Scams.

I skipped Smoky-Drinky. The weather is now in melt-freeze mode so the pavements get smoother and shinier every night. Last time I went out drinking on a night like this I ended up with a smashed face and a cracked rib. So I stayed home with the bottle of Ben Bracken I had planned to take along.

Sometimes scams are hard to spot. As a general rule, if you’re offered something expensive for free, there is a catch and somewhere down the line you’ll be paying for it.

Lately I have seen a lot of Emails telling me I can test something expensive and then keep it. I have never responded because nobody gives away iPhones, other than phone contract people and you only get the phone if you sign up to two or more years of paying lots of money.

I have a PAYG phone. I used to have a contract, it was only about £10 a month but I was using the phone so little that I found I could go on PAYG and run it for less than £10 every three months. I am not interested in using it for anything but talk and text, I’m too old to squint at a little screen for internet or reading and while I have been impressed by the fancy gadgetry on the ones I’ve seen (seems everyone else has one now) I wouldn’t make use of it. I use the £20 phones and buy a new one when I break it.

Anyway, I couldn’t see the scam here. Surely if they send you something, you test it, write a report and keep the thing, that’s that? How can they wring money out of you?

Aha. It’s in the small print. You put in your mobile phone number and they can charge bills to your phone. You might or might not actually get the free thing but you will definitely get the bills.

Well, the effect would be limited on my phone because there’s never more than a tenner on it. It would be a bastard though, to find my phone has no credit when I suddenly decide I must, after all, use it.

There was a series of messages on my phone in December. On three consecutive days. The first was ‘You have received a premium text but you don’t have enough credit to download. Top up to receive the text’.

No. There was just under ten quid on the phone, therefore whatever this premium text was, it was going to cost at least ten quid to see it. If I am to pay to see something, I want some idea what it is first. Also, I do not pay people to talk to me. There are some I would pay not to, but that’s a different matter.

The second was ‘You have received a premium text from Vodafone etc’. Well, obviously I didn’t fall for the first one so they bung some authority in there. Not biting. I don’t care who sent it, I don’t care if it is a matter of national importance and sent by Mrs. Queen herself, I am not paying for it.

Then ‘You have received a premium text from Vodafone and it expires in three days etc’. Oh, the old limited time offer eh? That didn’t work either. I think they’ve given up now. Still haven’t topped up the credit and still have about £8 on there. They’ll have to be very patient to get money out of me.

Boss tells me she can’t ignore a ringing phone so if I ever have to phone her, she is guaranteed to answer. I told her I am perfectly capable of ignoring a ringing phone and never answer for at least four rings anyway. That cuts out most of the automated calls because by the time I pick up, she, and those like her, have already occupied the slots on the autodialler. All I get is silence.

The scam must work or it wouldn’t be done. It’s like those 419 scams which still arrive every day. ‘I am Someone Important and have a huge box of money and I want to sneak it out of the country into your bank account, so give me all your bank details and a copy of your passport and the keys to your life’.

President Assad’s wife has emailed me, so have several members of the Gadfly’s family, most of the Hong Kong banking community and someone in Ethiopia who considers me the most devout Christian on the planet. Um… I suspect she might have me mixed up with someone entirely not like me at all.

The first time I encountered those scam emails was when I was first equipped with email at work, in about 1991. They were transparently bollocks then and yet they are still going. Someone is falling for them. Enough people are falling for them to keep several scam groups employed, right up to this very day and even though the scam has been widely revealed as a scam. People are idiots and these days, the ‘get-rich-quick’ mentality makes life easy for scammers.

I have a different mentality. I used to work on the ‘get-rich-eventually’ plan but now I’m on the ‘why-bother-getting-rich-at-all?’ plan. The government is just going to steal it if you do. It’s a lot of work for no real gain.

Now we have X-factor and similar crap which  gives people the idea they can be rich and famous without bothering to put in any effort at all. Just caterwaul on the TV and people will throw money at you. If soft tomatoes are money, then they’re on to a winner.

When they are told ‘You can’t do this’ they often have a tantrum. A few take it well, some are even well aware that they are just taking the piss and are only on there for a joke. Some of those actually manage to get close to the finals, which just shows the judges to be as easily scammed as those they are trying to scam.

It’s this modern expectancy that life must be safe and gentle, everything must be handed to you on a plate and you can have the Moon on a stick if you will but ask, that makes the scammer’s job so very easy. Modern schooling produces scam victims by the score. Come on, the 419 has been around so long surely it must be worth mentioning it when teaching kids about computers? How about the Western Union scams, where the scammer buys something then says he’s sending you a cheque for thousands and you have to send the balance to his mate he owes money to? The cheque will clear in a week, you’ll send the money by an untraceable route, then perhaps weeks later the cheque will bounce and all the money goes back out of your account.  Basic knowledge of how the modern shambles that is banking actually works would help here.

Why are these never mentioned in schools, nor in business training courses? Especially the latter where money-handlers are supposed to learn how not to end up bankrupt.

Sometimes I wonder how people manage to find their way out of bed in the mornings.

 

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11 thoughts on “Scams.

  1. I couldn’t agree more!

    I’m on the ‘spend it before you die otherwise the kids will get to spend it for you’ plan. If they want money, they can earn it like we had to.

    On this plan, I have just spend my entire last years income on next years holidays. I shall enjoy them. Enough said.

    And if they want to ring me while I’m away, they’ll find the phone in the glove box of my 18 year old car parked at Gatquick. It’s also a PAYG. I put £10 on it three years ago and it’s still got £5.41 left. I’ve only got it in case the car packs up on the way to the airport and I miss my flight.

    I started out with nothing, and I’ve still got most of it left.

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  2. Scams succeed because the same old components can be reassembled into endless variants….and for as long as greed exists, there is no prerequisite for gullible victims.

