Archive for the ‘Scams’ Category

Service of the Art of People Thinking They Can Get Away with Things

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

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I feel wonder when I read about a long-time super scammer and all the people bamboozled and harmed. And then there are those who think that they can whitewash dirty deeds with good ones. They’ve all been at work for centuries. How is it that each thinks they’ll be the ones to get away with their dastardly deeds?

Artful Theft
The incidence that triggered half this post involved a Canadian dealer who collected art on consignment or to appraise and instead of returning pictures or giving the original owner the sales proceeds he kept the money or a thousand works to the tune of tens of $millions, according to Jo Lawson-Tancred on artnet.com.

Police haven’t identified the thief, though he has been arrested and released. Lawson-Tancred postulates his name and his gallery based on other news sources.


Image by Kai Pilger from Pixabay

What a Pill
The Sackler family, whose marketing methods to promote painkiller Oxycontin for Purdue Pharma helped addict millions while making bucket loads of money, had for decades burnished the family name by supporting cultural institutions and initiatives here and abroad. Artist Nan Goldin, who once suffered from opioid addiction, founded an advocacy organization, Sackler P.A.I.N., to pressure museums to cut ties with them. As a result a few more have just erased the Sackler name from walls and websites according to Sarah Cascone, also with artnet.com.

She reported that although it took a while, The Guggenheim in NYC has finally removed Sackler from its Center for Arts Education and in London, the National Gallery made a similar move. About its Room 34 she wrote: “The name had been in place since 1993, when Mortimer and Theresa Sackler funded the renovation of the room, rehanging works by British masters in a space once dedicated to 18th-century Italian paintings, according to the London Times.”

Cascone further reported: “The latest draft of the bankruptcy settlement will allow institutions in the U.S. to remove the family name without penalty.” Yet there are a few dragging their feet. The Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics and Sackler Educational Laboratory remain in place at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A in London, “has been outspoken in his continued support of the family,” and its name remains on the Sackler Courtyard.

Artist Goldin told Cascone: “We hope that billionaires who shower institutions with their blood money watch the Sacklers’ cultural reckoning and take note that they can be next.”

Is the art world more vulnerable to scams than other industries? Have you heard about any skillful scammers of major proportions of late? Do you agree that the Sackler name and reminders of the family’s generosity from money made off opioid addiction should be removed from the museums it has supported?

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Service of a Fresh Crop of Spam & Cyber Threats

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

It’s spring and with it comes a fresh crop of SPAM texts and emails–some annuals, others perennials–most of which contain links to potential cyber threats, bank and credit card invasions. We’ve come a long way from the days of “your friend has been robbed during a trip to Europe and has no money so please send some ASAP.”

So to begin: Did you know that my account was closed? What account, you ask? Good question. The email doesn’t say.

Citi wannabes text me frequently telling me that they’d limited my account due to “unusual activity.” That would be troubling except I don’t maintain an account at that bank, the action as described makes little sense and the sender is clearly a hoax [photo above].

I’m regularly asked to review my resume which I’d not sent anyone to edit.

A subject line in a recurring email is in response to my job application. Since I opened my agency 26 years ago I’ve not applied for a job. But so many have so what a nasty trick to get some to open an email.

Friends report getting the same announcement from the Geek Squad thanking for renewing a contract with them and saying they’ve charged my bank account $347. I get this periodically. Even though I count on a miracle-working IT man to sort out my computer woes, the first time I saw it I checked to confirm that my bank account was intact.

A relatively new unsolicited email sends me my payroll review. I’ve never subscribed to such a service so that’s another easy one to skip, [photo below].

Have you noticed an uptick in attempts to trip you up, pry into your private information or seen any new and clever scams?

Service of Internet Shopping 2021 Style

Monday, September 13th, 2021


Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Because most of my favorite haunts are out of business or their Manhattan branches don’t measure up to the quality I was used to in their upstate stores, much of my shopping has moved online.

Here are a few things that e-commerce vendors might easily change and should consider doing.

Don’t ask stupid questions

I didn’t want to lug home a large package of paper towels so I bought one online. Next I was asked to review my recent purchase. Paper towels? Really?

Know when to stop knocking on my door

A woman’s clothing store sends daily emails about intros or discounts, sometimes multiple times a day. At end-of-season sales time they up their emails. Eventually, the prices were so favorable and thinking ahead to next summer I bit, ordering a few gifts too. The next day they sent an email saying that one of the items is no longer available as there were too many orders for it. Note: They clearly show you which sizes are in stock when you make your selections.

