Monthly Archives: January 2007

Anantomy of a Scam Letter

I would venture to say that anyone who uses e-mail gets a few of these over a period of time: a letter, usually from points foreign, from someone, often a widow or sickly person, tellingyou tales of woe. But for some bizarre reason, they have oodles of money. And they have chose you to help them find a safe haven for it. And they’re not asking you to do this out of the goodnes of your heart. No, no. They will give you a portion of the funds, usually anywhere upwards of 20 percent, for your time and trouble.

One such letter is offered below, with annotation, as it was received, typos, grammar errors, and all.

Mrs. Rose Bangra hamenya.
Blk. 2681, HLM II,
Dakar – Senegal.

Hello dear,

Compliments of the season. I am Mrs. Rose Bangra Hamenya, a civil servant from Zimbabwe. I got your contact from Chamber and Commerce office [What CoC? I am not listed in any in the U.S. under the e-mail address she use, and it’s hard to imagine I’d be on any Zimbabwe roster] with this my e-mail addressas I was searching for someone who will help me out of my present predicament,

My late husband, Mr. Ransome Gatorgay Hamenya was the co-owner of an Agricultural firm and his partner happens to be among the white farmers that the dictator President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe took over their farmlands and handed over to the blacks, despite all the pleas from the International Community,and members of the commonwealth country’s Most of the company’s assets,animal farms and milk industry were seized and confiscated by the tyrant President.

My late husband was a British citizen of African descent and we both lived in the company’s staff quarters but our lives were threatened by agents of President Mugabe. Since then, my husband and I have been living in exile in Dakar – Senegal. My husband died last August as a result of cardiac arrest.

A substential amount of money was deposited in the finance house by my husband before his death through the help of the International Red Cross staff, because President Mugabe, placed order for the closure of the accounts of all the white farmers and no one is allowed to transfer more than ten thousand dollars abroad but luckily enough, I and my late husband along with some other farmers were assisted through diplomatic means with the help of the International Red Cross to send our money abroad.The total Sum is FIFTEEN million US dollars (US$15.000.000.)[emphasis added], the money is part of our savings and what my husband inherited from his late father, from whom we took over the family business. [For someone in such a tenuous political situation, you’d imagine $15 mil would smooth a lot of rough road. Also, sine when does the Red Cross offer financial services?] All the documents to the deposition of the money are with me and with the finance firm also for Security reasons. I would like you to assist me to relocate the money to your country into any account of your choice or keep it for me in your safe custody until I am able to come to your country after my operation soon. I would like to invest the money into any lucrative business, you deem profitable and your assistance is highly needed in the areas of investment feasibility studies. [I’m flattered she thinks I’m such a savvy investor.]

Hence I need your cooperation to secure this deposit which is as it stands now, the only hope of my survival as I have already lost my husband, coupled with my sickness and the situation of insecurity. Life is no more the same with me after all the lot I have gone through.Moreover, I wouldn’t mind paying you any amount you will charge me up to 20% of the total money for your assistance in relocating and keeping the money for me as well as helping me to carry out proper investment. You keep 80% for me pending execution of the investment. [Sounds like a sweet deal to me.]

As a sick person, it will be difficult to handle this alone, hence I need your immense help, coupled with your distinguished business acumen and track record. [Track record? Evidently she hasn’t seen my credit card bills.] Please, I would like you to come to my assistance, I am a lonely widow and in utter confusion and distress.

This business is solely between two of us and should there be any need for a third party, I will contact one of the Red Cross staff with whom I have established some trust. I am scared that if any one gets to know about this, he might take advantage of my helpless situation. to diverte this fund or seat on the money without helping me to manageit as planed [now who would want to do that to such a poor, helpless widow person?],so please if your willing to help kindly contact me through my email above.Sincerely your’s,Mrs. Rose Bangra Hamenya

Actually, this one is fairly inucuous. The writer does not ask me to send any personal financial information, as many do, so she can transfe the funds for me to invest, using my business acumen and track record.

