Global phishing scams – too difficult to stop?

A recent BBC Panorama documentary provides an insight into how global computer fraud works. The documentary focuses on one criminal organisation based in India who use phishing scams to extract hundreds of pounds out of their victims.

This is a good example of a global crime, and clearly relevant to both globalisation and crime and deviance. In this case the scammer-criminals are in India, their victims in Great Britain, America and Australia.

In the UK we get 21 million scam calls a month, 8 every second, and some scamming organisations can make millions of dollars a year from their victims.

The program starts by focusing on ‘scambaiters’ – individuals who play along with the scammers and film themselves on YouTube doing so. Some (who don’t film themseves) go further and use hacking to try and disrupt the scammers.

One of the people who ‘hacks the hackers’ calls himself Jim Browning on YouTube – the video below give you an idea of what he does!

He seems to be quite a successful anti-hacker – he’s gained control of one call center’s security cameras and managed to record details of 70 000 scam calls.

How the scams work

The scammers in call centers in India take control of people’s computers, and freeze them. A pop up window then tells them their computer has been infected with a virus, and their security compromised, as well as providing a a ‘Microsoft’ (or something similar) number to call to fix the problem.

The scammers in the call center (NOT working for Microsoft) then tell their victims their computer is infected, that their money is at risk and charge them hundreds of pounds to ‘remove’ the ‘viruses’

Police in the UK get around 50 000 reports every year of Indian scams, and police in the UK have successfully worked with police in India to shut down several call centers, but there are many more that have not been shut down, and some of those that do will re-open shortly afterwards in a slightly different location.

High reward and low risk…

For the scammers it would seem there is a lot of potential reward ($10s of thousands) and very little risk of getting caught or punished.

Part of the reason for the low prosecution rates is that the police in India need complaints from victims in the UK (or wherever they may be based) in order to take action against a call center.

All of this further complicated by international payment companies not doing enough to restrict illegal business operations – the documentary uses evidence collected by Jim Browning to track one guy (Amit Chauhan) running an illegal call center who uses PayPal to extract hundreds of thousands of dollars every month from his victims, despite PayPal being aware of the allegations against the scammer.

Final thoughts… to difficult to police?

The documentary ends on a rather depressing note – the guy above hasn’t been prosecuted, and it seems this is going to be an ongoing problem for years to come….

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The deportations of foreign nationals – an example of a state crime?

The British government recently tried to deport 42 Jamaican nationals who had committed offences and in the United Kingdom and served more than 12 months in jail.

However, a last minute human rights challenge in the Court of Appeal meant that only 17 were deported and 25 were taken off the plane, because for the government to deport them would have been against their human rights, protected under International Law.

Many of those people who were saved from deportation had come to Britain from Jamaica as children, and had lived in Britain for several years, some for over a decade, and some even had families here.

The government attempted to claim that all 42 had been committed of serious offences. Some had, but others appear to have been committed on relatively minor drugs offences.

One of the people taken off the flight (according to this BBC article) had actually served for the British army in Afghanistan, had been diagnosed with PTSD and been convicted of GBH, related to his poor mental health.

Is this a state crime?

Technically the government has the right to deport people who have committed an offence that resulted in more than 12 months in jail, UNLESS it is against their human rights.

So whether these deportations are examples of state crimes depends on whether deporting them harms their human rights….

The guidelines for this lie in the United Nation’s charter of Human Rights, and as far as I’m aware the lawyers for the 25 people taken off the plane picked up on article number 8 – the right to legal support if we are treated unfairly.

There’s also a possibility that deporting people with young families breaches article number 16.

Is this an effective measure of control?

While shipping criminals out of the country is obviously a very effective way of getting rid of criminals, and a pretty effective deterrent, I have to ask what the effect of this will be on those leaving behind younger children?

What do you think? Is this an appropriate response, should criminals’ individual rights be taken into account in such matters?

Families and Households Revision Work Packs and Power Points for Sale

I’ve just released some extensive revision workbooks and Power Points for sale as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

 

This teaching resource bundle contains work books and Power Points covering the entire content of education and research methods of the AQA’s A-level sociology specification.

The resources should be enough to cover at least 8-10 revision lessons on families and households.

