Service of Fakes

February 18th, 2016

Categories: Fake, Food, Scams

While art might come to mind first on the subject of fakes, [I covered that angle on Monday], there’s plenty going around that’s unrelated to pictures. Here I describe a telephone wolf in sheep’s clothing who is prowling the phone lines of Dutchess County, NY and a legitimate business that boasts a healthy, suitably ecological–if ersatz–meal in a bottle.


I was alarmed last Friday night by a message left on our home phone that went something like this: “I am Denis Grey calling about an enforcement action executed by the US Treasury. You should cooperate with us to help us to help you or this would be considered an intentional attempt to avoid appearing before a magistrate of court or a grand jury for a federal criminal offense.”  Denis gave a phone number to call. He never said my name.  

My husband wasn’t disturbed—he said we’re up to date on our taxes for one thing and that the IRS would write before calling in any case. I felt antsy until I checked out the number online and saw that others had also heard from “Denis,” confirming this IRS scam.

I mentioned the Denis message to the attendant at my dry cleaner and she’d received the same as had the next two customers, one of whom had seen it covered on TV news. Pretty sure that anyone foolish enough to return the call would be asked to confirm their social security number or to provide other personal information.

A few days later I got a text marked urgent supposedly from Chase Bank telling me to call a number with 860 area code immediately. There were a string of others online who had also received the text, some from faux Chase, others Bank of America. One person reported that his text noted that his credit card was deactivated and in order to re-activate it he was prompted to enter his 16-digit card number. Sure. Right away.

Taste Sensation-less

Wall Street Journal columnist Christopher Mins wrote “The End of Food Has Arrived, Finally.” He welcomes a quick and easy way to eat healthy, cheap food [$2.50/bottle] on the run with a bottle of Soylent. He wrote that the company claims that its 400 calories from the plant sources of protein, carbs and fats, contains a quarter of daily nutrients.

The taste of Soylent today is “much evolved from its nearly unpalatable first version,” in Mins’ opinion. Not a novel concept, he lists predecessor meal replacement products such as the wine, bacon and twice-baked bucellatum biscuits ancient Roman soldiers carried to the portable soup Lewis and Clark lugged cross country. He qualifies the drink as “the most recent and highly evolved version of the convenience foods without few of us could function.”

Mins reminds the reader that food is “a deeply personal, cultural and even political phenomenon, which is one reason Soylent touches a nerve. But it’s precisely the time in which we find ourselves—when our humble daily bread pales in comparison to the meals we see on social media, and our health and environmental consciousness becomes more acute than ever—that a generic and convenient food replacement like Soylent starts to make sense.”

Have you ever been alarmed or duped by a scam artist on the phone, by email or text?

Have you tasted Soylent in its first and/or current iterations? Do you seek out less tech-y yet healthy substitutes for a quick meal—like drinkable yogurt–when you are on the run? To ensure that there’s enough food to go ’round, should we force ourselves to opt for foods like Soylent?


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13 Responses to “Service of Fakes”

  1. hb Said:

    I strongly recommend that you see Edward G. Robinson’s last movie, “Soylent Green,” before consuming any product of any sort with that word in the name.

    It is also a good film to see if you care to know what our politicians really should be talking about instead of spending all their time hurling excrement at one another.

    I hope I made you at least curious enough to Google “Soylent Green.”

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I looked up “Soylent Green.” I wonder if it’s been on Turner Classic Movies? I saw a trailer –. Looks like a violent movie, not my favorite, but now I’m curious.

    As for your comments about our politicians, don’t get me started. They can’t discuss important issues because the public might be bored and turn to another reality show.

  3. CG Said:

    Jeanne, I received the same call, purportedly from the U.S. Treasury. During the months prior to that I received two other bogus calls claiming taxes were owed. It breaks my heart to think of how many elderly, non-cynical and non-skeptical people have fallen for this scam.

  4. Hank Goldman Said:

    Is there really a food out now called soy lent? Several decades ago there was a Charlton Heston movie, think it was called soy lent Green? In the film the future population was fed with soylent green. If you don’t know the punch line, I won’t spoil it for you. No pun intended.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It must be very effective and terrible for those who fall for it–mostly people without access to the Internet or who are all alone without a friend or relative to set them straight. I was suspicious because Denis didn’t ask to confirm that he had reached us by name. But there are so many glitches that can happen these days now that we send in our taxes by email–one missed digit etc.–I was nevertheless concerned.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Funny that you and hb made the same connection! I’m lost about the punch line.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Why be disturbed? The IRS, aided by all manner of publications, hard copy & on line, warns about such calls, and asking, if given a telephone number, to share that information with the police. I fell for something stupid many years ago, and the experience cost under $10.00. They tried to squeeze an additional $600++ but I countered with warning the authorities. The line went dead.

