The Year of the Scam

Did I mention that a few months back somehow a crook got hold of my debit card information and used it to place two purchases, one to an online retailer I’ve never shopped at and the other to a utility company in the Northeast U.S.? Yeah, that happened as well. A little over $270 in charges, all reversed by my bank once caught and reported that same week. Bank representative told me it was likely that my information was collected through a gas pump skimmer scam and that I’d be better off going inside to pay for fuel purchases in the future. That’s a bummer. So I began paying for gas in cash more often than not.

Then when I was finally filing my taxes after having filed an extension to put off doing so, when using TaxAct (which is the site I normally use) I had to deal with their relentless upsell attempts throughout the process. And because I didn’t have a discount code this time around and did have a second source of income from a side job (if you can really call that income since the fuel costs involved nearly equaled my earnings — certainly wasn’t a money-maker, come to find out, at least not for us independent contractors), my taxes were complicated a bit, prompting TaxAct to claim I had to upgrade to a higher plan in order to continue filing. Before all was said and done, TaxAct was wanting to charge $87 for federal and state filing of what’s normally been a very straightforward and basic tax return. Everybody’s trying to get their cut this year it seems. Considering not filing through TaxAct next year as a result, especially considering the upgrade didn’t seem any different whatsoever from the usual plan used. Didn’t even import last year’s tax information for comparison purposes.

But my financial problems are relatively minor compared to what’s been going on out in larger society. Did you hear about how after Avast took over CCleaner this summer it then somehow was corrupted and placed malware on a bunch of private and corporate systems (2.2 million affected), using that established backdoor to deliver more malware so as to collect data? The word is that that was the handiwork of a Chinese hacker group, said to be the same ones responsible for hacking into Google’s infrastructure back in 2009. Learned about all that while researching what CCleaner was when I noticed it (or a faux application by that name) was left on my computer by the Indian tech support pretenders I dealt with last week.

Now, the cyber-security and antivirus giant Kaspersky is under fire, with the Los Angeles Times reporting today (based off of the NYT’s story that ran yesterday) that the Russia-based company was found (by Israeli government hackers) to be in possession of hacker tools coming from the United States’ N.S.A. Which then makes one wonder why it was so easy for an N.S.A. contractor to take home so much classified information in the first place. And I’m not clear on why U.S. federal agencies were utilizing a Russia-based company’s security products when so many in our government claim to be extremely skeptical of all things Russian. Just doesn’t make sense.

Then there was the curious case of the hacker group known as The Dark Overlords made infamous in its attempt to collect ransom from Netflix this summer by threatening to dump full episodes of their exclusive show Orange Is the New Black, along with other shows on the site, turning its attention recently to hacking into a suburban Iowa school district and scaring the hell out of parents and students alike. Bunch of bastards those hackers are. Their link to this crime was made known through Twitter when members of TDO themselves took responsibility for the school hack. How lovely…

And in other news, there now appears to be a vulnerability on Android phones thanks to something called the Dirty Cow bug. So make sure only to upload any apps directly from the Play Store.

Then there was the Equifax breach (which, btw, in case you weren’t aware, when you clicked the link on their site to find out if your data possibly was compromised and sign up for their credit monitoring offer you’re also agreeing, per the fine print, to forfeit the right to sue them and instead to accept arbitration if problems arise — just so you know). But fear not others like me who procrastinated and are behind the times — public outrage forced Equifax to back down on trying to enforce that arbitration clause this time around. Though it wasn’t likely their little arbitration clause would’ve held up in court anyhow. A class-action lawsuit is already underway.

Now, the Cato Institute has come out saying that Equifax isn’t a one-time security concern and that all data-collectors, including those within our own federal government, are vulnerable to being compromised in a similar fashion, as was demonstrated by the 2015 hack of the Office of Personnel Management databases (resulting in data on 21.5 million government employees, security clearance applicants, contractors and their relatives and associates being breached — the major exception being employees of the CIA, conveniently enough straight_face  — as always, those guys move in mysterious ways) as well as the 2016 hack of the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) that was made public only within the last month.