[snack link needs replacing]
Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.
In this issue
- This week: Scams
- Virtual Snacks
- Bizarre Searches
- Quotation and joke
It’s a cynical world we live in, isn’t it? And travelling around the world certainly makes you aware of it.
One of the favourite scams in New Delhi’s Connaught Place is the shoe trick. The unsuspecting “mark” (target for the scam) is walking along, probably unfamiliar with the surroundings and bewildered at a very different environment from the Western cities they’re used to. Suddenly a shoe-shine guy squatting at the side of the pavement points out that the “mark” has cow-dung splashed on their shoe. Luckily he can clean up the mess, for just five hundred rupees. The “mark” may be aware that you’re expected to haggle, and might even beat the price down to only a hundred rupees. The fact that it only costs ten rupees to have your shoes cleaned, or that the cow-dung was flicked onto the shoe by the guy in the first place, probably doesn’t occur to them.
Foreign travel is one way of finding out about scams quickly. Being on the Internet is another.
For starters, people may try to take over your machine. Here’s a quotation from sniggle.net (if you visit, put your sunglasses on first as their colour scheme isn’t the easiest on the eye):
“Pyramid Schemes [more about these later] are only a percentage of the many scams to proliferate on-line. My favorite so far: the Sexygirls Scam, in which a “free” program for viewing naughty pictures quietly took over the users’ modems to call pricy toll-numbers in Moldova.”
But even if you manage to defeat the hackers, there’s plenty of attempts to bamboozle you with words and pictures.
Now, we at British Expat pride ourselves on being clean-living, upstanding, fairly decent sorts. (OK, maybe forget the clean-living bit.) We think that people should get what they pay for and that trust should be respected. We hate spam, and we certainly hate efforts to pull the wool over our eyes and our readers’ eyes. It’s a pity, then, that we have to spend so much of our time dealing with attempts to use BE for scams.
Those of you who were already receiving this newsletter, or visiting the website, in January will remember that some scammers were attempting to pass themselves off as representatives of British Expat, looking for people to process bank payments for “us”. Naturally, we were able to show that they weren’t genuine, and we carried a warning message on the front page of the site for several months afterwards to ensure that people weren’t hoodwinked.
Internet scams of this type (often called “spoofing” or “phishing” attacks) are fairly common – even if not as common as the so-called “Nigerian advance fee fraud” or 419 scam, named after the relevant paragraph of the Nigerian Penal Code. Luckily, spam filters have improved to the extent that most of the 419 dross flying about on the internet never makes it past our server these days. I imagine it’s the same for most of you, although I know there are a few connoisseurs who “collect” 419ers as a hobby, including our pal Trevor Dykes in Germany. (You can see Trevor’s 419er site in our Virtual Snacks below.)
But there are plenty of other shysters trying to exploit the naive, greedy or gullible. (Of course, an individual’s gullibility tends to increase in proportion to their greed.) The Employment section of our Classified Ads service is free, but all ads are pre-approved before they go live. It’s just as well they are – you’d be horrified at the number of people trying to promote “Earn thousands working from home” schemes. All genuine opportunities and definitely not scams, of course. Yeah, right.
Some of the employment scams have been going for some time, of course – it’s just that the Internet has made it possible to reach millions rather than thousands.
How about multi-level marketing, made infamous by Amway and other such companies? Vendors of a particular product (and it’s amazing how often it seems to be cleaning products, though miracle slimming aids are another favourite) are encouraged to consolidate orders of the product from sub-vendors in order to gain higher commissions. The snag is that they now have to pay the sub-vendors’ commissions out of their own higher commission. Thus the pressure to buy more goods, and sell them onwards, spirals upwards. Meanwhile the salespeople resort to ever more desperate means to keep their feet in the door, even to the point of delaying grieving relatives about to set off for a funeral. Ultimately the real beneficiary is the parent company, which no longer has to keep distributors or salespeople on its staff.
Sadly, this is entirely legal, in spite of the misery it causes. Not so the pyramid scheme. That simply involves paying a sum of money to the person above you in the pyramid, and recruiting a number of other people below you to pay you that same amount. They in turn recruit others, and so on. Where the whole thing falls down is that it doesn’t take long for the entire population to be recruited – and the people who’ve wound up at the bottom end up with nothing. Albania’s economy, such as it was, collapsed in the late 1990s largely because of a national craze for pyramid schemes.
Another favourite scam for the unsuspecting expat to fall victim to is the property development trick. A plausible representative (often another expat) puts forward a prospectus for a beautiful development, which the “mark” can own a share of, generating loads of income from the queue of tenants clamouring to rent apartments – and with bonuses if he can sign up another X investors. Then the property’s built, below spec and with other problems which weren’t mentioned in the prospectus. The developer’s vanished, and so have the prospective tenants, leaving the “mark” with an unsellable property.
All this makes the petty tourist ripoffs seem quite trivial. The one thing to bear in mind is:
If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!
Do you have anything to say about this topic, or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us about?
Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:
There are quite a few worthwhile official sites, starting with the UK Office of Fair Trading’s excellent pages:
The Financial Services Authority also have a useful resource explaining the criminal purpose behind scams and the consequences of letting yourself be duped by them:
FSA: Scams [obsolete – new link: http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk/scams ]
The RCMP (the Mounties) have an excellent section on scams and frauds on their website:
[Obsolete link removed]
Unofficial sites seem to come in two main streams. Some of them take a considered, analytical approach to the mechanisms behind scams and scammers. Skepdic.com has an interesting article about why pyramid schemes don’t work:
Skepdic.com: Pyramid schemes
Others aim to entertain as well as educate. Check out Trevor Dykes’s How to become rich dotcom website, which attracted the following review from Scamorama: “Brilliant, gentle and original. Mostly great, convoluted literary commentary. Too weird to describe, just visit and take your time.”
[Obsolete link removed]
Scamorama itself is well worth a look – 419 scammers are had by scambaiters!
Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:
- how spaking english
- short saucy jokes
- si hockey body painting
- stupid directions
- kittens please
- oilers fan topless
- smelly dishes
- shower wash arse
- bombeck what a ride
- vultures logo sports team
Till next time…
British Expat Magazine
“There are men so incorrigibly lazy that no inducement that you can offer will tempt them to work; so eaten up by vice that virtue is abhorrent to them, and so inveterately dishonest that theft is to them a master passion. When a human being has reached that stage, there is only one course that can be rationally pursued. Sorrowfully, but remorselessly, it must be recognized that he has become lunatic, morally demented, incapable of self-government, and that upon him, therefore, must be passed the sentence of permanent seclusion from a world in which he is not fit to be at large.”
– William Booth, founder and General of the Salvation Army (1829-1916)
If you had bought $1,000.00 worth of Nortel stock one year ago, it would now be worth $49.00.
With Enron, you would have $16.50 of the original $1,000.00.
With WorldCom, you would have less than $5.00 left.
If you had bought $1,000.00 worth of Budweiser (the beer, not the stock) one year ago, drunk all the beer, then turned in the cans for the 10 cent deposit, you would have $214.00.
Based on the above, my current investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle.