Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Secret Shopping For Scams

The week of Thanksgiving, 2011, officially heralds in the Christmas shopping season, aka "Black Friday", with deals, steals and combat zones inside Walmarts and Targets, nationwide.

But that ain't the only way to get roughed up.

On November 1, I received the following email invitation:

Greetings, We have a mystery shopping assignment in your area and we would like you to participate. Thomas Heaston, Secret Shopper (with a circled 'R' at the end).

*TOING* I haven't played a 'secret shopper' scam in a while, so I 'eagerly' respond:

A mystery shopper program? What is that, please?And in a lengthy response, he told me what I expected to hear, having been contacted by online scammers running a 'secret shopper' scam before. The essence of it: they get me to believe I'm being hired to secret shop assorted businesses, with money sent to me by the secret shopper company, and I get paid by them to...secret shop. While they hold out the promise that I "get to keep any purchases you make on the secret shopper program", the first assignment is never Walmart, Sears, Target, The Diamond Cabaret, etc....it's always a Western Union.


Yep...they 'pay' you for your first assignment in money orders. Which you are expected to cash at your bank. After setting aside your 'pay' -- in this case, $200 -- you 'secret shop' the chosen Western Union by wiring the balance of the secret shop money order funds to an addressee given you by your 'employer'. And, of course, send your employer the information on the wire, to include the all-important money transfer control number (MTCN).

And after you complete your 'assignment', you await the next. Except -- if you've really been foolish enough to believe in this nonsense -- the next contact you have is with your bank, informing you that the money order(s) you cashed were fraudulent.

And you owe the bank the whole amount.

That's how it's supposed to work...for the scammer. It never has from here. But it's always fun to let them imagine it's going to.

So, I fill out the 'application' I receive from the scammer -- who claims to be Thomas Heaston, email heaston@gmx.com -- and decide to violate one of the cardinal rules of scambaiting, giving him most of my home address. Not all of it, but enough for his "employment packet" to get to me.

The wait is longer than I expect -- his scam operation must have run out of counterfeit money order blanks and he needs someone to make up more -- but in the meantime, Heaston (or whomever he really is) sends me 'how to' instructions for my first assignment. And I am to use a nearby Western Union facility to 'shop', and wire the balance of the money I'm being sent to a Joyce Lindamood, Ferris, TX.

Uh huh.

After some back and forth emails, with me playing the "ever so eager to get to work" secret shopper, Heaston finally assures me that my "packet" will arrive the week of Thanksgiving.

And finally on November 28, I receive via Fed Ex the "employment packet". Which consists of two Money Gram money orders, each for $850.25 (pictured above).

They're not bad, as fraudulent money orders go: they even fake some of the 'security features' on real money orders. Except these 'security features' don't perform as advertised. But no matter....the money orders look authentic. Sent from a John Adam, with an address of 137 North Washington Street, Falls Church, VA, with a telephone number of 703-533-0039.

Which, in further research, belongs to a company called Polu Kai Services, Inc., located in Falls Church, at that address. A construction and environmental firm with absolutely no connections to any secret/mystery shopper program.

But well aware of the scam: the young lady I spoke with there told me that the scammers had apparently opened a bogus Fed Ex account on the company name out of New York, and 40 Fed Ex packages had gone out under that account, before it was shut down (presumably including mine). The company there had filed a police report.

I told her my plan: she was at once concerned for my safety and amused. I just hope the other 39 recipients of these packets are either smart enough to do some research before acting, or are scambaiters like me.

Meantime, I contacted the authentic Money Gram 800 number, and through a series of prompts to the right feature, I verify that the serial numbers on my two money orders are authentic.

Or at least, they were once: both belong to money orders that were cashed on August 4, 2011. One for $62, the other for $106.24.

Nyuk nyuk.

So to an unsuspecting eye, the two money orders appear authentic. And that's what 'Thomas Heaston, John Adam' & Co. are hoping I am.


