Sunday, January 31, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Hey, They Wrote ME, First...
Monday, January 25, 2010
Shouldn't (be allowed to) Answer Phones
Friday, January 22, 2010
Unheralded Scams -- II
Not all scams are well-planned; some come about as the result of spur-of-the-moment opportunism, and someone low enough to seize and run widdit. Witness the following account:
The Great Tortoise Stampede of 1888. The place of origin: (rumored to have been) near present-day Las Vegas, New Mexico.
It was pretty barren looking then, too*.
The set-up: Natches "El Tortuga Grande" Libre owned a somewhat sprawling, if impoverished ranch about 20 miles E/SE of present-day Las Vegas, NM. Something of a maverick immigrant from the Galapagos Islands, Libre had tried to corner various and sundry markets he felt would be unique and hugely popular with the fad-oriented American upper-class Easterners.
After costly and futile attempts at raising and herding to market such exotic creatures as Amazon taratulas, New Guinea Carnivorous hamsters and Southwestern Jack'n Jillalopes, Libre turned to his home island for the answer: the Clapper.
Alas, in an age of kerosene lamps, it was ahead of it's time and sucked when it was introduced later anyway, but I digress.
Instead, what Libre chose to import and raise to eventually herd to a upper-class culinary market in the high society Northeast, was something totally unique from home: the Giant Galapagos Tortoise. Thus it was that Libre imported and raised the largest herd of Galapagos tortoises to exist outside of the Galapagos Islands.
The New York Livestock Exchange was underwhelmed.
But Libre would not be deterred. Once his herd was of sufficient size to warrant it, he and his highly-specialized tortoise wranglers and their faithful herding dogs -- border bassett hounds -- would make the long, thousand-mile trek to Dodge City, Kansas, where from he'd ship his herd off to gourmet Eastern markets.
And at a premium price per pound, he reckoned.
On a fateful April 1, 1888, Libre and his wranglers began their drive to market of the largest herd of Galapagos Giant Tortoises ever assembled in one place on Earth: 25,000 plus. Libre anticipated the drive to take 200 days and nights, planning for (ie., hoping beyond hope) 5 miles-a-day progress.
Word soon spread of this first-of-it's-kind event. Folks miles off the chosen track, eagerly anticipating the massive rolling dust clouds that had once heralded the passage of massive herd of buffalo in migration, were to see nothing like it. Folks closer to the track began to catch a sense of anticipation, as they marked the days on their calendars until the arrival of "the Herd". And then forgot about it as time went by, and "the Herd" didn't.
Libre was somewhat nonplussed by it all. He also became a bit nonplussed at the unanticipated slowness of the passage, and some of the nuisance pests his herd was experiencing on the trail. So as to receive help with the latter -- in hopes of speeding passage -- Libre telegraphed ahead to have a veterinarian meet with him on the trail ahead, near the town of Rocky Edsel, Colorado.
He became even more nonplussed as his ponderous, pest-infested herd plodded past the thriving town of 900, and he found it deserted. Nary a soul to welcome or witness the most unique drive of its' kind in human or reptilian history, let alone a veterinarian he'd urgently sought.
The same thing happened a few days later, in a town a few miles away.
Meantime, he would have been even more nonplussed by the reaction in the southwestern Kansas border town of Boggsville (now a county landfill): a few unscrupulous entreprenuers -- with a more literate telegrapher -- seized upon the unique opportunity the telegram had provided, and unlike their down-the-line Colorado brethren, chose to make the most of the pending event.
They set up bleachers for seating thousands of onlookers. They manufactured and marketed t-shirts, posters, picture-postcards and other assorted bric-a-brac. Vendors prepared an impressive array of concessionary booths to feed and beverage the anticipated throngs of curious and excited visitors. They advertised far and wide about the upcoming event.
They drew thousands from all over the Midwest.
And on the expected day of the arrival of "the Herd", thousands waited in tingling anticipation in the stands, looking to the SW horizon for the first signs of IT: The Great Tortoise Stampede of 1888. They watched. They waited. They napped. They knawed at increasingly stale prairie dog jerky and fajitas.
