Romance scams cost more money than any other type of consumer fraud, says the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission has released data that shows romance scams cost more money than other types of consumer fraud reported to the agency last year—and the problem is getting worse. Romance scammers target people through dating sites and apps or social media, often using fake profiles and sob stories to convince victims to send […]

The Federal Trade Commission has released data that shows romance scams cost more money than other types of consumer fraud reported to the agency last year—and the problem is getting worse. Romance scammers target people through dating sites and apps or social media, often using fake profiles and sob stories to convince victims to send them large amounts of money.

The number of romance scams reported to the FTC increased from 8,500 in 2015 to 21,000 last year. Reported losses from these scams grew more than four times, from $33 million in 2015 to $143 million last year. The figures for 2018 are based on 21,368 reports submitted to FTC’s Consumer Sentinel, a database of consumer complaints.

Romance scams were particularly costly for individual victims. The median loss reported by romance scam victims was $2,600, or seven times higher than the median loss across other types of fraud. People between the ages of 40 to 69 reported losing money to romance scams at twice the rate of people in their 20s, but the elderly lost larger amounts, with victims aged 70 and over reporting the biggest median losses at $10,000.

The FTC says the majority of victims were asked to wire money, while the second largest group were asked to use gift or reload cards like Moneypak, which are all methods that are quick, usually difficult to reverse, and allow recipients to remain anonymous. Romance scammers often claim they need money for medical and other emergencies, and come up with excuses about why they can’t meet with their targets in person, for example claiming to be in the military and stationed abroad or not having enough funds to travel.

To prevent being victimized, the FTC suggests doing a reverse image search of profile photos to check if a profile is fake, not sending money to people you haven’t met in person, and being open with family and friends about online relationships.

Romance scams cost more money than any other type of consumer fraud, says the Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission has released data that shows romance scams cost more money than other types of consumer fraud reported to the agency last year—and the problem is getting worse. Romance scammers target people through dating sites and apps or social media, often using fake profiles and sob stories to convince victims to send […]

The Federal Trade Commission has released data that shows romance scams cost more money than other types of consumer fraud reported to the agency last year—and the problem is getting worse. Romance scammers target people through dating sites and apps or social media, often using fake profiles and sob stories to convince victims to send them large amounts of money.

The number of romance scams reported to the FTC increased from 8,500 in 2015 to 21,000 last year. Reported losses from these scams grew more than four times, from $33 million in 2015 to $143 million last year. The figures for 2018 are based on 21,368 reports submitted to FTC’s Consumer Sentinel, a database of consumer complaints.

Romance scams were particularly costly for individual victims. The median loss reported by romance scam victims was $2,600, or seven times higher than the median loss across other types of fraud. People between the ages of 40 to 69 reported losing money to romance scams at twice the rate of people in their 20s, but the elderly lost larger amounts, with victims aged 70 and over reporting the biggest median losses at $10,000.

The FTC says the majority of victims were asked to wire money, while the second largest group were asked to use gift or reload cards like Moneypak, which are all methods that are quick, usually difficult to reverse, and allow recipients to remain anonymous. Romance scammers often claim they need money for medical and other emergencies, and come up with excuses about why they can’t meet with their targets in person, for example claiming to be in the military and stationed abroad or not having enough funds to travel.

To prevent being victimized, the FTC suggests doing a reverse image search of profile photos to check if a profile is fake, not sending money to people you haven’t met in person, and being open with family and friends about online relationships.

Instagram confirms that a bug is causing follower counts to change

Instagram confirmed today that an issue has been causing some accounts’ follower numbers to change. Users began noticing the bug about 10 hours ago and the drastic drop in followers caused some to wonder if Instagram was culling inactive and fake accounts, as part of its fight against spam. We’re aware of an issue that […]

Instagram confirmed today that an issue has been causing some accounts’ follower numbers to change. Users began noticing the bug about 10 hours ago and the drastic drop in followers caused some to wonder if Instagram was culling inactive and fake accounts, as part of its fight against spam.

“We’re aware of an issue that is causing a change in account follower numbers for some people right now. We’re working to resolve this as quickly as possible,” the company said in a Twitter.

The Instagram bug comes a few hours after a Twitter bug messed with the Like count on tweets, causing users to wonder if accounts were being suspended in mass or if they were just very bad at tweeting.

