and Lacey. Ferrer was supposed to be sentenced next month, but his sentencing date has now been pushed back.

    Carl Ferrer was set to be sentenced on January 17th, but he seems to have received a Christmas present from federal prosecutors as the date has been pushed back to July. It’s unclear why the change of date was made, however, a US District Court judge agreed to the request. Lacey and Larkin are not set to go to trial until 2020 so the federal prosecutors are definitely not waiting until after their trials before Ferrer’s sentencing. This sounds more like there’s been some new development in the case, whether this affects Ferrer or Lacey and Larkin remains to be seen, but it does seem like we’ll be waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.

    Ferrer is looking at a possible sentence of five years in prison or a $250,000 fine. Even though he’s agreed to work with the government both of those sentences seem paltry in comparison to the lives he, Lacey, and Larkin have destroyed. While a five-year stretch in prison might be a modicum of justice, Ferrer could probably raise the fine money in a matter of moments. However, some seem to think that Ferrer was set up to be the fall guy which if that is the case has severely backfired on Larkin and Lacey so far. If there will be any consolation in this process, hopefully, it will be at least Larkin and Lacey going away for decades-long sentences.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on December 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Is the FCC cracking down on text spam or are they opening the door to censorship? 

    Is the FCC cracking down on text spam or are they opening the door to censorship?

    Text messaging may just be one of the greatest inventions of mankind. It allows us to send quick messages to our friends and family without having to involve ourselves in lengthy and often times inconvenient phone calls. That’s not even taking into account how many services we can use just through text messaging alone. By some estimates, SMS and MMS messaging is used by roughly 4 billion people worldwide. In today’s world of splintered technical ecosystems, it’s rare for a communication technology to be almost universally used. However, that universal acceptance may start to waver depending on how the FCC’s latest ruling is taken.

    Last Friday, the FCC ruled that cellular carriers can block unwanted texts. The FCC and the telecoms say that this is necessary in order to fight spam texts. Opponents of the ruling say that, much like the repeal of net neutrality, gives too much power to the telecoms. Tech blog Gizmodo has even gone as far as to say that we should stop using SMS and MMS texts as the telecoms may start reading and censoring text messages. The problem with using an encrypted messaging system as Gizmodo recommends is that there is no universal app that everyone will switch to since there are competing encrypted messaging services out there.

    Gizmodo seems to be missing a major point in their argument. If you look at the FCC’s rulings since the current administration took over, their moves seem to have been motivated by one factor, money. The blog post’s author seems to have taken a fringe case of allegedly blocked messages by Verizon and turned it into a national conspiracy. If anything, we’re more likely to see a return to limited text messaging. It wasn’t even a decade ago when many cell phone plans were limited to a certain amount of text messaging. If you went over your allotment of texts for the month you’d be charged for each text that exceeded your plan’s monthly amount.

    While we’ve been very critical of the FCC in the past we don’t believe that the FCC is allowing the telecoms to block text to subvert free speech but to further line their already massive pockets.

     
  • Geebo 9:58 am on December 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    New phishing scam hitting Apple users 

    New phishing scam hitting Apple users

    It’s no secret that Apple has one of the most dedicated consumer bases among the global tech companies. Then it should come as no surprise that scammers and con artists will try to use Apple’s massive brand loyalty to their advantage. Since Apple devices and their accessories usually demand a high price, the scammers believe that their victims will have a reasonable amount of money, making Apple users lucrative targets. If you are currently invested in Apple’s ecosystem you could be a target of this latest scam.

    Many tech news outlets are reporting that this latest phishing scam goes further than the usual phishing scam. In most online phishing scams you’ll get an email posing as a service you may use asking you to update or change your user information. You’ll be directed to a link which takes you to a phony website that asks for your login or financial information. In this Apple scam, the scammers send you an official looking receipt from the Apple App store with phony charges. The receipt also contains shortened links to a fake website that looks a lot like Apple’s and it will ask you for your Apple ID information. It will then tell you that you’ve been locked out of your Apple account and will ask you for identifying information including your Social Security number to unlock your account. After you give them all of the requested information you’ll be directed to the legitimate Apple website.

    Again, the best ways to avoid phishing scams are not to open any attachments that are in emails from people you don’t know, and not to click on any links contained in these emails. If you think there is a legitimate issue with your account for any of these services, type the website’s address directly into your browser and enter your account through there. That way you can keep your information out of the hands of cybercriminals.

     
  • Geebo 10:00 am on December 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Informed Delivery, mail theft, porch pirates, USPS   

    Help prevent porch pirates with this free service 

    Help prevent porch pirates with this free service

    Mail theft is an ongoing problem that has been on the rise over the past decade with the increase in online purchasing. These thieves have been dubbed ‘porch pirates’ for the way they pilfer packages that have been left on your porch or doorstep by your mail carrier. Even if you have the latest security or doorbell cameras, that might not be enough as in some locales police might not have the time and manpower to pursue any purloined packages. However, you don’t have to go as far as building your own NASA-engineered glitter bomb to help prevent package theft, but you can sign up for a free prevention service provided by the US Postal Service.

    USPS provides a service known as Informed Delivery service. All you need to do is to go to the USPS website and sign up for the service. It only takes a few minutes to register your address. Once registered, the USPS will start providing you with emails that contained scanned copies of the mail you’ll be receiving that day. That way you can be on the lookout for important and valuable mail and have a record of it in case it turns up missing.

    However, as shown by the video above, porch pirates can use this service to their advantage as well. If they’ve signed up for the service in your name, the emails from the USPS could be sent to thief’s email instead of yours. As has been mentioned, this service provided by the Post Office is free and could save you from a potentially disastrous situation. Isn’t that worth the price of just a few extra emails a week? It’s not just good for the holiday season but for all year-long.

     
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