PhishBucket Job Fraud Trends Report

In October 2009, I attended the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) eCrime Researchers Summit to present trends in job fraud. This report included statistical data on:

– the correlation between job fraud, unemployment and the economic recession
– which countries are targeted and why
– how people are finding out about job fraud
– which fraudulent job offers are most common
– which people, companies and industries are affected

Topics discussed included observations about the consequences of job fraud, challenges in dealing with job fraud, the impact of job fraud and possible solutions.

Given the current economic climate, and the fact that the situation has worsened rather than improved since I created this report, I think this information bears repeating.

So here it is again, displayed in slides. You can also download a PDF version of the report at PhishBucket.org.

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Vicious Circles: The Impact of a Bad Economy

Read each diagram clockwise, starting from the top. Discuss!

Impact on Individuals

Individual-Economic-Impact

Impact on Businesses

Business-Economic-Impact

How bad do you want it?

Wit's EndI was just thinking, if necessity is the mother of all invention, isn’t desire the father? The only thing really required to tie the two together is for you to be convinced that your wants are actually needs.

Pay attention to those noises coming out of your TV, computer, and radio. The voices aren’t usually on your side.

Will the leader of the free world please stand up?

Dear Mr. Obama,

I got really upset today because of some things I read about you, and frankly, I have no idea what to believe anymore. I’m a little pissed off at myself for venting through Twitter and Facebook, but more because I’m worried about alienating my family, friends and associates than because of anything I said about you.

You see, Mr. Obama, I investigate online fraud (employment scams, specifically). Been doing it since 2006. First it was on my personal blog, and then at PhishBucket.org from 2008 on, because a) the problem wouldn’t go away, and b) unemployment is still through the roof.

If you had just kept your promise and got unemployment under 8% like you said you would, I probably wouldn’t have vented at all. But no, you were too busy ramming your crazy health care bill down our throats, throwing money at problems, and encouraging, even to some degree financially supporting, the uprisings in the Middle East. By the way, wouldn’t that money be better spent reducing our deficit?

I happen to loathe corruption, and that’s about all I’ve seen come out of your administration. I didn’t pay much attention to politics until I saw all the lying and cheating and lack of transparency that got you where you are today. You seem to think the federal government is entitled to a blank check–that you can spend our tax dollars with no accountability. And to add insult to injury, after you get a Nobel Peace Prize you turn around and start a military conflict. I can think of several people off the top of my head who are more deserving of that award than you. Why don’t you consider giving it back?

So anyway, to make up for my social networking outbursts, I’m writing in part to apologize to the people who know me. I don’t like getting angry in Tweet-sized bursts, and I shouldn’t have vented at them when it’s YOU I’m upset with.

But…I’m also writing to tell you that there’s still a chance for you to make everything right.  Despite all the damage you’ve done, I can only hope that your personal relationship with Jesus Christ guides you to make better choices than you’ve made thus far. The right thing would be to make this country prosperous and safe, and to uphold the Constitution that you and your liberal (and radical) friends think is so flawed. Let’s face it, Barry, it’s worked for this country for well over 200 years. Seems to me the only thing wrong is your interpretation of it.

Here are just a few of the things that are bugging me, and where I think you’re failing this country:

  • Bad economy/huge debt: you’ve demonstrated a complete lack of business/budgetary skills. Have you even submitted a budget since you’ve been on the job? Everyone in the Congressional Budget Office should all be replaced with real accountants who know how to do real math.
  • Unemployment: you favor job creators that come at a cost to taxpayers, like public sector/unions, over private sector job creators, who create revenue and ultimately more taxpayers.
  • Bad international relations: your handling of Libya, Syria and Pakistan, among other foreign countries, demonstrates a lack of experience in diplomacy. You’re so quick to point the finger at dictators overseas, but then you convince other countries to be the bullies.
  • Super-sized government: you’ve demonstrated a lack of management skills; your pen budget alone must be ridiculous. You have large numbers of duplicative departments, you’re  overstaffed, and you’re paying government employees FAR above and beyond what these positions pay in the private sector. I can’t say I’ve been terribly thrilled with the way you vetted your staff either. Van Jones? Anita Dunn? Seriously unprofessional, buddy.
  • Perpetuation of social justice issues: you seem to enjoy creating division among the people; perhaps you think that dividing and polarizing the American public on the issues of the day will help your perpetual election campaigning, but I see right through it. If we’re arguing with each other, our attention is off what you’re doing, and that’s okay by you, isn’t it? My venting today is a perfect example.
  • Government fraud, corruption & waste: the way you spend money and make backroom deals is a clear abuse of power. Whenever a Republican does something shady, you make sure everyone knows it, but when a Democrat does it, the answer is always, “Hey, why are you picking on us? Everyone in DC does it!” Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, SEIU, AFL-CIO, Nebraska and Louisiana come to mind.
  • Policies based on erroneous information (economic, environmental, health): you abuse your power when you base policy on false environmental or economic data. Same goes for any other info you take as gospel and then try to “fix” with a new, restrictive law. You claim healthcare as a constitutional right (despite it not being in our “flawed” constitution) in order to impose taxes on those who don’t buy it. In fact, your policies have already turned us into a Nanny State.
  • Incivility and intolerance: you hypocrites tell people to tone down the hate speak and be more civil, yet turn around and do it again and again yourselves. You can’t imagine how much I’m dreading all the campaign commercials.