I send Heaston an acknowledgement email that the money orders are received:

I have the packet! Thank you for the opportunity to give me the business! I will be going to the bank first thing in the morning, then off to Western Union! Thanks again! This will be FUN.How much fun for me depends on the scammers. Developing...

UPDATE: it didn't turn out to be so much fun. After sending the scammer a quick email that I'd cashed the money orders and done the Western Union thing, and inquiring about my next assignment, the scammer quickly reminded me that I had forgotten to send him the MTCN number.

No, I hadn't 'forgotten':

Well actually, this gives me a chance to let you know that I didn't give you the MTCN number because I decided that one secret shop with all that money just didn't seem to be a fair representation for you, my employer. So I kept more of the money so that I could secret shop a few other businesses hereabouts, since you did say that I could keep whatever I secret shop bought, right? Anyway, when you send me a reload and my next secret shop assignment, I'll send you the MTCN number. In the meantime, I did send (not really...*snort*) a token Western Union to the lady in Texas you mentioned. Tell her not to expect more than $100. I figure the 'secret shop' was more important than the amount sent, right?

That drew this brief response:

This is not how you were agree to work. I need MTCN and you keep only you pay no more. Get me MTCN at once.

Which drew my brief retort:

Shirley you jest. Yes, I did just call you Shirley. I wired $100 to your Texas lady (not really) and used the rest to secret shop a tire replacement store, a grocery store, a gift store, and a topless cabaret where the girls REALLY appreciate being secret shopped, I can assure you. Dang, this secret shopping sh** is FUN. I eagerly await my next money orders and my next assignment! You rock!

But apparently not any more: no more responses from Mr. Heaston. I guess I didn't measure up to be the kind of 'employee' he sought after all.


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Short, Sweet and Huh?

Two emails. Two replies. One response twice. One response blank.

One wisely silent. The other, "Huh?"

The first email notified me that Western Union wanted me to know I had one million USD posted to them in my name. By, of all entities, the "Europeans Union".

Read it in their words:

WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER keiko7@optusnet.com.au

your $1,000,000 (one million dollars)was deposited here in our Western Union office by Europeans Union(E.U) for immediate transfer to you.Contact us now for more detail.

So I did, but not as they might have expected:

Thank you. But since I am rich -- well beyond the amount cited here -- I wish you to keep it with my blessing. My hundreds of millions is enough for me.

This drew an unexpected reply:

u cant not be serious?

Bad grammar out; bad grammar in:

Yes, I can't be.

I don't think that their brains fried over the answer, like the android Norman in the Star Trek (TOS) episode, I, Mudd, but they didn't bother to follow up. So I hope they enjoy dividing up that 'million'.

Then there was the spam email I found amusing. Granted, I don't know if it was spam, a phishing email, or what it might have been. You decide:

Subject: Help a friend in need!

The only thing in the body of the email was a link that was titled 'DETOX'.

And then at the bottom, this peculiar disclaimer:

We respect you privacy. If you wish to no longer receive these emails, unsubscribe by reply to the email. You can also write us at: Island Vacation Fantasy, 2121 N. California Blvd, Suite 290, Walnut Creek CA 94596.

Hmmm. Are credit card advertisers or island vacation fantasy folks pushing detox? Well, you know me: without investigating the link (a bad idea, even with anti-virus etc protection), I wrote back thus:

Thank you. I've been known to help a friend in need now and then. I'm just not sure what 'need' you're offering me to help with: a credit card, detox, or a fantasy island vacation? I have no interest in the credit card (see what I just did there?). I am not drunk, though the silly season makes for more opportunities, since seeing a red nosed reindeer and perverted elf games is easier to excuse on excess libations. And Fantasy Island shut down when Mr. Rourke and Tatu went deader than two cans of corned beef. So...WTF do I do with your email? Besides the obvious suggestion? Elucidation, please.

I received back a reply...with no reply.

