Tag: scams

Fortune Favors the Old

credit

I mostly take it for granted now that I’m a bitter, bitter old man, but being younger wasn’t easy. For those of you who’ve never been young, in fact, I can tell you that it made almost everything harder. And…wait. What?

How is that even possible? How were some of you not young? I feel like this is a far more interesting story than the one I’m about to tell.

Anyway…

All that aside, it’s only in hindsight that I sort of see the benefits of going to college later on in life. Of course, it wouldn’t be all that useful since it wouldn’t help you get a good job. And if you go late enough you’re the old person in class that people whisper about finishing a degree as part of your bucket list. Not to mention that waiting fifty years to go to college probably means paying about four to five thousand percent of what you would have right out of high school…

You know what? I take it back. College isn’t easy for anyone of any age.

But I’ve never been an old person at college. (Though I was starting to get close by the time my fifth year rolled around.) So let’s focus on what I’m familiar with – how hard it was for young people to do almost anything.

Everything from setting up a back account to getting a first job to avoiding credit card scams is a learning process. Luckily, I’m sure you learned all about that in hypothetical fantasy senior year in high school. You know, the one where you actually learned how to find work or do taxes instead of learning the math where they ran out of numbers and letters so they just started using made-up symbols.

“Couldn’t you just look online?” you ask, about ten years too late to be helpful. “Wasn’t there a YouTube video on it or something? Maybe a Facebook discussion group to ask for advice?”

It would be about there that I’d cut you off in the middle of your list of things that didn’t exist in 2002 by saying that, well, those things didn’t exist in 2002. The Internet in general wasn’t nearly as helpful as it is today. (Though there were a lot fewer advertisements.) For the most part it was just random blogs and personal pages where people complained about not having a unified social media platform where their complaints could reach all their family and friends at once.

But, as I do so often it may as well be the title of this story, I digress…

I at least had the foresight to have a bank account set up in advance. Unfortunately, the bank I’d been using since I was a teenager was located about a mile and a half off campus. Since walking that far even to be handed money was out of the question, this meant finding one on the main street where – and I wish there were more context to this story – a man in a clown costume ushered me into a PNC Bank.

Say what you will about their pitch, but that account had no fees and no minimum balance. Plus it came with a free savings account. I’m still using that account to this day. And in the case of the savings account, I even have money to put in it now.

A lot of other students weren’t so lucky.

I want to give people a little more credit. I really do. But far too many conversations began by someone pointing out they’d just gotten a free shirt. This was generally followed by a sly grin and a comment along the lines of, “All I had to do was sign up for a credit card for three years!”

Yeah. Score.

The talk would generally trend downhill from there when they explained the terms of the agreement. “Well, all I have to do is make purchases with it once a month. The rate is 11.97%. APB? APR? I think they said something about APR. Is that bad?”

I didn’t fall for the college credit card scam. In fact, I’ve never had one. Why? Because they somehow prey on the assumption that your poverty is a situation temporary enough that it’ll probably end in the next 30 days so you can pay off the balance interest-free. But not so temporary that you shouldn’t just wait to make the purchase with real, actual money that belongs to you.

I only learned sometime later that, yes, “APR” is bad. APR is the financial equivalent of writing “jk” after a text. “Your interest rate is 0%! Just kidding. It’s actually 17.99%.”

Or, in the case of “variable APR,” “Jk and sometimes I’m jk-ing more than others.”

And sure, it’s easy to judge those students. (I certainly did.) But how were they to know any better? Like your older relative who just can’t grasp that they need to stop opening e-mails from senders they don’t know to avoid viruses, this was entirely new information to them.

You could argue that anyone should have the common sense to stay away from questionable people giving away free shirts in exchange for signing financial agreements. Then again, if I hadn’t taken financial advice from an actual clown – who I can only assume worked for the bank in some capacity – I’d have been walking a mile and a half every time I wanted to deposit a check.

Okay. I’m rereading it again now. And part of me thinks that maybe there is something more to that clown story.

But it’ll have to wait, since my last point segues nicely into the last hard part of being young. Well, not the last point. The last non-clown point…you know what I mean. I speak, of course, of getting your first job.