Resources in March’s bundle include

  • One families and households workbook in Word – 43 pages
  • Two families Power Points – over 100 slides
  • Short answer questions PDF – three full examples, but lots more on the PPTs
  • Essay plans in PDF – seven essays, in full.
  • Basic revision notes in PDF – 63 pages.

The presentations contain some nice visual resources like this!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. Please click the link to left for details of the schedule of what’s coming in future months!

No Third Runway @ Heathrow – a nice illustration of the complexities of globalisation

the third runway at Heathrow, shows the evolution of green crime and the complex nature of globalisation.

Plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport have been ruled illegal by the court of appeal because they are not compatible with the UK’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

The UK government signed up to the zero-carbon by 2050 target as part of the recent Paris agreement, and now that it’s ratified any future national development plans must be as close to carbon neutral as possible.

Ministers have two choices now. They can withdraw the whole policy statement or try to amend it to make it to make the proposed Heathrow development carbon neutral.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This event fits in well to the Global Development module and also ‘Green Crime’ topic within Crime and Deviance.

This event shows how environmental law, specially relating to climate change, is evolving. This ruling was the first time in history that a government project was declared illegal because of the future harm it might do to the environment.

It’s also an example of the paradoxes, contradictions or conflicts within globalisation – we’re effectively preventing one form of globalisation (flying) because of another emerging global norm – the consensus around the need to take action on climate change.

It’s a great example of the power of social movements – the UK government DID NOT take into account the climate impact of the Heathrow third runway in its initial development report, and it was a legal charity ‘Plan B’ which took them to the court of appeal, which then declared the government was acting illegally.

NB this isn’t an example of a global law – the Paris agreement is a treaty, the UK government voluntarily ratified it, making it UK law, and that’s why it’s binding – it requires the Nation State to have made it illegal to NOT consider the carbon impact of development projects.

Hence it’s debatable whether this kind of anti-development trend is going to become a truly global norm going forwards – the U.S. and China are hardly likely to ratify the Paris agreements, for example.

NB – we might still get more airport capacity, just not at Heathrow. Birmingham, following HS2 is one possibility for future airport expansion.

And pollution up north matters less than in London, so more planes up there probably wouldn’t be illegal, let alone a catastrophe.

Sources/ find out more

The Guardian – third runway ruled illegal.

Parenting, childcare and gender equality

Some research suggests there is greater gender equality

Research by Gayle Kaufman consisting of interviews with 70 American fathers with at least one child under the age of 18 found that between 1977 and 2008 the average American man increased the amount of time spent on household chores and childcare by more than 2 hours per day on average each workday. Statistics suggest that increasingly men are performing a ‘second shift’ when they return home from work, spending on average 46 hours a week on on childcare and housework, which suggests that it is increasingly men rather than women who face the ‘dual-burden’.

Kaufman identified two new types of dad based on how they responded to the challenges of balancing work and family life.

  • ‘New Dads’ which were by far the largest category placed a high priority on involvement with children and made some minor adjustments to their work practices – such as getting to work later or leaving earlier, or ‘leaving work at work’ or bringing work home with them, and trying to juggle that and family duties.
  • Superdads actively adjusted their work lives to fit in with their family lives – by changing careers, cutting back work hours or adopting more flexible working hours. These dads saw spending time with their children as the most important thing in their lives, with money and career as less important.

However, we are a long way from actual equality

Focusing on the UK, ONS data reveals that at the end of 2012 there were just over 6,000 more full-time, stay-at-home dads looking after babies and toddlers than there were 10 years ago, which is hardly a significant increase

Also, although fathers always say they want to spend more time with their kids rather than working, the evidence does not back this up – a third of men don’t take their two weeks paternity leave, 40% say they don’t intend to take the 6 months they are now entitled to and 90% say they wouldn’t take more than 6 months if it was offered to them.

The Emergence of ‘Intensive Motherhood’ suggests things might even be getting worse for some mothers…

According to Sharon Hays (1996) it is still mothers, rather than fathers who remain the target of most parenting advice, and today all mothers are expected to live up to a new norm of ‘intensive mothering’ – a style of mothering that is ‘expert-guided’ and child centred as well as emotionally absorbing, labour intensive and financially expensive, requiring a 24/7 focus on the child.

Hays suggests that intensive mothering has become the taken for granted ‘correct’ style of mothering , and the the focus is typically on the mother and not on the father.

