scams and heists

I don’t see anything happening immediately but there could be a move in the latter part of this year or may be very early next

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A Manhattan fortune teller will be jailed for a year after taking more than $650,000 in cash from an Upper East Side woman by promising to “cleanse” the money.

Swindling soothsayer Janet Miller, 39, also tricked the wealthy victim into turning over paintings and jewelry as “sacrifices” to keep the devil away, and even conned her into buying and handing over a couple of Rolexes — all to exterminate “bad energy,” Manhattan prosecutors charged.

{ NY Post | Continue reading }

related { The blindfold is to minimise the shock which the flashlight could cause to the eyes of the medium, who is extremely sensitive during this stage of the phenomena }

You make these gentlemen a receipt for $12,000 please. It was a pleasure doing business with y’all. Now gentlemen, if you care to join me in the parlor, we will be serving white cake.

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The US Congress has severely scaled back the Stock Act, the law to stop lawmakers and their staff from trading on insider information, in under-the-radar votes that have been sharply criticised by advocates of political transparency.

The changes mean Congressional and White House staff members will not have to post details of their shareholdings online. They will also make online filing optional for the president, vice-president, members of Congress and congressional candidates. […]

The Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge – or “Stock” – Act prohibited them from buying or selling stocks, commodities or futures based on non-public information they obtain during the course of their work. It also banned them from disseminating non-public information regarding pending legislation that could be used for investment purposes. […]

Political watchdogs were dismayed. “Are we going to return to the days when public can use the internet to research everything except what their government is doing?” asked Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation, which monitors money in politics.

{ Financial Times | Continue reading }

The Federal Reserve said early Wednesday that it inadvertently e-mailed the minutes of its March policy meeting a day early to some congressional staffers and trade groups.

Late this afternoon, the central bank released to reporters a list of more than 150 e-mail addresses that it says received the early e-mail on Tuesday afternoon. (The minutes had been scheduled for release a day later.) The list includes e-mail addresses for dozens of congressional staffers, along with contacts — many of them government-relations executives — at major banks, lobbying firms and trade groups.

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

We will provide the full list of people who manipulate and cheat the market shortly, but for now we are curious to see how the Fed will spin that EVERYONE got an advance notice of its minutes a day in advance without this becoming a material issue with the regulators, and just how many billions in hush money it will take to push this all under the rug.

{ Zero Hedge | Continue reading }

What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?

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The fastest growing industry in the US right now, even during this time of slow economic growth, is probably the patent troll protection racket industry. Lawsuits surrounding software patents have more than tripled since 1999.

It’s a great business model.

Step one: buy a software patent. There are millions of them, and they’re all quite vague and impossible to understand.

Step two: FedEx a carefully crafted letter to a few thousand small software companies, iPhone app developers, and Internet startups. This is where it gets a tiny bit tricky, because the recipients of the letter need to think that it’s a threat to sue if they don’t pay up, but in court, the letter has to look like an invitation to license some exciting new technology. In other words it has to be just on this side of extortion.

Step three: wait patiently while a few thousand small software companies call their lawyers, and learn that it’s probably better just to pay off the troll, because even beginning to fight the thing using the legal system is going to cost a million dollars.

{ Joel Spolsky | Continue reading }

Caught you looking for the same thing, it’s a new thing

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According to the studies he cited, 7 percent of people’s twitter followers are actually spambots; 30 percent of social media users are deceived by spambots and chatbots; and 20 percent of social media users accept friend requests from unknown people, 51 percent of which are not human. […] When it comes to “astroturfing” — the practice of creating fake grassroots movements to influence opinions — the hit ratio on email spams is about 12.5 million to 1. In order to create an astroturf movement on the scale of the anti-SOPA movement in 2011, every person on earth would have to receive the same spam message 8 times.

{ Gigaom | Continue reading }

photo { Todd Fisher }

There’s a medium in all things

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A sophisticated scheme to use a casino’s own security systems against it has netted scammers $33m in a high-stakes poker game after they were able to gain a crucial advantage by seeing the opposition’s cards.

The team used a high-rolling accomplice from overseas who was known to spend large amounts while gambling at Australia’s biggest casino, the Crown in Melbourne, according to the Herald Sun. He and his family checked into the Crown and were accommodated in one of its $30,000-a-night villas.