I'm not sure if I flustered them with the images of perverted elves, or the confusion over Fantasy Island (probably in syndicated re-runs wherever they are)'s two patrons being dead as cans of corned beef. I did ask:

You have replied without replying. Is the significance of your blank reply that you drew a blank, and are not able to grasp the images of dead cans of corned beef? I stand ready with counter elucidation, if this is the case. Elucidation is the fiber of a bowel movement. Write back to help yours.

So far, they haven't apparently grasped the value of fiber. No reply. Further elucidation, if they do ;-)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It Blew By One Night

Meteorology in Colorado is, to say the least, interesting. Mr. Spock would call it "fascinating". Especially as he watches one of his ears go whizzing off to Limon.

Large snowstorms are possible from September to May. 70 degrees in January. Pleasant, spring-like Mays. Violent, wild Mays. The dog days of summer in August. Trying to dig out the dogs amidst the drifts of record-breaking snowstorms in March.

You just never know around h'yar.

One phenomenon we see locally in the late fall, winter and early spring is, when conditions are right, winds off the foothills. Not kite-flying winds; not a rustle of the branches winds. Not a caress your cheek wind.

Something that is locally called a "chinook" wind.

A plus of the chinook is that, when it comes in the winter, frequently it is a warming wind, raising chilling temperatures and melting snow. And for the Denver Metro, a chinook can be welcome when winter temperature inversions are right to cloud the city horizon with a smogish haze. A chinook will send the smog east/northeast.

Kansas can't thank us enough.

But the chinook does have another side to it. They frequently come in at low-end hurricane force. Wind gusts during chinooks, in varying areas along the Colorado Front Range, have been known to exceed 100 mph. Some place called Wondervu once recorded a gust over 130 mph.

I can't find the place on a Colorado map, so it must be in Kansas, too.

At any rate, when the 'chinook' is predicted locally, meteorologist post high wind warnings for the Front Range, from the Wyoming border to New Mexico. For when the chinook is in not-so-rare form, it doesn't waste the appearance.

Just a lot of stuff in its path. The wind gusts in certain areas take things not nailed down. And sometimes, some things that were.

As I went to bed around Saturday noontime, November 12, 2011, high wind warnings were in effect for Denver and the Front Range until the morning hours of Sunday, November 13. At times as I tried to sleep, I could hear the sound of wind gusts on the roof.

The Fiddler never had a prayer. Hope he had a parachute.

As I prepared to leave for work late that Saturday night, the winds locally in Green Mountain didn't seem very bad. It seemed, at least from my view, that the chinook had been overplayed, at least in Lakewood.

Driving west toward Golden and Clear Creek Canyon however, I found where the chinook was lurking.

And from here on into work, it was more than just a chinook: it was a sch-muck.

I'm used to high winds in parts of Clear Creek Canyon and the US 6/Colorado 119 corridor to Black Hawk and Central City. Areas therein like "the Narrows", are frequently tickled by strong wind gusts. Deer and mountain lions in the area -- long used to the weather anomalies -- are equipped with sand bags.

This particular night was a bit unusual. Once I cleared Tunnel 1 -- just beyond the entrance to Clear Creek Canyon -- I noticed the tell-tale sideways 'nudge' of an unseen hand, pushing my car's front end. I didn't need to look beyond the debris in the headlights to see brush and tall grasses on the roadside, laying prone, to know that I'd found the sch-muck.

Or the gusts of wind that momentarily cut visibility with clouds of sand, gravel, tumble weeds, etc flying about. Or rocks knocked into the roadway from the canyon walls on either side. And/or occasional small animals, flying monkeys, houses with big-eyed farm girls, whirling by in the more prodigious gusts.

I won't mention the witch-looking broad on a bicycle. I hadn't had enough caffeine at that point to be sure that I saw that.

But as I approached the southern end of Black Hawk on 119, I was certain of the continuing presence of the sch-muck: a road side tree came down on the road behind me.

Allllll-righty then.