Radical Feminists also remind us that 9/10 single parents are female.

Life Expectancy in England is Stalling

Life expectancy has been steadily increasing since 1900, but this trend seems to be stalling, according to the recent Marmot Review of Health Equity.

You can clearly see the slow down in the increase in Life Expectancy for males and females in England in the two graphs below.

For both males and females the graph above shows a clear increasing trend from 2001 to around 2011, and then a much flatter trend from 2011 to 2017.

The above two graphs also highlight the clear correlation between deprivation and life expectancy, with the least deprived (or wealthiest) quintile of males and females enjoying around 6-8 more years of life than the most deprived (or poorest) quintile.

You can’t see it from the above graphs, but the poorest decile (the poorest tenth) of women actually experienced a slight decline in life expectancy in recent years. That is to say the very poorest women now die younger.

Declining healthy life expectancy

The report also highlights a small decline in healthy life expectancy, which I personally think is important to consider, given that it’s much more desirable to live a longer life in good health, compared to a longer life in poor health!

How do we explain the stalling of life expectancy?

The Marmot report says that an increase in deaths from winter illnesses such as flu in recent years can only explain about 20% of the decline in life expectancy.

The report also highlights funding cuts to health and social services as something which has ‘undermined the ability of local authorities to improve the social determinants of health’.

NB – note that the wording of the above is very careful, the report doesn’t say that funding cuts have caused a decrease in the rate of improvement of life expectancy, probably because the report doesn’t have sufficient data to infer a significant enough correlation between funding cuts and life expectancy trends.

So while the trends may be objective, we need to be careful about jumping to conclusions about why life expectancy is stalling!

One thing we can say is that inequality clearly hasn’t improved in the last 20 years, if we use differences as life expectancy as an indicator of this!

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is useful as an update to explaining trends in the death rate!

Increasing global consumption

Global consumption figures have quadrupled since the 1970s: global population figures have doubled in that time, but the average amount of materials consumed per person has doubled.

The annual consumption of material goods now stands at over 100 billion tonnes per year, according to a recent report by the Circle Economy think tank, using data from 2017, the latest year for which data is available.

Breakdown of materials consumed by humanity:

  • 50% –  sand, clay, gravel and cement, used for building
  • 15% – coal, gas, oil
  • 10% – metal ores
  • Most of the remainder – plants and trees used for food and fuel.

Recycling in Decline…

According to more recent trends, the proportion of materials being recycled is actually falling slightly – down from 9.1% in 2015 to 8.6% in 2017.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is most relevant to the Global Development option

This 50-year increase in consumption is mainly due to rapid economic development in the most populous countries on earth, namely China and India. As these countries develop, so governments, companies and people spend more money on buildings, transport and consumer goods.

These figures remind us of the fact that western models of development rely on increasing consumption of a range of natural resources, and our level of consumption is increasing.

It’s difficult to see how this mode of development can continue for much longer – given that there is already intense pressure on the Earth’s natural resources – not only in form of deforestation and desertification, but also in the simple fact that some resources, such as certain metal ores, are scarce, which means they could be the source of conflict in future years, or at the very least price rises, all of which could make sustained economic growth and development challenging to say the least!

Deported to Death – What happens to Mexican Migrants after Deportation?

What happens to those many thousands of migrants who make it across the Mexican U.S. border, but are later sent back to their countries of origins?

This is the topic which Jeremy Slack, Professor of Geography at the University of Texas, addresses in a recent book: Deported to Death : How Drug Violence is Changing Migration on the US-Mexican Border.

This is a book about people how are out of place, about people trying to claim asylum or people who have been deported – the book aims to humanize these people and get into the experience of what its like for them.

The book uses in-depth qualitative research methods to find out ‘what happens next’ once mexicans have been deported, with Slack using in-depth interviews and hanging-out in places such as Migrant shelters on the Mexican side of the borders.

Slack found that one third of people he interviewed regarded the US as their home. Many of them had put down roots in the US – they had homes, young children, no close contacts in Mexico, and no understanding of the Mexican system, some had been living and working in the U.S. for over a decade.

These people are really victims of a hostile immigration environment in the U.S. Ever since Trump declared a national emergency back in 2019, authorities in the Southern States have ramped up their efforts to deport people.

