Police Department background checks delve into Facebook history

Just how far should background screening delve into the private lives of candidates? If you want to be a Police officer candidate for some Police Departments in the US, you may have to undergo some deep digging into your background.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the largest group of Police executives, recently released a report on the practice of those Police Departments background screening their recruits. The report outlined that over a third of association member Police Departments actively review applicants’ social media activity during background checks.

These background checks include reviewing Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube for any unreasonable, objectionable or criminal behaviour. The Police Departments regard such online activity as being in the public domain and thus reasonable to be check upon.

For more sensitive positions that require a positive vetting level of background checking, some Police Departments are demanding that applicants provide private passwords, screen names, details of text messages and even email logs. To enable these checks, the Departments either request waivers from candidates or full disclosure of their internet activity. However, some data privacy advocates say such background investigations may be going too far.

One reason for this approach by Police Departments has been the development of Criminal defense lawyers trawling Police officers’ posts to social network sites to undercut their credibility as witnesses in court. Any indication that a Police Officer has a bias against certain racial or ethnic groups will be seized upon by a defense lawyer. One such incident involved a Police Officer who became a member of a Facebook group called `Wanting to hit people in the back of the head who get in your way’. The defense attorney claimed this showed that the Officer was prone to violence and breaking rules.

As new candidates have been raised connecting on the internet and are prone to post photographs, images, musings and comments on the web, the incidence of inappropriate material linked to Police Officers and others in positions of authority will only grow. Matters are likely to progress to a stage whereby prospective employers will check social networking profiles they way they have previously scanned their high school performance.

Here are a few tips for likely candidates for law enforcement positions as they engage in social networking:

  1. Once something has been posted and indexed, it is nigh on indelible
  2. The ownership of posts on some sites become the property of the site
  3. What may seem hilarious on a Saturday night may not look so amusing on a Tuesday morning
  4. If you wouldn’t want your mum to see it or read about it in the newspaper, best not post
  5. If in doubt, leave it out

Are you seeking assistance with Pre Employment Screening of employees or contractors? If so, we at Regents can help you – just visit our Pre Employment Screening Webpage for further information

Clock is ticking to unwind Madoff’s maze

It is nearly two years since the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme empire imploded and investors lost an estimated US$65 Billion in funds and anticipated earnings. As the wheels of justice turn slowly, a significant milestone is fast approaching – the two year statute of limitations for civil actions will expire on 11 December.

The Madoff trustee, attorney Irving Picard, is expected to unleash a tsunami of civil litigation in New York and London within the next two weeks. Some observers have estimated as many as 1,000 separate civil actions in New York and London alone.

Picard is expected to pursue those investors who are known as `net winners’ – those people who ended up receiving more in funds than they had deposited before the Ponzi scheme collapsed under the weight of the payment of `dividends’. It has been estimated that there are around 2,000 of these net winners and are therefore ripe for reclaiming the excess funds they have obtained. Some of these net winners are thought to be those who helped direct investments into the Ponzi scheme or else assisted Madoff by advising on the structured repayments.

Those under particular scrutiny are the `feeder funds’ – those who soaked up funds from a myriad of investors and then passed them onto Madoff with a guaranteed return plus a handsome commission for their troubles. In this way, some of these feeder funds earned tens of millions of dollars for the simple act of transferring investor’s funds over to Madoff.

As an example, in July 2010, the trustee took action against the Fairfield Greenwich hedge fund with over forty named defendants in relation to the US$3.6 Billion channeled to Madoff and his Ponzi scheme. The defendants protest their innocence and claim they had no idea as to what Madoff was really up to.

One of the most anticipated fall outs from these civil actions are the results of any disclosure orders made against the defendants. This will require the parties to open their books, accounts, emails and notes to the trustee and reveal what they knew and when they knew it. The net result could be a cascade of further civil actions against other defendants including banks, accountants, auditors and lawyers. There has long been suspicion over the circumstances of why funds were paid out to parties in the months leading up to Madoff pulling the plug on his Ponzi scheme.

Picard currently has over fifteen actions claiming around US$15 Billion from the likes of Madoff’s wife, brother and children plus other feeder funds operators. Picard has taken action against the late billionaire Jeffrey Picower for US$7.2 Billion.

