Archives for : April2016


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Malware scammers will upload a video to social media, or offer “free” music, movies, torrents, or adult content – often via a pop up window.

When you attempt to watch the video, you’re asked to download a particular codec or program to access the format, infecting your computer with malicious code that steals your information and sends it to a third party.

Likewise, ransomware is a form of malware that locks your computer or files and demands payment be made in the digital currency ‘bitcoin’ to receive the virtual key for their release.

The latest scams include a phoney subpoena from the AFP asking you to download your case files, or appear to be a shipment confirmation from Australia Post, to collect a parcel.

In short:

  • Never open attachments from strangers, or click through links on social media that require you to log onto another site to view. Look for reputable news services, rather than unknown web links.
  • Be wary of free downloads that may install snooping programs without you knowing. Remember if the product is free, you’re what’s being sold.

    Remember that paying the ransom is still no guarantee that your computer will be unlocked, so it’s a good idea to always back up your files, in the unfortunate event you can no longer access them.

  • And finally, make sure your computer anti-virus and anti-spyware software is up to date.

    If you notice your computer is sluggy, you get lots of pop-up windows that are hard to close, or your browser looks different, disconnect from the Internet and talk to the pros.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to reverse Google image search some photos!


Henry Sapiecha

Phishing Scams

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We’ve all received phoney correspondence from a fraudster purporting to look like it’s come from a legitimate business (think your bank or the ATO).

The latest in phishing – spear phishing – lifts the game by originating from a site you do business with, using real details about a purchase you recently made (and perhaps bragged about on social media), to appear even more believable.

Phishing phone calls posing as your bank often request your log on details to confirm a recent purchase. Phishing emails generally demand you log in to your account, usually to prevent it from being closed down.

Phishing texts will congratulate you for winning money, and seek bank details for the transfer.

Regardless of format, the ACCC reports $363,270 was handed over to phishing fraudsters in 2015, so we’re still falling for the scams – hook, line, and sinker.

Before taking the bait:

  • Does it really seem plausible that your institution would have sent the email? Have a look on their website – is there any mention of the “issue” your correspondence refers to? Try using a cut and paste of the exact wording in Google, to see if it’s been flagged with Scam Watch.
  • Remember to always type the address in yourself (and not click on the hyperlink in the email) to ensure you’re going to the correct page (and not the dodgy one.)

    If you’re on the phone, offer to call them back (obviously using the number on the back of your card and not the one provided by the caller!)

  • Look for the padlock symbol in your browser, remembering “no padlock, no purchase”. You’ll notice the http:// changes to https:// when a site is secure; legitimate sites will encrypt (or scramble) the information you send, to protect your information.
  • Finally, if you hang up the phone with the feeling of dread that you’ve revealed too much, alerting your bank should be your first port of call.

    The bank can put a stop on your card to prevent further transactions, and it may be possible to enable a chargeback for those that have been fraudulently billed. While you’re (inevitably) on hold, you can get to work on changing the passwords and pin numbers for any accounts you think may have been compromised.


Henry Sapiecha

Some dating scams online-Be aware.

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According to the ACCC, 2,620 Australians lost almost $23 million to romance scams last year.

Considering many people are reluctant to admit to being unlucky in love, this figure is likely much higher.

By using social media or online dating sites, would-be Romeos connect with their victims using either a fake profile, or by assuming the identity of someone trusted (think foreign aid workers, military, or overseas ex-pats.)

The scammer moves quickly, romantically suggesting the conversation is moved off the dating site, and onto another (less traceable) medium such as email or chat, and will spend months gaining your trust before requesting money.

This money is usually to handle a sudden family emergency, or recover from a unexpected run of financial bad luck.