Which, now that I think about it, is a topic so large I couldn’t possibly cover it in a separate section about being young only tangentially related to it.

Conversations with Spam 2

three-kings

Okay. So I haven’t decided how often I want to do these sorts of columns. I like them and reader feedback is pretty good. But I like to keep things fresh and not fall back on the same things over and over again…

That’s what I want to say, but wow. I just got some amazing spam.

If you haven’t seen the last one, I suggest checking it out to get a vague idea what’s going on. For the most part, though, it’s just me responding to spam messages. I mostly point you back to that one because it was pretty funny.

All right. Let’s get this started.

“From: Capt. Kate Lee <z6t19p@kitecu.one>”

Captain? I’m already 100% on board. Let’s do this.

“Subject: Re:Message From US ARMY Medical Team.

Okay. Just a quick side thing? “Re:” doesn’t mean “regarding,” like some people seem to think. When you put it in the subject it literally means that you’re replying to a message I sent you with the same topic. And trust me when I say that I’ve never led a life interesting enough to send someone an e-mail titled, “Message From US Army Medical Team.” I doubt I’d manage, “Message From US Army Chess Team.”

Sigh. More’s the pity, I suppose.

Greetings,

I know you will be surprised to read my email.  Apart from being surprise you may be skeptical to reply me because based on what is happening on the internet world, one has to be very careful  because a lot of scammers are out there to scam innocent citizens and this has made it very difficult for people to believe anything that comes through the internet.”

Yeah. We don’t have to do that whole thing. Pointing out that e-mail scams are a thing doesn’t make me automatically assume your message is legit. It’s just reminding me, in the off chance I happen to open this e-mail while half-asleep, intoxicated and suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, that scams are a thing and this probably is one.

Also…grammar. Catch the fever.

“My name is Capt. Kate Carr Lee. I am a member of the US ARMY Medical Team deployed to Iraq because of the current ISIS problems. I discovered 2 trunk boxes containing American dollar.”

For the record, I’m loving this backstory.

But indulge me. Just a couple things. First off, why are members of the medical team wandering around in a semi-active war zone? I was under the assumption medical officers would be somewhat protected assets. And here you are doing scout missions?

Also, no big deal…but this is the plot of the movie “Three Kings.” I actually liked that movie and all, but swap out gold for American dollar (hopefully more than just the one) and this is the screenplay to that movie. I’m not saying I can blame you for stealing that movie plot, because it had George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and a little-known rapper by the name of Ice Cube. I’m just saying…respect the craft. This movie’s already been written.

“Am looking for a trust worthy individual who will assist me to receive the funds in his country before l will come over and join the person.  To prove my sincerity, you are not sending me any money because most of these scams are all about sending money.”

Um…hmmm. Wow. There’s a lot to unpack there. Give me a minute.

Don’t you know anyone else stateside? I assume you have friends or family, right? I enjoy unexpected trunks of money as much as the other guy, but wouldn’t it be better to contact someone you can actually…you know, trust?

Also, is me not sending money really a matter of proving your sincerity? Wouldn’t it be more like there being no particularly good reason to ask for money? I mean, you have two trunks filled with it. In fact, is there some reason you’re talking to me at all?

Unless…

Okay. I’ll just get to my point. The bigger concern here is, well, am I misreading the subtext here? “Come over and join the person?” Like, were you planning on coming over here and…I don’t know…trying to start a relationship? Because I’m pretty married. Like, entirely married, actually. To another person and everything. Maybe that was another reason you should have actually reached out to someone with a known identity, rather than just writing e-mails at random.

On the other hand, I appreciate the addition of the romance subplot to “Three Kings.” Because that was the one thing that movie didn’t have. I mean, I always assumed George Clooney and Ice Cube got together years later, after “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed. But that was more head canon than anything else…

That being said, if all I have to do is nothing, then…tada! Done and done. When should I expect my trunks of American dollar?

“For reference click the link below

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_military_intervention_against_ISIS

http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/08/world/iraq-options

http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/20/world/meast/iraq-crisis/&#8221;

Wait. Your proof of finding money that you want to share with me is a bunch of two-year-old articles about ISIS and the conflict in Iraq? Listen. I’m not questioning that ISIS is a thing or that there’s a conflict in Iraq. I’m mostly questioning the trunks full of money thing.