Many people in New York and London will not be feeling vey festive this December as they wait to see how the cards fall and where the legal actions strike. One thing is for sure, this matter will run and run.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with preventing fraud and money laundering? Simply go to our Contact Us page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

London counter-terrorism officer jailed for 7/7 property fraud

Counter-terrorism officer Detective constable Daren Pooley has been jailed for defrauding the U.K. London Metropolitan Police Force out of £93,000 [about US$ 146,000] via a property scam during the 7 July bombings investigation. Pooley was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by a judge at London’s Southwark crown court.

The conspiracy to defraud the Metropolitan Police Force involved overcharging the Police for apartment rentals for Pooley and other officers whilst they were based in Leeds as part of the investigation into the 7 July bombings. The other police officers had no knowledge of the fraud.

When the counter terrorist team was deployed to Leeds for the investigation, they were split into two parties and housed in hotels. The cost per officer for the hotel accommodation was around £3,000 a month.

To save on expenses, the counter terrorist teams were moved to apartments. However, Pooley had by then met his future wife, Nicola Pooley, when she was staying in the same hotel as the teams and started a relationship with her.

The brother in law of Nicola Pooley operated a company called Citizen Group. He arranged for a lettings firm to provide four apartments for the police team, which were smaller and not fully serviced, in the Clarence Dock area of Leeds. Citizen Group paid £650 rental a month for each apartment but then charged the Metropolitan Police Force £1,950, with Pooley and his conspirators pocketing the difference each month.

Experience shows that the opportunities for fraud increase when arrangements are rushed for operational reasons. Decisions have to be made with a lack of information and the chance to review fully the procedures for appointment and expenditure.

To combat the opportunities for fraud under these circumstances, it is advisable to take the following steps when dealing with a major expense in unfamiliar circumstances:

  • Research the availability and pricing for similar goods or services in the same area;
  • Insist that the prospective providers submit details of their fees and conditions in writing:
  • Implement some form of break clause in the agreement should it be found that the charges are exorbitant;
  • Make sure that the decision maker to opt for a certain good or service later justifies their reasoning in writing;
  • When timing permits, conduct verification checks on the providers;
  • Maintain an audit trail of all correspondence between the parties; and
  • Promote a code of conduct for each party to act honestly and have them made aware that fraudulent behaviour will be investigated and prosecuted

For the chance of making a quick buck, Pooley destroyed his career and his marriage. Though Pooley is entirely responsible for his own actions, thought should be given to the fact that had not the opportunity arisen or anti fraud measures suitably explained then Pooley may have passed.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with preventing fraud? Simply go to our Contact Us page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

Passwords? As simple as abc 123

In 2010, typed passwords remain the principal method for logging into various accounts on the internet. Despite the critical part that passwords play in securing access to email, FaceBook or Bank accounts, many users still use unsuitable and simple passwords.

The danger of a password being guessed by way of a dictionary attack or brute force process increases greatly with a simple password or one commonly used by others. The problem is compounded when such users also employ the same password across all their different accounts accessed via the internet; namely email, social networks, bank accounts and work place networks. Once a hacker can breach the password for one account, with some more work they can cascade through to other accounts and enable them to steal the identity of the user.

Recent surveys of compromised accounts have revealed some of the most obvious and easy to guess / crack passwords, including:

1.    123456
2.    Password
3.    Qwerty
4.    iloveyou
5.    Princess
6.    Welcome
7.    abc123
8.    Dragon
9.    Football
10.    777777

Some slightly more bizarre passwords but popular enough to make them known to hackers and dictionary attack programs are:

1.    ncc1701 – The ship number for the Starship Enterprise
2.    abbaabba – Reference to the Swedish pop group
3.    qazwsx  – Similar to the qwerty pattern when typed on a typical    keyboard
4.    221bbakerstreet – The fictitious address for Sherlock Holmes
5.    ou812 – The title of a 1988 Van Halen album

Improve the strength of your passwords
Experts recommend a number of improvements to strengthen your passwords and make them harder to be guessed or hacked:

1.    The password should contain at least eight characters
2.    It should contain a mix of four different types of characters (i.e.: upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols)
3.    It should not be a name, normal word, date of birth, street address, team name or contain any part of your own name, car plate number or email address
4.    It should not be stored unencrypted on your PC or phone
5.    It should be changed regularly, at least once a month
6.    You should have more than one password for different websites [such as social networking] whilst the password for your bank account etc should be unique
7.    It should not be shared with anyone else and not disclosed to any `IT support’ people phoning you to give assistance
8.     It should not be written down on paper left in a place with public access

There have been occasions when I have sat down at other peoples’ desks and observed post-it notes with usernames and passwords written on them pasted next to the screen or else left in a drawer. Frauds can often get started when a fraudster easily accesses passwords via simply combing a colleague or supervisors desk.

