scams and heists

Full tup. Full throb. Warbling.


{ 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


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


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 }

Deaden the gnaw of hunger that way. Pleasure or pain is it? Knife and fork chained to the table.


In July, Wells Fargo paid a $175 million settlement after the feds caught its brokers systematically pushing minority customers into mortgages with higher rates and fees, even though they posed the same credit risks as whites.

One study found that Wells Fargo charged Hispanics $2,000 more in what the Justice Department called a “racial surtax.” The bank docked blacks nearly $3,000 extra for their own improper pigmentation.

Across the country, in Minneapolis, U.S. Bank also swindled its customers, though at least it let whites in on the action. Instead of logging debit card purchases in the order they were made, the bank rearranged them from highest amount to lowest, the better to artificially stick customers with overdraft fees.

U.S. Bank paid $55 million to settle a class action suit in July. It was the 13th major bank caught running this scam.

These were just the opening salvos of the assault. Bank of America was caught illegally foreclosing on the homes of active-duty soldiers. Visa and MasterCard were charged with fixing the prices they charged merchants to process credit card payments. Morgan Stanley colluded to drive up New York electricity prices. And in the most depraved case of all, Morgan Stanley was even sued for allegedly swindling Irish nuns in an investment deal.

{ Village Voice | Continue reading }

I sometimes feel that I have nothing to say and I want to communicate this


Tightknit cabals of dealers and speculative collectors count on the fact that you will report record prices without being able to reveal the collusion behind how they were achieved. I get annoyed, for example, when one of Urs Fischer’s worst works (a candle sculpture depicting collector Peter Brant from 2010) makes $1.3m while Sherrie Levine’s classic bronze urinal, titled Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp) (1991), doesn’t even crack a million. The collision of financial interests behind 39-year-old Fischer, which includes Brant, François Pinault, Adam Lindemann, Larry Gagosian and the Mugrabi family, might explain the silly price. […]

Fraud and price-fixing aside, everyone involved in the art market knows that tax evasion is a regular occurrence and money laundering is a driving force in certain territories. However, your publication’s lawyers will quite rightly delete any mention of these illegalities. It’s impossible to prove them unless you can wiretap and trace money transfers. […]

Writing about the art market is painfully repetitive. […]

People send you unbelievably stupid press releases. […]

It implies that money is the most important thing about art.

{ Sarah Thornton | Continue reading }

Means something, language of flow. Was it a daisy? Innocence that is.


Clever Nigerian letter scammers found ways to adapt. These days, instead of just masquerading as monarchs, some also pose as wealthy foreign businessmen on dating websites. […]

Now fraudsters who work the phone try to get you to call them. […]

Timeshare owners who’ve been swindled of upfront fees by phony resellers are now being re-contacted by so-called “fraud recovery” specialists. […]

In bank vestibules with several ATMs, crooks place “Out of Service” signs on non-tampered ATMs in order to get customers to use a neighboring ATM on which they already placed a skimmer.

{ The Saturday Evening Post | The Sneakiest New Scams | Continue reading }

No more shines, Billy


On a Sunday night in May 1935, Victor Lustig was strolling down Broadway on New York’s Upper West Side. At first, the Secret Service agents couldn’t be sure it was him. They’d been shadowing him for seven months, painstakingly trying to learn more about this mysterious and dapper man, but his newly grown mustache had thrown them off momentarily. As he turned up the velvet collar on his Chesterfield coat and quickened his pace, the agents swooped in. […]

Secret Service agents finally had one of the world’s greatest imposters, wanted throughout Europe as well as in the United States.  He’d amassed a fortune in schemes that were so grand and outlandish, few thought any of his victims could ever be so gullible. He’d sold the Eiffel Tower to a French scrap-metal dealer. He’d sold a “money box” to countless greedy victims who believed that Lustig’s contraption was capable of printing perfectly replicated $100 bills. (Police noted that some “smart” New York gamblers had paid $46,000 for one.) He had even duped some of the wealthiest and most dangerous mobsters—men like Al Capone, who never knew he’d been swindled.