But better was ahead: a lot of road construction is taking place on the south end of Black Hawk. And a crapload of those 55 gallon drum-style orange traffic markers that block or define lane changes, were ahead at the second traffic light into Black Hawk.

Not all of them were where they had originally been placed. As I approached and slowed for a light going from yellow to red, I saw one barrel -- in the south bound lanes -- decide that it wanted to experience the thrill of flight. The sch-muck chose that moment to encourage it thus.

While I admired the dream and the effort, I was dubious of the aerodynamics and wisdom of the attempt. Worse, I was rather unimpressed with the sch-muck wind trajectory the barrel chose for re-entry and landing to terra firma.

Attempting to judge an unpiloted construction barrier barrel's irregular flight pattern, I reckoned it for a touchdown to the right of my vehicle. So I chose to steer left to evade.

I didn't realize, until too late, that the damned barrel was apparently socialist: and with a loud *WHUMPF*, we greeted each other just short of the 2nd light.

Thankfully, the impact was insufficient to trigger my steering wheel airbag. Perhaps it was the colorful metaphors I was at that moment unleashing, that kept the airbag from wanting to meet the foul-mouthed windbag behind the wheel.

At any rate, that particular 55 gallon sized, weighted orange plastic construction barrier barrel -- however long it had served its aforementioned function -- would never again seek the skies for high flight. Sch-muck winds or not.

At least, not in one piece.

The balance of the night was as could have been expected in this minature mountain Vegas venue: high winds, flying stuff, power 'bumps' and the joys of occasional folks having their wind breakers act like the Flying Nun's habit, in momentary stout gusts that continued until the daylight and meteorology combined to tame the sch-muck winds.

Perhaps the night was best summed up with the coming of dawn: hung up in a road side tree -- what was left of it -- was a flying monkey, tangled up with one half of a deer antler, a pair of panties and a bra, an empty margarita, and muttering something in flying monkeyese that I didn't quite catch as I drove by.

I'm not sure I could ever have had enough caffeine to be absolutely sure of what I thought I saw. But the 'gesture' I got in passing, was a universal one.

Obviously that flying monkey had negotiated traffic in Denver rush hour, too.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Secret Powers...For Sale

I know something that you don't.

How do I know it? Because I got the email that offers to tell me so.

Neener boo.

Late the other evening, right out of cyber thin air, it came to me like an email out of the blue. An email entitled Secret Powers. Therein, it asked me all the questions I've never asked myself. And at the bottom, it promised me a 7 day guarantee to find all those answers, simply by responding to the email address at the bottom.

Well, you just knowd I was gonna have ta.

With one wee little proviso: I answered the questions the email posed, and THEN sent it back to the emailer. And 25 or so of his/hers peers and colleagues.

I'll spare you a recap of the whole email AND response; instead, I'll share with you what went back to the emailer. In bold, I'll give you the original contents as I received them; in italics, I'll give you how I helped the emailer out, by answering the posed questions.

You may be your own subjective judge of how it worked out:

Has anything ever bothered you in life? If so, get the f**k over it, Zipper Lips. Do you have any problems you need to solve? Get off your fat ass and solve it, then. A pending court case you have that you want to solve in your favor? Hire a good f**king lawyer and don't be doing the sh** that will wind you up in court in the first place. I mean, WTF!

Health, relationship, finance. They're all overrated. But I digress.

Welcome to the world of false miracles and faux wonders! For a fee that you pay to me, there are supernatural treasures and power to liberate mankind from all afflictions. Why? Because I found where they store all those props from the last Indiana Jones "Crystal Skull" movie.

And for a price, it can all be YOURS!

Let me answer some of your questions of life. Why can't you live the life of your dreams? Because Sandra Bullock thinks you're a dweeb, that's why.

Why must you work so hard and yet earn so little? Because you're the dumbass who got the liberal arts degree that wasn't worth a job at McDonalds!

