Napster’s Sleazy Front Door

I’m trying out some of the online music sites, and am presently playing around with Napster. What ticks me off about these services is they try to confuse the novice into handing over their credit card details before they can get into the service, even if they have already bought a pre-paid card. The offer is ‘we just need your credit card, but it’s a free trial, honest!’. This happens at least three times, and then another pop-up window with no button to click but the one that takes you to the ‘free trial’. Anyone not absolutely sure what they’re doing is bound to click on the wrong button at some point and, eventually just hand over their credit card details just to get to the dang music store.

Of course the unsuspecting punter finds they forget to cancel and bang! At the end of the month they’re getting charged. Given a lot of the users are youngsters, I think this kind of approach, though not unusual, is appalling. Is there no shame on the part of the folk who run these services, and no legal safeguards against this kind of thing? First bad mark against Napster.

A Glimpse Of A Tentacle From The Phishing Monster

Gradually the tentacles of the Russian gangs behind phishing are appearing. But we still have no idea how it really works, and how big the beast is.

The Boston Herald reports today on the arraignment of a “suspected Russian mobster” on multiple counts of identity fraud, having allegedly obtained personal information from more than 100 victims by phishing emails.

Andrew Schwarmkoff, 28, was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after being arraigned in Brighton District Court on multiple counts of credit card fraud, identity fraud, larceny and receiving stolen property. He is also wanted in Georgia on similar charges, and is being investigated in New Jersey.

What’s interesting is that clearly phishing is tied in, as if we didn’t know, with broader financial fraud. Schwarmkoff — if that is his real name, since investigators are unsure if they have even positively identified him — was found with “$200,000 worth of stolen merchandise, high-tech computer and credit card scanning equipment, more than 100 ID cards with fraudulently obtained information and nearly $15,000 in cash,” the Herald says.

That would at least indicate that phishing is not just an isolated occupation, and that the data obtained is not necessarily just used to empty bank accounts, but to make counterfeit cards, ID cards and all sorts of stuff. What’s also clear is that the Russians (or maybe we should say folk from the former Soviet Union states) are doing this big time. The Herald quotes sources as saying “Schwarmkoff is a member of the Russian mob and has admitted entering the country illegally. “We know some things that we don’t want to comment about,” a source said, “but he’s big time.”

Schwarmkoff, needless to say, isn’t talking. “‘Would you?’ the Herald quotes the source as saying. “Schwarmkoff,” the Herald quotes him as saying, “is more content to sit in jail than risk the consequences of ratting out the Russian mob.” That probably tells us all we need to know.