Weaselboy is behind bars: ‘Weaselboy’ jailed for internet scam
A computer obsessive nicknamed Weaselboy was jailed for six years yesterday for an elaborate internet scam that earned him more than £1.5 million. Still only 23 years old, Peter Francis-Macrae boasted that he could bring the country’s economy to its knees by crashing computer systems.
He also threatened to kill police and trading standards officers when they began investigating the online rackets he had run for five years and which, at times, brought in £200,000 a week.
I don’t have time to paint this guy’s history but a keyword search on his name should suffice. It seems to revolve around
registering the names before they were officially released. Francis-Macrae, of Crosshall Road, St Neots, is alleged to have made more than £1.5 million from the fraud involving the domain names.
More details here.
I feel I need to add a footnote to my outburst about the difficulties of buying Skype credits in far-flung countries which may not have great reputations for handling fraud but which do maintain impressively high international call charges. One reader in the Philippines, John Richards, told me he’d had success using Moneybookers by transferring money there and using that to buy Skype credit while another, Vietnamese resident Duc Le, said he had used the same service via credit card with no success at all:
in order to register with Moneybookers, I allowed them to send a small charge to my credit card. I checked online, and it was a small amount, which I was then suppose to go back to the moneybookers site, and enter in the amount charged to my creditcard in EUROS, but my credit card only lists the amt in US dollars. The Moneybookers states if my creditcard lists the small amount in only USD, then too bad; I can’t register with them.
Needless to say, he wasn’t happy (and said he’d had similar problems with PayPal and Skype). I tried John’s transfer money method, moving money from a Hong Kong account to Moneybookers and, surprise surprise, within a few days got an email from them saying the transfer was successful. Buying the Skype credit has since then been a doddle. I’m not crazy about having to open another online account to store money at to pay for stuff, with all the costs and security worries that that incurs, but there you go. The only final hitch: The credit shows up on my Skype account page, but not in the Skype software itself, which despite a reboot and more than 12 hours, still shows the old amount. A minor bug.
Skype has declined to comment officially on the problems of payment, but their PR folk say they realise it’s not perfect, and, to their credit, have tried to add as many options as possible for folk in difficult places. Lets hope things get better. But for now, if you’re having problems, I’d suggest a Moneybookers transfer.
If you think the Internet is a scary place for stealing your sensitive bank data, try your local gas station.
The Star Tribune in Malaysia reports that criminals there are increasingly intercepting the transmission of credit card data between the point of sale machines that swipe your card and the bank. This data, incredibly, is being sent in unencrypted text form so all a criminal has to do is ‘wiretap’ the phone line and capture the data — usually onto an MP3 player. All they need to do is find the phone line, either in the outlet’s Main Distribution Frame room, or that of the bank itself and record the gurgling modem sound. A special decoder can then convert that noise into data. Your data.
The banks are finally getting onto this. Malaysia’s central bank has ordered all credit cards in the country to be EMV(Europay/MasterCard/Visa)-compliant by end-2005 (this means smart, and supposedly fraud-proof). But for now, The Star Tribune says, the banking industry is trying to encrypt data. Unfortunately, so far nothing has been agreed on.
At the risk of sounding appalled, I’m appalled. How can such data be transmitted without a modicum of encryption? This means that when we’re typing our credit card number into a web page it’s actually more secure than if we give it to the guy at the gas station or restaurant?
I was never that happy anyway doing the latter, given the prevalence of skimming — where a crooked employee would either double-swipe your card, or swipe it into a separate device that stored your details — but now, it seems, the data is up for grabs even when it’s being transmitted to your bank for verification. Yikes.
The Federal Trade Commission has accused a California pop-up advertising company of digital-age extortion
. MSNBC reports
that D Squared Solutions allegedly hijacked Internet users’ computers by bombarding them with Windows Messenger pop-up ads — as frequently as every 10 minutes. The ads hawked $30 software that promised only to stop future pop-ups from the company.
Windows Messenger is a different beast to Microsoft’s Messenger: it’s supposed to be used for system administrators to send out bulletins to users. Instead D Squared used it to blast annoying messages. The FTC is accusing them of extortion, and with websites like Blockmessenger.com, Endads.com, SaveYourPrivacy.com. and Fightmessenger.com under their control I suspect they have a case.
Microsoft has just released a new version of its Money software, 2004. New features:
— An extensive Credit Center provides a free credit report and one year of ongoing credit monitoring, in addition to a summary of debt accounts, educational content, access to “what-if” scenarios and information on credit protection.
— Money 2004 Premium offers an exclusive collection of valuable financial services, a $365 value, including two years of MSN(r) Bill Pay, capital gains tax optimizer from GainsKeeper, one-time free federal online tax preparation and filing from H&R Block, one free credit report, credit alerts and one year of ongoing monitoring from Experian Consumer Direct, and a complimentary initial personal financial consultation with American Express.
— Money 2004 is the only personal finance management software to offer the GainsKeeper service, which helps consumers better monitor and minimize the tax implications of their investment decisions.
The software further ties in with the MSN Money Web site to provide convenient, timely access to relevant and current information, including world-class financial news, information, tools and services.
You can download a trial version from here. I’ve been disappointed with previous versions which seem to add features but not to address existing bugs. Sound familiar?