The number one federal crime for being deported is now ‘immigration offenses’ itself (which doesn’t have to be illegal, or dealt with harshly), the second major reason for deportation is traffic violations – people get caught speeding, for example, the authorities realize they are illegal and they end up in a detention center and deported.

Grey Zones

Once they’ve been deported, deportees enter a sort of ‘Grey Zone’ – they’re in Limbo, as they are regarded as criminals by the Mexican authorities while they try to challenge their deportation and gain the legal right to stay in the United States, which, following the introduction of the Orwellian named ‘Migrant Protection Program’ now has to be done from Mexico, rather than them staying in the States.

It seems like the chances of being granted legal access are slim – They don’t get access to third party rights A third of people interviewed didn’t have access to asylum, no lawyer if you can’t pay.

Some Mexican deportees from the United States become the targets of extreme drug related violence upon their return to Mexico.

Other migrants are subject to kidnappings by the police, with 7% reporting that they’ve been held against their will and subject to forced labour and torture.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This book has clear relevance to Crime and Deviance, especially critical victimology.

The state of the nation

Is life in the UK getting better or worse? In this post I evaluate this question by looking at a few official statistics.

Is life in the UK getting better or worse?

This post looks at a few economic and social indicators to see what they suggest about trends in desirable social goods such as economic growth, employment and happiness and less desirable social problems such as crime, mental ill-health and suicide.

The point of this posts is to showcase some of the official statistics we might use to judge the state of the nation. These are the kind of stats we can use to evaluate the Functionalist view that ‘everything in society is generally OK’, compared to other more critical perspectives such as Marxism, Feminism or even Postmodernism.

You should always be critical of the validity of statistics, especially since most of the stats below are official statistics – they are collected by government agencies…

A social or economic indicator might suggest life in the UK is generally getting better or worse, but this might not actually be the case when you scratch beneath the surface.

For example, an increase in recorded crime may not be because of an underlying increase, but rather because people are more aware of certain types of crime and more likely to report those crimes.

Similarly, a decrease in unemployment may just be because more people are fearful of claiming benefits, even though they need them, because of the increased hassle and stigma of claiming them.

Any statistics that use averages may also give us a misleading picture of the ‘health of the nation’. For example, average income can trend upwards, but this doesn’t tell us how that income is distributed – it may mean the top 1/10th getting a lot richer and the bottom 1/10th getting a lot poorer.

Averages can also hide wide variations in how social goods and harms are distributed by gender and ethnicity and age. The male suicide rate is around three times higher than the female suicide rate.

Employment is increasing, unemployment is declining

The employment rate is at a record high of 76.3%, while the unemployment rate has been declining for 6 years, and stands at a very low 3.8%

Source: Labour Market Overview, January 2020.

Suicide Rates have shown a recent increase

In 2018, a total of 6,507 suicides were registered in the UK, equivalent to 11.2 deaths per 100 000 of the population.

Suicide rates have been steadily decreasing for the last 40 years, but there was a statistically significant increase from 2017 to 2018.

It’s also worth noting that the male suicide rate is three times higher than the female suicide rate.

Sources: Suicides in the UK: 2018 Registrations.

Fewer households in absolute poverty, the same amount in relative poverty

If we look at households in ‘absolute low income’ (the bottom two graphs below) then we see a decline. Focusing on the ‘after housing costs’ statistics:

  • In 2002/03 24% of households were in absolute low income, compared to only 19% in 2017/18.
  • If we look at relative low income, there is no change over time, 22% of households are still classified as low income households.

Source: Households Below Average Income.

Crime rates are remaining stable

However, some types of crime have increased recently

Robbery and knife crime have increased recently, although there are very few cases of these types of crime compared to theft and fraud, and while the later has increased, the impact of fraud on victims is probably less harmful than for most other types of crime.

Source: Crime in England and Wales

People are happier

The mean happiness score (/10) for the UK population has increased to all time high of 7.56. ‘Life satisfaction’ and ‘worthwhileness’ scores are also increasing

Anxiety levels are stable

The mean anxiety score (/10) has remained stable at just below 3/10 for half a decade, while the percentage of people reporting high levels of anxiety remains at just under 20%.

Source for the above two sets of stats: Personal and Economic well-being indicators.