Meantime, many of the opportunistic t-shirt and bric-a-brac salesmen -- taking a page from Kenny Rogers as The Gambler a few generations before Rogers was born -- knew when to "fold 'em", take their profits and vamoose.
Gradually, so began the disgruntled exodus of the first of the losing-hope throng, who'd already found that they were stuck with bogus t-shirts and silly bric-a-brac. Slowly they began to drift away, wishing there was a Better Business Bureau they could write to about the "here-today, gone-today" concessionaires. The more resilient, the true believers and those determined to get something for the cost of the stupid t-shirts (I Survived The Great Tortoise Stampede of 1888) and vile rabbit hootch they'd consumed at two bits a throw, remained hopefully on their perches, not wanting to miss the first sight of IT: The Great Tortoise Stampede of 1888.
Until eventually, all but the most resolute gave up in disgust and went home. The most resolute remained in those stands until they died, their bones going pale white in the sun and snow of a savage Kansas winter.
For the message that Libre had telegraphed ahead had been misread up the line by a fledgling Colorado telegrapher -- and he had spread through his misunderstanding with the speed of today's Reuters faked photos -- by misreading and passing along this: Help, I have stampede in my tortoise herd.
What Libre had actually telegraphed was: Help, I have damned fleas in my tortoise herd.
As for Libre? He and his herd perished in a blizzard near the Colorado/Kansas border in December, 1888. One droop-earred border bassett hound survived -- Booger -- and was taken in by a rural SE Colorado family, proving to be the one and only survivor of and witness to the mythical Great Tortoise Stampede of 1888.
When asked about his memories of the event in his dotage, he is rumored to have put both paws over his eyes and brought up his dinner.
* which might upset a former visitor to this blog, who don' like me vewy well after I made fun of any part of his adopted state
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Unheralded Scams -- I
*One from the archives that I should have saved for April 1...eh*
Scams have been around for at least as long as Man has. The opportunist versus the gullible.
Human wolves versus human sheep. The infamous "sucker born every minute", and the scam artist seeking that sucker with no end of angles to try on 'em.
My duels with Nigerian scammers -- and there are a plethora of folks doing what I do, some much better than I -- are a drop in the bucket, so far as what scammers are doing and trying. Telephone scammers strike for personal, bank and credit card info. There are door-to-door scammers -- like the infamous Travellers group -- who go to storm-damaged areas or homes of the elderly, seeking to steamroll the resident into home repairs -- paid for up front -- that are never completed, if even undertaken at all.
There are investment scams. Car sale scams. Scams on Ebay and other online sites. You can even argue that during election cycles, there are political scammers. We elect too damned many of them for our own good.
For the next couple of installments, I'm going to let you in on a couple of the more unheralded scams from the past. Scams that will leave you wondering why*.
Let's start with The Great Tsunami Scam of 1883.
Of course, if you live on an island or along the coastline of a major body of oceanic water, a tsunami -- or tidal wave -- is not a laughing matter. A major meteorological or seismic event, hundreds or even thousands of miles away, can result in catastrophic wave activity right on your door step (as the photos at the top right and left tend to sort of exemplify in a perhaps somewhat mildly embellished kind of way).
When you add to such apocalyptic images a throng of folks who are easily duped, you have the ingredients of a money-making scam.
Witness the following account:
On August 27, 1883, and after three prior eruptions within the previous 24 hours, the volcano Krakatoa, on the Indonesian island of Krakatau, exploded. The resulting tidal wave -- or tsunami -- roared into Sunda Strait (between the south coast of Sumatra and the NW coast of Java) reaching heights of 120 feet. When it cleared, 295 villages and towns along both coasts had been wiped out, along with over 36,000 residents.
Unlike today's 24/7 "instant news" -- real and/or made up -- back then, it took time for the story of the destruction of the island of Krakatau (about half of it was blown away or submerged in the final explosion of Krakatoa) to make it around the world. When it did, it ran shudders down the spines of a lot of coastal-dwelling residents.
It also spawned more than a few ethically-challenged opportunists. Including one in Nebraska.
That's right; Nebraska.
