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Man Loses Millions In Bizarre Virus-Protection Scam 366

Posted by timothy
from the security-theater-with-a-human-face dept.
Orome1 writes "A US court has heard that a couple conned at least $6 million from the great-grandson of an oil industry tycoon after he brought his virus-infected computer in for repair. The couple are said to have tricked the composer into believing that, while investigating the virus, they had found evidence that his life was in danger – concocting a story that the virus had been tracked to a hard drive in Honduras, and that evidence had been found that the composer's life was in danger." The victim here, Roger Davidson, may have lost as much as $20 million, after being convinced that he was in danger from a grand conspiracy. Vickram Bedi and girlfriend Helga Invarsdottir convinced Davidson to pay $160,000 monthly, and possibly much more, for their help.
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Man Loses Millions In Bizarre Virus-Protection Scam

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  • by causality (777677) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @10:45PM (#34182350)

    I mean seriously. Do people really fall for these scams?

    "A fool and his money are soon parted" -- Thomas Tusser.

    It's as true today as when he said it back in the 1500s.

  • by santax (1541065) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @10:46PM (#34182358)
    Yes problem is, that in between fixing my guitar, my laptop, my tv and my fridge, I need to find some time to become skilled in fixing the hairdryer. My family wants some time from me. And the government wants me to put into some time to pay them for whatever service it is they tell me I just bought. In the end... I think I'd just let a qualified mechanic look at the car I transport my kids in ;)
  • by guyminuslife (1349809) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @10:54PM (#34182414)

    Yes, Mr. Davidson, they are out to get you. You just misunderstood who they are.

    Naivete and paranoia are a dangerous combination.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @10:58PM (#34182432)

    We've been contacted by an alien named Lurg. He comes from the planet Xulton in the in the Doovi nebula. Lurg informed us, that unless you pay him... errr.. I mean us... $160,000 a month, he will steal your child and make him a slave in the Galvanium mines of Dooviburg. You may be tempted to contact the United States authorities about this, however, any contact with them will result in the immediate death of your son.

    That's not creative at all. You just ripped off L. Ron HubbleBubble and changed the names

  • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0111 1110 (518466) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @10:58PM (#34182434)

    Robin Hood gave his stolen money to the poor. I don't think these guys will be doing that. They would steal from the poor as well if it seemed profitable. Scammers are the lowest form of humanity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @10:59PM (#34182436)

    More and more I feel that people who are that paranoid and quick to believe conspiracies have an extrem form of narcism. They actually believe that the are important enough to worth that much effort. They think the world is out to get them in fact most the world doesn't even know they are here.

    If he has $6 to $20 million dollars to be conned out of, you don't have to be narcissistic to think you are a target, you are the top of the top 1%. Sometimes, they really are out to get you.

  • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr100percent (57156) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:00PM (#34182444) Homepage Journal

    There's nothing wrong with being a trust fund baby. We all wanna be one, don't be jealous. What would you expect, you'd turn 18 and give it all away?

  • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dfenstrate (202098) <dfenstrate@gQUOTEmail.com minus punct> on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:01PM (#34182454)

    This is no 'Robin Hood' scenario, it's straight up theft & fraud. They should go to jail.

    Someone foolish enough to buy this sort of nonsense will lose all their money soon enough anyway. I'd rather that cash go to the engineers and line workers who produce fancy cars in Italy than a couple of con artists.

    I'm not sure where you have to hang out, and for how long, before you get confused about fraud, theft, lies and deceit, and why we shouldn't encourage this sort of thing.

  • by santax (1541065) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:11PM (#34182508)
    Come on, I hear this all the time. That would never happen to me... It always happens to someone else. I got news for you. Not all criminals are stupid. Most aren't. And if 1 guy can get a complete bank to fall (and this happened multiple times in history by now) with all their know-how and security and yet you still aren't vulnerable? Think again mate. You will be ripped off when someone wants to put the effort in. And you won't know what hit you until it's too late.
  • by similar_name (1164087) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:13PM (#34182514)
    Everything is not black and white. To say essentially 'because I cannot know everything I should know nothing' is not much of an excuse. Nobody has to be a certified mechanic to know when your mechanic is screwing you, just like nobody needs to program in cobol to know that when your 'tech' asks for 160k a month you might want a second opinion.
  • by Faylone (880739) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:17PM (#34182528)
    I'd say in this case, he wasn't paranoid ENOUGH.
  • by guyminuslife (1349809) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:22PM (#34182546)

    I can be conned. Most people can be conned under the right circumstances. A guy like Bernie Madoff could probably con the shit out of me, if I had the money to be worth conning. It's not a question of invulnerability. It's a question of standards. Nigerian princes just don't cut it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:22PM (#34182548)

    The scammers had access to his hard drive. They probably just looked at his browsing history to find out which conspiracy theory websites he frequented and made up something that matched up with whatever strange beliefs this guy may have already had. That's what I would do if I wanted to scam someone.

