Archive for the ‘Suspicion’ Category

Service of Swindles

Monday, March 20th, 2017

This is the 12th post I’ve categorized under “scam.” Here are some more new to me.

Pay to Stay

A reader forwarded news from the,State Attorney General Warns of ICE Scam.” Zak Failla and Jon Craig wrote:On the heels of a nationwide sweep by U.S. Immigration and Customs [Enforcement] that led to the arrest of five Hudson Valley residents, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is cautioning residents to be wary of a scam involving unauthorized agents asking for money.”

In addition:According to Schneiderman, the Attorney General’s office has recently received an increased number of reported scams in recent weeks, where agents demand money in exchange for not deporting possible immigrants.

“Schneiderman noted that no actual ICE agent would ask for money or threaten detainment or deportation if they are not paid. They also do not have the authority to enter one’s home without a warrant signed by a judge.”

No Information—Hang Up Fast

The next one, a phone swindle, has been around since 2003 and news of it was last updated on in April 2015 and yet I’d not heard of it; a friend just sent it to me. The caller identifies him/herself as representing your Visa or Mastercard account’s security/fraud dept. The caller asks if you’ve recently purchased something and notes the amount and knows your credit card number.

The objective is to get you to reveal the pin number on the back of the card. The caller says, ‘I need to verify you are in possession of your card.”  He’ll ask you to “turn your card over and look for some numbers.” Do not provide them. Credit card companies wouldn’t ask you for this information.

Let’s Face It—Is it or Isn’t It?

An email recently arrived from Facebook telling me “The balance on your ad account Jeanne Byington is empty. As a result, any active ads have been turned off. Please add money to turn them on or to create new ads.” The s on Ads in the signoff was a potential tell that this wasn’t from FB: “Thanks, The Facebook Ads Team.” More important, I’ve never bought an ad on Facebook.

I got a second email from the same source a few days later. “Earlier this week, we accidentally sent you an email that said your ad account is empty. Please disregard that message, which was sent by mistake. We’re sorry for sending incorrect information, and we’ve resolved the problem that caused you to receive it.”

If someone from Facebook really sent this, they’d best get another team member to write their emails. They didn’t send me incorrect information about my “ads” account, I don’t have and never had an account. While they’re at it, if real, they should select another name for the team: Facebook Ads Team irritates me.

Have you noticed these or any new scams and swindles lately?


Service of Surveillance

Monday, June 30th, 2014

I’ve always marveled at a company with more than one branch that is able to maintain quality service. Top management can’t be everywhere and to function, some people need to be supervised.

Today there’s a solution to this challenge.

In Steve Lohr’s front page New York Times story, “Unblinking Eyes Track Employees,” surveillance technology determined that social interaction makes workers more productive. As a result one bank introduced a daily coffee break for at team of telemarketers who, in addition to working more efficiently, didn’t quit as frequently as others who weren’t giving this chance to mingle.

Sensors worn by employees who agree to be monitored can measure tone of voice, posture and body language as well as how long two employees speak.

This science can impact office design. It seems that giving office workers communal tables or lowered dividers around work spaces inspires productivity. “‘We don’t know if those tactics work,’ Mr. Koop said. ‘What we’re starting to see is the ability to quantitatively measure things instead of just going by intuition.’”  Bryan Koop is a commercial office developer whose client is one of the companies that conducts and analyzes office surveillance. [I don’t think you need digital monitors to come to this conclusion. Who but the most bold will goof off in sight of office neighbors and who wants the world to hear personal conversations?]

Digital monitoring helps management identify efficient waiters. At one chain they chose one to manage a newly opened restaurant. Wrote Lohr: “The digital sentinel……. tracked every waiter, every ticket, and every dish and drink, looking for patterns that might suggest employee theft. But that torrent of detailed information, parsed another way, cast a computer-generated spotlight on the most productive workers.”

In the restaurants where monitoring existed, weekly sales increased—almost $3,000 on average–as a result of surveillance. What a nice surprise. That happened because waiters and waitresses, knowing they were being watched, urged customers to try a dessert or have another drink. The theft that management thought they’d detect amounted to only $108/week per restaurant. There were 392 restaurants in 39 states in the study.

“The monitoring software is a product from NCR called Restaurant Guard,” Lohr wrote. “The product, introduced in 2009, exploits the rapid progress in so-called big data technology, for collecting, storing and analyzing vast amounts of data.” Several thousand restaurants use the software according to Lohr.