JibJab, one of the first silly selfie video makers, acquired by private equity firm Catapult Capital

JibJab, one of the first companies that let people insert selfies into videos, gifs, and e-cards, has been acquired by Catapult Capital. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm announced the deal today, but did not disclose financial terms. A portion of financing was provided by investment firm Cloud Capital. According to Catapult Capital’s site, it […]

JibJab, one of the first companies that let people insert selfies into videos, gifs, and e-cards, has been acquired by Catapult Capital. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm announced the deal today, but did not disclose financial terms. A portion of financing was provided by investment firm Cloud Capital.

According to Catapult Capital’s site, it focuses on middle-market transactions, targeting internet, consumer, and tech companies that are profitable, or nearing profitability, and past the venture stage. The firm’s investment size is usually $10 million to $100 million and it works with portfolio companies to “develop a China angle,” including new revenue channels. JibJab COO Paul Hanges was promoted to CEO after the acquisition.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis after they saw “an animated dancing doodie streaming over a 56K modem,” JibJab’s big break came during the 2004 presidential campaign, when its satirical “This Land” racked up more than 80 million views. Two years later, JibJab launched JokeBox, allowing users to upload their own videos, photos, audios, and text jokes. In 2012, JibJab branched into children’s entertainment with StoryBots, which is now part of independent production company StoryBots Inc and known for the popular Netflix series “Ask the StoryBots.” According to Crunchbase, JibJab raised a total of $17.9 million, including its last round, a $7.5 million Series C announced in 2009.
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JibJab’s current products include an app that (similar to JokeBox) lets users turn selfies into e-cards, music videos, and gifs, but of course it is now one of many apps in a very crowded marketplace, competing to insert your likeness into Bitmojis, Memojis, filters and other content.

Gary Hsueh, founding partner of Catapult Capital, said in a press statement that “JibJab has created a successful business through a combination of product innovation, premium content, and entrepreneurial spirit. With the addition of our product, operational, and distribution resources to support the company’s evolution, we intend to accelerate JibJab’s new growth phase. We look forward to working with Paul, our co-investors, and the JibJab team to continue growing the business and expanding into new markets and formats.”

JibJab, one of the first silly selfie video makers, acquired by private equity firm Catapult Capital

JibJab, one of the first companies that let people insert selfies into videos, gifs, and e-cards, has been acquired by Catapult Capital. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm announced the deal today, but did not disclose financial terms. A portion of financing was provided by investment firm Cloud Capital. According to Catapult Capital’s site, it […]

JibJab, one of the first companies that let people insert selfies into videos, gifs, and e-cards, has been acquired by Catapult Capital. The Los Angeles-based private equity firm announced the deal today, but did not disclose financial terms. A portion of financing was provided by investment firm Cloud Capital.

According to Catapult Capital’s site, it focuses on middle-market transactions, targeting internet, consumer, and tech companies that are profitable, or nearing profitability, and past the venture stage. The firm’s investment size is usually $10 million to $100 million and it works with portfolio companies to “develop a China angle,” including new revenue channels. JibJab COO Paul Hanges was promoted to CEO after the acquisition.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis after they saw “an animated dancing doodie streaming over a 56K modem,” JibJab’s big break came during the 2004 presidential campaign, when its satirical “This Land” racked up more than 80 million views. Two years later, JibJab launched JokeBox, allowing users to upload their own videos, photos, audios, and text jokes. In 2012, JibJab branched into children’s entertainment with StoryBots, which is now part of independent production company StoryBots Inc and known for the popular Netflix series “Ask the StoryBots.” According to Crunchbase, JibJab raised a total of $17.9 million, including its last round, a $7.5 million Series C announced in 2009.
.
JibJab’s current products include an app that (similar to JokeBox) lets users turn selfies into e-cards, music videos, and gifs, but of course it is now one of many apps in a very crowded marketplace, competing to insert your likeness into Bitmojis, Memojis, filters and other content.

Gary Hsueh, founding partner of Catapult Capital, said in a press statement that “JibJab has created a successful business through a combination of product innovation, premium content, and entrepreneurial spirit. With the addition of our product, operational, and distribution resources to support the company’s evolution, we intend to accelerate JibJab’s new growth phase. We look forward to working with Paul, our co-investors, and the JibJab team to continue growing the business and expanding into new markets and formats.”

BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize

Shortly after BuzzFeed News employees revealed that they had voted to unionize, its editor-in-chief said the company wants to meet with them to discuss voluntarily recognition. Employees announced today that they are organizing as BuzzFeed News Union under the NewsGuild of New York. “Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate […]

Shortly after BuzzFeed News employees revealed that they had voted to unionize, its editor-in-chief said the company wants to meet with them to discuss voluntarily recognition. Employees announced today that they are organizing as BuzzFeed News Union under the NewsGuild of New York.

“Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more,” says a mission statement posted to BuzzFeed News Union’s site. It adds that employees have been meeting for years and ramped up its efforts last fall when BuzzFeed laid off video staffers and its podcast team. Organizing efforts gained more urgency two weeks ago, when BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its workforce, or about 250 jobs.

BuzzFeed News’ deputy news director Jason Wells reports that the publication’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told employees “we look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”

Wells’ notes that BuzzFeed News is “on track to be one of the last major newsrooms to unionize in the wake of industry pressures that have shrunk many media outlets.” Other outlets with new employee unions include HuffPost and the Los Angeles Times. The NewsGuild of New York also represents the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast and the Los Angeles Times.

In their mission statement, BuzzFeed News Union’s organizers said they want an agreement that “requires due process for termination, a diverse newsroom, reasonable severance amid layoffs, a competitive 401(k), rights to our creative works, and affordable health insurance.”

It also calls on BuzzFeed News’ management to address pay gaps and give employees on contract, or “permalancers, who are paid through a third party but are functionally members of our team,” the same treatment as other staff.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said during a 2015 company meeting that he didn’t think “a union is right for BuzzFeed,” though his recent response to employees demanding that the company compensate their laid-off colleagues for unused paid time off make signal a more conciliatory approach. After the meeting, BuzzFeed News paid out all unused vacation and comp days to laid-off staff even in states they are not legally required to do so.

No, your tweets aren’t awful. Twitter’s Likes are currently borked.

If you have been experiencing issues with the Like or Retweet count on Twitter and are desperately seeking validation, here it is: yes, it’s Twitter, not you (probably). The company confirmed today that it is working on a fix for a problem with notifications that’s been messing with Like counts. Some people around the world […]

If you have been experiencing issues with the Like or Retweet count on Twitter and are desperately seeking validation, here it is: yes, it’s Twitter, not you (probably). The company confirmed today that it is working on a fix for a problem with notifications that’s been messing with Like counts.

Many users around the world have reported seeing the number of Likes on their tweets fluctuate continuously, making them wonder if accounts were being suspended in mass or if Twitter was deleting them.

Twitter did not say when the issue began, but based on a careful study of Twitter search results, and not on my own desperate longing for validation from internet strangers, the issue has been going on for almost a day.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says bringing Amazon HQ2 to New York City is “mission critical”

During a state legislature hearing today, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said it is “mission critical” that Amazon build HQ2 in Long Island City. De Blasio’s remarks come a few days after a report that widespread outcry from residents and local politicians alike have prompted Amazon to reconsider the move, which the company […]

During a state legislature hearing today, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said it is “mission critical” that Amazon build HQ2 in Long Island City. De Blasio’s remarks come a few days after a report that widespread outcry from residents and local politicians alike have prompted Amazon to reconsider the move, which the company says would create at least 25,000 jobs.

According to NY1, De Blasio told the state legislature that New York City needs the jobs and revenue that would be created by Amazon. Other Democrats in city council and state senate, however, have been very outspoken against the deal. Amazon was offered incentives including grants, tax credits and breaks worth up to $2.8 billion.

The Washington Post (owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) reported last Friday that Amazon is reassessing its plans for the New York City branch of HQ2. It has not leased or bought office space for HQ2 in Long Island City and final approval is not expected from New York state until 2020, so it would relatively easy to pull out of the deal. In contrast, a bill to authorize up to $750 million in state subsidies to Amazon was signed into law last week in Virginia, where the other branch of HQ2 will be located.

While Amazon has yet to make an official statement about the fate of New York City plans, reports that it is reconsidering was welcomed by residents worried about the campus’ impact on housing plans and infrastructure.

One major complexifier to Amazon’s New York City plans is the nomination of state senator Michael Gianaris, whose Queens district includes Long Island City, to the Public Authorities Control Board, which needs to approve the deal. Gianaris has been very critical of it, saying that city and state incentives would be better spent on local programs like transportation, schools and affordable housing instead.

De Blasio defended the offer to the state legislature, saying that “the vast majority of the subsidy that Amazon got was standing incentive programs.”

Saudi Arabia denies involvement in leak of Jeff Bezos’ private messages

In his extraordinary Medium post last week accusing American Media Inc of “extortion and blackmail,” Bezos hinted (but did not explicitly state) that there may be a connection between Saudi Arabia and the publication of his personal messages with Lauren Sanchez. Now Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs has denied it was involved, stating during […]

In his extraordinary Medium post last week accusing American Media Inc of “extortion and blackmail,” Bezos hinted (but did not explicitly state) that there may be a connection between Saudi Arabia and the publication of his personal messages with Lauren Sanchez. Now Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs has denied it was involved, stating during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the Saudi government had “nothing to do with it.”

