Scam call this morning

Yeah - a few months ago my mother-in-law called and said “Where is your son right now?”. I misheard and thought she was asking where HER son was (my spouse) and answered “he’s in the other room, working on the computer”. She said “Oh good - because someone claiming to be my grandson called and said he’d been in a car accident in Pennsylvania”. Fortunately she knew enough to smell a rat.

Those scammers? They are Out and About…

The one about the son being arrested and needing bail money reminds me of an email I got, ostensibly from one of my best friends, claiming he was stranded in Europe because he had either lost his wallet or it had been stolen (I can’t remember the details of the scam) and he desperately needed me to wire him a couple of thousand dollars for airfare.

It was really quite amusing because I know this guy really well, and there is no way he’d be gallivanting all over Europe under any circumstances, and even if he did travel anywhere, he’d never go without the spousal unit (aka “old ball and chain”). And simply losing a wallet and having no other recourse is also totally out of character. This guy is quite wealthy and has access to all kinds of resources. The whole thing was just so preposterous that I laughed, and told the scammer to fuck off. He actually had the audacity to try to continue to insist that he was really my old buddy and really needed the money.

I eventually got hold of my friend (the real one) who was hugely pissed off that someone had tried to impersonate him. I’m not sure exactly how this scam happened but I presume that someone succeeded in breaking into his email account, and was able to see that he and I were good friends. Yes, my friend quickly changed his passwords on multiple accounts.

It seems to me like it’s easy for people to not feel bad about this sort of thing because there’s an avenue of thought that shifts the blame onto the victim: if they had any brains, they wouldn’t fall for this, so why should I feel bad? It’s their own fault!

“The amazing thing is how a fool and his money ever got together in the first place.”
(I do NOT endorse this statement.)

There’s always a bigger fool.

I once got spammed by someone pretending to be my brother the Army vet, they even went as far to copy the business domain he uses but ended it with .se rather than .com.

I sent emails to both him and his wife to let them know someone in Sweden was trying to impersonate him.

I saw a somewhat imaginative one on social media recently (I think it was Facebook).

Somebody posted a message like this:

Hey I just found out that Facebook has a security algorithm that detects if you post a credit card number and automatically deletes it. Check it out: ************

And what do you think happened? Sure enough a bunch of people posted their credit numbers in order to test the “algorithm”.

That call has been made several times to my business. The receptionist always tries to comply, running back and asking me for a credit card. When I explain it’s a scam, they give me a look, expecting our lights to go out in a few hours.

Yesterday, I got an email purporting to be from a colleague that said, roughly, “Can you do me a favor? Do you have an Amazon account?” The From line had the form So I forwarded the note to the standard address, asking whether it came from her. I almost immediately got a reply saying that no, her account had been hacked and address list copied. Her name is sufficiently unusual that the original address was plausible. I wonder what would have happened had I answered the original email. Unfortunately, Outlook (which McGill forces me to use) hides the actual outgoing address.

You can force Outlook to do that. I did this on my work account:

Actually, that’s not the one I used. I completely forgot. Mine is from

My sister fell for that one years ago. She went and got a Western Union money order for $1000 and sent it to the address given. After she sent it, she then called her daughter (whose son it supposedly was), and of course realized she’d been had. She raced back to where she got the MO, explained what happened and asked if it could be cancelled. Nope. But what they could do is send a follow-up message requiring 6 pieces of identification for pickup.

I’ve not yet been fooled by a scammer, but I’ve had a couple of near misses, and those are memorable.

About 2 or 3 years ago I got an email from what appeared to be the Dean of Engineering at Purdue (so, my boss’s boss’s boss) addressing me by my first name, which you would not know from my email address. He was asking for a favor, and keeping the emails short (as a busy boss would). After a few short emails back and forth, eventually “he” asked me to buy him an Amazon gift card…and so I checked out his email address more closely and saw it wasn’t actually from Purdue. Gotcha! I sent no more replies, and didn’t hear from this emailer again. I’m thinking possibly it was someone doing research, you know, for IT stuff, or similar. I sent a note or two to possibly interested parties including the IT help desk, warning them about this trick / asking if it were an IT test (check the PhD students for gullibility etc.). However nobody ever fessed up to it.

Meanwhile, I rarely answer my phone when it’s from “my area code” seeing that I don’t regularly interact with people from that old area code and it’s 99% likely to be a solicitor or spam call. I guess it is a tactic that a spam caller will try to call from a phone number from your neighborhood, the idea being you are more likely to answer the call. In my case, ironically, it works just the opposite.

Semi-regularly I check my voice mail, where pretty much the only messages I get are the second half of robo-calls, unaware they were going to voicemail so not that smart. I hear the second half of a threat that I would be arrested immediately if I didn’t pay the IRS or whatever. This too gets filed mentally under “Oh, ha ha ha!” Not even a good try.

But I wonder, if you are not the primary bill payer / business dealer of the family, and the person who does this passes away, then if you are perhaps frail, not in the best shape mentally and generally scared of things, then a call like this might have a much stronger impact.

Yes, this needs to stop and practitioners of this form of extortion need to go to jail. But how to arm one’s self in the future, i.e. in several decades, when I might find myself vulnerable? Is just being aware of the difference between legit and non-legit business practice (by email or phone) enough? Remember, all it takes is one “legit looking” communication to mess things up…

Easiest way I’ve found to check the real address is to right click - Security Options - Block. That will show the complete address you want to consign to Limbo. If it’s a real one, just hit “Cancel.”

Ouch! Did the thieves ever attempt to pick it up? Was she able to get her money back?

I would suspect that they tried to pick it up and failed. I don’t know what happens to MOs that are never collected or cashed.

I almost got entangled in a scam to get a guitar that I was selling. Actually, they had no interest in the guitar. They were going to send a check or MO with an extra $50 “to show they were serious”. I told them to fuck off and they said it was already in the mail and gave me a tracking number. I again told them to fuck off. When I checked the tracking number, the UPS site said the package had been delivered to their fraud department.

10 seconds ago…

“Hi, this is Suzie from Accounts Management Services.”

BRING THIS WENCH BEFORE ME IN CHAINS!! The piranha are looking peckish.