The UK’s Population is Increasing

In 2018, the UK’s population reached 66.4 million people, with a growth rate of 0.6% and immigration being the main reason for population growth.

The population is increasing at roughly 350 000 people per year, just over 100 000 of these are due to ‘natural change’ (more births than deaths) while just over 200 000 are due to net migration (more people immigrating than emigrating.

Source: Overview of the UK population.

Conclusion: Is life in the UK getting better or worse?

On balance I’d say that the official statistics above suggest that, on average, life in the UK is getting better:

  • Employment and poverty are both down.
  • Crime is generally down
  • Happiness is increasing and anxiety is stable

However, there has been a recent spike in the suicide rate and some types of violent crime are up.

It’s very difficult to say whether or not the increasing population is a positive or a negative: clearly the fact that this is driven mainly by immigration concerns a lot of people, but possibly we need migration to offset the increasing dependency ration associated with the aging population, so this might actually be a good sign!

Question: what other stats do you think should be included in the above?

The decline of the nation state and the rise of anti-immigration attitudes

Globlisation has undermined the capacity of governments to govern on behalf of their citizens, because governments have generally preferred to do the bidding of Transnational Corporations. This means most countries now have a reduced welfare state, they are able to do less for their citizens. This results in anti-immigration attitudes and policies

Globalisation has undermined the capacity of governments to govern on behalf of their citizens, because governments have generally preferred to do the bidding of Transnational Corporations. This means most countries now have a reduced welfare state, they are able to do less for their citizens.

This in turn has led to citizens demanding that governments tighten border controls to keep other people out, so the declining resources don’t have to be shared with more people.

This is the view of Nira Yuval Davis, Director of the research center on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London, expressed in a recent episode of Thinking Allowed on Borders, which aired January 2020.

For the purposes of A-level sociology, some of her comments sound like they’re coming from a broadly Marxist or World Systems Theory viewpoint, expressing a pessimist view of globalisation.

Globalisation, TNCs and Governments….

Davis starts off by pointing out that in the age of Imperialism, border regions were seen as fluid and shifting territories rather than fixed, which makes sense because imperial powers were always looking to expand their borders! The nation state gave birth to a concept of ‘homeland’ which went along with this ‘solidfying’ of borders.

She suggests that with globalisation the idea of borders became less important, with there being a dream of a border less world and global citizenship rights. However, this has never happened: there has always been global inequalities based on which country one originates from.

Governments have found it more and more difficult to govern on behalf of their citizens, but have become increasingly likely to negotiate with transnational corporations, doing the bidding of the international companies rather than acting on behalf of their own citizens.

This has led to a recent process of ‘rebordering’ – as governments can’t control Transnational corporations or the global economy, they shore up their borders to control people-flows, to ensure citizens that they have some measure of control over something!

The demand for governments to ‘defend the borders against foreigners came from below, from ordinary people. This was because neoliberalisation resulted in a shrinking of the welfare state, and hence a demand to limit the benefits to just those who ‘belong’.

Anti-immigrant sentiment: a response to neoliberal globalisation?

As a result of the above borders have spread out both internally and externally:

  • Externally = when someone from India wants to come to the UK, they have their application processed in a UK office in India
  • Internally – with raids on employment offices to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Citizens as informal border guards

This section has interesting links to globalisatsion and the social control aspect of crime and deviance

There is now an increased expectation on citizens to be informal, unpaid, untrained border guards and keep an eye on ‘who really belongs’!

NB it’s very interesting to think about this in the context of Brexit!

In recent decades the government has passed legislation that requires certain types of UK citizen to inform on people they think might be illegal immigrants – lorry drivers for example can be fined over £10K for bringing in illegals, and so are required to check their loads and get people off them before coming into the UK, and landlords are now required to inform the home office if they think illegals are renting from them, or face a fine of several thousands of pounds.

Negative consequences of tightening bordering controls

This requirement of informal policing has led to negative consequences – there has been at least one case of a restaurant being raided, illegals found, a huge fine imposed, and the restaurants reputation ruined, while the immigrants were later released.

And landlords are now discriminating by not renting to people who haven’t been born in the UK.

The irony/ paradox of this is that neoliberalisation requires the free-er movement of people for it to work, so there may even be a longer term economic consequence!