Last month, the National Enquirer published a series of texts between Bezos, who is separated from wife MacKenzie Bezos, and Sanchez. In his post last Thursday, Bezos claimed AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, threatened to release messages that included intimate photos unless he cancelled an investigation into the source of the leaks and stopped claiming AMI was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Bezos wrote that “the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve with” AMI CEO David Pecker, a close associate of President Donald Trump.

(The Daily Beast reported earlier today that Lauren Sanchez’s brother Michael Sanchez was the original source of the messages. Michael Sanchez is a close friend of Trump adviser Roger Stone.)

During his interview with “Face the Nation,” al-Jubeir said “This sounds to me like a soap opera. I’ve been watching it on television and reading about it in the paper. This is something between the two parties. We have nothing to do with it.”

Bezos did not directly accuse Saudi Arabia of being involved in the leaks, but he did note the web of connections between AMI, Pecker, Trump and Saudi Arabia. Bezos owns the Washington Post, which has reported extensively on the connection between crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian dissident who wrote opinion pieces critical of bin Salman for the Post before he was killed in October. Though the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that bin Salman ordered the killing, Trump has repeatedly downplayed or disputed the crown prince’s involvement.

“Here’s a piece of context: My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”

He added “Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”

AMI reached an immunity deal with the Department of Justice in December over a hush money payment to Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Trump. If Bezos’ accusations of blackmail and extortion are true, its deal could be jeopardized.

Pecker’s lawyer Elkan Abramowitz told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, before the Daily Beast named Michael Sanchez as the National Enquirer’s source, that “it is absolutely not extortion and blackmail. The story was given to the National Enquirer by a reliable source that had been giving information to the National Enquirer for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well-known to both Mr. Bezos and Miss Sanchez.”

Saudi Arabia denies involvement in leak of Jeff Bezos’ private messages

In his extraordinary Medium post last week accusing American Media Inc of “extortion and blackmail,” Bezos hinted (but did not explicitly state) that there may be a connection between Saudi Arabia and the publication of his personal messages with Lauren Sanchez. Now Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs has denied it was involved, stating during […]

In his extraordinary Medium post last week accusing American Media Inc of “extortion and blackmail,” Bezos hinted (but did not explicitly state) that there may be a connection between Saudi Arabia and the publication of his personal messages with Lauren Sanchez. Now Saudi Arabia’s minister of foreign affairs has denied it was involved, stating during an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the Saudi government had “nothing to do with it.”

Last month, the National Enquirer published a series of texts between Bezos, who is separated from wife MacKenzie Bezos, and Sanchez. In his post last Thursday, Bezos claimed AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, threatened to release messages that included intimate photos unless he cancelled an investigation into the source of the leaks and stopped claiming AMI was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Bezos wrote that “the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve with” AMI CEO David Pecker, a close associate of President Donald Trump.

(The Daily Beast reported earlier today that Lauren Sanchez’s brother Michael Sanchez was the original source of the messages. Michael Sanchez is a close friend of Trump adviser Roger Stone.)

During his interview with “Face the Nation,” al-Jubeir said “This sounds to me like a soap opera. I’ve been watching it on television and reading about it in the paper. This is something between the two parties. We have nothing to do with it.”

Bezos did not directly accuse Saudi Arabia of being involved in the leaks, but he did note the web of connections between AMI, Pecker, Trump and Saudi Arabia. Bezos owns the Washington Post, which has reported extensively on the connection between crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian dissident who wrote opinion pieces critical of bin Salman for the Post before he was killed in October. Though the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that bin Salman ordered the killing, Trump has repeatedly downplayed or disputed the crown prince’s involvement.

“Here’s a piece of context: My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote. “President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”

He added “Several days ago, an AMI leader advised us that Mr. Pecker is ‘apoplectic’ about our investigation. For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve.”

AMI reached an immunity deal with the Department of Justice in December over a hush money payment to Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Trump. If Bezos’ accusations of blackmail and extortion are true, its deal could be jeopardized.

Pecker’s lawyer Elkan Abramowitz told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, before the Daily Beast named Michael Sanchez as the National Enquirer’s source, that “it is absolutely not extortion and blackmail. The story was given to the National Enquirer by a reliable source that had been giving information to the National Enquirer for seven years prior to this story. It was a source that was well-known to both Mr. Bezos and Miss Sanchez.”