    The worst and most expensive Scam is perpetrated by the Thieving Lawyer. A monopoly (mercilessly backed by Parliament lawyers and Judicial System lawyers), is a Hobson’s Choice scam to which all disarmed citizens are subservient, The Plumber Scam is some way down the list but it is relatively easy to maintain your home almost entirely plumber-free. I fully agree with the concept of DIY plumbing as thoroughly enjoyable, therapeutic and highly cost effective. All you need is a modicum of intelligence, application and practise. However, the beginner should be alert to many retail trade tricks. Avoid buying ‘Amateur’ tools and materials – especially blowtorches and lead-free solders. And do remember that a little research is also necessary in the selection of compatible alloys and fluxes.

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    • Scams succeed because the same old components can be reassembled into endless variants…

      Very true – witness how tobacco control’s template has been recycled to apply to drink, salt, fat, anything. Same techniques and you’re right – the drones will not make the connection.

      So it really shouldn’t have surprised me that those same old email scams are still running.

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  3. Where did all this desire for fame and fortune (sans effort) come from? I seem to remember (drink induced early onset Alzheimers notwithstanding) that at school the common understanding was ‘achieve through work’ (although there was one lad who aimed for showbiz stardom based on the premise that he would be sleeping on other peoples couches for years, doing ‘gigs’ in dingy dives to three people until he’d built up a ‘fan base’ – ie. hard work – incidentally, after attempting that for a couple of years he gave up and joined the army, 14 IB, as being an ‘easier option’?).

    I agree with MTG that the biggest scams are those supposedly ‘legitimate’ professions, although after Law I’d list the closed shop of Medicine next. Limiting numbers of posts, training opportunities and even access to basic education certainly keeps their rewards high (look at Eastern Europe to see what happens when those limitations are withdrawn – doctors have similar status and income to any other average employed person).

    I think I’d put electricians before plumbers too, a biased perspective due to my pipes being in good order (the houses aren’t bad either), whilst getting a bit of cable run apparently necessitates the involvement of planners, lawyers, engineers, architects and of course the electrician (I’m not allowed to legally touch a screwdriver as I have insufficient Gluteus Maximus to provide the mandated amount of builders bum – I can’t see any other reason why I can’t, can you?).

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    • I am aware of the EU edict that if you want to change the fuse in a plug, you need planning permission and about fifteen committees to approve it.

      I have big tool box (calm yourselves ladies, I am referring to actual tools here) and a remarkable ability to ignore rules. This saves a fortune.

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  4. Plumbing is a bad joke in engineering terms. Coarse tapered threads which tighten themselves, more good luck than good judgement and if it all goes belly up, pack it with Boss white or silicone.

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    • As long as no water comes out, it’s okay. I was once called upon (as a microbiologist, not a plumber) to look at someone’s taps that were dripping and turning their sink green. They were using a well for water. I told them they had copper pipes and should look at them, because the green wasn’t microbial, it was their pipes oxidising from the inside out. Not dangerous in health terms but a bit risky in terms of spraying water from pinholes.

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        • You mean he fluxed it up totally? Silly fluxer.

          Well water can be mildly acidic and will gradually rot copper pipes. I used to often hear about ‘algae’ growing on the outside of pipes and it wasn’t algae at all. It was the pipes corroding and getting ready to pinhole. Those pinhole leaks can soak a plasterboard wall before anyone notices they are happening!

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  5. What’s going on with the transparently obvious scams turns out to be fairly simple and yet very intelligent indeed. From a scammer’s point of view, he doesn’t really want to be dealing with the likes of you and I nor indeed anyone with an IQ greater than that of a woodlouse. So, the initial lead-in to the scam is always a preposterous tall story that only the thickest of the thick would fall for; inclusion of a heavy religious aspect is similarly angling for the ultra-thich end of the population.

    This entire thing is a gullibility filter, to remove those marks who are going to be hard work for the scammer. The scammer, remember, is normally not a UK national and normally not a native English speaker, nor is he (it usually is a he) normally all that bright himself. So, he only really wants to be dealing with utter window-lickers as he can’t out-think anyone else.

    This is why all the various 419-baiting sites work so well and so amusingly; 419 scammers are usually not very bright themselves so they also fall for silly scams, even to the point of getting diddled out of money by their prospective marks! One such outfit emailed a supplier of custom personal computers with the standard sob-story, and was promptly told that although the company didn’t do Internalional Banking, they did do high-end custom computers and would Sir like to have a look at the catalogue at this like?

    Sir did indeed want to look, and promptly ordered a dozen high-end PCs, paying with a cheque drawn on the Bank of Preposterous Stupidity. Sir also told the supplier that the PCs were of the utmost importance, and really must be built and sent with the very greatest of urgency, even before the cheque cleared. The PC company dutifully replied that they would indeed do so, and were at that very moment dropping all other orders to prioritise that one.

    A couple of days went by, then the PC supplier emailed their prospective client (the cheque was by then being ogled by the local bank; faint incredulous laughter could be heard even in the street outside) and told him of a terrible calamity: “Dear sirs, as you requested we built the PCs to your specification, and dispatched them by courier to the address supplied. Unfortunately the courier could not find the address, and now wishes to be paid for the trouble of trying this, having even involved the police to try to find the address. Please send us £50 or we will not attempt re-delivery; please also give better delivery instructions.”

    A day later, a cheque drawn on a UK bank arrived, was submitted to the bank and deposited without incident. By this time a quietly-sniggering bank official had informed the PC company that the first cheque was made of rubber, and furthermore the bank it was drawn on didn’t exist. So, the PC company pocketed the “expenses” cheque and gave the scammers the bad news. Nothing further was heard of these muppets.

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