OK, those are the breaks. However, two weeks later I get one of the remaining three items ordered with an invoice that indicates that two were oversold so you won’t get them. I was irritated as I might have found similar on sale elsewhere and wonder why the inventory department can’t communicate more efficiently with the website but worse, I’m still getting notices about that sale.

Get rid of the crooks

And what did I see again on Facebook? The sponsored rip-off promo that I fell for early in summer and I wrote about in “Service of Always Buy from a Website Not a Social Media Advert Link.” The first comment was written by someone who declared it a scam. I may have gotten off easy from the looks of it. But Facebook should remove creeps like this from its site so as not to entrap other suckers.

When a mistake causes customers too much work

I ordered one item from a topnotch vendor but never got a confirmation email for the online purchase. Thinking I had again ordered from a fake site I called. There was no record of my purchase so I bought one from the customer service rep. Next I checked my credit card and there were two entries for the item so I called again and got the same customer service rep who promised to cancel one order. But I received two of the same item in separate packages. I called and was promised not to be charged for returning the duplicate as it was their mistake. I’m sure I’ll eventually be credited for the full amount but I wasted a lot of time turning things right.

I appreciate the convenience of ordering things at any time of day or night but miss walking into a store, choosing just what I want and walking out with it. I suspect under-staffing is the cause of most of the problems I’ve encountered.

Have your internet purchases been seamless? Are there some irritations that could easily be remedied?



Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Service of Who Are You Fooling?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021



Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Astonishing how some are willing to harm themselves, and others in some cases, believing harum-scarum theories over science or thinking they are clever to cut a crucial corner and cheat at their own and others’ peril.

Don’t Horse Around

A Facebook posting this week made me laugh: “Anti-vaxxers who ingest horse dewormer Ivermectin shall hereby be referred to as neighsayers.”

But it’s not funny especially because politicians have given the dewormer credibility as a potential cure for Covid-19 in spite of FDA warnings. According to Dominick Mastrangelo on thehill.com: “Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested researchers are not pursuing ivermectin as a possible COVID-19 treatment because of their disdain for former President Trump.” Reminder: Sen. Paul is a physician who should know that when it is prescribed for humans, it’s often in a head lice lotion.

Steve Benen wrote on msnbc.com: “Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas also pushed ivermectin at an event late last week.” He quoted a CDC health advisory: “Clinical effects of ivermectin overdose include gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Overdoses are associated with hypotension and neurologic effects such as decreased consciousness, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, coma and death.”

Wrote Mastrangelo: “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Americans last week not to take ivermectin….. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,’ the FDA said in a widely shared tweet.”

Dangerous Fake ID
What about the essential workers who populate hospitals, nursing homes and schools who endangered those they are entrusted to care for as well as themselves? They–some 250 in all–paid $200 to Jasmine Clifford for fake Covid-19 vaccine documents. Molly Crane-Newman wrote about this bunch in The Daily News in “13 charged with paying ‘AntiVaxMomma’ for fake documents to avoid free vaccine, say Manhattan prosecutors.” The “AntiVaxMomma is Clifford’s Instagram pseudonym.  She promoted her scam on this social media platform.

For $250 more, reported Crane-Newman,  a collaborator who worked at a medical clinic entered false proofs-of-vaccine into New York State’s official Excelsior Pass database system, the smartphone passport to enter New York restaurants, sporting events, gyms and the like. They found 10 of these.  

“The DA charged the 13 essential workers with felony criminal possession of a forged instrument and conspiracy, a misdemeanor,” she wrote. “Prosecutors also accused one of the 13 with offering a false instrument for filing, for paying the extra $250 to be entered in the Excelsior Pass database.”

Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Jr said “We need companies like Facebook to take action to prevent the fraud happening on their platforms. Making, selling and purchasing forged vaccination cards are serious crimes with serious public safety consequences. This investigation is ongoing.”

What makes people believe in untested ivermectin and not the Covid-19 vaccine vetted by scientists and taken safely by millions?

What twisted minds think they are getting away with anything by cheating about having taken a life-saving vaccine? More important, have they harmed their charges?




Image by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay

Service of Always Buy from a Website Not a Social Media Advert Link

Thursday, August 12th, 2021



Image by Julien Tromeur from Pixabay

The kind of experiences I’m about to describe can’t be good for social media platform ad sales because it’s hard to tell the difference between the real ones and the scams. And if the brand is new to you, best check it out before buying so much as a toothpick.