Lastly, if you are issued a password when an account is first created, be certain to change the given password immediately to one of your own making. I once worked on a fraud matter and discovered that a number of employees had failed to change their password after being given access by the IT department. The password? Welcome.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with preventing information loss? Simply go to our Contact Us page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

What’s in a Mc Name – McCurry?

McDonald’s may be the preeminent name in fast-food but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can claim to possess the `Mc’ prefix for the name of any restaurants. Not in Malaysia, anyway.

McDonald’s in Malaysia waged an eight year legal battle against food outlet minnow McCurry. McDonald’s appeared to have the cards stacked in its favour; part of the global fast-food conglomerate with over 180 restaurants across Malaysia and all the trademarks filed and sealed many years ago.

McCurry, by contrast, was a single restaurant which has sold local Malaysian delicacies such as fish head curry, roti chanai and murtabak since 1999.

McDonald’s claimed the McCurry name of the restaurant breached the fast food giant’s trademark. However, the proprietors of McCurry riposted that the name was short for “Malaysian Chicken Curry,” as per the information on the company website (www.mccurryrecipe.com). They added that their logo did not resemble that of the burger chain and was not intended to play off the more famous name.

McDonald’s won their lawsuit in 2006 after a local court found in their favour. However, McCurry appealed this decision and recently an appeals court overruled the decision that McDonald’s trademark had been infringed.

The Federal Court ruled that McDonald’s did not have exclusive rights to use the prefix ‘Mc’. The court found that McDonald’s could not presume to have a monopoly in the use of the term ‘Mc’ on a signage or in the conduct of food business.

The proprietors of McCurry have now announced that they have planned to expand and open restaurants in other locations– isn’t that how McDonald’s got started?

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with Intellectual Property issues? Simply go to our Intellectual Property page or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

New Zealand military embarrassed by scientist’s fake background

The New Zealand military were left with egg on their face after it was revealed that British-born Stephen Wilce, the head of the New Zealand Defence Technology Agency, embellished his resume and made a string of bogus claims about his past.

Stephen Wilce had initially falsely claimed he was an ex-Royal Marine combat veteran and a member of an Olympic bobsleigh team that had raced against Jamaica’s “Cool Runnings” team in Calgary.

Details of an inquiry released yesterday revealed the extent of Mr Wilce’s claims to incredulous colleagues, saying the Defence force’s top scientist had admitted to telling tall stories about himself since childhood.

Over time, Wilce claimed to have been a helicopter pilot who served with Prince Andrew, a spy with British intelligence agencies and a Special Forces soldier who was now on an IRA death list. Colleagues began to grow suspicious when his boasts grew to include having been a member of the Welsh rugby union team and a captain of the Royal Navy swimming team.

However, Wilce’s claims were uncovered by local New Zealand Television station TV3. Upon their checking, journalists found that no record existed of Wilce serving in Britain’s Royal Marines or of him having combat experience and that no one on the 1988 British bobsleigh team knew of him. A TV3 reporter had secretly recorded Wilce boasting that he was an Olympian bobsleigher and knew the members of the Jamaican team.

Following the TV3 news report, Wilce resigned his position and put officials within New Zealand’s military in a difficult position. The embarrassment was compounded when it was highlighted that Wilce had been given top security clearances as part of his position and would have been privy to national security information.

The TV3 investigation included contacting Wilce’s former employers which revealed that Wilce had a tendency to spruik fanciful stories about himself. One employer recalled that Wilce had claimed credit for designing the guidance systems for Britain’s Polaris nuclear missiles. Had the New Zealand military made similar checks, they would have found out that some of Wilce’s resume were not true.

A New Zealand government inquiry into the matter found the recruiting process for Wilce was “flawed in significant respects”. Though the report didn’t specify the issues regarding Wilce, it did say that certain information had not been rigorously checked and suggested that steps be taken to tighten procedures and follow set guidelines.

The report noted that Wilce had polished his resume when he was recruited in 2005 and his appointment was made without proper checks being carried out. Wilce had made certain claims which were noted by the recruiters but not thoroughly pursued, had they been then Wilce would probably not have been hired.

