Posts tagged ‘scams’

2013/08/02

Of Reprehensible Persons

rep·re·hen·si·ble (\ˌre-pri-ˈhen(t)-sə-bəl\)
adj.
Deserving rebuke or censure; blameworthy.

Just to give rebuke where rebuke is due. And/or to vent a little. :)

Anthony Weiner is a walking punchline, and should Just Go Away. If an oppresivist Republican was doing this I’d love it :) but Weiner is just hurting the Progressive side every time he (or his organization) opens its mouth. If he were a uniquely effective force on the side of good (see below) I would be more conflicted, but apparently he isn’t. (I am a bit of an Alex Pareene fan, I admit.)

On the other hand, Eliot Spitzer has been one of the few people in power willing and able to get all up in Wall Street’s face and at least threaten to bring some justice to the thoroughly entrenched criminals there. Which makes it sort of a pity that he’s an entitled oppresivist hypocrite who is willing, even eager, to prosecute people for things that he happily does in secret himself.

So what to do about Spitzer? It’s likely that he goes after Big Finance mostly because that’s his schtick, that’s the side he’s chosen as a path to fame and power, and not so much because he really believes deep down in justice, but still. I think I would be happiest if he apologized to the universe, declared his support for the legalization and effective regulation of sex work, gave his personal fortune to the Sex Workers Project or somebody, and went back to challenging Wall Street.

Given that that’s unlikely, unfortunately, I think it’d be best if Spitzer would Just Go Away also; we’ll have to find someone to fight Big Dollars who isn’t such a jerk.

Speaking of Wall Street, employees and management of Glass, Lewis & Co., as well as the owners of a nearby food truck, are obnoxious jerks. It is nice to see this going viral. Go and enjoy and contribute to the big Twitter flame-out before they notice and delete it.

(I’m amused by the lonely Twitter voice from an alternate universe shouting about how tips are only for exceptional service, and no one should ever be upset not to get one. That may be true on Planet Nebulon, but in New York City a tip of 15% or so means normal ordinary service, an amount above that is a compliment, and leaving no tip at all means that either (a) you forgot, (b) the service was so bad you had strong grounds for a civil or criminal case against the server and their entire family, or (c) as in this case, you are a total douchenozzle. It might be reasonable to wish this was not true, but… it is!)

Okay. Less controversially perhaps, the people (“people”) at “Project A.W.O.L.” are disgusting scammers. Given the numbers of people in the pictures on their horrible Facebook page, I’m surprised there isn’t more on the net debunking them; but maybe the pictures are all fake, and it’s mostly just a couple of douchenozzles spamming weblog comment pages.

I discovered this because one of the things they do (as well as putting up obviously fraudulent web pages), is Like and Follow random WordPress weblogs (I expect there’s software that does this for you?), and they’ve done that on this very weblog here. It’s a relatively typical Ponzi / Pyramid scheme (not exactly the same thing, I know; I think this has aspects of both), in which they convince some number of gullible people to pay them some amount of money per month for “secrets” and “tips” to “get rich online” and “make money with your blog”, whereas in fact the only Secret Technique they have is to convince some number of gullible people to pay you some amount of money per month for…

Yeah.

And there are all these different nearly-identical weblogs and scam pages and Exclusive Limited-Time Offers and things, and since all each one does is take money from people for enabling them to spread exactly the same scam further, you get a big rotting squelchy mess of stinking fraud and self-deception.

For instance, upon running across this awful thing on the weblog of an otherwise apparently well-meaning author who just wants to flog her self-published book on GoodReads, you have to wonder. Is she part of the scam? Or just a victim, fooled into reposting their stuff? (The two do sort of blur together of course; one of the things that makes the squelchy mess so foul.)

(I was able to find a smallish amount of actual information about the mess; see for instance Project AWOL is a scam, which leads to some other good material about the mess. And in fact even the scammer community seems to think that Project AWOL is a bit much. “Empower Network” seems to be a scam-enablement company that goes to some effort to skirt the letter of the law, and apparently they suspect that Project AWOL’s fraudulent promises of wealth might get them in trouble. It’s noteworthy the amount of frothing from perp-victims occurs in the comments on the various anti-scam posts, insisting that everyone is making tons of money and it’s not a scam at all; uh-huh.)

