Business Fraud, Identity Theft and the Wikileaks Scandal

Bad publicity getting you great results on search engines? Think twice!

After quite a busy schedule the past couple of weeks, it’s time to have another look at the happenings in technology for the past week, and my take on these events. Last week I was surprised to find a post on the broadwires about an unscrupulous business owner who reveled in the fact that his business got so much bad press on the web that it sent his search engine rankings through the roof. Doing a search for the terms his website contained, his site ranked at the top and he was proud. The cause for the complaints was due to his really bad customer service, service in general as a whole, and to top it off, abusive responses to complaints received by his customers.

Well, Google caught wind of his business practices and scraped his site off their index, and quite rightly so. Prior to this case, Google’s index and search algorithms took into consideration links to a site, and the more links out there meant that your site obviously had to be popular. The algorithms have now been changed as highlighted in this article titled “Google sucker-punches online retail bully“. It’s certainly worth a read, and it does prove that although you may be able to get away with dodgy (see footnote for definition) behaviors for a while, but in the end justice will prevail. And that’s not all.

The keen eye of a colleague of mine spotted another related article on Yahoo published yesterday titled “Online eyeware retailer charged with selling fake frames, cyberbullying customers in obscene e-mails” which just gets better…not. It turns out that Vitaly Borker (a.k.a Tony Russo), the owner of DecorMyEyes.com, used “aggressive, obscene and intimidating conduct” against his customers and was due “to be arraigned in Manhattan Federal Court Monday, faces charges of cyberstalking, making interstate threats, mail fraud, and wire fraud.” Take a look at the article and see what NOT to do when running an online business, no matter how tempted you are.

WikiLeaks

In other breaking news, if you hadn’t heard this already, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks turned himself in at a local London police station, attended a preliminary extradition hearing and was denied bail on the “substantial grounds” that he has “weak community ties” in the UK, and has “means and ability” to abscond. The grounds for extradition are based on 4 allegations of sexual assault as reported by the Guardian in their article titled “Jullian Assange denied bail over sexual assault allegations“. Supporters of Julian, and WikiLeaks claim the allegations are politically motivated and it’s not surprising considering the plethora of confidential documents that have been released via the WikiLeaks website.

Further developments published on Wednesday include an article titled “MasterCard site partially frozen by hackers in WikiLeaks ‘revenge’” by the Guardian, which goes on to state that further attacks by hacker group Anonymous are expected to made against Visa, Amazon, PayPal, EveryDNS.net, and other companies that have ceased business relationships with WikiLeaks. They already attacked Swiss bank PostFinance “after it froze payments to WikiLeaks”. Reuters reports “Australia blames U.S. for leaks, Assange in UK jail” and Assange “should not be held responsible”. “Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the U.S. diplomatic communications network,”.

There has been, and will be further heated debate across the entire web, including the US Congress, Houses of Parliment, and I’m pretty sure many private phone calls between various heads of state internationally. The problem here lies in the delivery of state secrets related to, amongst other things the war against terror. And these documents apparently contain real specifics, including individuals names and locations, something which poses a real security risk to all the parties involved. It’s very difficult for me to express my thoughts on this topic as I’ve experienced terror first hand, and have lived in three different continents, each with their own differing policies. Perhaps I’m opening myself up to a whole heap of criticism but surely the lives of individuals who are helping to fight this terrible menace to humanity as a whole are paramount to getting some sort of resolution? Sure, the public have a right to know what’s happening within their governments, and what decisions their leaders have made or are making but there must be a way to protect the identities of some individuals. I would expect much like the UFO documents that are scattered around the internet with blacked out text containing specifics, perhaps these “blackouts” could have been made to the documents before they were circulated over the Internet. That’s why most, if not all governments around the world have secrecy acts in place, which generally gag persons in the know from discussing their experiences, or revealing their knowledge in ANY capacity for 50 years. It’s a very tough subject to try to justify, or to try to condemn and criticize and, as I have not actually been to the website to see the materials in question, and as such my comments end on the matter.

Identity Theft

As you may have gathered from my previous posts, identity theft is a subject that I am most vocal on and last week a large number of articles were written after ID Analytics reported on the “Odds that someone else has your SSN? One in 7“. I chose the article published by MSNBC which states “a San Diego company’s analysis of 290 million Social Security numbers, which found that 40 million of them have been attached to more than one name. The study, conducted by the fraud-fighting firm ID Analytics, is the first of its kind that’s been made available to the public.” This is really scary stuff people! 20 million people on this list apparently also use more than one SSN when applying for loans, credit cards etc and although “A good fraction of that group, maybe 15 to 20 percent, of these mistakes are deliberate,” Coggeshall said. “There are systematic variations, deliberate manipulations. … I see many people who have a lot of Socials (SSNs). How many? ID Analytics says it has 3 million to 4 million names that have been used to commit identity fraud.” The article goes on further to say that around 5 million of these SSN’s are attached to three or more people! ““Once an SSN is connected to even three people, it’s pretty clear something is wrong,” he said. The firm found that 5 million SSNs have been connected to three or more people.”

The problem here lies in the fact that an SSN is not a secret number. Think about it, hospitals ask for your SSN when you are admitted, banks ask for it when you go to open a bank account, insurance companies want it, schools, inf act anyone who wants to have proof of your identity asks for it. And you know what the most astonishing thing is? “It was never intended to be a secret. In today’s world, it is used incorrectly. A lot of businesses have the assumption it’s a number known only to you. That’s not the case.”

Heres’s a page which I find most informative and is the “Legal requirements to provide your Social Security number“. “If a business or other enterprise asks you for your SSN, you can refuse to give it. However, that may mean doing without the purchase or service for which your number was requested. For example, utility companies and other services ask for an SSN, but do not need it; they can do a credit check or identify the person in their records by alternative means.

“Giving your SSN is voluntary, even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask why your SSN is needed, how your number will be used, what law requires you to give your number and what the consequences are if you refuse. The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number. The decision is yours.”

This Week in Tech

Those are the major developments this week in the online/tech world. What are your thoughts on the current tumultuous climate? Is there anything I missed that you’d consider noteworthy? Leave a comment and let me know.

Footnote Define Dodgy: crafty: marked by skill in deception; “cunning men often pass for wise”; “deep political machinations”; “a foxy scheme”; “a slick evasive answer”; “sly as a fox”; “tricky Dick”; “a wily old attorney” (http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=define:dodgy)

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

6 comments on “Business Fraud, Identity Theft and the Wikileaks Scandal

Cathy

Great article Mark:)


    Mark Gilbert

    Hi Cathy, thanks for your comment, glad you liked the article.


kathryn

It completely freaks me out when people in the health industry, etc want my Social. Also, I think about the amount of times it’s filled in on some form and winds up sitting on an employee’s desk for the weekend…in plain view of the cleaning people or weekend staff. It’s too easy, I think. This frightens me because you hear about the hell people go through trying to redeem their identities after a hit.

Scary stuff, Mark!


    Mark Gilbert

    Kathryn, thanks for reading. You should be freaked out when people want your SSN and it’s good to see someone like minded on the matter. There are circumstances when it’s required, the DMV requires it by law, your employer needs it to direct your taxes to the right place, and the banks but the rest really don’t need it. That legal guidance link I provided gives you the drill and if everyone adhered to that list then the world would certainly be a safer place.


Mike Vaz

Fantastic post. The Social Security number issue is especially alarming.


    Mark Gilbert

    Thanks for reading Mike. The more I read into the abuses of our SS system, the alarms keep going off non-stop at a deafening drone.