Now the authorities were eager to question him about all of these activities, plus his possible role in several recent murders in New York and the shooting of Jack “Legs” Diamond, who was staying in a hotel room down the hall from Lustig’s on the night he was attacked.

{ Smithsonian mag | Continue reading }

photo { André Kertész, Eiffel Tower (view down), 1929 }

I’ve been beat up, I’ve been thrown out, but I’m not down


A tweet from a bogus account said that the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was dead. […] The account behind this Thatcher hoax amassed more than 32,000 followers before publishing word that the Iron Lady had kicked the bucket.

{ Washington Post | Continue reading }

If you see posts floating around the Twittersphere that the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden is dead, don’t believe it.

{ Military Times | Continue reading }

If someone eggs your house, burn theirs down


If you’re a lawyer in New York, there’s no sweeter deal than getting assigned to an estate case in Surrogate’s Court.

The work is often routine — selling assets, paying bills, contacting heirs — but the pay can reach into the millions.

Landing such a gig requires currying favor with one of the city’s seven surrogate judges, who handle wills and estates. They have the power to appoint lawyers and approve their sometimes jaw-dropping invoices.

The jobs often go to the judges’ friends, associates or campaign contributors, court authorities admit. Looting of the estates can sometimes result.

The most recent example involves Bronx Judge Lee Holzman, who last week faced removal from the surrogate bench after he signed off on legal work that was never done.

The bills, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, totaled $300,000 and went to the judge’s associate, lawyer Michael Lippman, a Democratic Party crony who ran Holzman’s campaign financing, raising $125,000, a court watchdog claims.

Lippman then got into money trouble himself, racking up $1 million in gambling debts and allegedly faking bills to cover his losses.

Prosecutors say they uncovered the cooked books and charged him with fraud.

Another alleged thief preyed on a lucrative and largely unsupervised part of the system — cases in which there is no will.

Such cases go to public administrators, who work with Surrogate’s Court judges in handling their finances.

In May, Richard Paul, the bookkeeper for the Brooklyn public administrator, was indicted for stealing $2.6 million from these estates, allegedly manipulating the check-writing process to get at the cash.

{ NY Post | Continue reading }

photo { Dina Goldstein }

‘Even if it communicates nothing, discourse represents the existence of communication.’ –Lacan


He concocted an astroturf outrage campaign to publicize the screen adaptation of his client Tucker Max’s book I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. He bought billboards and defaced them with stickers saying Max “deserved to have his dick caught in a trap with sharp metal hooks. Or something like that.”; he used fake email accounts to send angry emails about the movie to college progressive organizations; he started a boycott group on Facebook; he started fake blogs reporting false stories about his client’s “outrageous behavior.”

{ Das Krapital | Continue reading }

previously { On ABC News, he was one of a new breed of long-suffering insomniacs }

artwork { Ellsworth Kelly, Black Relief II, 2010 }

Never lie, you will always get caught


Ryan Holiday could be called an “expert.” As head of marketing for American Apparel, an online strategist for Tucker Max, and self-styled “media manipulator,” he can talk social media and modern advertising with the best of them – he’s done so both online and in print on countless occasions. […]

On Reuters, he became the poster child for “Generation Yikes.” On ABC News, he was one of a new breed of long-suffering insomniacs. At CBS, he made up an embarrassing office story, at MSNBC he pretended someone sneezed on him while working at Burger King. At, he offered helpful tips for winterizing your boat. The capstone came in the form of a New York Times piece on vinyl records — naturally, Holiday doesn’t collect vinyl records.

{ Forbes | Continue reading }

artwork { Béatrice Cussol }

His free hand graciously wrote tiny signs in air


The FBI and national cybercrime agencies are warning people traveling abroad to be wary of shady scammers planting malware via insecure hotel Internet connections.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center notes that malware perpetrators are masking their cybercrime weapons as popup software updates travelers see when setting up their Internet connections.

{ Laptop | Continue reading }