So that’s that. Ick!

Another scam I wandered into somewhere; the horrible and/or amusing “Power 4 Patriots” site and video, which is noteworthy mostly as an example of skillful Tea Party button pushing, where scary statements and images (Obama’s electricity monopoly!), sometimes entirely incompatible with each other, are used to try to sell plans for making your own homemade solar panels and wind turbines, which will magically protect you and your family against all possible disasters. It’s easy to just laugh at this, it’s so obviously pathetic, but we are not the target audience; this stuff is designed to appeal to people of limited reasoning and analytical skills, and often limited money, in order to scam them out of some of that money in exchange for stuff that will most likely help them not at all.

And that’s evil.

What else? There’s basically the entire Republican party and most of the Democratic party, of course, but that’s old news, and kind of generic. Let’s pick specifically on the reprehensible Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), who used a hearing to scold some nuns for not doing enough for the poor, and expecting the government to do anything at all. Words fail.

(And I admit I am rather a fan of Wonkette also, monetized and snarky as she/they/it is…)

So as not to end on just all these notes of negativity, we will point out in closing that while the Daily Mail is of course reprehensible in most aspects, Amanda (Fucking) Palmer totally rocks. :)

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2012/10/16

North American Power Scams

Have you lowered your electric rate yet?

We’ve gotten a couple or three of these nice shiny fliers in the mail, by themselves or as magazine inserts or whatever.

They’re nicely designed, with a decently-balanced set of sans-serif fonts, a sort of green abstract flower logo and “Power for change” tagline. My brain ran some sort of until-recently-subconscious algorithm, thinking “well, this seems to be targeted at somewhat progressive folks, progressives tend to be intelligent, so if they’re targeting intelligent people it’s less likely to be a scam”. (Not an entirely terrible algorithm, although extremely heuristic.)

What they are offering is a lower rate on the same electricity delivered through the same power lines, billed on the same bill etc. Pay less money for exactly the same thing; sounds like a good deal! There’s a big box, very well highlighted by color and shape, saying “conEdison 6.79¢” and “North American Power (flower logo) 4.99¢”. So that’s almost a couple of cents per kilowatt-hour, can’t be bad!

I’d been ignoring these but not throwing them away either, on the theory that it’s good to save money. Before calling the Toll Free Number I sat down and looked around the Interwebs, just y’know in case.

There wasn’t an awful lot of obviously-relevant stuff, but there were a few good ones. One comparison of alternative electricity suppliers (which I now can’t find again) gave the rate for North American Power as “(teaser rate, read the fine print)”. Another said in passing to remember that the introductory rate is for the first month “or less”, and that after that the rate is variable, and can become anything at all.

(Also, somewhat worryingly, there were quite a few hits comparing North American Power to various (other?) dodgy-sounding Multi-Level Marketing schemes, with lots of red-flag discussion about “lead generation” and “uplines” and “downlines” and things; which is sort of like doing a web search on a potential babysitter and getting lots of hits on cockfighting sites.)

So anyway, that seemed like a good point; the fine print (very very tiny fine print) on the fliers does refer in passing to “one month introductory price”. I looked around the official web site, but couldn’t find anything about the non-introductory price. So I actually called the 800 number and asked.

The nice lady said that they don’t have any graphs of actual prices over time (a bit odd), but that the current non-introductory price is 6.99¢.

That is, 0.20¢ higher than the conEdison price featured on the flyer.

So maybe not such a good idea after all? As the flier says, “[p]aying even a fraction more for the energy you use every second of the day is paying too much.”