In his part of Nebraska -- mainly flat, where a 50 mile-diameter view could be accomplished by climbing a tree or an 8 foot ladder -- he had a farmer friend. This farmer friend had, as a part of his farm, the only "high ground" in that part of the county. It rose to a height of 125 feet above the surrounding fields, and covered a few dozen acres. Locals suggested one could see the lights of Denver, Colorado, on a clear night, as a faint glow over the horizon, from the summit of "Longview Hill".
The fact that Denver didn't yet have electric lighting, and was about 500 miles to the west, didn't dissuade the locals from making the claim; passersby acceptance of such only encouraged this future model for AlGore to proceed with his opportunity.
Convincing his farmer friend to allow him use of the predominant geography for a few days (the farmer was headed for distant Omaha to find a wife or buy a new plow horse), the entrepreneur seized upon the slowly-circulating news about the mighty tsunami that had swept all before it in the distant Pacific.
He started by obtaining published accounts of the Krakatoa tsunami. He then did a little bit of embellishing to the written copy (ala Reuters) with enhanced drawings of the "mighty wave", and the "fact" that it was proceeding across the Pacific, toward the US West Coast.
And that it was growing.
Then, quoting a seismic "expert" -- played by hisself -- and extrapolating out the wave effects as it neared the coast ("it would slow and rise in height, prior to overwhelming the California coastline, raging well inland, still being about 120 high into western Nebraska"), he quickly had the story published in the local paper.
It put the good, simple, God-and-media-fearing citizens in a tizzy.
"What the hale is we all supposed ta do 'bout this hyar wave thang?", the citizenry cried to the local town council. The town council -- locals elected by their peers -- met their responsibilities as many politicians before and since have: they scheduled a public meeting to discuss the pending crisis, and took the midnight train east to safer parts, the day before the meeting.
Abandoned, the towns' folk worked to come up with their own solutions:
"We could dig a giant ditch, to divert the water when it comes!"
"We could mount our homes on big stilts!"
"We could do what Randolph Scott would have done!"
"We need to pack up the women and the young 'uns and skedaddle!"
"But what about our homes? We cain' jest leave 'em!"
"Let's ask the seismic expert! He'll know what we should do!"
A couple old and grizzled ever-the-skeptics, tried to point out that that no so-called tsunami wave could not possibly push all the way inland, and past the mighty Rocky Mountains. But in the frenzy created by the story -- and fed by the opportunistic scammer, now wearing the guise of an Al Goreish "seismic expert" bearing his inconvenient truth -- they were drowned out by the mounting hysteria of impending doom.
At a subsequent public meeting -- one held two days before the wave was to hit California, the "expert" declared -- he spoke technically in geological gibberish, which impressed the simple crowd with simple educations. And he assured them that there was a "safe haven" within reach.
And for a per-person fee -- $25 -- he could arrange for every man, woman and child of the county to take refuge atop this geologic Ark in the path of The Million Years' Tsunami.
Money was passed like gas after beans for dinner; those who didn't have it, were unselfishly paid for by those who did. Rich and poor that day were one in crisis, and one in solution.
This 1880s AlGore was also adept at being an 1880s Robert Tilton ("Pastor Gas"), as well. And thus it became that Longview Hill became the center of population for one terrified but resolute Nebraska county.
As folks set up tents as temporary shelters and slit-trenches as temporary outhouses, the Al Gore/Robert Tilton of the 1880s -- packing more than $10,000 in cash -- mounted his horse and told the good and duped citizens that he was headed out to arrange for boats to retrieve them, and temporary shelter to sustain them until after the waters had receded. The good folks believed him.
Until The Day arrived, and The Wave didn't.
When reality finally dawned on them, the duped throng dispersed, seeking what solace they could in kicking themselves and anything else in reach, for their gullibility.
Meantime, the early precursor to Al Gore/Robert Tilton was living something of a high life in downtown Omaha, and working on his next scam angle: a tsunami warning for residents of Toledo (Ohio). As with most scams, one trip too many to the well proved fateful: folks thereabouts welcomed any change as an improvement, and the Al Gore/Robert Tilton precursor wound up head-first down an outhouse, once the deception was detected (ie., when Toledo's promised renovation didn't happen).