  • terra' (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cratermoon (765155) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:27PM (#34182582) Homepage
    Ever since 2002 the US government has been scaring its citizens with a bizarre grand conspiracy theory concocted by DHS and TSA to convince Americans they are in mortal danger from everything from shoes to ink cartridges, and the only solution is to spend vast sums of money on security and endless war while depriving the people of more and more of their liberties.
  • Re:And... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:28PM (#34182584)

    There's nothing wrong with being a trust fund baby. We all wanna be one, don't be jealous.

    But there is a hell of a lot wrong with a trust fund baby that's also a dumbass.
    It goes completely against the american ethic we all learned in civics class of rewarding excellence.

  • Re:And... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mkiwi (585287) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:42PM (#34182678)

    Why is parent +5 insightful? Being jealous of people with lots of money is not reason to mod this crap up.

    Look at it this way: These people took advantage of someone who had, obviously, some form of mental illness. Add to that he's technologically illiterate, and things don't look so good.

    Here's what the parent should have said:

    Trust fund baby gets taken to the cleaners by Bernie Madoff. The only reaction I can think worthy of this heinous act is... Well, I'm glad I got to vicariously stick it to "The Man."

    The parent poster needs medication as much as the victim.

  • Re:And... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr_mischief (456295) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:44PM (#34182688) Journal

    Stealing from the poor is profitable. State lotteries, tobacco companies, and televangelists do it all the time.

  • by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:47PM (#34182716) Journal
    What makes you so confident your mind will work that well with half your brain gone? Or when you've got dementia?

    Have you ever seen what happens to people who get age-onset dementia? The changes in behaviour are often very significant.

    Might make sense if you're not really using that particular half of your brain in the first place, but that'll be a rare case.
  • Re:And... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by johncadengo (940343) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:49PM (#34182724) Homepage

    I believe we shouldn't punish a person for being born poor. No one has a choice about who their parents would be.

    But by that same token we shouldn't punish someone for being born rich either.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:49PM (#34182726)

    There is this attitude from many, such as you, that just because someone has money they are a bad person. As such they deserve to have bad things happen to them. What a horrible, shallow, short-sighted view. This is particularly true when you are talking someone like a trust-fund kid. At least in the case of someone who started normal and became rich I suppose you could believe they were underhanded and stole money from others if you are a hard core Marxist and have zero understanding of real economies. However someone born in to it? How is that their fault in any way, shape or form? While I certainly don't pity them for begin born in to privilege, I don't hate them for winning the genetic lottery. Hell, all of us who are fortunate enough to live in developed countries and have Internet access won the genetic lottery globally speaking.

    So seriously, get some fucking perspective and get some fucking humanity. I get tired of seeing rich-hatred on this site, it is as stupid as any other kind of blind, over-generalized, hate.

    And before you point fingers no, I'm not rich. I work for my reasonably modest living. I just happen to understand that I am lucky even in what I have, on a global scale, and I've met people who make a good deal more and less than I do and found those that are kind and caring and cruel and callous in both groups. Money does not define a person.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @11:59PM (#34182796)

    There is a lot of truth to it in terms of certain kind of scams. When you are talking immoral scams yes it is usually true. Things like the Nigerian "Help me steal millions of dollars from my country," things. Well you can't scam someone honest with that because it is a dishonest proposition. Even if you were 100% for real an honest person wouldn't do it because it is wrong.

    However there are other scams that work perfectly well on honest people. Ones that play on fear are a good example. You convince someone is in danger and they have to do X to not be. No dishonesty there, they just don't want to be hurt. That is perfectly understandable. I mean if you were able to honestly convince me that my life was in danger and the only way out way to pay, well I'd do it. Now of course I'd be rather hard to convince of that fact, I have a good deal of faith in our police forces and my marksmanship, not to mention a good understanding of just how not worth it it would be to try and kill me. However supposing you found a perfectly believable set of evidence that could well and truly convince me then sure, because I'd think it was real and not want to die.