If your employer asked you to wear a monitoring device, would you volunteer? Do you think you would be penalized if you refused? What do you think of monitoring employees? Should the monitoring industry be regulated?

Service of What’s That Again?

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

I shake my head when I hear or read what some people say or do.

Oh Really?

I listened to an interview on Bloomberg radio where the head of a corporation reported buying 37,000 foreclosed homes which the company remodeled and is now renting. The CEO’s voice oozed pride and he concluded that he especially likes it when his company can do well by communities by providing labor and attractive, affordable housing to people who couldn’t normally live so well–all made possible by the company.

That’s what he said. Then why did I hear: “You took advantage of poor people and got their homes for a song; needed someone to fix them up so you hired workers and you’re waiting until housing prices rise before selling them at a huge profit–might as well make some money by renting them meanwhile.”

He is in business to make money and his stockholders win. I object to his putting a halo spin on the process.


After 35 years a major magazine fired its editorial staff in NYC where it has been published since its founding by a New Yorker. It is heading south. About the move the publisher said “This is a chance for our editors to live the lifestyle they promote on the page.”

Why did I hear, “We’ll be able to pay lower wages and cut our overhead?” A sound business decision in this economy no doubt, but say so. Who is he fooling?

Say What

An international discounter known for paying minimum wages launched a holiday food drive in an Ohio store asking its more fortunate workers to support others less fortunate.

Huh? Wouldn’t the store have better served its employees–and image–to give a turkey and fixings to all staffers? Then it could suggest that if some employees opted to gift the feast to a poorer family, few would object.

I wonder if some people really believe what they utter and think that they are so clever pulling the wool over our eyes? Or do they fall for what their advisors persuade them to say? Or think the public is stupid? Can you share similar examples?




Service of Scams

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

When I hear about or observe outrageous scams or ones that are easy to fall for I share so word gets out, which is an effective way to defang such swindles.

The worst of the latest crop preyed on students by offering them internships at the United Nations Centre for International Development (UNCID) in Geneva, Switzerland. The student who told me about it originally heard of the opportunity via her university’s career services department. “It was just like any other email/job posting that we receive,” she said. Others in her class also applied and a longtime professor remarked at what a superlative opportunity this was.

She was accepted by the fraudulent program and received medical record, internship allegiance and employment offer forms and documents that she was to sign and return via a special email address.

What alerted her to the fact that this otherwise legitimate sounding internship was fishy? Her sister mentioned to her that there is no organization called U.N.C.I.D, her first clue.  She then checked out the names of various people who signed or were mentioned in emails. None came up in a Google search, nor did any have LinkedIn profiles nor did they appear on the U.N. website.

In addition, the employment offer, signed by a Dr. (Mrs.) Jennifer Hudson, Intern Coordinator, noted a $4,125/month stipend. She told me, “The UN doesn’t pay its interns.” [Do real people sign their name Dr. (Mrs.)?]

When I saw the stationery used for the employment offer—she sent me all the documents–it looked clumsily handmade. The letterhead was crammed up against the UN logo, another tip of the dubious nature of this offer.

I couldn’t figure out what the scammers had to gain by receiving a batch of signed documents from students. My young friend said she read in an online forum that they would next ask her for money to cover her airline and living expenses. I shudder to think of other nefarious outcomes of young people arriving abroad, alone, in the hands of people with shady intentions.

These timely cons seamlessly intrude in ways that make perfect sense. Here are two more.

After we leased a new car I received three requests to take a survey. The first one, from General Motors, I responded to. Another came by email a month or so later and the third, supposedly from J.D. Power and Associates, through the USPS at the same time. Before doing anything I contacted Barry Lang, our General Motors salesman. [I wrote about his spectacular service a few months ago.]. He suggested I ignore both which, with the corroboration of my nephew who is in another part of the car business, I did. Neither man liked the sound of these requests. Tip: The one from J.D. Power came with a sweepstakes offer for a $100,000 prize.

Have you noticed scams like these that we should know about? Has the prevalence of such behavior changed the way you respond to opportunities and requests for information? Think that there are more cons than ever before?