I just found out that an order I’d placed with a reputable brand posting an ad on Facebook went, instead, to a thief as did my money. I was fooled by how the posting, models and clothes resembled the real thing and I didn’t take the step of getting off social media and on the Internet to find the website and order there. Credit card company notified–check–card cancelled–check–and lesson learned. I’ll never again attempt to buy anything from a commercial enterprise from a link on Facebook,  Instagram, Twitter or elsewhere.

At about the same time I checked out a product that interested me but did some research first. I found a Facebook entry from a burned customer which generated similar comments from countless others.

The man ordered fly strips for $21. He got a call from a woman saying the order didn’t go through asking again for his credit card number. She was aggressive in trying to sell him $79 worth of product and tossing all sorts of discounts at him.  He told her to cancel the entire order–he didn’t want anything.  By the next morning his PayPal account was nevertheless charged $101 and she’d put him on a recurring order plan.



Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Others responding to his comment warned that they never received anything from the company after months. One spent $300.

The PayPal rep told the writer to never give your phone number when placing an online order because it is usually linked to your bank account. I don’t know about that but I do know his first mistake was doing what I did: He bought product from a Facebook posting and in his case from an unknown vendor.

I am irritated at myself–as I am usually so careful–and hope that my bank catches the scoundrels. No wonder banks charge so much interest for their credit cards. It must cost a fortune to cover the money returned to their clients in the many instances they don’t catch and receive compensation from the culprits.

As I was about to publish this a young medical tech assistant told me his Apple pay digital wallet account was charged $8,000. He’d not spent a penny. Predators are out to get even the most savvy and wary.

Can you tell if a sponsored posting on a social media platform is real and/or if the company posting is reputable?


Image by TheDigitalWay from Pixabay
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E-Commerce | E-tailing | Scams | Social Media | Theft

Service of Discounts III

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

Photo: hisugarplum.com

It’s just been two months since I wrote about discounts from legitimate businesses that edged towards scam. I recently came across two instances involving price cuts that I thought illustrated clumsy marketing or poor communications more than attempts at fleecing.

Don’t misread the customer’s willingness to overpay for postage

Photo: shop.nypl.org

The NY Public Library gift store promoted a discounted price if you bought two tote bags. The sayings printed on a few were perfect for friends. In the last window of the ordering process they charged me $8.95 for postage/handling. There was no curbside pickup option. The feather-light textiles could be stuffed into poly mailers in seconds, no other packing necessary.

In addition, during the ordering process, I gave them my email address and mobile number to enrich their database so they could send me store updates. For this I was to get a 10% discount [which would have covered the tax]. The 10 percent code was refused. The bounce back message said I had already received a discount and was ineligible for a second.

That did it. I cancelled the order. With the extra $12 the new total came to more than I wanted to pay for tote bags.

The retail department at the library may need to rethink its strategy. Overcharging on postage is not a good way to make more money if it causes you to lose sales. Offering a discount without a warning that it might not apply does not inspire customer confidence. The operation is sophisticated enough that twice I was reminded I hadn’t completed my order. [Missing was my credit card information.]

Greetings from dotted i’s and crossed t’s

Photo: heb.com

In a second instance a text from a favorite greeting card company announced a sale: $3 instead of $4.50/card. When I linked from the text in my phone all the prices were $4.50. I thought maybe there were only a few of the cards on sale and tried to find them. No-go.

I sent an email to customer service. I learned 1) the discount would appear during checkout and 2) all cards were subject to the discount. There was no mention of either in the text or on the individual online sale sheets. After I heard from customer service I placed an order from my laptop. There, on the home page, was a notice that the sale price would appear at checkout.

Just a few more words of clarification in the text would have solved misunderstandings and confusion and saved time. I wonder if the company lost sales from others who didn’t take time to clarify the sales information.

Have you been misled or confused by online or traditional purchases involving sales? Have you cancelled an order because of exorbitant postage/handling charges?

Photo: id.pinterest.com

Service of Swindlers You Invite Into Your Life

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Photo: finncialtribune.com

I’ve frequently covered scams that bombard us all. Just called DHL to report an email scam. Customer service confirmed that it was and that the company never sends attachments in emails. Good to know.

I keep getting an email supposedly from USAA in collaboration with the credit reporting service Experian telling me to click for a report. The USAA logo was out of register–a tip. Friends have turned off their phones they are so tired of robo calls that are up to no good. Fake Con Edison and Nielson have a crush on my home phone.