The player then joined a private high-stakes poker game in a private suite. At the same time, an unnamed person got access to the casino’s CCTV systems in the poker room and fed the information he gleaned back to the player via a wireless link. Over the course of eight hands the team fleeced the opposition to the tune of $33m.

{ The Register | Continue reading }

srceenshot { Shirley Eaton as Jill Masterson: Bond Girl and Goldfinger’s aide-de-camp, whom Bond catches helping the villain cheat at a game of cards. He seduces her, but for her betrayal, she is completely painted in gold paint and dies from ’skin suffocation’ (a fictional condition Ian Fleming created for the novel; the skin does not actually “breathe”). }

Everything goes, everything comes back

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Fifteen years ago, two fraud cases sent shock waves through the world of photography, helping to trigger a revolution in photo conservation science.

Long dismissed by the art establishment as a second-tier medium, “photography used to fight for space in galleries,” says James M. Reilly, director of the Image Permanence Institute in Rochester, N.Y. But by the 1990s the prestige—and price tags—of photographs began to approach those of paintings and sculpture. During that decade, collectors increasingly paid out hundreds of thousands and then the first million dollars for vintage and contemporary photographs. Yet, as in all coming-of-age stories, life’s dark side made an appearance, this time by means of back-to-back fraud cases.

In 1998, researchers in Germany discovered that a collection of prints by the avant-garde American photographer Man Ray had not been made by the artist himself. A year later, a team in the U.S. began to scrutinize a collection of 20 prints by Lewis Hine, an early-20th-century American documentary photographer. They discovered that the iconic collection of photos of Empire State Building construction sites and child laborers, purported to have been printed by Hine himself, were made decades after his death. Both cases led to million-dollar settlements that helped stimulate the photo conservation research, transforming a niche field into a mature science.

{ Chemical & Engineering News | Continue reading }

Golden shower (disambiguation)

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Last August, a book titled “Leapfrogging” hit The Wall Street Journal’s list of best-selling business titles upon its debut. The following week, sales of the book, written by first-time author Soren Kaplan, plunged 99% and it fell off the list.

Something similar happened when the hardcover edition of “Networking is Dead,” was published in mid-December. A week after selling enough copies to make it onto the Journal’s business best-seller list, more hardcover copies of the book were returned than sold, says book-sales tracker Nielsen BookScan.

It isn’t uncommon for a business book to land on best-seller lists only to quickly drop off. But even a brief appearance adds permanent luster to an author’s reputation, greasing the skids for speaking and consulting engagements.

Mr. Kaplan says the best-seller status of “Leapfrogging” has “become part of my position as a speaker and consultant.”

But the short moment of glory doesn’t always occur by luck alone. In the cases mentioned above, the authors hired a marketing firm that purchased books ahead of publication date, creating a spike in sales that landed titles on the lists. The marketing firm, San Diego-based ResultSource, charges thousands of dollars for its services in addition to the cost of the books, according to authors interviewed.

{ WSJ | Continue reading | via Forbes }

installation { Tom Sachs }

Bloom holds up his right hand on which sparkles the Koh-i-Noor diamond. His palfrey neighs. Immediate silence.

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By now, the diamond thieves who pulled off a brazen $50 million heist on the tarmac of Brussels Airport are the most wanted men in Europe. They’re most likely lying low somewhere, waiting for the heat to die down. Soon enough, though, they’ll want to turn that loot into cash. But how does one actually go about fencing $50 million in stolen diamonds? In fact, it’s easier than you might think.

Clearly, these guys planned their Feb. 18 heist well — it was fast and efficient, and it employed minimal violence in intercepting the diamonds at a moment of vulnerability. Given their professionalism, it’s quite likely that they planned just as carefully what to do with the loot.

I know a little bit about what they might have been thinking, from investigating the largest diamond heist in history, the 2003 burglary of $500 million in stones in Antwerp, Belgium, by a group of Italian thieves known as the School of Turin.