Service of Dammed If You Do & If You Don’t

Thursday, July 12th, 2012


A friend, I will call her Lisa, works in a small but prominent boutique with beautiful things. She’s been in high-end retail most of her life, has owned stores and traveled abroad on buying missions for years.

boutiqueLast week a woman returned an item saying it had broken. Lisa offered immediately to exchange it for another one and was pleased to see she had one in exactly the same colors, when she noticed that the item was badly stained.  She immediately figured that the woman had broken the piece so as to wangle a new one. Lisa also knew that she couldn’t get a replacement from the manufacturer under these circumstances.

Meanwhile, the store continued to fill up with other customers.

Lisa pointed out the stain and offered to have the piece fixed explaining why she could no longer give her a new one, at which the customer began to argue loudly that the thing broke the first time she used it and that she wanted a new one because she was a good customer. [Lisa had never before seen her though clearly someone had been to the store to buy the article.]

angry-womanKnowing she was being taken, Lisa chose not to inflict a scene on the others. She also wanted to free herself to answer their questions, ring up and wrap their selections. So she gave the woman a new item to get rid of her. 

When I saw Lisa several hours afterwards, she was still annoyed that she’d done that, angry that she’d caused a loss to her employer. She felt this woman deliberately came at a busy time, knowing loud arguments aren’t conducive to business, figuring a crowd to unsettle would work in her favor.

In my opinion, the woman stole the second item from the store. Had she brought in the soiled piece and asked if the manufacturer could clean it or requested the name of a stain remover she might try on the textile, that would have been another thing.

Lisa’s boss backed her decision though several colleagues said she shouldn’t have let the woman get away with it and claimed that they wouldn’t have been so easy on this weasel.

What would you have done? Can you share other examples of no matter what, you’re wrong?


Service of Paying Attention

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

November 5th marked the third birthday of this blog. In the 312th post, it seemed fitting to recognize its life with examples of the benefits of paying attention. That’s what the blog–and what service–is all about.

On our home fax last week came a query to: “Director/Owner From: Editor/Director Office” signed “Sincerely Corporate Office Publishing Department.”

It began: “We are pleased to inform you that your business has been selected to be included in the 2011/12 edition of Who’s Who Among Executives, Professional and Entrepreneurs nationally.”

At the bottom of the page the fax asks for your name, that of your company, address, etc. and a signature. Instructions are to fax back the info.

So our business has been selected but the sender doesn’t know its or our names? Right.

Meanwhile, my husband got a call from his credit card company also last week. The rep wanted to confirm that a charge from overseas from a travel company was his. Amount: $6.37.  It wasn’t his charge so the company cancelled the card and issued him a new one. Speak about being careful and paying attention!

The rep told him that scammers start with a small charge and if it goes through, they launch a big one. A colleague pointed out how much you could bring in if you got $6 from 100,000 people–tax free, no less!

Where/how do you think the creeps got my husband’s credit card number? Friends guessed from a restaurant charge receipt. Have you examples of payoffs for paying attention?

Service of First Impressions

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

How reliable are your first impressions? Mine can be feeble. Whether good or bad, I’ve been happily or unhappily surprised by some.

When it comes to people, lively eyes are important to me and these are evident on a first meeting. I eventually admired one young assistant whose eyes were expressionless–almost dead. My first impression of him was “blah to the extreme.” He was one of the best and fastest writers I’ve worked with and funny and bright as a bonus. [Don’t worry, it’s not you-we don’t know each other anymore.]

On the other hand several smart, amusing people, [some I thought were friends], turned out to be crooked, untrustworthy, sleazoids. One was caught with his hands in the coffers of the agency we worked for.

In this economy, I fear that we must brace ourselves for more of the latter.

And it’s not only people. Well known brands sell out and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll fall for a great price for what once was a reliable brand and end up with overpriced junk. Recent toaster and electric toothbrush purchases are two examples. Either a company is cashing in on its reputation, which is usually a death knell, or it’s fooling itself that licensing a lesser quality line won’t affect its higher-priced brand. While my first impression of the item on a store shelf with moderate price tag may be “Wow!” like the men in the Staples TV commercial, if my experience is poor, I scratch the brand from my “to buy” list forever.

I tried to buy some vacuum cleaner bags on line yesterday and when I got to checkout, there was a form almost as long as a mortgage application. I clicked offline and called the toll-free number. Buying on the phone cost $2 less [on an $18 item] and the customer service person was an American who repeated all the numbers and addresses flawlessly. My impression had been that it would cost less for me to do all the work myself even though I was giving this company my email address–the passport to sending me countless emails about promotions and new products evermore. Go figure.

