Messing with Credit Card Scammers

Yesterday, we had a scammer call into the office from “Visa” offering to lower our credit card interest rates. It was actually a pretty decent scam, because he was able to pull publicly available information about his target (name and address), give the phone number. Since it was a slow afternoon, we decided to mess with him a little.

His objective was to get credit card information out of us – our objective was to keep him busy as long as possible so that he couldn’t try and scam someone that would actually fall for it. Our guy was on the phone beside me, and after the introductory spiel was asked for his card’s issuing bank , and what type of card it was (ie. Standard/Gold/Platinum/Infinite), as well as the last 12 digits of the card number – for “verification purposes,”of course.

This is pretty clever, actually. The first 6 digits of a credit card are considered well known and identify the issuing bank and type of card. So, given the bank, type and last 12 digits, he can use a service like BinDB or even the Wikipedia page to figure out the full 16 digit number while saying say that he doesn’t have to ask for it.

Our guy started out by just making up a credit card number. That, unfortunately, didn’t fly. The scammer’s system performed at least a basic validation on the credit card number using the Luhn Algorithm, and it came up as invalid, so he asked us for the full 16 digit number.

Fortunately, it is very easy to generate a credit card number that will pass the validity check, but is not useful in any other way. We used, cross-referenced against the Wikipedia page to produce a different credit card number, and gave that to him, saying “try this one instead”. It validated against his system, so he asked us for the expiry date and CVV. Fortunately for our purposes, these don’t matter unless they try to run a transaction against the card, so we made some up. At this point, satisfied, he tried to get us to give him another card, but we were done wasting his time.

In the end we strung him out for about 25 minutes before we got bored of it and ended the call. If you get the chance, you should do the same. Try checking out the tools that I’ve mentioned here and have some fun of your own.

Adventures in Retrocomputing: The Apple IIGS

When I was a kid, the Apple IIGS was the computer to have. It was the cream of the Apple ][ line, with a great library of games and software. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one as a kid. Instead, I got a Macintosh LCII, which was definitely the right decision in 1992. The Apple ][ line was just about dead, and the Macintosh was the future. I got many good years out of that computer, and last time that I checked, it still works.

However, one of the nice things about growing up, (and the invention of eBay), is that you can now afford to get the “toys” that you really wanted as kid, usually for a reasonable price. The same principle applies to those who collect classic cars.

So, starting last February, I did a bit of research, then took to eBay and started collecting parts. By consulting various sources, I came up with the following list of must haves to assemble a capable “modern” IIGS system:

  • A IIGS CPU (ROM 01 or ROM 03)
  • A color monitor (either an AppleColor Composite Monitor or the preferred AppleColor RGB monitor)
  • A monitor cable (harder to come by than you’d think)
  • A Keyboard, Mouse and Joystick
  • A printer (Probably an Imagewriter II – a Laserwriter if I’m really lucky)
  • Disk drives (At 1, preferably 2 each of the 5.25” and 3.5” floppys)
  • A Memory Expansion card (Min 4MB, 8MB preferred)
  • A SCSI card (Apple Fast SCSI preferred)
  • A hard drive
  • A CD-ROM drive
  • An uthernet Ethernet card (
  • An accelerator card (a Transwarp GS or ZipGS)

Long list, eh? I also needed media, and a way to get software from a modern computer to the IIGS. The community has long had a solution for in the form of ADTPro.

I’ve been making good progress down the list, acquiring a ROM 03 IIGS, an AppleColor RGB monitor, (although it took me another 6 months to get the cable for it) and a disk drive. I even wound up acquiring a complete ROM 01 IIGS system with composite monitor, keyboard, mouse, joystick, 2 disk drives, and printer (and bonus Kensington SystemSaver IIGS) because it was cheaper to buy the whole system and only use what I needed, rather than to buy individual parts. Unfortunately, the printer got destroyed in shipping, but insurance covered it.

By the beginning of the summer I had all of the components together, but the ROM 03 system that I had was fairly barebones – I think that it may have originally come from a school – so it had no expansion cards, and even with the ADTPro software, it was rather tedious to copy floppy images over. Pickings were slim on eBay, so I put the project on hold. I was not too keen on investing in a 30 year old hard drive anyways, especially when much more modern technology was available.