    This leads to the second part that it is possible to scam people who are not as bright and who are credulous and/or gullible. While it may be trendy for geeks to hate on people who are less intelligent as though it was their fault, simple fact of the matter is that as with so much else in humans, intelligence is genetically determined and falls on a bell curve. Just as there are people who smarter than most, there are those who are not. Some people just cannot process data as well as others, cannot reason as well as others, and thus cannot identify and deal with scams as well as others.

    So while I find this scam laughably stupid, well I'm a computer support and security professional. I know how this shit works, and the holes are easy to spot. For someone who doesn't know as much, and perhaps is slightly below average intelligence, perhaps it seemed far more plausible.

  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @12:06AM (#34182832) Journal

    What's particularly galling about that attitude is, by any objective measure, nearly everyone who frequents /. is "rich". So the idiots on here who proclaim we should "eat the rich" are targeting themselves for extinction.

  • by macdaddy357 (582412) <macdaddy357@hotmail.com> on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @12:07AM (#34182844)
    If the scammer uses the right approach, anyone can be conned. The ones who think they are too smart are usually easy marks.
  • by Jeeeb (1141117) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @12:12AM (#34182874)
    Next time someone tells you that we shouldn't tax the rich because they deserve the money they earn, link them to this story.
    The guys a fool living of his great-grand fathers success. It sounds in some ways like the scamers did more work for the money than he did. (Not that I think we should be rewarding them for being a-grade assholes)
  • by Merpy (1475709) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @01:04AM (#34183100)
    The madman's explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. Or, to speak more strictly, the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable; this may be observed specially in the two or three commonest kinds of madness. If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. His explanation covers the facts as much as yours. Or if a man says that he is the rightful King of England, it is no complete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad; for if he were King of England that might be the wisest thing for the existing authorities to do. Or if a man says that he is Jesus Christ,it is no answer to tell him that the world denies his divinity; for the world denied Christ's. -G.K. Chesterton
  • by ian_from_brisbane (596121) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @01:07AM (#34183128)

    if you have to encrypt your porn then your are a kid or it is some sick shit of kids

    Or you are just from a sick country. In Australia, pics of small-breasted women of any age are considered child porn... even if they're clearly like 35 or something.

  • Re:And... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @01:11AM (#34183148)

    Out of those, only the televangelists are stealing. Both the lottery and the tobacco companies tell you, quite truthfully, exactly what you are going to get for your money.

  • by gnapster (1401889) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @02:07AM (#34183408)
    It does not need to be creative. It only needs to be convincing.
  • Re:And... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the_humeister (922869) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @02:56AM (#34183602)

    Except none of those examples you gave is an example of "stealing from the poor." Those examples are people willingly giving money to those entities. No one is putting a gun to people's heads and telling them to buy lottery tickets, smoke tobacco, or give money to televangelists.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:23AM (#34183910)

    He'd rather a professional deal with his dangerous device than make an expensive or fatal mistake fooling around with it on his own. I'd say his priories are in order. Now, go fix that skin rash with a google search and some caustic herbal concoction.

  • by wrook (134116) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @04:53AM (#34184018) Homepage

    Usually all it takes to con someone is to tell them you love them...

  • by lightknight (213164) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @05:00AM (#34184042) Homepage

    You gotta be kidding me.

    We now decide on whether or not someone gets to keep their money on the basis of how hard he / she worked to earn it?? What subcommittee, from the dark nether regions of Cthulu's domain, decided this stellar policy in my absence?

    The man got swindled. Whether or not the man has $2 or $2 million in his checking account, he deserves our sympathy. That he is an heir, and thus "didn't earn the money," is a poor excuse for some highly despicable behavior.

  • by gmhowell (26755) <gmhowell@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @05:56AM (#34184222) Homepage Journal

    Acceptable if this had been a reason cited for his reluctance to perform his own maintenance and repairs. He talked of a lack of available time. Time that, by his own admission, he directs towards dicking with his guitar and tv.

