Criminals are laundering money by selling books of computer-generated gibberish on Amazon

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Déjà vu:


I’m laundering my money right now.




This is probably just credit card fraud.


We found a couple of similarity odd transactions on our amazon account and changed our password and added two-factor authentication, but that was shorty after we inadvertently spent close to $100 of the account-jacker’s money on something for ourselves. Oops.


well it’s both, they are using stolen credit cards to buy something, but the problem with using stolen credit cards is how do you get money out of it. One solution is you sell stuff that you buy with the stolen credit cards, now you got money and it is legal money, but in order to be able to be able to make good profits on the credit cards you need to buy stuff that you can sell for a lot that did not cost a lot, and the price you sell for has to be accepted as reasonable or it will draw suspicion, this means it is always a battle to be able to turn your stolen credit cards into legal cash.
On the other hand if you have an item that costs little and that you can buy with small transactions than it would be easier to launder money, algorithmically generated books that you sell online would seem to be a good solution, except how to get the small monetary transactions without an account that you first put the money into.

on edit: so I was thinkng about the problem outlined in the second paragraph and I realized

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I’m not going to check out whether this is real or fake. I don’t want to live in a world where it doesn’t exist.

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You don’t really need an actual product, since you are buying from yourself and you don’t care about taking delivery of the goods. All you care about is extracting money from the stolen credit cards; to do that all you need is a tracking number for an envelope you send somewhere by the cheapest carrier (Amazon requires proof of shipping before it will release the funds to you).

The downside of using Amazon for this operation that the seller pays fees of around 20% (give or take a few points) for every transaction. It’s also strange (in my opinion) that they use Amazon’s creator system. That guarantees that a physical good gets shipped, and adds to the seller’s cost. It would be better to use a seller-fulfilled product than an Amazon-fulfilled product. Unless the computer-generated, self-published book is actually valuable. Maybe it’s a one-time pad for foreign spies in Australia to use. Maybe this is about espionage, not money laundering or credit card fraud at all.

What is the significance of the AU$555 price tag, I wonder? Why that price instead of some other number? Is that the maximum amount that can be transmitted without setting off some alarm, or the line between misdemeanor and felony? Or is it just a high price tag to scare casual customers away from the one-time pad.

so - you want to live in a world where it exists? you mean, this one… ?!?

Do they take a smaller cut of the Kindle versions? I would assume so, but hey, I’m not an author.

Too many problems with that one:

  1. One time pads are totally secure once, and they are the weakest encryption if used twice (but at least they get no less secure if you use it >2 times). Take two messages encrypted with the same one time pad and xor them, you get the pad back and can now decrypt both messages. Literally that is all you need.
    Shippinf the one time pad (or any other key). You wouldn’t want to sell multiple copies!

  2. The pad is the “key”, the part you need to keep safe. Making that available to anyone that would buy it from amazon defeats the whole thing.

It could still involve encryption and spies though, it could be the message (one time padded, or any other crypto). Then again you can also just post to usenet, or put gibberish posts up on boingboing’s BBS.

So I’m not seeing it.

Sadly, 'cause any story with “spy crypto!” is immediately more interesting then any post without them. Well, or sex.

Not sure about Kindle versions. In this case, the book was only available as a paperback. Will Amazon let you purchase duplicate Kindle titles? If not, that would be an obstacle to money laundering. I still say one-time pad.

This book had 60 different pages full of characters to use as a key, so you could probably get several uses out of it.

You could control the availability by limiting the available quantity of books. In the initial post, only two copies show as available.

This book is the equivalent of a dead drop–an utterly obscure book by a nonexistent author with an unapproachable price tag. Even the title is so nondescript that searching for it returns 96 results on Amazon. Until a few days ago, no one knew it existed in Amazon’s catalog except the buyer and seller. If you control the quantity available (two show as available in the initial post), you can easily see in Amazon Seller Central if it was ordered by the intended recipient.

Side note–I searched for the ISBN in Seller Central. It’s not in Amazon’s American catalog. The original post was for Amazon in Australia, which I don’t have access to. However, it seems like product catalog information percolates throughout the different English language Amazon catalogs. I searched for the ISBN on Amazon Australia’s front end and get no result. It has probably been removed from the Amazon catalog completely.

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