Are you seeking assistance with Pre Employment Screening of employees or contractors? If so, we at Regents can help you – just visit our Pre Employment Screening Webpage for further information.

German firms ban FaceBook at work

A number of top German companies are uniting to ban social networking sites FaceBook and Twitter from the work space. The ban has been driven by fears of industrial espionage and the threat of competitors obtaining company information via the internet links.

The German firms include VW and Porsche, leaders in research and development in the motor industry, who have poured millions into improving manufacturing techniques and better materials. The firms are concerned that they may lose their technological edge – plus the time and millions of Euros – to overseas competitors.

Recent security reviews have indicated that the social networking sites are potential leakage points for company information and Intellectual Property. As improved email filters and patches for web browsers are implemented, hackers must look for other gateways to snatch snippets of information that can build up a profile to either mount an identity theft assault or else construct a network map of the system.

Often, hackers are seeking to exploit security failures within the social networking formats to access restricted information. By hijacking accounts they can seek to unleash Trojans on other computers and download useful information.

Another reason for viewing social networking sites as weak points in the security shield of a network is that employees can inadvertently disclose information which may be of use to an outsider. Mentioning product launch dates, test areas or product names can all be pieced together by an entity using competitive intelligence and create a portrait of which direction the company is moving.

And besides, German bosses didn’t like the idea of their workers slacking on the job and watching YouTube or updating FaceBook.

But this can cut both ways. In August a law was proposed which would restrict employers from trawling information on prospective job candidates from their postings on social networking sites to protect the privacy of the employee.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with preventing information loss? Simply go to our Contact Us page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.


In Malaysia – About to make it a crime to buy pirated DVD movies?

The Malaysian consumer public has been shocked by the announcement by the Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry that they intend to penalize those who buy counterfeit DVDs and VCDs. The Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry has indicated that in order to combat the rampant sale of pirated DVDs and VCDs, they need to staunch the demand and that can be done by punishing those that buy the products.

The Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry (known as Kementerian Perdagangan Dalam Negeri Dan Hal Ehwal Pengguna in Malay) exists to encourage ethical trade practices and to protect consumer interest. The ministry’s functions include managing matters related to consumer protection and intellectual property rights.

Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said recently that buyers of counterfeit DVDs and VCDs could be fined up to five times the retail price of the genuine products for each counterfeit item they had in their possession. The change in approach would come into effect once the proposed amendments of the Copyright Act were approved by Parliament.

Detractors of the plan suggested that resorting to penalising the consumer might be a sign of desperation by the ministry, which had failed to counteract the pirating syndicates in the past. Malaysia has had a history of criminal syndicates engaging in large scale counterfeiting of movies and music discs as well as computer software. Much of this product was sold across the region and even exported to USA and Europe.

However, many consumers felt that this approach was unfair and punishing consumers was the wrong path to take. Some said that the price of genuine DVDs and VCDs was too high and they resorted to buying counterfeit copies instead. They urged the music and movie industries and government to work to reduce the retail prices to lessen the demand for fakes. Also, they reasoned, if the Ministry was able to catch a consumer who had bought some DVDs, then why couldn’t they catch the vendor at the same time?

But some agreed with the idea – after all, they thought, buyers of illegal drugs are punished so why not for DVDs as well?

As Intellectual Property rights become more important as an asset to a company, the Intellectual Property holders will demand via their associations and governments for more protection to stop counterfeiting.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with Intellectual Property issues? Simply go to our Intellectual Property page or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.

Cyber scams and cheats target job seekers

As more and more job seekers turn to the internet looking for employment, scammers are finding ways to dupe them out of their money. Cyber fraud, money laundering and scams are waiting to tempt online job seekers. Authorities have reported a large rise in online scams targeting those seeking a new job or a casual part time position. Police and investigators are uncovering new variations on old scams being utilised by groups focusing on the vulnerable job seeker.

One of the most successful businesses to transfer on to the internet has been the recruitment industry. Job seekers have found it easy to review various positions vacant in which suit their qualifications and experience as well as post their on details online in the hope of matching a position.

Unfortunately many job seekers, in their desperation to grab the opportunity of making some money, have fallen foul of fake adverts for nonexistent jobs. The dubious advertisers often use an interchangeable roll of generic business names, such as Green Recruitment, and obscure their office location and contact details – choosing to communicate via email only so that tracking them down later is extremely difficult.