There were a few ways you could have gone with this. The first would have been to use news articles not written two years ago. C’mon. If I cited these on a paper, the professor would throw it back in my face and laugh.

Wikipedia? Primary sources, Kate! Sorry. Captain Lee.

The other way would have been to look back through the news articles and found some mention of people and local governments having to leave money and valuables behind as they fled from ISIS. I know that was a thing that happened. And it would have lent quite a bit more credibility to your story. Did this story have to happen in Iraq at all? I don’t know if you’ve read the news in the past two years. (The evidence suggests not.) But there’s more than enough conflict in the Middle East to go around.

“Information below is neccesary, 

  1. Full Name…
  2. Address….
  3. Occupation…
  4. Age……….
  5. Your Telephone Number.

As soon as i received these information i will send more details.”

Just so I’m 100% clear on this. You not only decided to contact a random person instead of someone you knew and could reasonably trust, but you knew literally nothing about me? I mean, my name’s right in my e-mail address. You obviously have access to a computer. Why not Google it? Expend a modicum of effort in your scheme to steal millions of dollars from a country during wartime?

Here’s the thing. You’re suggesting to me that we seize a trunk full of money from an active war zone that, at best, belongs to Iraqi citizens and, at worst, belongs to the Iraqi government. Muddling through military and International law on the subject was near to impossible so I’m short a statute/article number or two, but suffice to say the punishment would be somewhere between ten years in prison for theft and life in prison for one flavor or treason or another.

Oh, and may I note that this prison time may be in Iraqi prison?

Depending on the risks versus rewards, it’s hard to say whether or not this is a worthwhile endeavor. But let’s just be totally honest here. I don’t care if those trunks have a hundred American dollar or a hundred million American dollar in them. You’re a shitty accomplice.

Short of burning the money to alert me via smoke signals, you’ve pretty much done anything possible to derail our little venture. You contacted people at random. You used military channels (i.e. the people you’re hiding this from) to get word out. Between that and plagiarizing “Three Kings,” like word for word, I’m beginning to have serious doubts as to your intelligence as a criminal mastermind.

It’d be like robbing a bank and picking your accomplice from the people milling about out front, and not even bothering to make sure they weren’t wearing a security guard uniform first. Yeesh. It’s like you want to be caught.

Good luck figuring this mess out yourself.

“Best Regards

Capt. Kate Carr Lee”

On the plus side, I’m pretty sure I know what movie I want to watch later…

Conversations with Spam

Angel.jpg

I don’t usually dignify the contents of my e-mail spam folder with more than a quick glance. And I very rarely actually open anything there (even with HTML disabled so they can’t do any mischief). But I have to admit that when I do, it’s just…wow. What’s the opposite of catharsis?

Midway through an e-mail about Vydrex or Viltrax or Vontrappe or whatever they’re calling erectile dysfunction drugs now, I got to wondering – what would it be like to actually respond to one of these?

I have no illusions that a human being would answer, of course. In fact, I’m not entirely sure humans were ever involved in these messages reaching me in the first place. They’re obviously sent out by some auto-mailing machine in batches of hundreds or thousands at a time. And as far as the contents are concerned, I don’t so much think they were written as they were the byproduct of language congealing into a thick, viscous slop from being left out in the sun too long.

Kind of like not changing the oil in a car until its innards are filled with a charred black goo not unlike overcooked marshmallows. But, you know, with more stuff about increasing your girth and stamina because that’s something ginkgo totally does.

In any case, I’m more than happy to have a one-sided conversation.

From: Free Psychic Readings <subscribers@nancyssubscription.com>

Okay. So far, so good. One thing you usually notice about spam messages is that they’re from some incomprehensible mess of letters and numbers at a domain which is more or less the same. Maybe this one’s a legitimate offer…

“Subject: Get a Free Psychic or Angel Reading Now”

This all seems pretty standard for…wait a minute. Angel reading? Why would anyone talk to a lousy physic when they could talk to a freaking angel? That’s kind of like saying, “Free Medical Checkup from a Drunken Vagrant Speaking Through a Hand Puppet…or an Actual Doctor.”