* you bothered to read this nonsense...
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Anatomy of a Deja Vu
*From the 2007 archives, an oldie but a reprised goodie*
Some scammers never seem to learn.
Roughly a week after I had disposed of Mr. Kelley Ko of KelleyKo Fabrics and Textiles (see the Anatomy of a Piss-off series), as well as George Nyerere and his odious colleagues, they were back again.
Not to badger me about how I'd dun 'em wrong; but with the same scam offers, all over again. And sent to the same email address as before.
Talk about attention-deficit disorder.
In the case of George Nyerere and new friends (but same old bank that I'd gotten fired previously), I used the same email address to respond from, but just reversed my initials on all out-going emails (instead of URP, I was PRU). That situation is still on-going, and took a turn for the surreal, but that's for later.
When it came to Mr. Ko, I decided to hit him again, but from a different direction. So I created a new email account. And out of the archives, I dug up an identity sent to me by a scammer who'd tried me four years ago prior, and stupidly sent me photo copies of the passport and ID card he was using, before he realized I was playing him. Once in a great while I hear from this particular scammer, as he sends out a new series of the same old scam: I usually write back to him as him, castigating him for trying to steal his identity and violate his/my rice bowl. That usually shuts him up (by confounding the snarf out of him, I hope). But I digress.
So Kelley Ko (email@example.com) sends me the following email...again:
Would you like to work from home and get paid weekly? If you are interested get back to us promptly. Best regards, Mr. Kelley Ko, Employment Co-Ordinator (KelleyKo Fabrics & Textiles)
He also has a website (if you'd like to see cheap and sleazy): visit http://www.kelleyko.co.uk/index/html
So from my newly-established email address, Mr. Ko receives this:
I am interested in this offer to give me some of your business. What are the details and how am I compensated, prease.
A couple days later, I...er...Masato gets this reply:
The company has been waiting to hear from you. You are aware that the US market is a very competitive one (for scammers, I'm sure) and we have to get a representative/book keeper as soon as possible so that we can get things going in the States. We have oustanding payments from our clients in the States and we need these funds to purchase new stock of material. This is a lucrative job offer as you will be getting 10% commission on every payment you cash on behalf of the company. Get back to us with the following information right away, so that we know if you are interested in the job offer:
Nation of Origin:
I was prompt in reply:
I will fill out your apprication and await your decision:
First Name: Masato
Middle Name: Gyaaa
Last Name: Chan
Address: 135 Townsend Street
City: San Francisco
Home Phone: (I purloined one from the AT&T Park office/ballpark complex, across the street from the address I used)
Marital Status: Married (no kids)
Nation of Origin: USA (parents were Chinese immigrants)
I do have to mention one thing which I hope won't affect my emproyment status: I am hearing impaired. I cannot hear on the phone. If you cannot use me with this handicap, I wirr understand.
As if any handicap will stop Kelley Ko from snapping up any potential sucker:
Dear Masato Gyaaa Chan,
Hope that you are doing good. I got your email and I wish to inform you that your information has been well recorded by the company and it will be forwarded to our clients. We will let you know once we hear from any of our clients regarding a payment to the company. The company is aware of your condition and we do not feel that it will hinder you from working for the company. Your job is very simple and straight forward: you will acting as the company's representative in the US. You will be receiving 10% commission on every payment you handle on behalf of the company. We will let you know where to wire the company's balance when you have received any payment. The company is in dire needs of funds at the moment and we are counting on you to handle all payments on behalf of the company very promptly. We have to obtain funds to purchase new stock of materials to enable us meet the orders placed by our new customers on schedule as we cannot afford to loose them. I will get back to you soon.
So I get back to him sooner:
That's all there is to honorable apprication? I am hired? Okay-san...I will await your notification of first crient payment.