While I think of myself as street-smart, at times cynical [though occasionally gullible and trusting], I haven’t concocted reliable antidotes to people or companies that make their livings trying to cheat me by manipulating my first impression. Do you have any remedies or foolproof detection devices that weed them out?

Service of Being Detail-Oriented

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Between poor soil and rich wildlife, we have little luck growing things in our garden with the exception of a couple of hostas in two places. Last week, my heart sank when I noticed that instead of the gargantuan, graceful green leaves that had come back this spring on one of the plants, there were uneven, ratty, six-inch stalks.

I asked my husband if he’d noticed the devastation–from deer, given the teeth etchings on the leaves–and even though he’d walked past that area, he hadn’t.

We are not detail-oriented in the same ways and don’t observe everything equally. So what? I wondered if we’d pass the tests that I read about in The New York Times article in last Sunday’s Metropolitan section, “Do You Take This Immigrant?

Immigrants who are married to US citizens and want green cards must confirm that they are really married–that there’s no fraud involved. There is so much flimflamming these days in many quarters which is why couples must go through this exercise, even though the Times reporter, Nina Bernstein, notes that only 505 of over 240,000 petitions in the country last year were denied due to fraud.

Bernstein quotes the United States Citizen and Immigration Services district director, Andrea Quarantillo, about the system. “Is it perfect? No. It’s judgmental.” And the repercussions for failing can be dire: Some are deported.

Bernstein notes questions ranging from “where do you keep the hamper? The shoes? What color is your wife’s toothbrush?” to “What’s your wife’s favorite piece of jewelry?” I bet we’d get that one wrong because I have a few favorites. Another test is whether you have a joint bank account or joint assets. Some people don’t believe in mingling assets.

The paper offers a marriage test  you can take to see how well you know your spouse with questions typical of those asked these couples. We would definitely fail “Where did you and your spouse first meet? When was it?” We don’t agree.

One pair argued like a married couple and even though they got some answers wrong, they passed for that reason. So maybe we’d pass.

I got the feeling that in spite of the fact that those being tested had to be detail-oriented, the system has a remarkably helter-skelter aspect to it. If you don’t pass the first time, you can bring a lawyer with you for the second interview. Did your lawyer prep you with the right questions? Was one interviewer more wily and suspicious than another or did he/she ask trickier questions?

Although my taxes haven’t yet been audited by the IRS–and I just ran around the office to knock on three types of wood–from what I hear, the outcome, too, can vary according to the agent you speak with and how he/she interprets your answers and backup.

Is the implementation of this kind of government service more arbitrary than just; should the government system be as detail-oriented and consistent as the test-takers must be?

Service of Ad Hominem

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

“Joe is not a communist.”

I first heard about ad hominem as a college freshman and that was the example. At the time, being a communist was as bad as being a terrorist is today. We now speak about identity theft, which we didn’t then, but with the flick of innuendo, a reputation can be stolen even faster and more easily than an identity.

I’ve been told countless times what a softie I am, how I try to squeeze out some good reason or rationale for someone’s bad moves. And so many times I am wrong-the person I try to protect or excuse turns out to be guilty in spades.

So this post isn’t as much about innocence or guilt as it is about perception and approach and inference-and how it can destroy someone.

I’ve been bothered by the way New York Governor Patterson has been treated by the press. I have the impression that people are out to get him and will pick and scratch and search for anything they can to ruin his reputation and credibility.

Take his accepting free tickets to a baseball game. I mean really. There is a law or rule that says you can’t do that and I suppose you will find a politician somewhere who doesn’t accept so much as a stick of gum from a soul. But ruin a man’s chance of finishing his term with honor and accomplishing something in a state that sorely needs governance over a couple of tickets? Hmmmm. We’ve had leaders in our state who haven’t paid taxes on $millions and voters shrugged.

As for Patterson’s interference in a case of alleged abuse by an aide of his girlfriend, turns out the Governor spoke with her. He should not have. He broke the law. The New York Daily News reported that the girlfriend testified that their conversation didn’t influence her missing the court date resulting in the charges against her boyfriend, the Governor’s aide, being dismissed. Have you ever tried to diffuse an explosive situation between two people to help out a friend, family member or colleague?

The Governor’s communications director resigned yesterday and the implication in the news was that she was yet another rat leaving a sinking ship. When Patterson was interviewed on WOR-Radio this morning [March 18], he told John Gambling that because they are both under investigation in the same case, they are forbidden to speak with one another, which makes it impossible for her to do her job. He noted that they are personal friends.

Do details like this matter? The press and public have already decided. All these darts have been used to prove that he is unfit to govern without specifically saying so. Are they the hors d’oeuvres to something more, or is this like the preview of the scandalous story about the Governor that we heard would appear in The New York Times days before it did and when it ran, it was more about Patterson’s aide’s behavior than about him.

What he’s done shows a lack of judgment inappropriate in a leader. Putting it in perspective, we’ve been involved in wars because of deliberate misinformation and life goes on, the perpetrators of misinformation have finished off their terms.

Comparing Patterson’s “sins” with those of politicians involved with drugs and worse, and who come back like face wrinkles a few months after injections of botox, is a head scratcher.

Is he being indicted for inadvertently leaping to the top of a leadership heap without paying his political dues and then not doing what his party orders him to do?

Am I being naïve or too easy on the Governor? Do you know of instances where colleagues, friends or public figures have been painted with negative ink or gossip that takes years, if ever, to wear off?

Service of Excuses

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Who hasn’t made a mistake? But sometimes, oversights and errors are deliberate.

Thanks to computers and people with lots of time on their hands, fists in the cookie jar, especially those belonging to high profile people or those who are blatantly greedy about the cookies they sneak, are outed.

Their transgressions are obvious. Their excuses are pitiable.

Take the spate of plagiarists in the news of late. Zachery Kouwe formerly of The New York Times–he wrote for the DealBook blog–lifted copy from The Wall Street Journal that covered a tangent of the Bernie Madoff story [of all topics…!]. According to John Koblin, writing in the New York Observer,  on learning of this, Kouwe’s bosses found six additional instances from the Journal and Reuters.

Koblin quoted Kouwe:

“‘I was as surprised as anyone that this was occurring,’ said Mr. Kouwe, referring to the revelation that he had plagiarized. ‘I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff. As soon as I saw, I guess, like six examples, I said to myself, ‘Man what an idiot. What I was thinking?'”

Koblin quoting Kouwe again:

“In the essence of speed, I’ll look at various wire services and throw it into our back-end publishing system, which is WordPress, and then I’ll go and report it out and make sure all the facts are correct. It’s not like an investigative piece. It’s usually something that comes off a press release, an earnings report, it’s court documents.

“‘I’ll go back and rewrite everything,’  he continued. ‘I was stupid and careless and fucked up and thought it was my own stuff, or it somehow slipped in there. I think that’s what probably happened.'”

Writing for Salon, Laura Miller addressed the 17 year old German author of “Axolotl Roadkill,” Helene Hegemann. Miller wrote: “Hegemann lifted as much as a full page of text from an obscure, independently published novel, “Strobo,” by a blogger known as Airen.”

Miller again: “Count me among those who think that most plagiarism scandals are overblown.” But she didn’t include Hegemann among “most” plagiarists. Miller continued: “The daughter of an avant-garde dramatist, she says she practices ‘intertextuality’ and explains, ‘Very many artists use this technique … by organically including parts in my text, I am entering into a dialogue with the author.'”

Miller goes on… “If Hegemann intended to enter into a dialogue with Airen, she took pains to make it look like a monologue. If she viewed the writing itself as collaborative, she suppressed any urge to share those handsome royalty checks.’ Hegemann is up for a German book award, by the way.

And then there’s Gerald Posner, who borrowed words from the Miami Herald for an article in The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast‘s chief investigative reporter’s excuse was perhaps the nerviest of all. Quoted in Newsweek:  “‘The core of my problem was in shifting from that of a book writer-with two years or more on a project-to what I describe as the ‘warp speed of the net,’ Posner wrote, noting that since June 1, he had published 72 articles with ‘intensive reporting.'”

Plagiarism hits a nerve with me but there are all sorts of people lining up with excuses for wrongdoing from Barry Bonds, who didn’t know there were steroids in the cream he used, to Tiger’s sex addiction which he hopes takes him off the hook for his actions.  What wrongdoings bug you the most or what excuses are most memorable?

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