Tag Archives: money

Move Over BitCoin, Here Comes Monero

Monero’s price in dollars since its creation. Source: World Coin Index

What was the best performing cryptocurrency of 2016?  (Meaning which gained in value the most).  Not bitcoin, which, if you don’t know exactly what it is or how to use it, you’ve probably at least heard of.  It’s actually a once obscure cryptocurrency called Monero, which incidentally has also gained popularity among criminals such as drug dealers.

Over the last year, the value of the hyper-anonymous cryptocurrency Monero grew 2,760 percent, making it almost certainly the best-performing cryptocurrency of 2016. Today each Monero is worth around $12, compared with just 50 cents at the beginning of last year, and the collective value of all Monero has grown to close to $165 million. The source of that explosive growth seems to be Monero’s unique privacy properties that go well beyond the decentralization that makes Bitcoin so resistant to control by governments and banks. It’s instead designed to be far more private: fully anonymous, and virtually untraceable.

Scared?  You should be.  Though one of Monero’s main developers, Riccardo Spagni, says though Monero may be used for criminal purposes, it could also be used in legitimate transactions where privacy is a must, “like keeping your net worth secret while making routine purchases, or buying contraband like outlawed books in oppressive regimes.”

Monero, the Drug Dealer’s Cryptocurrency of Choice, Is on Fire [via Wired]

Why Does India Have so Many Criminal Politicians?

Source: Why do many India MPs have criminal records? via BBC

An interesting recent article explaining why so many of India’s national level politicians have extensive – to include felony – criminal records.  It apparently all boils down to money.

In the country’s last general election in 2014, 554 million Indian voters cast their ballots at 900,000 polling booths, choosing their elected leaders amongst a field of 8,250 elected candidates representing 464 political parties.  While this may sound like great news for the world’s largest democracy, the remarkable thing is that one third (34 percent) of the 543 elected members of parliament (India’s version of Congress) also were facing criminal charges at the time – up from 30 percent in 2009 and 24 percent in 2004.  While some of the new MPs faced misdemeanor level charges, a whopping 20 percent faced more serious charges such ranging from attempted murder to assault and theft.

According to political scientist Milan Vaishnav, who authored a soon to be released book, When Crimes Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, the reason for this is money.  His take:

The rising cost of elections and a shadowy election financing system where parties and candidates under-report collections and expenses means that parties prefer “self-financing candidates who do not represent a drain on the finite party coffers but instead contribute ‘rents’ to the party”. Many of these candidates have criminal records.

Moreover, Vaishnav says, Indians are apparently less likely to be fazed by a politician with a criminal background, and that even well-informed voters may vote for criminal candidates along religious lines or by caste.

Why do Indians vote for ‘criminal’ politicians? [via BBC] and India’s New Parliament Has The Most Members Facing Criminal Charges In A Decade [via The Huffington Post]

Car Stolen, Then Returned with Note and Money for Gas

A Portland, Oregon woman’s red 2001 Subaru Impreza was recently stolen from her driveway, but it was returned just 24 hours later with a note apologizing for the mix-up and money affixed to the windshield. According to the note, which was left by the responsible party with their name and phone number:

“Hello, So sorry I stole your car. I sent my friend with my key to pick up my red subaru at 7802 SE Woodstock and she came back with your car. I did not see the car until this morning and I said, ‘that is not my car.’ There is some cash for gas and I more than apologize for the shock and upset this must have caused you. … So so sorry for this mistake.”

Apparently, Erin Hatzi’s car was “stolen” by someone who was picking up the vehicle on behalf of a friend – and the “thief” got the address of where the right Subaru was supposed to be confused with Hatzi’s address. This was hard to believe until they found the keys used by the “thief” unlocked and started their car just as well as their own. It turned out as it was an older model Subaru, keys have a greater chance of being interchangeable.

Woman’s car accidentally stolen, returned with gas money and note [via CBS News]

How the Business Model for Kidnapping Insurance Works

An interesting article on how it’s possible for Lloyd’s of London to come up with a business model to offer insurance for kidnapping for ransom incidents.  Part of the model means not offering too much money as ransom for the hostage (otherwise incidents of kidnappings would explode, as they did in Somalia at one point).  It also explains why such insurance works for criminal kidnappings – where money is the only motive – and not for terrorist kidnappings, where there are political motivations and the hostage’s government is almost certain to be involved.

Kidnapping for ransom works like a market. How it is organized is surprising [via The Washington Post]

New York College Students Find $40,000 in Couch and Return Money to Owner

Should-Have-Kept-the-MoneySo there are honest people still left in the world. Now making the rounds is this story of three SUNY college roommates found $40,800 in cash stuffed in a couch they bought from a Salvation Army thrift shop. (They reportedly starting looking through the cushions after finding the couch weirdly lumpy and uncomfortable). At first they cheered their luck for winning the lottery, but when they also found a deposit slip in the couch, they decided to track down the rightful owner. It turned out to be a 91-year-old woman whose (a little overly eager?) children had donated the couch to the Salvation Army when she had been hospitalized with health problems. To reward their honesty, the woman reportedly gave the trio $1,000.