  • by delinear (991444) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @07:45AM (#34184568)

    Other than a very high level overview of scamming techniques, what are you going to teach people in schools that will be relevant for the next 60+ years of their life? Scammers have shown time and again that, the second their targets become aware of the scam, they will switch tactics and it's back to square one. When I was at school the internet was practically unheard of, and I'm in my thirties - a lot of the people who get scammed are much older (in fact the elderly are the prime target for scammers), when they were at school computers were practically unheard of. What advice could they have been given back then to prepare them for the internet-based "social engineering" scams of today? Scams are in the news almost every day, we're bombarded with warnings about "identity theft" and such, yet people still frequently fall for these things - clearly awareness is not the issue.

    Common sense is the only real defence against these scams, and it's pretty clear that schools have no way of teaching that.

  • by delinear (991444) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @08:28AM (#34184736)
    The difference seems to be the gullibility of the target. Both of those ingenius scams can be avoided with a little thought and perhaps some research, if someone is willing to take $100 from me for defragging my monitor do you honestly believe they'd not take $160k from me if they thought I'd be stupid enough to fall for it?
  • by shentino (1139071) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @08:38AM (#34184806)

    Donating the money to charity just because he didn't earn it isn't really a moral issue. At the very least, having the money in his possession will keep it out of the wrong hands, and considering the way many charities these days are almost as corrupt as our own government, it may be for the best to do some manual philanthropy, or better yet, invest the money and create some jobs.

    Also, I seriously doubt you would be willing to do so were you in his position.

  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @08:50AM (#34184902)

    And don't most USians live in fear of the muslim terrorists and Obama's "Death Panels"?

    You believe far too much of what you see on TV. Only about 15% of us are crazy, just like any other country. The rest are pretty normal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @10:17AM (#34185548)

    He didn't cite lack of available time. He said, quite clearly, that there are a lot of things vying for his attention, so he prioritizes those which he can accomplish the best.

    Spending an hour learning about cars is not going to get you as far as an hour learning about Windows, a hair dryer or a guitar. Also, you have to look at the impact of not doing it right. That changes the importance and focus of the time.

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @10:50AM (#34185840) Homepage Journal
    "That this idiot could be successful whilst so dumb is why we need 100% inheritance tax. If your kids and grandkids (if you're lucky) haven't made of themselves with all the advantages you were able to give them whilst alive, why the hell should you be able to give even more to them when dead? Help your kids while alive. You can't take it with you."

    WTF are you??

    Who are you to tell me what I should or should not be able to do with my possessions...weather they be physical assets or money??

    Part of possession, is the ability to give it to whomever you wish to give it.

    It is not to you or the government to tell me who to give my possessions to...whilst I'm alive or who it goes to when I pass on.

    How fucking dare you.

  • by kryliss (72493) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @11:45AM (#34186470)

    How about.. if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Or in this guy's case, if it sounds too bad to be true, it probably is.. Seriously though..If there were possible threats against his life wouldn't you think that the first thing he would do would be to get in contact with the authorities? Not just rely on some computer techs to "guard" them.. If anything they should have atleast called the Geek Squad, atleast they have jet packs.... :)

  • by thoromyr (673646) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @12:03PM (#34186648)

    You jest, but I've seen the "turn light fluid" used successfully on someone. It was after a rain during PMCS and a turn light on a hummer had an obvious "half full" fluid level. A new guy in the unit (who apparently didn't know much about vehicles or lighting) was sent on a mission for some "turn light fluid" to top it off with. The mechanics got a good laugh and a soldier became just a bit more cynical. Or how about the classic "hunt for grid squares" a second lieutenant fell for? My favorite was a sergeant who could tell any lie convincingly and with a straight face (often he would start with something small and plausible, then work his way up to to a real whopper). He managed to convince another sergeant that the setting sun was actually Mars on its closest approach to Earth ever.

    The real lesson isn't that some people are idiots or know nothing, it is that *everyone* has a threshold of knowledge in some area past which they can be fooled.

  • by somersault (912633) on Wednesday November 10, 2010 @12:53PM (#34187494) Homepage Journal

    Being scammed is not a great comparison to being burgled. When you're scammed you have to make an actively stupid decision to take part in the scam.

    When you're burgled, you don't get a direct choice. You can however do a few things to make your house less attractive to burglars. You most definitely should if you have already been subject to a burglary, just as you should learn a bit more about common scams if you have generally poor common sense (as I do, and I still manage not to give my bank account details out to every email that asks).

    No need to sign your name at the end of all your posts either.

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