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iWonder July highlights: Cyber Sorrows

Thieves and scammers may not be new but, aided by technology, the methods and means they have at their disposal in the modern world is causing unprecedented financial devastation.

'Your Face Is Ours: The Dangers of Facial Recognition Software', launches 27th July on iWonder

As losses among individuals and organisations continue to soar making public awareness all the more important, this July iWonder launches three new films and series looking at how technology, fuelled by good old-fashioned greed and malice, is increasingly threatening financial and social security.

The four-part series Cryptoqueen: The OneCoin Scam, examines how Ruja Ignatova was able to create one of history’s biggest Ponzi schemes prior to her disappearance; Hackers: Identity Theft goes behind the statistics to look at the human cost of cyber-attacks; while Your Face Is Ours looks at a future where privacy may no longer be possible.

Then in this month’s iWonder What Top Five, we pull together five films naming and shaming some of the world’s most egregious cyber and financial crimes and the sinister groups and individuals behind them.

Cryptoqueen: The OneCoin Scam

#Cryptocurrency #Crime #Manhunt

Launches 18 July

In 2014, a new cryptocurrency was unveiled: OneCoin. Hyped as the cryptocurrency for the poor and one that would turn paupers into princes, charismatic founder Ruja Ignatova claimed it would soon become the world’s biggest digital currency.

In fact, it was just a giant Ponzi scheme. There was no blockchain, no pay-out system, nothing but the promise of fantastic rates of return. In truth, it only turned Ruja Ignatova into the Cryptoqueen: the host of lavish champagne parties in Frankfurt, Sofia and New York and the owner of two dozen luxury properties around the world. Until she vanished into thin air.

How did Ruja Ignatova manage to dupe authorities and clients alike? Who knew what and when? And who are the shady people behind the Cryptoqueen?

This four-part series includes rare and exclusive access to close friends and colleagues of Ignatova – the people who knew her best  – who tell the unbelievable story from the inside.

Hackers: Identity Theft

#Crime #Tragedy #Security

Launches 25 July

Cyberspace is more insecure than ever as hackers exploit human error and technical vulnerability to hold it to ransom for their personal data. Companies, public bodies, schools and individuals have all become victims of cyber-attacks. In this revealing documentary, victims tell how internet criminals have destroyed their lives.

According to U.S. experts, hackers steal an estimated six trillion dollars every year, and the figures are increasing. In 2022, cyberattacks increased by 26% in Europe and 38% worldwide. But while most report focus on the financial damage caused by hackers, the human cost can be devastating. In America, a baby died after hackers jammed a piece of equipment in the hospital. Other victims have committed suicide or left their families out of shame.

Your Face Is Ours: The Dangers of Facial Recognition Software

#Technology #Privacy #Society

Launches 27 July

Biometric data and facial recognition technology has fast become a part of our everyday lives, granting easy access to the technology at our fingertips. Clearview AI, the New York-based tech company, is looking to take this technology to the next level by identifying and compiling the faces of every human being on the planet.

It claims that the database will serve as a force for good, helping to solve crimes and prevent espionage. But its clients include Middle Eastern dictatorships and its links to the far-right and the source of its funding have raised other concerns.

Just what kind of risk does this effort pose, and are we already too late to stop it?

iWonder When

July 2nd, 2012

'Hackers: Identity Theft', launches 25th July on iWonder

The OneCoin scandal is far from being the only cryptocurrency related crime to have resulted in a major theft. On July 2nd, 2012, Bitcoinica, a Bitcoin trading platform, was hacked resulting in the theft of 40,000 BTC. While in 2012 that equated to $200,000 USD, based on today’s value, that same volume of Bitcoin would be worth a staggering $2.6 billion USD.

iWonder Who

Ruja Ignatova

Born on May 30, 1980, in Bulgaria, Ruja Ignatova is a notorious figure in the cryptocurrency world, best known as the founder of OneCoin. In 2014, she launched OneCoin, promoting it as a revolutionary cryptocurrency. However, it was later exposed as a Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors of billions of dollars globally. Ignatova disappeared in October 2017 after a U.S. warrant was issued for her arrest, and she has since been on the run, with the bounty for her arrest recently raised from $250k USD to $5 million.

Despite numerous efforts by international authorities to locate her, her whereabouts remain unknown. Ruja Ignatova's case is a significant example of the risks associated with the unregulated cryptocurrency market and has led to increased scrutiny and regulation within the industry.

iWonder what

Money Grabbers

'Hackers: Identity Theft', launches 25th July on iWonder

While thieves have been around since the dawn of mankind, the ways they are able to rob and steal have grown ever more sophisticated with the arrival of new technologies. In this month’s iWonder What Top Five, we pull together five films that look at some of the most audacious and appalling financial crimes in the history of the modern world, and the shady individuals and organisations behind them.

1) Banksters

#Money #Corporate Crime #Finance

HSBC has created a unique network to move dirty money around the world. From tax evasion to money laundering for the mafia, “this bank has done everything bad that a bank can possibly do."

In 2012, HSBC nearly lost its license to operate in the US for laundering the money of the Mexican and Columbian drug cartels. Criminal charges were filed, and HSBC’s executives hauled before a Senate committee. In the end, HSBC was let off with a fine of 2 billion euros. The equivalent of one month’s profits. Protected by London, blessed by Beijing, who would dare attack it?

2) The Men Who Stole the World

#GFC #Revealing #Justice

They're bankers, traders, and investment funds executives. They impoverished countries, drove millions of workers into unemployment, and triggered the rise in extremism. Ten years after the 2008 financial crisis, they tell their stories. What goes through their minds, how did they end up where they are, and how did the system use some of them?

3) Hacked: The Bangladesh Bank Heist

#Cyber Crime #Heist #International

This film investigates one of the world’s biggest and most audacious cyberheists, where hackers managed to compromise two of the most respected names in international banking, the SWIFT messaging system and the New York Federal Reserve, taking $81 million in the process. Follow the trail of the stolen money from Dhaka, to Manila and New York, and discover who the hackers were and how they did it.

4) The Kleptocrats

#Scandal #Hollywood #Investigation

It is the world’s biggest white-collar heist involving government corruption at the highest level, abuse of power and international money laundering. A hot-shot financier embezzles US$3.5 billion from Malaysia's wealth fund 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad); money from the audacious scam flows into New York and Hollywood, where the thieves court A-list celebrities and even finance Leonardo DiCaprio’s passion project “The Wolf of Wall Street”. But investigative journalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Hollywood Reporter trace the money trail and unravel the scheme, the US Department of Justice gets involved, the Prime Minister and his inner circle are implicated, assets are frozen, money is seized, and the Malaysian people fight back.

5) Bureau 39: Kim’s Cash Machine

#North Korea #Rogue Nation #Money Laundering

How is it possible that North Korea, one of the poorest countries on earth finances a nuclear weapons program large enough to challenge the USA? The answer: Bureau 39, a legendary organisation nestled deep inside the government apparatus. Its aim is to procure foreign exchange by any means possible to provide Kim Jong-un’s regime with money.

Printing dollars, dealing drugs, smuggling arms, insurance fraud, human trafficking – nothing is too unscrupulous for North Korea’s money makers.