Then again, though, do angels even know the future? I mean, I’ve read the Bible and they’re pretty powerful. But I’m not sure that’s in their skillset. Like, Superman is great and all. But I’m not sure I’d want him cutting my hair.

Maybe it gets more into that and the pricing structure of a random person with tarot cards versus a resplendent celestial being later…

“Is There a Surprise in Your Future? Romance? Finance?”

In order, probably, yes and…I guess so? I assume that at some point in the future, finance is going to be a thing. I hope they go into specifics rather than just yes or no, because I already know those answers.

I’d hate for them to say, “I see finances in your future.” And when I ask what kind, they’re just like, “Um…financial? Probably fiscal. Possibly even monetary.”

 “Get a Free Psychic or Angel Reading Now”

Yeah. You mentioned that. Now, like I said, I’ve actually read the Bible. And the more I think about it, the more I’m recalling that God was pretty anti-fortune-telling. In fact, He was pretty much against any magic except when He was supplying the pixie dust, if you follow me. Are these angels on the up and up?

Wait. Is this going to be some awkward learning experience? Like, I pay and then the angel just lectures me about breaking rules or something? Because that sounds like the opposite of what I want in a reading of my future.

I had a friend once who called up a sex line and told them he had a girlfriend. Yeah. I know. Who even called those things? Am I right? Anyway, the lady on the line told him that she had a daughter of her own and wouldn’t want her dating a scummy guy like him. I’m not saying she wasn’t right and all. But he paid money for a service. Not to be scolded by a phone sex operator about making bad life decisions.

I’m starting to have some serious doubts about this unsolicited advertisement for angels.

“To Enable Links click Show Images.”

Why are your links images? Something’s not adding up here. Why do all spam messages want me to enable HTML code? It’s like a conspiracy.

“To End These Advertiser Announcements:

Via Postal Mail:

2008 West Broadway #169

Council Bluffs, IA 51501”

Seriously? You want me to send you physical mail to make you stop sending me e-mail spam? First off, what is this? 1892? You want postage-paid correspondence? Why not telegraph? Maybe a carrier pigeon? Which way does your office window face? Because smoke signals are always an option.

Secondly, I should send you a letter requesting for you to stop sending me unsolicited spam? I never gave you permission to send me e-mail. I feel like there’s a better than outside chance that if I send this physical letter, I’m just going to start getting physical junk mail. Junk mail about angels, but still.

In the end, I think I’ll pass – something they probably should have seen coming.

Event Verizon

Event Verizon.jpg

Yeah. I suppose I could have went with a different “Verizon” pun, but the only other option was “Deepwater Verizon,” which actually seemed to be in pretty horrible taste. So we’re going with comparing upgrading phones through Verizon to the movie “Event Horizon.” If you haven’t seen it, I’ll wait. Go ahead. Watch it and come back.

All done?

Okay. First off, sorry. You watched that movie, and I sort of had something to do with it. For that, I apologize. Second off, yes. That was more or less what it was like to get a new phone.

And it all began with a tiny, almost inaudible pop.

I didn’t hear this pop, mind you. But I like to think it happened. Because while most people have some sort of epic story about how they destroyed their phone, that’s not the case here. The phone in question was sitting comfortably on a desk in a room that was very hot but otherwise quite pleasant. And the screen just cracked. I realize that sounds like a lie, but it’s not. Trust me. That’s the sort of lie a three-year-old comes up with to explain why the vase in broken. I’m much better at lying.

I was later told that it happened to older phones sometimes. If they’re left sitting in a room that’s too hot and you flip on the air conditioning, their screens can’t handle the shock. Either way, my phone was left with a rather noticeable crack down its center. The most important thing to note here is that this is the high point of the story.

At first, I thought I could just deal with it. After all, I was already “really, really old phone” guy. How bad could it be to be “broken screen phone” guy, too?

The answer is “relatively bad”…unless I actually wanted to use the phone.

Broken Phone.jpg“Y’ai’ng’ngah Yog-Sothoth h’ee-l’geb f’ai throdog uaaah…”

Also, the crack was slowly transitioning from a minor annoyance to a full-fledged gateway to a dark world. It was only a matter of time before the screen broke entirely and went dead. That, or black, wispy tendrils started emerging from the crack amid the faraway wailing of children and the faint scent of burning sulfur.