New York roommates find $40,000 in sofa and return cash to owner [via The Guardian]

Amazon’s Drug Dealer Scale

AWS-100 ScaleCritics say that Amazon.com has unintentionally created a drug dealer guide as part of its normal user experience. When you go to buy the AWS-100 scale, as with any other product on the site, you are also presented with a list of related products that users have also bought. Unfortunately, it seems like this scale is a favorite amongst drug dealers, if you scan through the related items that users also purchased:

  • Many “spice” grinders
  • Pipe screens
  • A rolling paper and tray bundle
  • Bulk pure caffeine powder (perhaps to cut heroin?)
  • Baggies
  • More baggies
  • Skull baggies
  • Pot-leaf baggies
  • An encapsulation machine and gelatin capsules
  • A scientific spatula
  • A diamond tester (?!)
  • “Air Tight Odorless Medical Jar Herb Stash Medicine Container”
  • Digital caliper
  • Tweezer and snifter set for “miners and prospectors”
  • A tool for cleaning a gun part
  • A safe in the form of a Dr. Pepper can
  • Potassium Metabisulfite (for decontamination?)
  • A drug testing kit (“this kit contains the same reagent chemicals as found in Justice Department test kits”)
  • A really powerful magnet
  • “TAP DAT ASH” ashtray
  • Beta alanine powder (maybe for bodybuilders?)
  • An actual drug called kratom (big in Thailand, apparently)

Amazon clearly did not set out to create such a field-tested kit for starting an illicit business. But looking at the list of items, it sure seems like they’ve created a group of products by looking at the purchasing habits of people who may not be recording all of their incomes on W-2s and 1099s. Not everyone who buys one of these scales is a drug dealer, but… it sure seems popular among a demographic in need of baggies.

The (Unintentional) Amazon Guide to Dealing Drugs [via The Atlantic]

Next Generation Anti-Counterfeiting Tech

Some 2 to 5 percent of all international trade involves counterfeit goods, according to a 2013 United Nations report. These illicit products — which include electronics, automotive and aircraft parts, pharmaceuticals, and food — can pose safety risks and cost governments and private companies hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Many strategies have been developed to try to label legitimate products and prevent illegal trade — but these tags are often too easy to fake, are unreliable, or cost too much to implement, according to MIT researchers who have developed a new alternative.

Led by MIT chemical engineering professor Patrick Doyle and Lincoln Laboratory technical staff member Albert Swiston, the researchers have invented a new type of tiny, smartphone-readable particle that they believe could be deployed to help authenticate currency, electronic parts, and luxury goods, among other products. The particles, which are invisible to the naked eye, contain colored stripes of nanocrystals that glow brightly when lit up with near-infrared light.

Can You Buy Your Way Out of a CA Speeding Ticket?

In California, by making a donation to the 11-99 Foundation, you can get license plate frames that say “CHP 11-99 Foundation,” which is the full name of a charitable organization that supports California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Whether this means you can get out of a speeding ticket when pulled over has been a matter of some discussion.

On Officer.com, in a discussion about 11-99 frames (and fakes) mentioned earlier, a number of cops weighed in. Priceonomics is still trying to verify identities, so their statements could be fabrications. But it presents an intriguing perspective of officers’ potential views on the 11-99 frames.

A number of cops reported ignoring the license plate frames when they decided whether to pull over and ticket drivers. One cop describes a driver whose “first words” were about the stickers indicating the donations he made. When the driver insisted that they required big donations, the cop replied, “Well, paying for these citations shouldn’t be a problem.”

But some answers indicate that people have reason to believe that the frames will help them avoid tickets. In addition to the frames, the CHP 11-99 Foundation gives out membership cards to big donors. In reference to secondhand or fake frames, one cop wrote, “Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you, no love will be shown.” Another added, “Ya gotta have more than just a license plate frame or a sticker.” The implication from these officers seems to be that buying a fake license plate frame is useless, but real donors will receive some leniency.

Can You Buy A License to Speed? [via Priceonomics]

Man Scammed Out of $110,000 Tracks Down Criminals Himself

The above documentary, produced by an individual but of professional caliber, is nearly an hour long, but from the beginning it hooks you in and is well worth it. It’s the story of Keith Jones, who was scammed out of $110,000 by a fraudulent investment firm. Since law enforcement did not initially do much with the case, Jones decided to take matters into his own hands and tracked down the criminals himself. His adventure led him from his home in Australia to Thailand.

Beware Point-of-Sale Credit/Debit Card Skimmers

In this example, the thief uses a fake – but very realistic looking – cover over the real Vodafone point-of-sale device. Though not also shown in the video, the underside of the device includes a tiny battery and flash storage card that lets the fake PIN pad record key presses as well as the data stored on the magnetic stripe of each swiped card.

Simple But Effective Point-of-Sale Skimmer [via Krebs on Security]