One of the popular types of scams is to offer a supposed work from home position which involves the applicant utilising their own bank account to receive and make payments. Unfortunately, deposited cheques are fake or stolen and the electronic transfer deposits are from unwitting victims of different scams.

The fake employer offers to help get the job applicant started by depositing cheques into the job applicant’s bank account. The job applicant is then instructed to pay over most of those funds to other parties via electronic transfers. Unfortunately, the cheques are either fraudulent or already cashed whilst the recipients of the transfers are part of the criminal sting. This leaves the victim not only out of pocket for thousands of dollars but also liable for criminal prosecution for money laundering, however naïve and innocent the victim is.

Another scam is to have the victim complete a fake online application form which includes all their personal information such as full name, date of birth, current & past addresses, SSN or driving licence numbers. The position is nonexistent and the scam is to glean as much personable information as possible to affect the theft of their identity and start taking out false loans, mortgages over their property, credit cards applications etc.

One slightly more innocuous scam is to charge a small fee [usually less than $100] for assistance with finding that lucrative and sought after position. The assistance mainly consists of little more than obvious advice, contact numbers, government website addresses etc. Any person wanting a refund will find it nigh on impossible to contact the entity behind the website and any effort to do so is way beyond the $100 lost.

Some fake recruiters have been known to falsely claim to represent international companies for positions overseas. These fake recruiters then charge `processing fees’ and even go so far as to arrange bogus interview boards and medical examinations. The job seeker only learns that they have been scammed when the promised job fails to materialize and the HR Department of the intended employer has never heard of the agency. By this time, the recruiter has closed down, moved on, changed names and moved offices.

The most insidious schemes are those that dupe job seekers into frauds known as cash smugglers. These frauds are carried out by highly organised criminal syndicates with links to computer crime and money laundering. Victims are duped by fake financial services businesses supposedly operating from Switzerland or Hong Kong seeking “receiving payment agents”. The main qualities they seek are individuals who maintain a bank account and can make transfers [not much of a prerequisite].

The victim will be asked to receive payments into their bank account from “clients” (usually other fraud victims who have bought non existent goods) and forward the money to their “employer” (overseas bank accounts operated by members of the gang). Some victims are allowed to keep ten percent of the funds but most are promised payment later by direct deposit, which never arrives.

Re-shipper frauds take a similar tack but the victim handles goods rather that money. The victim gets taken in by an advert for fake international courier companies looking for a `logistic manager’. The victim then receives valuable items such as PlayStations, iPads and iPhones which have been purchased fraudulently on eBay or else online with stolen credit cards. The victim is required to forward these items to a foreign destination so that they can be resold in a third country for most of their retail price. The fraud normally comes unstuck when Police or investigators visit the victim’s address searching for stolen goods.

Tips to protect you from the scammers

Don’t Spread Your Personal Information. Be wary as to how much of your personal information you put out online via FaceBook, Twitter, postings etc. Scammers will pick up on this information to either engineer a plausible approach to you or else engineer theft of your identity.

Query any unsolicited approaches. Any email which appears to be mass marketed offering easy ways to make money is probably false. Look for a strange email address, poor spelling or punctuation, generic sounding names or addresses and the use of free email accounts.

Be realistic. Ask yourself why a finance company is willing to pay 10% for an act as simple as forwarding funds – what kind of business can’t open their own bank accounts. Computers and other devices are sold legitimately across the globe – why is there a premium discount for buying them in your country? Unless they’re stolen

Ask a friend. Before responding to any dubious sounding emails, ask a friend or relative to have a look and give their opinion. A fresh perspective not clouded by an urge to answer the email will spot it for what it really is.

Check them out. Some basic internet searching can reveal how likely the company is to be genuine. Do they have offices at genuine sounding addresses, how long has the website been running, what are the other links to the website and what information can you cross reference? Visit anti-fraud sites such as http://www.scamdex.com/ for any mentions or similar approaches.

Basically, use your common sense and be realistic about any job or money making offers. The internet levels the playing field in many sectors [think call-centres in India] so when an opportunity claiming to reward you for minimal effort sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Do you need to know more about our services and how Regents can assist you with preventing fraud? Simply go to our Contact Us page for our phone numbers or else send an email to contactus@regentsriskadvisory.com with your contact details and we will respond at once.