Either way, I’ve had worse excuses to go get a new phone.

Since I like to avoid people when buying things, my go-to move with any purchase is to just go online. But I stopped inside a physical Verizon store first just to get an idea of the total bill. There, I took a few models for a test run and picked out an affordable, sleek-looking smartphone. From there, I went home to order it online with zero complications.

Nope. You can only order for store pickup between 8am and 5pm. Otherwise I’d have been waiting about forty days (really) to get it by mail. As I was pretty sure I’d started hearing dark whispers from my old phone about an Old God at the bottom of the ocean stirring from its slumber, I decided waiting over a month was probably out of the question.

Broken Phone1.jpgSee? That’s probably killing my data plan.

So I waited until the next morning and…

Nope. Now the phone was on “back order.” And for whatever reason, phones not available online wouldn’t allow you to pick them up from a store, even if the store had them. When I asked customer service why this was the case, she explained that their site was essentially completely broken. Reassurances notwithstanding, I decided to go into the store that weekend to pick up my new phones.

Nope. The phone I wanted wasn’t available at the largest store in the area. The manager said it might be available locally but my best bet was to buy an entirely different phone. You know, without any research – an excellent policy for major purchases.

On my way out the door he sighed and admitted that a local store had at least two left. I asked if he could check again but he assured me he’d just spoken to them. And since I still retained my faith in humanity at this point, I actually believed him.

As it turned out, though, no. That store said they hadn’t even spoken to the manager in question recently. “But,” I was told with a wink, “I’ve got something pretty similar.” It turns out it was a phone made by an entirely different company using a different operating system, in the newest generation of phones and not even remotely on sale in any way. “It’s the last one. Must be your lucky day.”

(Then, for emphasis, he began rolling a coin along his knuckles to show me he was the honest sort.)

At which point I explained I needed two, because I was upgrading both my phone and my wife’s at the same time. He fumbled through an explanation before saying he just remembered seeing another one in the back. In any event, I wasn’t there when he came back.

Luckily, I knew for a fact that there were three or more of the phones I wanted at the first store I visited, where I’d picked the phone in the first place. It was completely out of my way, but at least I’d be done with the ordeal, right?

Would it surprise you if my answer was “nope,” or some variation thereof?

We got through the majority of the upgrade process before the salesperson remembered they’d just sold the last two phones. Oops. “But fear not!” I was told. “I have something you’ll like even better…”

Would it surprise you if she showed me the most expensive phone they had? Nay, the most expensive phone ever crafted by mortal hands? Because that’s pretty much what happened.

From there, it was pretty much the same at all the major retailers. Wal-Mart would have been happy to switch me over to T-Mobile. Also, they didn’t have any of the phones I wanted. Also also, they didn’t have any phones in the Samsung line at all. But they were more than willing to hook me up with a new iPhone not on sale for $699. Oh. And they only had one, so I’d have to split my phone plan between two carriers.

Broken Phone2.jpg“Where we’re going, you won’t need iPhones…”

At Best Buy they kept me waiting half an hour just to explain they didn’t have any phones except the latest generation, and only some of those. The online deal that was the only reason I went there was actually for a store over 250 miles away. And the guy spent the better part of ten minutes trying to convince me that I was better off in the long run buying the newest phones at full price and upgrading at least once a year.

By the time I got to Target (literally the last place in the area that exchanged currency for goods and services), my expectations were pretty low. I don’t have a joke for Target, because they actually had the phones I wanted, on sale for two cents. Total.

Beating the next-lowest price by the GDP of a small country.

On the plus side, I’m happy with my new phone. And the whispers in the Black Tongue did stop coming from my old phone when it was deactivated. Then again, I don’t remember hearing them since about three hours into my (mis)adventures in buying a new phone.

I’m wondering if the dark things from that forgotten place gazed out through the rift and saw something darker then their own black kingdom in our world. I wonder if they stared into the light here. And in the process of upgrading cell phones, in that light, they realized that the deepest shadows exist not in spite of the light…but because of it. Perhaps the moral here is…wait. Hold on.