To ensure you think with your head and not your heart:

  • Never provide your credit card details or transfer money, to someone you’ve met online.It’s almost impossible for the banks to step in and save the day (and your hip pocket) once you’ve wired money overseas, so be particularly suspicious if someone asks you to do so.Be mindful that money laundering is a criminal offence, so a broken heart won’t be your only woe if you accept and transfer money or packages for somebody else.
  • Run Google’s Reverse Image Search to match the photo you want verified with any similar pics on Google images. If the love of your life is using a stock photo, or has stolen someone’s profile pic, it will be matched with its original.
  • Be wary of the tell-tale signs – perhaps the person promises to Skype yet their webcam is always broken, or requests money to visit but can suddenly no longer travel.
  • Finally, if you think you have been scammed, report your experience to the website where the scammer first approached you and immediately cease contact. There are, after all, plenty more fish in the sea.


Henry Sapiecha

How to avoid the international money transfer rip off


Transferring money overseas is costing Australians big bucks, with the latest figures from the World Bank showing Australia is the fourth most expensive country in the world for international money transfers, behind South Africa, Japan and France.

With the launch of Mozo’s international money transfer hub, our money geeks crunched the numbers and found using a big bank to transfer $10,000 from Australian dollars to New Zealand dollars, could be more than the price of a return flight to Auckland.

Mozo director Kirsty Lamont advised Aussies looking to transfer money overseas to do their research on exchange rates and fees in advance to avoid being “ripped off.”

“It’s very easy to think only major banks facilitate international money transfers, but there are a growing number of online money transfer providers in Australia which are very willing to compete, especially on price.”

Mozo discovered the cheapest rates in Australia were generally from online providers, such as OzForex, HiFX, Currency Fair, Worldfirst and TorFX.

“In fact, we found online money transfer providers are on average 5c cheaper per dollar transferred than the big four banks. When you’re transferring thousands of dollars, that difference adds up to hundreds of dollars in savings,” said Lamont.

Looking to transfer money to a loved one abroad or for your stint in a foreign country?

Search Mozo’s foreign exchange hub here to compare exchange rates and fees from nine providers across 11 currencies with rates updated every 15 minutes.


Henry Sapiecha

Travel agent vanishes after stealing money and leaving customers stranded at Sydney Airport

A Bankstown travel agent has disappeared after being convicted for ripping off clients.

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A travel agent has vanished after he was prosecuted for ripping off elderly clients and leaving them stranded at Sydney Airport.Australia

Taha Baghdadi​ has been ordered to pay almost $30,000 in fines, costs and compensation to three victims whose holidays were ruined before they had even begun.

But many others are also believed to have been left high and dry after Baghdadi’s Bankstown-based agency, Pack N Go Travel, suddenly shut in 2014 and he vanished underground with their money.

He failed to appear before Paramatta Local Court when he was convicted last month and has not been seen since. Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe branded Baghdadi’s actions as a “clear case” of a travel agent engaging in misleading, deceptive and “unconscionable” conduct.

Nikoleta Romanas, 81, and her sister Elly Zeikat, 75, paid $2200 each for flights between Sydney, Greece and Dubai. They received receipts and itineraries for their holiday. But when they arrived at the Emirates check-in desk in December 2014, they discovered the seats had initially been booked but the ticket was later cancelled as it had never been paid for.

They were not alone. In 2014, Samir Zoobi paid Baghdadi almost $10,000 so that he and his family could travel to Lebanon and visit his ageing parents. But when he called Malaysia Airlines he was told a booking existed in his family’s name but no payment had ever been received.

“I heard from people in the community that he had disappeared,” Mr Zoobi said. “So I tried to call him one day, two days, but no answer. When I visited his shop, there were a lot of people outside. I asked them, ‘where is he?’. But nobody knew.”

Mr Zoobi said he later met Bagdadi’s father who told him “just be patient, we will look after you”.

“That was 18 months ago,” he told Fairfax, adding: “I have a son and two daughters. My wife is a teacher. We are genuine, honest people. I trusted this man was the same. But he lied to me.”

Mr Stowe said consumers can protect themselves from “dodgy travel agents” by checking they belong to the Australian Federation of Travel Agents’ Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS).

Credit-card payments were also safer than large cash deposits because of the charge-back facilities many financial institutions offer when “something goes wrong”, he said.