More chilling are the scams we reach out to. I’m so paranoid that I’m hesitant to download an online calendar. Once viruses galore infected my computer when I downloaded a faux AVG program–ironic as the real AVG attacks viruses!

Yuka Hayashi wrote “Scammers Find More Opportunities on Internet Marketplaces–Craigslist, eBay and social-media platforms are more lucrative than robocalls for fraudsters, study finds.”

Photo: bbb.org

According to Hayashi: “The study, conducted jointly by the consumer-education arms of Better Business Bureau and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority along with the Stanford Center on Longevity, was based on interviews of 1,408 consumers in 2018 who filed a fraud tip or report to the BBB between 2015 and 2018.” She reported: “Consumers filed 372,000 fraud complaints to the Federal Trade Commission reporting a total loss of $1.5 billion in 2018, with the number of complaints up 34% from 2017, according to tallies by the report’s authors.”

In addition, “On social media, 91% of the respondents said they initially failed to recognize fraudulent advertisements as scams and proceeded to engage, and 53% eventually lost money. On websites, 81% of respondents engaged and 50% lost money.”

Most are “online purchase” scams, Hayashi reported from Craigslist or eBay. Sellers get fake checks and then the scammer asks for a refund of an overpayment or the con either never sends goods or produces products of poor quality.

“Nearly half, or 47%, of the people who reported encountering online purchase scams lost money, compared with other prevalent types of schemes like “tech support” scams, where 32% reported losing money, and sweepstakes/lottery scams, where 15% became victims.”

Tahoe 2150 Deck Boat. Photo: pinterest.com

One woman in the article lost $16,400 for a Tahoe deck boat that never came. She should have been suspicious, she told Hayashi, because she ignored the signs. While the consignment website she found through Craigslist was sophisticated, “a wire transfer that initially failed to go through and the lack of listing on yelp” were clear warnings. The website no longer exists.

We knew it wouldn’t be long before crooks invaded these businesses. The sites become so big policing them is impossible. Ebay claims it does. Craigslist didn’t respond to Hayashi.

When you identify a swindle, do you report it to the company or to the Better Business Bureau? Have you fallen for one you reached out to or clicked on? Have you thought twice recently before buying anything on sites such as Craigslist and eBay? Do you think it will eventually impact this way of doing business to benefit traditional retail and offline sales vehicles?

Photo: iconfinder.com

 

 

Service of When Should an Organization Give Back Tainted Money?

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Photo: moneymastery.com

By now most have heard about the wealthy parents who in all spent $25 million to ensure their offspring were accepted to US colleges. Some faked athletic expertise and others had someone fiddle with their kids’ SAT and ACT scores. William “Rick” Singer was the mastermind/broker who hid behind his Key Worldwide Foundation.

Coaches who played ball gave some of the money to their athletic departments according to Louise Radnofsky in her Wall Street Journal article, “Many Colleges That Got Money Tainted by Admissions Scandal Still Have It –Unlike political campaigns which routinely return controversial donations, colleges are holding funds.”

Photo: web.stanford.edu

According to Radnofsky there are no rules that cover colleges under these circumstances. A former education policy aide to the Democratic party said while he’d wished that low-income students had been given the money, he thought that the decision of what to do was up to prosecutors and courts–not the schools. Most–not all–of Radnofsky’s examples show that schools made that decision.

“Stanford University, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University were directly identified by federal prosecutors as recipients of payments made by Mr. Singer or his clients, sometimes through his charity in connection with specific admissions,” she wrote.

Wake Forest University. Photo: wfu.edu

Radnofsky added that Stanford is in touch with the California attorney general to pass on the approximately $770,000 that Singer directed to the sailing program. The sailing coach pleaded guilty to accepting the money.

“USC said that ‘because of the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation, we are unable to discuss details related to it.'” The university may have received as much as $1.3 million, and its water-polo program was enriched with $250,000 more.

University of Texas received money in 2015 which it used to renovate its tennis facilities.

Wake Forest redirected $50,000 to its Magnolia Scholars program for first-generation college students. Its volleyball program was the original recipient of most.

Chapman University [$400,000] is waiting on the California attorney general to approve its donation to organizations “focused on helping at-risk youth and low-income students gain access to higher education.”

DePaul University, where Singer’s son graduated, is not returning its $150,000.

Two colleges– Georgetown and the University of Miami–identified as involved from public tax records said they found no link to Singer for any donations. NYU’s athletics law firm is still reviewing the circumstances around $338,379 donations. “Representatives for Baruch College, listed as a recipient of $50,000 in 2015, didn’t respond to emails and telephone inquiries about the money.”