Two days' pass, and then it's time to revisit ol' deja vu'sville with KelleyKo:
I wish to inform you that there are further incentives attached to your job position as the company's representative in the US but this depends on your performance. And I wish to inform you that you will be receiving your first payment on behalf of the company tomorrow July 10th. We just received a message from our client saying that the payment has been mailed out to you by UPS. This is the tracking number: 1Z46FE371598365502. Look out for it and make sure that you get it. Once you receive the payment, you are to wire the company's balance right away after you have deducted your 10% commission. Go to a Western Union Money Transfer Agent near you and wire the company's balance to the names and addresses below as I have stated:
Julian Briggs, 768B Bath Road, Hounslow, Middlesex, London TW5 9TY, UK
Lisa Evans, 45 Central Road, Wembley, Middlesex, London HA0 4HN
(send to her the rest of the balance)
They are the company's purchasing agents here in the UK. I will be waiting for the wiring information of the company's balance as I have instructed now by Western Union.
Ever the dutiful employee, I respond thus:
I have printed a copy of your instructions so that I can handre this as you have detaired it when I receive the money order. I wirr advise you accordionry when I have it, and when I have executed it.
A day later, Kelley tries to convince me he's dutifully tracking the UPS shipment:
I just tracked the mail our client sent you and I can see that they have been trying to deliver the package to you all morning. They are having a problem with your address. Go to the nearest UPS office near you right away and demand for the mail in your name. The company is counting on you to take care of this payment right away.
And so the 'fun' begins:
I don't know why they had a probrem with the derivery, so I will go pick it up. Stupid UPS drivers in this town! Can't read or write with the education system we have here. I have some errands to run and I wirr stop by my bank to deposit money order, and then get things executed as promised.
My 'employer' signals his appreciation of my efforts:
I got your email and the company appreciates your efforts. The company is counting on you, as we are in dire need of funds for new materials for our clients, and we have other outstanding payments pending for you to take care of. I will be waiting for the wiring information of the company's balance by Western Union.
Now we find out if he's really tracking a UPS shipment or not:
I have picked up the package. I will notify you when I get my job executed as directed.
It becomes obvious with this reply that Mr. Kelley Ko is not tracking anything UPS, and is getting impatient:
The company has been waiting to hear from you. Please back to me ASAP.
So I ASAP him:
My humbre aporogies for not getting back soonest. Wednesday was a most busy day for me. Anyway, once it opens, I am going to my nearest Money Gram office to wire the funds. I wirr advise you when this is done.
Since he repeatedly insisted I use Western Union, I expect to hear something about the use of Money Gram. But nawp:
The company would prefer you use Western Union Money Transfer wiring, but Money Gram is okay too. Please notify me ASAP the wiring information and refrence number.
Now the fun REALLY begins:
My aporogy for the deray. Here is wiring information via Money Gram:
Jurian Briggs, 768B Bath Road, Hounsrow, Middresex, Rondon, TW5 9TY
$2,000, reference # 29430650
Risa Evans, 45 Centrar Road, Wembrey, Middresex, Rondon HA0 4HN
$1525, reference # 29430651
Not a comment about the dropped "L"s; but there does come a comment about the information:
Subj: FALSE INFORMATION
What is going on here. The wiring information you send me of the company's balance does not exist. Let me emphasize to you that the company will go to any length to secure its funds. Get back to me ASAP.
What? What you mean the wiring information is farse? I send it! How is information farse? Exprain prease, before I go back to Money Gram rocation to inquire.
Now Kelley Ko starts looking more into my apprication:
Listen to me very careful. I have tried calling the phone number you provided and the person that picked it says that it is a wrong number. You have 24 hours to wire the company's balance as I have instructed earlier. The purchasing agents got to the Money Gram outlets and were told that there is NO history of any transaction with the information you provided. Wire the company's balance by Western Union Money Transfer today, as you were instructed, or we will be forced to take acition. You have been warned.
Oooooooh...shakin' in my knickers hyar:
Now just a minute. First, didn't I terr you I was hearing impaired? We no have conversation if I were home and you knew how to diar a number. Second, how I know you not misdiar the number? Rady you had speaks with say you diar wrong number.
Second, the Money Gram transfers were made. They take the money. They give me reference numbers and receipts. I have them. It's done. I know it done, cuz I do it. So I ask you: how do you know you can trust your purchasing agents? How you know they not get money and rie to you about it?