Let’s assume these new crooks don’t already have someone in mind on whom they intend to unload all the diamonds. They’ll have to sell them slowly to avoid drawing attention, but that’s OK, as diamonds don’t lose value with the passage of time. The first thing to do with all those stolen diamonds is to divide them up into polished stones, rough stones, and anything in between. […] The biggest problem is getting rid of the stones’ identifying characteristics. Some of the polished diamonds will have signature marks on them, such as tiny, almost invisible, laser engravings. These can be removed. But some polished diamonds have laser-inscribed marks on their girdle, commonly used for branding purposes: Canadian diamonds often feature a maple leaf or polar bear, while De Beers uses its distinctive “Forevermark.” Such brands by themselves are not a concern; in fact, removing them might hurt the resale value of a stone. But the problem facing the thieves is that these markings often include a serial number used to identify a specific stone. […]

One thing working in the thieves’ favor is that in the complex, busy world of the gem trade, a single diamond can trade hands multiple times in a single day. And not everyone keeps clear records. By the time someone realizes that they’re in possession of a stolen stone, it could have passed through dozens of hands, leaving the trail too cold for police to be able to track it back to the original trader who bought it off the thieves.

Another thing going for the thieves is that the individual marking of stones is still rather rare. Yes, diamond-grading laboratories offer services that will inscribe a unique number on a diamond to match that polished stone to a report detailing its attributes. But it’s far more common to simply keep a diamond in a transparent, sealed, tamper-proof case along with a given report that notes cut, clarity, color, carat weight, and other details. Moreover, even the best labs don’t note or keep track of any unique identifier such as an optical fingerprint of polished stones. There are indeed services geared toward retail clients that will analyze diamonds and keep extremely detailed records for insurance or identification purposes. But these kinds of services aren’t used in Antwerp’s wholesale diamond trade. […]

The ironic thing about this week’s heist, though, is that odds are that the vast majority of these stolen stones will end up back in Antwerp soon — but the people buying and selling them will have no idea they were stolen. Even victims of this heist would be unlikely to recognize one of their stones.

{ Foreign Policy | Continue reading }

related { Robbers breach gate, steal $50 million in diamonds at Belgian airport }

screenshot { The Sicilian Clan, 1969 | more }

She captures his hand, her forefinger giving to his palm the pass touch of secret monitor, luring him to doom

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Federal prosecutors intend to bring civil charges against Standard & Poor’s for wrongdoing in its rating of mortgage bonds prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

Allegations against the McGraw-Hill unit will center on the model used to rate the bonds and will reportedly be made in lawsuits to be filed as soon as this week.

A move by U.S. officials would be the first federal enforcement action against a major credit rating agency over alleged illegal behavior tied to the financial crisis.

The lawsuit is reportedly regarding 30 triple-A rated CDOs from the first half of 2007, and the Department of Justice is seeking “a 10 figure plus settlement and the admission of wrongdoing,” according to sources.

“A DOJ lawsuit would be entirely without factual or legal merit,” S&P said in a statement. “It would disregard the central facts that S&P reviewed the same subprime mortgage data as the rest of the market – including U.S. government officials who in 2007 publicly stated that problems in the subprime market appeared to be contained – and that every CDO that DOJ has cited to us also independently received the same rating from another rating agency.”

Shares of McGraw-Hill are down nearly 14 percent following news of the charges.

{ CNBC | Continue reading }

Full tup. Full throb. Warbling.

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{ As an ex-presidential consultant, a former adviser to the World Bank, a financial researcher for the United Nations and a professor in the US, Artur Baptista da Silva’s outspoken attacks on Portugal’s austerity cuts made the bespectacled 61-year-old one of the country’s leading media pundits last year. The only problem was that Mr Baptista da Silva is none of the above. He turned out to be a convicted forger with fake credentials and, following his spectacular hoodwinking of Portuguese society, he could soon face fraud charges. | The Independent | full story }

It’s all in the wrist

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Software developed by the FBI and Ernst & Young has revealed the most common words used in email conversations among employees engaged in corporate fraud.

The software, which was developed using the knowledge gained from real life corporate fraud investigations, pinpoints and tracks common fraud phrases like “cover up”, “write off”, “failed investment”, “off the books”, “nobody will find out” and “grey area”.

Expressions such as “special fees” and “friendly payments” are most common in bribery cases, while fears of getting caught are shown in phrases such as “no inspection” and “do not volunteer information”.

{ Computer World | Continue reading }

As if any fool wouldn’t know what that meant

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It’s all about the fact that people want to achieve two things at the same time. We want to think of ourselves as honest, wonderful people, and then we want to benefit from cheating. Our ability to rationalize our own actions can actually help us be more dishonest while thinking of ourselves as honest. So the idea that everybody else does it, or the idea that nobody is really going to suffer, or the idea that the entity you are stealing from is actually a bad entity, or the idea that you don’t see it—all of those things help people be dishonest.

{ Daniel Ariely/The Politic | Continue reading }