Why can't you be happy with the one you love and desire or why can't the one you love reciprocate and appreciate that love? Because your fetish of buttf**king goats repels her, you moron.

Why would the doctor tell you there is no solution or cure to your problems? Because any medical doctor knows that you surgically can't fix stupid.

Why would your lawyer say you stand no chance, that your case is hopeless? Because he/she bothered to read the f**king law, the same one that you chose to break, nipplehead.

Have you been cheated by anyone or those owing you money refuse to pay back? Quit lending money to deadbeats and that won't happen, you idiot.

Do you need a rapid job promotion in your place of work? Assassination might have worked on the Enterprise in a parallel universe, but I wouldn't recommend it here. Besides, your boss KNOWS you spend time in the restroom whacking off, instead of doing your f**king job, you pervert.

You want to venture into politics? Who wouldn't: young interns letting you play hide the cigar in the vaginal humidor, and lots of lobbyists with lots of money who'll give it to you so you'll support a law authorizing anal sex with camels.

Now I understand certain things are hard to believe and comprehend, but all I ask from you is only 7 days and if you will follow my instructions and use the items you will receive, I promise your life will never be the same again. Why? Because my items I send you are thermonuclear devices that explode when you open them, and being next to one of those exploding will guaran-f**king-tee that your life will never be the same.

If you don't trust me on that, contact me and I'll prove it to you.

If you find no relevance in the help I offer, you're a f**king dumbass and I hope you get genital-eating crotch crickets.

All inquiries should be directed to this email: secretpower1@blumail.org

Asked and answered. And not a few hours after I sent the emailer my "edited" inquiry, I got a response that was the epitome of brevity:

f**k you.
Nor was I long in response:

I fail to see how that solves all, or for that matter, ANY of my problems in 7 days. Or EVAH. Elucidate, please.
None was forthcoming. Guess they'll remain "secret powers", eh?

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No Contest

The photo on the right will be 'splained momentarily.

Via email, I learned this very morning that I won yet another contest. This one for $485,000 AND a brand new Range Rover sports.

Details in this very brief email:

Dear winner
This is to immediate inform you that your email address with Micros ID (JMG-69841-DVC-T7UD-0WP) has won you $485,000 and a brand new range rover sports. Use the detail below to login and begin your claims.

website: www.shezhenyaxin.com

user: win2

password: kt85

email: jimdavidson555@hotmail.co.uk

Name: Dr. Jimmy Davidson

Phone: +44 704 578 0514

Regards, Jimmy Davidson

Simple, straight forward. I didn't bother with the website (nor would I recommend anyone else), but I did bother to take a little creative liberty with the email in the editing department, before returning it to the good doctor and 25 of his peers and colleagues:

Dear winner,

This is to immediately inform you that your email address with Micros ID (OMG-WTF-SNAFU-CLSTRFCK-BYTEME) has won you a Siberian yak herd worth 485,000 rubles, free vaccinations for a year for hoof and udder disease, a ton of fried borsht and a date with Olga Buttinski, Miss Siberia 1913, who with enough botox still looks her age.

I left the rest of the email intact, so the good doctor's peers and colleagues can login and collect...*wink nod snort*.

And that tends to explain the photo. Olga Buttinski, Miss Siberia 1913, did not like my botox comment, as you might guess..

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Turkey of a Recipe

*Originally run in 2001; updated 2009 and again in '2011; probably on file with the Department of Homeland Security's WMD Search section since '03*

As the calendar turns, around again comes the holiday season. At months' end, Halloween; less than a month later, Thanksgiving, and the focus of this tortured expose.

Of course, it's not only the season of Thanksgiving that'll be coming soon to homes near you; it's football, hockey and basketball season. It's the beginning of the Christmas decorating and shopping season. Among certain animations, it's wabbit or duck season. And we have the benefit of a sucky economy and a couple of smoldering shooting wars, though the latter is good live-fire practice for anyone planning to engage in the combat of pre-post Christmas shopping, coming soon to a mall (maul) near many of us.