    The bank scammers have been around for years, and I have a number of “abuse” addresses w/various banks and related organizations. Chase frequently sends thanks for phishing messages forwarded.

    I don’t listen to food advice, and haven’t the slightest interest in Soylent. Sounds dirty, as in “soil.” Not a fortunate choice of names.

  8. hb Said:

    I suspect you missed that the “Soylent Green” in the film was manufactured from reprocessed human corpses.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m on alert to scammers and even wrote here about scams directed at the IRS previously yet the message on the machine was effective enough to cause alarm. Imagine if I did have ongoing troubles with the IRS, or was late paying taxes….a person could easily fall for this “Denis” person. I was going to stop off at the police station to report the call and share the phone number until the customer at the dry cleaner said it was on TV. They already know about Denis.

    Funny you thought of “soil” when reading Soylent. I thought of soy and the fact that it IS Lent, that I’d think I was doing a lent-appropriate act to drink it instead of eating what I normally would, therefore hurting the earth. Then I decided the “lent” part was wrong–maybe it was short for lentil. I’m not fond of lentils. The whole idea of things tortured into something a human can safely eat doesn’t appeal.

  10. Judy Schuster Said:

    The older you get, the more these scams go after you. I’ve had the IRS call, knew right away that the IRS writes, they don’t call you. I’ve also heard from the “Social Security” and a dozen other fakes. I hang up the phone imediatley. Lately, I’ve refused to answer any call that says “not in this area” when I check the phone display. If they don’t want me to know who or what they are, I don’t need to speak with them!

    The ridiculous part is that a lot of seniors especially fall for these scams. AARP magazine has had articles about them. And there are lots more that come via your computer.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I can’t imagine that the perpetrators do demographic research and work from a list provided by AARP but I may be wrong. When we are not home, most robo-callers give up and don’t leave messages but if you tend to be home more than not, you are more aware of the quantity of such calls.

    I noticed an uptick of friends, family and acquaintances whose email accounts were hacked lately… after months of one a week I was getting one every day. And they represented all ages. But predators think that older people are easy marks…which in some cases they are. Infuriates me that people pick on others like this.

    The accountant of one of my relatives was the one who realized he had dementia. He saw countless checks written month after month to the same charity. The charity kept sending envelopes and the relative would write a check and send it in. I am sure he wasn’t alone–and this was a legitimate charity taking advantage.

  12. JM Said:

    Recently our local chain supermarket’s flyer includes “sale” items” along with “digital coupons” items. The directions to register for getting the digital coupon onto your store keychain tab is confusing & when I bought an item marked “digital” I noticed in smaller print the date was marked “up to 2/16” (the middle of the week). Usually sales items in flyers last the whole week.

    I went to the Courtesy desk & there was a long line. As I went around the aisles I noticed a senior man sitting on a single chair @ a lone computer. He looked @ me indicating he needed help. He has no printer @ home and couldn’t complete getting the “digital coupon” on his store tab.

    After I bought a few items there was no line @ courtesy & I told her my questions about the date limits on many digital items, requesting her to tell the manager. I even said; “This in my mind is a scam.” When I showed her my store receipt from the day before, she scanned the “digital” item & refunded in cash the discount I didn’t get.

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Wow. If not a scam, yours is an example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is up to and/or a very sloppy, unmotivated marketing department. I bet you are one of very few to notice the dates! And that you had the receipt from the day before is also a miracle. Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to toss receipts!

    You pose an interesting dilemma that supermarket marketers and others should confront but don’t: How to make sales available to all, whether or not they have access to a printer or computer. Public libraries usually have printers but if the person doesn’t know how to use a computer or if he/she doesn’t want to waste a lot of money–from 15 cents to 25 cents per page–on copies…they are out of luck. So are people who don’t have–or want–smartphones as plenty of things are only available to them. Printer ink cartridges are so expensive that I wonder how much money you really save if you must print a coupon. I like the way CVS does it: You can send the promotion to your card. It’s the best!

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