I wonder how many people actually respond to these.

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Subway hero "trumped?"

Hate to be cynical (yeh, right), but does anyone else have the feeling that Donald Trump offerred Wesley Autrey, the hero who jumped onto the NY City subway tracks to save a stranger, that $10,000 for the PR value, especially in light of his recent negative press for his squabbles with Rosie O’Donnell?

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"Not Buying It?" I’ll buy that

So I was reading Judith Levine’s book Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. What a crazy concept! Stop buying things you don’t need.

As my daughter has gotten older, her tastes have changed. No longer is she content with shopping at discount stores. She gravitates to places like Abercrombie, Delia’s, American Eagle (not even sue I’m getting the names of these places right). Although she still looks for bargains and is very proud to show off how much she saved.

I blame her friends. Moreover, I blame their parents. “Just say no” should apply to more than just dealing with drug issues. It should also apply to making kids (and adults) learn they can’t always get what they want. Many of her friends are rewarded for good grades. My daughter routinely brings home high marks. She also gets an allowance, gets paid for helping her mother with office work, and supplements with babysitting. She saves up for many things she wants (although we do give her a “clothing allowance”) She had a bat mitzva last summer — probably too pricey, but what the hey, she’s our only child — and paid for a couple of high-ticket items (a laptop and video camera) out of her gifts.

Now she wants the latest gaming console. This after purchasing several former “latest gaming consoles.” Like many kids, she plays with it for a while, a few months perhaps, then it gets boring. I’m sure she’s not unique in that. I try to explain that to her, but of course, I’m ust a kill-joy parent, what do I know?

Aside from the financial aspect, there’s the prospect of sitting in front of one screen or another — computer, cell phone, video game — at the expense of being out with friends. Even though she’s a very social person, I worry from time to time and would rather see her out of the house than tethered to electronics.

Am I Scrooge or a grinch? Perhaps.

Anyway, Levine’s book got me to thinking about my own philosophies. As I get older — and more morbid — I start thinking about all the junk I’ve accumulated over my lifetime, a lot of which I still seem to have. I no longer posses high school papers (although I did recently through away a couple of middle school report cards) or many other items associated with my youth. It’s gotten so frantic that I even started tossing photographs. You know the kind I mean — those out of focus shots that sit in the envelope with all the rest of the pictures from that vacation to somewhere average.

So with all this in mind, I thought I would try to follow Levine’s example — for a month. February. The shortest month.

Yesterday I was in the mood for some wasabi-soy almonds someone had brought to the office the day before. On my way to work, I pulled into the Pathmark parking lot to pick up a can. What are we walking here, $3? But I remembered my plan and pulled right back onto the road.

Not only did I save the money, but I saved the calories, which is important since I’m trying to lose the weight.
So I put off such an impulsive purchase, at least until marketing day.

Such a pledge to postpone includes not only snacky footdstuffs, but other things that are pretty unnecessary, like books, magazines (unless work oriented), lunches out, fast food, trips to Staples, etc. And this isn’t even a trip to find best buys, buy-one-get-one-free deals. It’s a test of not consuming.

So how do you determine what is necessary? Is a Valentine’s Gift “necessary?” No. But neither is a night sleeping on the sofa if I were to try to explain my newfound epiphany to the missus.

Which leads to a further examination of the concept of “necessary.” For some, say Buddhist monks, nothing is really necessary save a few grains of food. Others would say without the “unnessecities,” what fun would life be? Who’s right? Levine’s thesis — that all these extras are a drain on resources — is well-meaning, especially in this time of environmental crisis. But how far will that take you in a society accustomed to having the best?

So join me on my adventure (?) to see how long a normal, everyday person can go without choosing unwisely.

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The general opinion of bloggers, paraphrasing a great philosopher

“See Lisa, instead of one big shot controlling all the media, now there’s a thousand freaks [blogging] their worthless opinions.”

Homer Simpson in Fraudcast News

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