Fish, sausage, even honey: Food fraud is hidden in plain sight

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A 2018 study found 61% of seafood products tested at Montréal grocery stores and restaurants were mislabelled

 The globalization of the food chain has resulted in increased complexity and diminished transparency and trust into how and where our foods are grown, harvested, processed and by whom.

Furthermore, recurring incidents of food fraud remind us that some of those involved in the food chain are exploiting this complexity. Today, consumers are at an increased risk of buying lower-quality food than what they paid for, or worse, eating food with unsafe ingredients or undeclared allergens.

Historically, food chain transparency and trust was established between the shopper and the farmer or fishmonger, green grocer, butcher, milkman and baker. Dutch scholar Arthur Mol argued that this personal interaction enabled face-to-face transparency, which built trust.

Before modern supermarkets, a local village or town grocery store stocked up to 300 items grown or processed within a 240-kilometre (150-mile) radius. In comparison, our post-modern supermarkets carry an average of 33,000 items that travel 2,400 kilometres or more. The Canadian government is poised to tackle that problem by announcing a Buy Canadian food campaign.

While the extent of global food fraud is difficult to quantify, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) suggests food fraud affects 10 per cent of commercially sold food. Various academic and industry sources suggest that globally, food fraud ranges from US$10 billion to $49 billion. This is likely a conservative range considering estimates of fake Australian meats alone and sold worldwide are as high as AUD$4 billion, or more than US$2.5 billion.

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Cybercrime booms as scammers hack human nature to steal billions

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Cyberscams are getting more sophisticated.

The secret to comedy, according to the old joke, is timing. The same is true of cybercrime.

Mark learned this the hard way in 2017. He runs a real estate company in Seattle and asked us not to include his last name because of the possible repercussions for his business.

“The idea that someone was effectively able to dupe you … is embarrassing,” he says. “We’re still kind of scratching our head over how it happened.”

It started when someone hacked into his email conversation with a business partner. But the hackers didn’t take over the email accounts. Instead, they lurked, monitoring the conversation and waiting for an opportunity.

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An artificial-intelligence first: Voice-mimicking software reportedly used in a major theft

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A fake video featuring former president Barack Obama. A new worry: fake voice recordings that can be used to persuade people that they’re being asked to do something by an authority. (AP/AP)

Thieves used voice-mimicking software to imitate a company executive’s speech and dupe his subordinate into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to a secret account, the company’s insurer said, in a remarkable case that some researchers are calling one of the world’s first publicly reported artificial-intelligence heists.

The managing director of a British energy company, believing his boss was on the phone, followed orders one Friday afternoon in March to wire more than $240,000 to an account in Hungary, said representatives from the French insurance giant Euler Hermes, which declined to name the company.

The request was “rather strange,” the director noted later in an email, but the voice was so lifelike that he felt he had no choice but to comply. The insurer, whose case was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, provided new details on the theft to The Washington Post on Wednesday, including an email from the employee tricked by what the insurer is referring to internally as “the false Johannes.”

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Thieves are now using AI deepfakes to trick companies into sending them money

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So AI crimes are a thing now

It seems like every few days there’s another example of a convincing deepfake going viral or another free, easy-to-use piece of software (some even made for mobile) that can generate convincing video or audio that’s designed to trick someone into believing a piece of virtual artifice is real. But according to The Wall Street Journal, there may soon be serious financial and legal ramifications to the proliferation of deepfake technology.

The publication reported last week that a UK energy company’s chief executive was tricked into wiring €200,000 (or about $220,000 USD) to a Hungarian supplier because he believed his boss was instructing him to do so. But the energy company’s insurance firm, Euler Hermes Group SA, told the WSJ that a clever AI-equipped fraudster was using deepfake software to mimic the voice of the executive and demand his underling pay him within the hour.

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Email sextortion scams are on the rise and they’re scary — here’s what to do if you get one

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Overall, extortion by email is growing significantly, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3). Last year, these complaints rose 242% to 51,146 reported crimes, with total losses of $83 million.

“The majority of extortion complaints received in 2018 were part of a sextortion campaign in which victims received an email threatening to send a pornographic video of them or other compromising information to family, friends, coworkers or social network contacts if a ransom was not paid,” according to the FBI

“Shame can be a tremendous weapon that these criminals use,” one expert explains.

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The new weapon in the fight against crime

 Orange County Register Archive

Solving a murder or tracking down the perpetrators of sexual abuse often requires dogged police work. What if a machine could help detectives spot the vital clues they need?

The images on Eduardo Fidalgo’s computer show mundane scenes – a sofa scattered with pillows, a folded duvet on a bed, some children’s toys strewn across a floor. They depict views most of us would see around our own homes.

But these rather ordinary pictures are helping to build a new weapon in the fight against crime. Fidalgo and his colleagues are using the images to train a machine to spot clues in crime scene photographs.

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Meet the internet researchers unmasking Russian assassins

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Aric Toler is part of Bellingcat, an international Internet research organization that has meticulously investigated conflicts around the world. This week, the online group outed one of two Russian agents believed to have been involved in poisonings in the U.K.

Aric Toler isn’t exactly sure what to call himself.

“Digital researcher, digital investigator, digital something probably works,” Toler says.

Toler, 30, is part of an Internet research organization known as Bellingcat. Formed in 2014, the group first got attention for its meticulous documentation of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Toler used posts to Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, VK, to track Russian soldiers as they slipped in and out of eastern Ukraine — where they covertly aided local rebels.

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A massive Chinese ride-sharing service removed passenger attractiveness ratings after a woman was killed

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Didi suspended its ride-sharing service after a 21-year-old woman was murdered. Carlos Jasso/Reuters

Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-sharing giant, said it would remove creepy passenger ratings from its app after a woman was allegedly murdered by her driver.

Didi’s Hitch service lets people share rides, but was suspended last week after the murder.

Didi said it would also remove passenger photos and was even considering voice recording every trip to resolve passenger disputes.

The ride-sharing service has 450 million users, and has little competition after Didi acquired Uber’s Chinese business in 2016.

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Japan’s prisons area haven for elderly women

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Lonely seniors are shoplifting in search of the community and stability of jail.

Every aging society faces distinct challenges. But Japan, with the world’s oldest population (27.3 percent of its citizens are 65 or older, almost twice the share in the U.S.), has been dealing with one it didn’t foresee: senior crime. Complaints and arrests involving elderly people, and women in particular, are taking place at rates above those of any other demographic group. Almost 1 in 5 women in Japanese prisons is a senior. Their crimes are usually minor—9 in 10 senior women who’ve been convicted were found guilty of shoplifting.

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