If something looks too good to be true… :)

2012/10/02

Trolling for the gullible

Two notable one-liner 419 emails that I couldn’t resist posting:

THERE’S RUMORS AGAINST YOU THAT YOU DEAD AND SOMEONE CAME BANK TO CLAIM YOUR FUND US$30M SENT TO YOUR RELATIVES AND FRIENDS,RESEND ALL YOUR INFORMATION.

and

WHILE PEOPLE GIVE FAKE RUMORS AGAINST PEOPLE THAT YOU ARE DEAD AND YOUR BROTHER, SISTER,RELATIVES FRIEND FUND CAME TO CLAIM YOUR FUND US$30M.I AM VERY SURPRISE

I wonder if they have a little Perl script or something that generates these, or if they’re manually crafted?

(And, does everyone else tend to end “I wonder” sentences with question marks, even though they are grammatically-speaking not questions?)

An interesting paper (widely weblogged, so you’ve probably already seen it) on the general subject of why these things tend to be so hysterically dumb: Why Do Nigerian Scammers Say They are From Nigeria?, from Microsoft Research.

A pullquote:

By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.

Of course there is a certain distribution of obvious dumbness in these things, and some are considerably more coherent. (Got one recently that was a long and almost properly-spelled letter claiming to be from the FBI, telling me to stop communicating with those nasty 419 scammers, and instead work with them at the FBI to get the millions of dollars that is really coming to me.)

But the mean of the distribution seems pretty low lately; a sad comment on something or other…

2011/10/10

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why do we have “foodstuffs”, but no other stuffs? What about “clothingstuffs”? Or “drinkstuffs”? “sexstuffs, drugstuffs, rockandrollstuffs!”

It’s an odd world.

The Ghost of Dibble Hollow

So driving the little boy home from orchestra, we heard something on WNYC about Christopher Columbus, and that reminded me of how in at least some movie version of Little Women or something the protagonist would exclaim “Christopher Columbus!”, and that on the old (old!) Superman teevee show Perry White would exclaim “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” (which in at least one episode caused that ghost, or someone pretending to be him, to appear), and that in some book that I read as a child there was a ghost (coincidence, that) who would exclaim “Crimenentlies!” or something by way of a satisfying exclamation that would not get them in trouble with the grownups.

I told the little boy that I suspected the book was “The Ghost of Dibble Hollow”, and I wondered if that book was on the web. It is, in fact it is more or less all over the place, including many copies of the same cover that my edition had.

And for that matter there is even one person mentioning it for exactly the same reason I am here, albeit with the exclamation spelt slightly differently.

That was a good book. I haven’t read any kid books recently; I really should. Doesn’t take long, and is good for the soul. Maybe I’ll reread A Wrinkle in Time or somefing.

The kind of libertarian I still am

So reading Griftopia has, at least for the moment, substantially changed the sort of libertarian I am. The change centers around an observation something like “small government would be great, if we had only small crimes”.

The thoroughgoing libertarian will probably respond to this by saying that the only reason we have big crimes now is precisely that we have big government, but that does not seem very likely to me. Certainly the massive fraud perpetrated by Goldman-Sachs and friends in recent years did exploit the government in lots of ways, but it also exploited investors big and small, and various other parts of the private sector. I see no reason to think that if the government was small, there would not be other things (large popular investment firms, pension plans, leading banks) that would be large, and these (and large numbers of private persons) could easily be defrauded of enough money that the fraudsters would be rich enough to buy off the government and prevent their own prosecution.

So, sadly, I think we need a relatively large and expensive government, if only to keep an eye on the inevitable large and wealthy potential criminal organizations. (Not to mention defending the borders.) Of course it’s still a hard fight to keep it from getting corrupted, too! But at least it seems like there’s a fighting chance.

Tweeting Twits

My Second Life self has a Twitter account, which started out being all Second Life type twitterings, but recently has started to be about more and more political stuff, as I observe with benign interest the Occupy Wall Street folks and etc, and get into the occasional squabble with some right-wing type, one or two of which I follow (“follow”) out of general interest.

Had a bit of a frank exchange of views with one Joe Brooks, who seems to be sort of a halfway sensible conservative, at least sometimes. He is quite anti-Occupy, and more pro-TeaParty, whereas I am rather the opposite. He thinks Occupy Wall Street and so on were started by and are controlled by Communists and Labor Unions and things, whereas I think the Tea Party was started by and is controlled by the Koch Brothers, their (shudder) Americans for Prosperity, and the Republican machine in general.