Should colleges donate their ill gotten gains to student-focused charities? Should they keep the money?

Photo: depaulbluedemons.com

Service of a Cheating Heart: Match in Dutch with the FTC

Monday, September 30th, 2019

Photo: quora.com

I had a crush on a boy in 11th grade. One of the girls I thought was a friend told me he’d asked about me when it turned out she’d made it up. I never trusted her after that [and clearly I never forgot]. The takeaway: Don’t fool around in matters of the heart if you want to keep a friend.

Match.com executives, adults I assume, never learned that lesson if the Federal Trade Commission [FTC] is on to something.

Photo: medium.com

Dave Sebastian wrote “FTC Sues Match for Allegedly Tricking Users With Fake Ads– Online-dating platform allegedly offered certain guarantees but failed to provide promised services” in The Wall Street Journal.

The most damming allegation in the article was far worse than scamming people to join up and not giving them an easy way out. Match.com dangled hope to the lovelorn when there was none. “Until May 2018, Match sent emails to nonsubscribers that said someone had expressed interest in them, according to the FTC. But consumers, many of whom ended up purchasing the subscriptions, were unaware that the emails received could be from scammers, the FTC said in its complaint.”

Photo redbubble.com

And then Sebastian added: “The FTC said Match found that nearly 500,000 subscriptions were purchased within 24 hours of receiving an advertisement touting fraudulent communication between June 2016 and May 2018.”

Sebastian quoted the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Andrew Smith who told him: “We believe that Match.com conned people into paying for subscriptions via messages the company knew were from scammers. Online dating services obviously shouldn’t be using romance scammers as a way to fatten their bottom line.’ ”

Match owns Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid and other dating sites. I know people who have made magnificent matches via online dating services and am heartbroken to read that the mother company felt it had to cheat. If I’ve been to two weddings of couples who met this way and know several others with longtime relationships, didn’t a successful pioneer in this business have enough case histories to promote its services legitimately?

Have you tried an online dating service? Did it work out for you? If you never have, does knowing this make you be less likely to give it a try? Does it bother you that one of the top services cheated to get customers or is it par for the course for all businesses these days and worthy of no more than a big shrug?

Photo: familytree.com

Service of Check Washing: My Check Becomes Your Check

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

Photo: handwritingdocumentexamination.com

Hank Goldman, a loyal follower of this blog, urged me to “write about the scams and games targeted at senior citizens purporting to be get-rich-quick schemes where the victim soon winds up being poor. They are related to the oldies where a voice with a bad phone connection claims to be a grandson asking for money.”

These schemes against the vulnerable aren’t new. Long before ATM machines a great aunt was taken to the cleaners by someone who had her withdrawing big sums of money from her bank account until a suspicious teller finally called her son. I don’t remember what the swindler’s story was or where she met him—just that it happened.

The elderly aren’t the only vulnerable targets either. Scoundrels give hope to the terminally ill and those wanting to look forever young, gladly sucking their money with placebos and short-term pricey solutions some of which may do nothing and others potentially more harm than good.

Photo: 1st.postalinspectors.uspis.cov

Back to seniors as marks. Goldman zeroed in on one trick: “the literal washing of checks, in acetone–nail polish remover. The bank information remains intact while the acetone erases everything that the check writer has entered… Then the perpetrator signs the check and enters the new amount.”

Where do they find the checks? “They fish them out of mail carriers’ large plastic boxes [photo below, center] parked in luxury buildings where they easily identify the envelopes meant for doctors,” wrote Goldman. “This happened to me with a check for my dentist. The perpetrator took it when the doorman was looking away. The dentist had a few instances like this.”

Photo: cvs.com

Added Goldman. “This trick is easily done if you use a regular ballpoint pen. Instead, use a roller ball pen because that ink is less easy for swindlers to wash off.”

I’d written previously about the new mailboxes in NYC in the “Sticky Mail Boxes” section of “Service of Wacky things People Do.” The boxes no longer open wide enough to accommodate a fat 9 x 12 envelope. They are designed with thin slits in which to slide a letter or two to prevent anyone from fishing for checks.

Nothing will stop those up to no good. I wonder how postal delivery staff will protect mail theft from open containers in future. Has one of your checks been “washed” or do you bank on the Internet exclusively? Have you heard of new scams we should know about?

Photo: mercurynews.com

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