For my purposes, I'll stick with the Thanksgiving theme, and something near and kind of dear to my heart and gastrointestinals: bachelor recipes.

Being a bachelor, it's good that this year, I'll be able to partake in the family fare of the season, prepared by those with exceptional cooking skills, as opposed to my inept legerdemain (and no, I can't pull a spatula out of my mitt). But in past years, I have been left to my own devices, and from previous references to my acumen in the kitchen, you know that mine tends to resemble a terrorist not-so-stronghold in the wake of a US air attack.

But I am nothing if not self-deprecating and culinarily inept for this blog, so a few years back, I came up with a recipe for to get me into the festive spirit of Thanksgiving. It's my very own invention and unique 'turkey' recipe, created in my guise as bachelor chef and culinary barbarian implosionaire. It even wound up in a family tree cook book (as a warning to any future procreation with me and my particular genes, but I digress). And for your reading and culinary astonishment, I will share it with y'all here:

Culinary Barbarian Turkey Surprise

First, collect the following ingredients:

- 2 cans of Turkey Spam

- 2 chicken drumsticks

- 2 chicken wings

- 1 ample portion of stuffing

- 1 can of turkey broth

- 1 cup of diced onions

- 1 cup of diced turnip greens

- 1 cup of diced celery

- 1 egg

- 1 cup flour

- 1/2 cup milk

- one lemon wedge

- 1 tablespoon of Crisco oil or bacon grease

- assorted seasonings for specific taste

- one set thermal-imaging goggles

- one fire extinguisher

- one asbestos cooking apron

Next comes the preparation:

- scrape off the gelatin-like residue from the Spam and set it aside for gravy

- mix Spam, stuffing, diced items, egg, Crisco/bacon grease, can of broth and seasonings in mixing bowl, shaping eventually into the equivalent shape of a turkey (think cornish game hen on limited steroids)

- add drumsticks and wings (secure to turkey with toothpicks, staples, rivets, duct tape, whatever's handy)

- pre-heat oven to 352 degrees; because I said so, that's why

- cross yourself for luck; if atheist/agnostic, just run widdit*

- put into oven in teflon-coated roasting pan for 95 minutes

- suck on the lemon wedge to wipe that look off your face

For the gravy:

- disconnect smoke detectors

- mix gelatin, flour, milk in expendable sauce pan on low heat

- stir occasionally

- if it starts to smoke, stir more frequently

- if it really starts to smoke, don the thermal imaging goggles, so you can keep track of what you're stirring with increasing enthusiasm/urgency

- if on fire, beat it resoundingly; use the extinguisher as a last resort, as it will tend to degrade the gravy consistency a tad

- set it aside; keep the thermal imaging goggles on, so you can see where you put it, along with your way around the rest of your place

After removing turkey from the oven:

- pour gravy residue (that still in liquid form) over finished turkey

- place roasting pan, with gravy-ladled turkey, in hermetically-sealed bag

- toss the whole kit and kaboodle into a HAZMAT-approved biohazard container

- call the nearest Chinese delivery place, and thank Gawd they don't celebrate Thanksgiving

Disclaimer: the aforementioned recipe is not approved or recommended by Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, Cheffie Mom Debbie Davis, the USDA, EPA, US Military's WMD Disposal Branch, or any recognized chef, living or petrified, after having read the above. If you do try this at home, you'll keep that to yourself if you have more than 3 working brain cells; then again, if you DID try this at home, you've already debunked the pre-semi-coloned part of this sentence, so never mind. Feeding residue to any living thing has potential creatures-from-The-Outer-Limits-morphability risks associated widdit, and this blog is not responsible for what might morph, and any unspeakable things it might do to your washing machine, sleeper sofa, blue flashlights, daschunds, Ford Pintos or toaster ovens.

* you can always undergo a pre-Apocalyptic conversion, if what morphs is about to attack you

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