While I don’t hate you, I do find your actions deplorable and I hate what you’re DOING.

Why don’t you just admit it? You didn’t have enough experience for this job when you applied, and we simply can’t afford four more years of you learning on the job. Let some other Democrat run.

To that end, before the 2012 election, I’m going to try to draft up a Job Task Analysis. It’s about time the citizens of this country understand what kind of qualifications a presidential candidate should have.

As for you, Mr. Obama…you need to stop marginalizing and dividing Americans, because you’re not fooling anyone. Your leadership has put this country into a hole, and it’s going to take us a long time to dig ourselves out. Nothing personal. You’re just not qualified.

And to those who know me, I’m sorry I brought it up.

Swimming with sharks…

It was nice to meet you the other day at that event. After we were introduced, we partook in some idle chit-chat. Do you recall our conversation? You sure do love your job—I couldn’t help but notice how much you liked talking about your company and what you do. And you must be very proud of your children and pets. I enjoyed looking at their photos and learning all their names and ages.

You thought we  were just making small talk. Small talk is forgettable, right? Given the circumstances of where we met, you probably had your guard down; after all, we were both at the same function, so we must have had something in common. Did you happen to notice that you did most of the talking? Sure, I told you a bit about myself, but now that I have you looking back on that day, can you be sure anything I said was even real?

What if I told you I stood in line behind you at the bank? I overheard you talking to the teller while waiting my turn, and I got a glimpse of your driver’s license and that big check you were cashing, because you didn’t try to hide it.

Or maybe I sat behind you on the bus, admiring the reflection of your phone in the window while you passed the time answering your email or updating your social networks. When you finally tore your eyes away from your screen long enough to check up on me, I appeared to be doing the same. Or was I?

How can you be sure I wasn’t listening when the bank teller called you by name and then started helping you? How do you know I wasn’t looking when your eyes were glued to your mobile phone on the bus? More importantly, do you care? You should, seeing as you don’t know me.

I’ve been online since there was an online. I watched offline scams turn into online scams. I know why and how online scammers do what they do, and could easily join the dark side. In fact, lot of people have entrusted me with their information over the years. I could make you sorry you ever met me.

Fortunately, I’m one of the good guys.

You need to understand that not all scammers are shady foreigners. Granted, in today’s world, some of the money made overseas from online fraud could be funding terrorism, but many scammers are more like you and me—in and out of work, running short on cash and just trying to find a way to keep their creditors from knocking down their doors. More often than not, scams are perpetrated by people you wouldn’t usually suspect. It could be someone who’s just a little down on his luck. But it could also be a colleague at work, someone who has access to sensitive company information. Or maybe a disgruntled former employee. With the click of a mouse they can sell all kinds of corporate secrets, from unreleased software code to user data, including yours. People in financial trouble sometimes take advantage of the stupidity of others if it means being able to live to fight another day.

Now, as a scammer, I’ll probably try to learn as much as I can about you without actually having to talk to you. I prefer to skim for the easiest info: your name, address, email address, phone number—info that most people don’t bother to hide. If I can get the basics, I might be able to steal from you without you grasping the extent of the damage you just brought onto yourself until it’s too late.

But if I can’t find any information about you that way, I’ll have to find some other way to insinuate myself into your world to get what I want. I can weasel my way into your social networking circle by posing as a job recruiter or former work colleague, by pretending to have gone to the same high school, or by affiliating myself with groups you’re affiliated with, so I can gain your confidence and thus learn more. I’ll use that information to see if I can break into your email or bank account, all from the comfort of my own sofa.

If I do decide to scam you, I’m not going to make a big production out of it. I’ll get what I need out of you without you ever realizing the size of the bull’s-eye on your forehead. Once I’m done with it, I’ll sell your info on the black market, and by the time you realize you’re a victim, you’ll be blaming someone else.