Until you make thorough check of your peopre there, I have no more to say.
Since I referenced the Money Gram receipts (which I didn't bother making up), Kelley jumps all over that:
Scan the MoneyGram receipts for the transactions that you claim you made and send to me right away. I am waiting for it.
More deja vu fun hyar:
I don't rike what you impry: "that you craim that you made"? I don't "craim" anything! I send money via Money Gram. This is FACT. With your unpreasant attitude, I no send you receipts now. I think probrem at your end, not mine. I await your aporogy.
Kelley no want to aporogize:
THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS. Send me the receipts NOW so that I can get to the root of this. I say again THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS.
Phfffft. My ass:
No, I no send. Not untir you aporogize for your unwarranted and accusatory tact with me. I have met my obrigation to you as instructed, and you just bustin' my barrs, just busting my barrs, Mr. Ko. I say again I bereive some dishonesty from your purchasing agents. You best get to root of probrem there, and aporogize hyah.
Kelley has had enough of Masato Chan with this repry:
Subj: YOU ARE LIAR!
IT IS VERY CLEAR TO ME NOW THAT YOU ARE PLAYING GAMES. I HAVE PERSONALLY CONTACTED MONEY GRAM AND I HAVE DISCOVERED THAT THE REF NUMBER YOU SENT ME ARE ALL INVALID. THERE IS NO HISTORY OF ANY SUCH TRANSACTION AT ALL. I WANT TO ASSURE YOU THAT THE COMPANY WILL GO TO ANY LENGTH TO SECURE OUR FUNDS FROM YOU. WE ARE GOING TO CONTACT THE POLICE RIGHT AWAY AND YOU WILL SURELY PAY. WE HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO GET YOU. IN YOUR OWN INTEREST, THAT IS IF YOU LIKE LIFE, SEND THE COMPANY'S BALANCE RIGHT AWAY. I AM VERY DISSAPOINTED IN YOU!
Don't you just hate when you disappoint someone? Well, maybe not when they're someone who doesn't matter.
After a day of letting Kelley stew, and one more MASATO I AM SERIOUS BUSINESS NOW..SEND MONEY OR ELSE! message, I let a little light show on Mr. Ko:
Dear Kelley Ko:
Okay, it's time to confess here. You're right: I didn't send any money via Money Gram. Nor am I gonna. You were right about me; I made up the reference number. You see, I am a bit of a cad. I am many things, including flatulent and thrice-concussed, but I am also gifted with -- or cursed with, I report, you decide -- an ornery sense of humor. So I decided to accept your offer, knowing it for what it was, and spend some of your time just totally pissing you off. Why? 'Cuz I could. And did.
But it gets better, Kelley...really, it does. And here's how it gets better: Kelley, you and I have met online before. That's right, fella. You sent me your bullshit job offer before. And I responded to it, then as now, and played you like a cheap ukulele. You see, you know me now as Masato Chan. But a short time ago, you also knowd me as U. R. PHULOVIT! THAT'S RIGHT, BUNGHOLE! I AM U. R. PHULOVIT! Thank you once again for playing Who Wants To Be Shown To Be A Stupid Online Scammer?
And just like the previous series of emails we exchanged, THIS SET WILL BE POSTED ON THE INTERNET AS WELL! I will allow the whole Internet world to see that you're not just a bloody buffoon, but a BLOODY DOUBLE BUFFOON! And I am including that cheeseball website of yours, so everyone online will know you for the CROOK AND SCAMMER THAT YOU ARE!
How do you like them fabric samples, wanker?
You have not been just a pleasure, Kelley Ko; you've been a double dumbass pleasure!!
Go ahead, Tree-Stump-Brain: send me another one!!! I'll go for the hat trick!
U. R. Phulovit/Masato Chan/???
I got back one more message from his email, but with no subject header and no text. I do believe I left him.....syntaxless ;-)
Thanks, Masato Chan, wherever you are.
*Note: in early '08, Kelley Ko DID send me another of the same emails; and I played him again, though he caught on to the game faster, and didn't give me the pleasure of more threats of legal action...dang it ;-)