My impression of the Tea Party is that they took some “stop giving money to rich people!” sentiment around the time of the TARP bailouts, added some “Lower my taxes!” to obtain a general “The Government should tax and spend less!” which could then easily be bent into “Less government regulation!”, which is of course exactly what the rich people want, so that they can continue to become richer, some of them by more or less blatantly illegal and/or immoral means. Quite an ironic circularity there.

I can well imagine someone co-opting the Occupy Wall Street folks’s “stop financial industry fraud!” into “more regulation of Wall Street” and then “more regulation of business” and then “more government power”, which tends to become “more power to the already powerful!”, which is again what various of the bad guys want.

So one has to be careful. But in the case of Occupy, I don’t think that’s happened (yet?).

Here is a very excellent open letter and warning from a former tea party movement adherent to the Occupy Wall Street movement all about co-optation and stuff. Everyone should read it.

The kind of Obama fan I (still) am(n’t)

So I am really not hardly at all happy with Our President.

I mean, WTF.

Got rid of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell; that’s good. But…

He’s surrounded by the same Goldman-Sachs crowd that destroyed the economy for their own personal gain, and they are as far as I can tell now working to make sure that they and their cronies still in the private sector can do it again next time they want another few billion dollars in the kitty.

He’s not turned off the absurd waste of Federal money on the stupid and immoral practice of prosecuting and persecuting medical marijuana providers who are doing things that are completely legal under their state laws. He promised he would do this, and he very simply isn’t.

He’s kept us in stupid wars, expanded those wars, and gotten us into new ones. He pretty much promised that he would do this, too, but I think most of us assumed he was just saying that to get votes. That’ll teach us to hope that someone is being a hypocrite!

(In, ironically enough, his Peace Prize speech, he basically announces that America will wage war not just to defend itself and its allies, but to make sure that every nation in the world respects “the inherent rights and dignity of every individual”. I mean, excuse me? Not with my children, you don’t!)

He has claimed the amazing ability to execute American citizens without trial, on the unilateral say-so of the President. I mean, what the F’ing F? This is completely hideous, unconstitutional, unAmerican, nasty, dangerous, and wrong. We were horrified when Dubya merely claimed the ability to imprison (“detain”) citizens without due process. How can we be calm when Obama claims the ability to kill us?

Anyone who is thinking, well, this was a special case, and it was Obama after all, please consider:

2014, President Romney dies from a bad batch of Botox, and Vice-President Bachmann gets the top spot. Shortly afterward she has a vivid dream in which God tells her that America is at war with atheism.

Two weeks later simultaneous drone strokes take out the national headquarters of American Atheists and the Ethical Culture Society, as well as Richard Dawkins, in the U.S. on a speaking tour. Casualties are in the hundreds.

The Bachmann administration claims that it was a legal national security action, and cites the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki as precedent.

Couldn’t happen? Well, if the Obama administration’s assassination of al-Awlaki was legal, you will have to explain to me why the hell not.

This is why we have warrants, judges, checks and balances, separation of powers.

Phht.

So the President seems to be a not particularly Progressive statist with ambitions of American expansionism. The potential Republican nominees are all either insane, lying hypocrites, or both. I am not overjoyed!

But this, too, shall pass.

In other news

Here is a Stanford (related) AI class that anyone in the world can take and apparently some hundreds of thousands of people intend to. I understand their servers are needing some upgrading. :)

And today’s candidate for Shortest 419 Letter, presented in its entirely:

Be my partner in this huge $17.3M deal.

Enticing, eh?

The evils of convenience

I am pretty fond of this here WordPress theme. On the other hand I am not fond of the right-justification (nearly always a bad idea on computers except in the most thoroughly-typeset documents), nor of the egregious grey lines around all my images. Guess that is the price I pay for not having to hand-code and SCP-upload all these here words!

Hm.