Henry Sapiecha

Record seizure of illicit counterfeit fake food and drink

Italian olives painted with copper sulphate solution, Sudanese sugar tainted with fertiliser, and hundreds of thousands of litres of bogus alcoholic drinks top Interpol’s annual tally of toxic and counterfeit food seized by police agencies across the world.

Record seizure of illicit food and drink

Interpol and Europol conduct the biggest-ever global crackdown on fake food and drinks

The haul of bogus diet supplements, adulterated honey and formalin-drenched chicken guts makes for stomach-churning reading.

Masked customs officers monitor a screening area for international passengers at Newark airport, New Jersey image

Masked customs officers monitor a screening area for international passengers at Newark airport, New Jersey

A statement by Interpol on Wednesday said a record 10,000 tonnes and 1 million litres of hazardous fake food and drink had been recovered across 57 countries, with Australia also making the list.

False labelling proved Australia’s undoing when testing of 450 kilograms of honey revealed it had been blended or adulterated, and a consignment of peanuts had been repackaged and relabelled as pine nuts, posing a significant threat to allergy sufferers. Earlier this year, researchers claimed Australian honey was “contaminated”.

European law-enforcement agency Europol, which co-ordinated the seizures along with Interpol over the past three months, says counterfeit food is “a multibillion [dollar] criminal industry which can pose serious potential health risks to unsuspecting customers”.

Europol said it co-ordinates the Operation Opson initiative with Interpol, now in its fifth iteration, to protect public health and safety.

It involved police, customs, national food regulatory bodies and the private sector, and investigated shops, markets, airports, seaports and industrial estates between November 2015 and February 2016.

A number of arrests were made worldwide and investigations were continuing, Europol said.

Italian law enforcement recovered more than 85 tonnes of olives, painted with copper sulphate solutions to enhance their colour image

Italian law enforcement recovered more than 85 tonnes of olives, “painted” with copper sulphate solutions to enhance their colour

In Greece, Operation Opson V discovered three illegal spirit factories image

In Greece, officers discovered three illicit factories producing counterfeit alcohol. Police seized equipment used in the manufacturing process including labels, caps, empty bottles in addition to more than 7400 bottles of fake alcohol and counterfeit labels.

In Britain, authorities recovered nearly 10,000 litres of fake wine, whisky and vodka. In Burundi, more than 36,000 litres of illicit alcohol were seized in addition to nine Kalashnikov rifles and ammunition, and three grenades which were recovered during the operation.

After police in Thailand carried out checks on an individual found to be transporting four tonnes of meat illegally imported from India, further investigations led to the discovery of an illicit network operating across 10 provinces. Officers recovered and destroyed more than 30 tonnes of illegal beef and buffalo meat unfit for human consumption which had been destined for sale in supermarkets.

Operation Opson V also confiscated several kilograms of illicit monkey meat at Brussels airport image

Operation Opson V also confiscated several kilograms of illicit monkey meat at Brussels airport

International travellers importing illicit products were also investigated. Customs officers at Zaventem airport in Belgium discovered several kilograms of monkey meat and in France, officers seized and destroyed 11 kilograms of locusts and 20 kilograms of caterpillars.

Police in South Korea arrested a man smuggling fake weight-loss supplements estimated to have generated some $US170,000 ($221,000) in sales.

Hungarian food safety officials discovered more than two tonnes of duck meat, destined to be sold as goose liver for foie gras production image

Hungarian food safety officials discovered more than two tonnes of duck meat, destined to be sold as goose liver for foie gras production.

In Indonesia, officials seized 70 kilograms of chicken intestines which had been preserved in formalin, which is prohibited as food additive.

“Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world,” Michael Ellis, head of Interpol’s Trafficking in Illicit Goods unit, said.

“Today’s rising food prices and the global nature of the food chain offer the opportunity for criminals to sell counterfeit and substandard food in a multibillion criminal industry,” said Chris Vansteenkiste, cluster manager of the intellectual property crime team, Europol.

In Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, and Romania, authorities discovered counterfeit chocolates, sweets and non-alcoholic sparkling wine aimed at children.

with AP


Henry Sapiecha