The point is, online scammers aren’t all foreigners overseas. In the course of an average day, you’re probably brushing shoulders with several scammers without even knowing it. So the more you share about yourself online, and the less you pay attention to the world around you while you do it, the more vulnerable you’ll be.

I like You better when You’re not around

In the movie Barfly, Mickey Rourke’s character comments, “People…I like ‘em better when they’re not around.”

I share those sentiments. I can usually find something in common with  just about every person I meet. At the individual level, it’s not difficult to find something to like in a person. But You people, the collective lot of You…well, You freak me out.

It’s not entirely Your fault. Apparently the regular Web wasn’t a big enough beast, so Certain People came along with a brand new Web 2.0 called social networking. This group of Certain People convinced You that social networking was a way to share Your world with family and friends; a way to show support for products, ideas or people You like; a way to shout out at the world about things You don’t like. And You bought it, hook, line and sinker. Many of You are now addicted to or dependent on social networking. Even I’m stuck with it, though all I want to do with it is warn You of all the corruption and danger out on the Web.

So who are these Certain People, and what’s so wrong with this Web 2.0 thing? What do They want from You? Furthermore, why should any of this make me like the collective You less?

Well, these Certain People have learned how to manipulate the Web for profit. They have two intentions: first, to divide and conquer You, and second, to profit from You. These Certain People are not the average small business owner or individual trying to eke out a modest existence. These Certain People are more like vultures. They eat for the sake of eating, even when They’re full.

First You need to know more about these Certain People. A little background first, yes?

Once upon a time, the Web was a rather sparse and static place. You visited a website, looked around a bit, then left. You couldn’t do a whole lot back then. It was a very solitary experience.

Down the line, e-commerce was born. Merchants worldwide realized very quickly that  having a Web presence was like having an international store front. Now You could actually buy Their stuff online – how cool is that?

To tell You what came next, I have to briefly mention how television advertising changed over the years. The abridged version: back in the day, television commercials were actually performed live during a program; the advertiser paid for one or more interruptions to market their product. One advertiser typically sponsored one program at a time. But soon the television industry and merchants realized it would be far more lucrative to allow multiple merchants to buy advertising time during multiple programs (and eventually stations) to air their commercials, and to record those commercials so they could be used over and over again. In order to target their products to the audience most likely to buy, They had to analyze who was watching what on television. This type of analysis became big business, and is of course alive and well today.

With knowledge of the well-developed television advertising model, it wasn’t hard for merchants to figure out that having an online store wasn’t enough. They had to advertise. The question was how to reach the largest segment of customers. Thus online advertising was born. But it didn’t follow quite the same model. Websites cropped up to connect advertisers with website owners and allow them to create affiliateships with one another. The model is simple: if I have a website and want to make money from online ads, I choose affiliateships with merchants who offer products my audience is most likely to buy. The more people who click on my site’s ad for that product, the more commission I stand to make.

You’d think all this online advertising would be good enough, but no. A few years ago these Certain People decided that they could target even larger groups of customers by facilitating social networking. What seemed innocent – the sharing of things You like with your family and friends, was easily misappropriated by those Certain People, who could now learn all kinds of things about You. By encouraging You to join groups and become fans and to speak out for or against things based on those group dynamics increases their profit. Because You’re so focused on socializing, You don’t even realize what a tool You are.

Are You a fan of certain celebrities? Politicians? Are You religious? Do You support an environmental cause? Thanks to Web 2.0, Certain People know it and are targeting You. Do You feel strongly about human rights, such as discrimination against race, sexual orientation, gender or disability? Do You think the poor aren’t getting a fair shake and that more needs to be done? Whatever information you share now – support for or against any person, idea, belief or group – You will be marginalized by Certain People for their profit. Some of You are even encouraging or condoning violence!

Which brings me to why I like You better when You’re not around. Because the moment You speak and think from a group perspective instead of for Yourself, You’ve been conquered by Them. So really, instead of dividing and conquering You, They’ve given us the means to do it to each another. Their hands are clean. So now, groups of You hate each other, and all the while, Certain People are making boatloads of money while They watch You degenerate into various flavors of group-think soup.

Too many people are shitting on one another by jumping to group-think programming without considering all sides. Stop letting those Certain People succeed in dividing and conquering us! If you the individual recognize that Certain People are trying to pit one group of people against another for Their own profit, please remember that you and I don’t have to behave like Them.

I have nothing else to say to You the collective. From here on out, I’m only interested in talking to you, the individual. Put away your group-think biases when you visit, and for cryin’ out loud, please think for yourself. I’m confident that if you and I chat without the influences of group-think, we’ll find out we have tons in common.