Seriously? This thing is a pedometer and a remote control for my TV? Awesome.

A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

Nigerian Prince

I hate e-mail scammers.

That’s probably not earth-shaking news. Most – if not all – people do. And in the same way that people hate being sprayed by skunks or losing the tips of their fingers in cooking accidents, it probably goes without saying.

Only, I’m a bit different. I don’t hate scammers because they’re trying to take my money. I hate scammers because they’re not trying very hard to take my money.

Actually, I also hate them for trying to take my money, now that I think on it, but to a lesser degree.

There’s an old saying, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” And while it’s advice of the most trite variety – akin to “do your best” or “believe in yourself” – I think it’s actually great advice. You may not like being an office worker, a janitor or a seasonal migrant worker, but you know what’s worse than those things? A crappy office worker, janitor or seasonal migrant worker.

In terms of e-mails scams, I understand the appeal. From the perspective of pure math, it’s often more productive to put very little effort into a scam that you send to a million people. I also realize that pride may be a foreign concept to anyone who sits down one day and says, “Well, that’s enough being a decent human being. Let’s try to find an old person and take the money they need for medicine.”

But I honestly don’t think I’m asking for a lot, so here are a few tips for the aspiring e-mail scam artist. (Even if I’m not 100% sure “aspiring” is the right word.)

If there was a Prince of Nigeria, I think he’d be able to spell the name of his own country. Seriously. Nothing kills your credibility faster than sentences like, “I am considering for to you. Much money!” Yes, that’s from an actual e-mail I got pretending to be an actual South Asian bank.

(I’m not sure what the scam was, though it seemed to involve money and consideration.)

More heartbreaking was the message I got where the sender misspelled the web domain in the e-mail address. How am I going to send you my credit card number now? C’mon, man. That’s day one stuff at villain school.

I’m not asking for an epic, but at least make the story plausible. There’s no realistic reason you need my social security number to wire me money. And if you’re pretending to be an old acquaintance of mine, fine. But when you start asking me my name, there are going to be some red flags.

Actually, I changed my mind. I do want an epic. I probably get between two and three scam e-mails a day. You’re going to have to write me a good story for me to even take notice. If you can’t rope me in by the first paragraph, you’ve already lost me.

A good example for a subject header will give me a vague idea of what’s going on while establishing a sense of urgency. For example: “Dwarf kittens in danger! Please help!”

Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your story. Sure, some people might be skeptical that the Avengers are trapped in Atlanta and need me to wire them $500 so they can return home, but at least it’s a good story. Besides, I don’t think that story sounds any less believable than displaced royalty needing money because of…reasons?

People are pretty stupid, but give us a little credit. I think I’d remember entering an International Lottery. I also think I’d have heard of it before. I also also think it would have some sort of web page. I mean, I found a Snopes page, but that’s probably not a good thing.

Don’t defeat your own scam. Consider the International Lottery example. I don’t remember entering that. In fact, I’m sure I didn’t. While the allure of an unearned $500 million is pretty tempting, think two steps ahead. Is it really a good idea to go claiming random money I’m sure isn’t mine? Wouldn’t there be legal ramifications? The International Lottery Asset Protection Agency would have a field day, assuming they existed.

And if I put an exiled Nigerian Prince back on the throne, aren’t I displacing their current political system? (I checked. It’s a Presidential Republic.) I mean, money’s cool and all. But Africa has it bad enough without me setting them back five hundred years on a whim. Even if this Prince comes in with a bloodless coup (which is super, super common by the way because it’s always a good idea to keep political rivals around), I’ve still probably made Nigeria a worse place.

Honestly, I don’t know the first thing about how these Nigerian Princes plan on ruling. Are they going to make sure the Nigerian people have access to health care and clean drinking water? What about dealing with Islamic militancy? Women’s rights? Education, specifically for girls? Also, what do you mean there was a mistake with the transfer and now I need to give you another $250?

It’s not a slot machine. It’s a bank teller. You don’t put a fee in and maybe get a transfer.

In short, put in a little effort. You may not scam any more people out of their hard-earned money while you cling to society’s underbelly like a disgusting parasite, but at least you’ll be able to take some pride in your work. Some. I mean, a little is still some.