In an internet scam to rival the ‘Nigerian Prince' for gall, hundreds of small British businesses and minor celebs have fallen victim to a sophisticated blackmail ruse hinged around Wikipedia.
“Rogue editors” reputedly working for the vast online encyclopaedia site approached victims and demanded hundreds of pounds to “protect” or update their Wikipedia pages.
Among the victims were a high-end jewellery shop in Shoreditch, east London and a former Britain’s Got Talent contestant.
The site, which hosts almost 5m English articles written since its launch in 2001, utilises the help of more than 250,000 people to protect and edit its content. The majority of the time relying on volunteers, a structure that’s left Wikipedia open to an array of abuse and security issues.
Victims would be approached by scammers who would then edit the required page following a money transaction. The web pages would then be reviewed by another ‘user’, often a fake account set up by the original con-person, dubbed a “sock puppet” account, for review.
Following the initial changes victims would be re-approached and asked to pay extra money to protect the accounts.
One individual said: I was led to believe I was dealing with someone at Wikipedia. I was grateful at the time that they would rewrite the text to conform to standards and thanked them for doing it. Shortly afterwards, a modified version was posted online. “The ‘editor’ presented me with a charge of $400 [£260] for the work. I duly paid this, then the posting online was deleted again. Maybe I was naive, but I suspect I am not alone.”
Since discovering the con following a two month investigation dubbed “Orangemoody”, Wikipedia has taken action against what the site is referring to as a “coordinated group” of fraudsters and has blocked around 380 accounts.
The true identity of the group is still unknown.
[Via: The Independent]