Back in February, I had put myself on the waiting list for the next run of CFFA3000 cards. These let you plug in a CF Card or USB flash drive and load disk images (both hard drive and floppy images) from it, allowing you to use modern solid-state technology to replace old magnetic media entirely. In September, Rich Dreher announced that he would be starting the new run of cards, so I put in my order, and received it early in November.  This let me put the system properly through its paces, installing GS/OS 6.0.1 and trying out a few games. Everything worked great!

Now I just need to source some more software, and a Memory upgrade, SCSI card, and a CD-ROM drive to bring the system to it’s full potential. An accelerator would be nice, but not necessary, and I have some good news on the uthernet front – a new production run should see the light of day before too long. No hard dates of course, but the project is still alive.

It’s nice to see that the community is still alive and active, and I look forward to getting deeper into this project, as soon as I can scrape up the last few parts that I need.

Odd Computer Problem of the Week: Crashing Games

Last week, I was out a a client’s place, and they had a problem with one of their games refusing to launch, so I packed it up, brought it back, and started running diagnostics, wondering if it might be a hardware problem. Hardware came back clean, and after running a virus scan an removing a few toolbars, I started up the game to see if it would work, and, oddly enough, it did.

Skeptical, since I hadn’t really *done* anything, I took the computer back to the customer’s place and hooked it up, and of course, the game didn’t work again. This led to the usual process of elimination, unhooking everything and plugging things back in until the game stopped working

After everything, it didn’t turn out to be blocking activity from the customer’s backup system, or trouble with their firewall – it was their printer, of all things. When I unplugged it or turned it off, everything worked.

Going into in-depth troubleshooting would not have been worth the money for them, as it was just one game, so I was left with advising them to “turn off the printer when you’re not using it.” Not the most satisfying conclusion, but, hey, it works.

A Long Pause in the Upgrade Cycle

If you are not a PC gamer or someone who needs some serious computing horsepower for video or audio editing, intensive graphics work, or virtualization, there’s not much point in getting a new computer on a regular basis anymore.

When Desert Bus started the other day (if you have some time, go watch and contribute at before it’s over!). This is the first chance that I’ve had to watch Desert Bus in the new office, and I discovered that it really needs 2 monitors to do it justice – one for the main video and one for everything else.

I typically need two screens to do my job regularly, so I had a conundrum. Fortunately, there was an old monitor and USB video adapter that have been sitting on the desk beside me unused for some time, so I hooked them up, and now this is what my desk looks like:


The computer that is powering all of this is my 7-year-old Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro (sitting on the stand in the middle). This computer has seen me through the back half of my bachelor’s degree, my entire master’s degree, and almost 2 years of work since, and is still my daily driver. “Why?” you ask? Two reasons: First, Apple doesn’t make a 17” MacBook Pro any more, and I love the large screen. Second and more importantly, it does everything that I need it to do for work. While it has had a couple of upgrades over the years, including a glossy screen and a larger hard drive, the underlying system has not changed, and it still runs the latest versions of Microsoft Office and Firefox, as well as handling a bit of light virtualization when I need it.

In the last 7 years, computing hardware has become more powerful, adding slightly faster processors, more cores, and more RAM, but the bigger boosts have come from graphics cards, and SSDs. More significantly, though, as mobile has become more important, everything has become much more power efficient, even in the desktop and laptop spaces. This is in stark contrast to even 10 years ago, where the new processors were always leaps and bounds over the old ones, and doubling your RAM gave you a significant speed boost. Then, it made sense to upgrade or replace your computer every couple of years to take advantage of the latest and greatest. Now, your average consumer will probably not even notice the jump from 8 gigs to 16 gigs, and even my old gaming rig from 2007 (pressed into development machine service under the desk) still handles Windows 7 fine and would probably do just as well with Windows 8.1.

Computers have reached a plateau for the moment, and while I love the look of some of the shiny new toys coming out, and would love to get a new gaming rig, I don’t need a new work computer just quite yet – at least not until this one breaks.