Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Scamsters (2)

Scams lie in wait like little internet land mines, ready to damage anyone who passes by. The following attempt at fraud took place this week after an ad was placed in Craigslist by Dave, who was doing nothing more than looking to rent a FLAT IN LONDON. The reason it's so long is that it's all true and for the moment, unedited.

From: Gray
To: xxxxxxxx@craigslist
Sent: Fri, 21 Sep 2007 8.45pm
Subject: Flat wanted : London
Hello
I have an affordable apt for rent with cool enviroment and also furnished..contact me for details about the home, but am willing to let you have the apartment only if you promise me that you will keep the apartment clean always.i will let you have it for any price you can afford.just looking for some that will always keep the house clean
Looking forward to read from you
Gray.

Hi Gray,
Thankyou for the reply. I live in London and have done for a long time but am looking for affordable apartment short or long term. I am housetrained!! Where is the property?You can email me here any time.cheers
Dave


From: Gray
Sent: Sun, 23 Sep 2007 1.04pm
Subject: Flat wanted
Hello
Thanks for the email, i will like you to know that am so happy with your comment, and also i will to let you have the lovely home with what ever amount you can afford, and also i will like you to know that the reason why i and my wife are giving out these apartment is because we were transfer to west Africa on a business trip, and we don't think we will be coming back, cause after we are through with our business trip, we will finally move to Spain.and aslso here are some info about the home.

Property features
Waterfront View 1520 sq. ft. Central A/C & Heat Walk-in Closet 2 Jacuzzi Tubs Flat Screen TV Living Room Stove/Oven/Microwave Stainless Steel Appliances Separate laundry room with W/D Dishwasher Hardwood Floors Large Basement Storage Tile Floors Refrigerator Granite Countertops Skylights Alarm System bathroom,with toilet

Location
50 steps south of Canton Sq. (Supermarket, bars, restaurants, shops, salons/day spas, Blockbuster, Starbucks, etc.)
½ blocks from the Canton waterfront
7 blocks to Merritt Athletic Club
1 mile from Interstate 95
2 miles from John Hopkins Hospital and Bayview Medical Center
3 miles from UMD and Mercy Medical Centers
5 miles from Union Memorial Medical Center
Entrance Details Leather couch, exposed brick, wall- mounted flat screen plasma TV with surround sound DVD/CD player, hardwood floors, expandable dining table (seats 8)
Gourmet Kitchen
Spacious granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, dishwasher, garbage disposal
First Floor First floor bath, wireless internet, Washer/Dryer, and breakfast tableMaster
Bedroom Spacious bedroom plus 15 ft entrance way, queen bed, TV, linen closet, walk-in closet
Master Bath Dual sinks, Jacuzzi Tub/shower, storage cabinet, skylight
Bathroom 2
Jacuzzi Tub/shower, large basin sink, linen storage space, skylight

So i will like you to get back to with your with your Full home address, where i can send the key to the house and all other Document via DHL as soon as possible, and also i will like you to stick to your word that you will always make the apartment clean.
I will be looking forward to read from you
Gray.



Hello Gray
Thankyou for your reply which is very detailed. The apartment sounds very attractive.
You appear to live in Baltimore, Maryland. Which the last time I looked was in the USA
I live in London, England. Which is in Europe.
What is going on here?
regards
Dave

Sent: Sun, 23 Sep 2007 2.47pm
Subject: Flat wanted
Hello Dave
Thanks for the email, am so sorry for that, i will like you to know that i was decribing an area for a good friend of mine that happens to be in Baltimore, Maryland, he got a new job, and also he is new in Baltimore, Maryland. so i had to give him so miles aways from his work.
So sorry for that ok..do get back to me with your home address, where i can send you keys to the house and other document.
looking forward to read from you
Stay Blessed
Gray.


Hi Gray
That's ok. So where is the apartment?
cheers
Dave

From: Gray
Sent: Mon, 24 Sep 2007 8:39 am
Subject: Flat wanted..ACCEPTANCE
Hello Dave,
How are you today? i hope you are ok with picture i sent to you in the previous email, and also i have discuss with my wife So as i shall be giving you our house,pls again take care of the house However,since you are ready to rent the house now,then that will not be a problem but we will advice you due to a responsible person like you, and also let me know that amount you can afford for the apartment and also we would like to send the following document to you via the DHL and the tracking number will be sent to you so that you can possible occupy our house,Pls once again,we are giving you this on trust and do not dissapoint us and i promise you that,you will love the house.so here is the address to the house Willesden Green-NW2 4XX XXX St GXXXXX Road
So i am with the below document here with me and i will like you to get back with the
follwing details below
Receiver's Full Name
Delivery full address:
Here are the contents of the document.
1) Entrance and the rooms Keys
2)Paper/Permanent house form(Containing your reference details)
3)The house documetary file.
4)Payment Receipt.

So i will like you to go ahead and make the payment to Mr Kelvin Mike that happens to be my PA below is the info

Receiver's Name:Kelvin Mike
Receiver's City:Apapa
Receiver's State:Lagos
Receiver's Country:Nigeria
Text Question:What Year
Text Answer:2007
MTCN:???
Amount Send:

So as soon as you make the payment today, i will be abele to call UPS and pick up the document, and it will be 1-2 day delivery.
I await your reply ASAP.
Gray



Hello Gray,
Thankyou for writing back. I didn't receive an email with the picture but I would appreciate i if you could send that first. By an incredible coincidence I happen to know St GXXXXXX Road very well and know people who live there. It would be a better idea if I came to the house first and met you. What time/day would suit you?
cheers
Dave

Hi Dave
I never knew the picture wasnt attached, but anyway. i have done that now. well it nice to read from you that you know people from St GXXXXX Road but is unfournate i wont be there to show you round the house, cuz am in africa on a business trip which i stated in one of my previous mail, but pics will do you can always go around and check it out on your own.and also i will send you keys to the house and other document need.so i will also like you to get back with the amount you can afford for the apartment.
Looking forward to read from you
Gray.

Hi Gray,
Sorry, still no picture attached. You're not in the house? Is it empty? I'd really have to see round it first. It's an unusual request to ask someone to take over the running of their house without actually meeting first. How would I get in?
cheers
Dave

Hi Dave
Thanks for the email, i will like you to know that the key to the house are with in West Africa, and also they only way you can view the house is by me sending the key to the house to your home address, and also i will like you to know that the house is already furnished.also you can pay for the apartment, and if you dont like it when i send you the key to the house, we will refund your money back ASAP
Looking forward to read from you
Gray.


Hi Gray
Still no picture attached (!) but don't worry. Tomorrow I have to be in the area so will drive by the house. Do you know any of the neighbours? I'm not sure how long you've lived there but I'm sure you must have met one or two. If I have the chance I'll stop and ask. Once I've seen it from the outside I'll be in touch. I'll find it OK but which end of St GXXXXX Road is it on?
cheers

Dave



Hello Dave
Thanks for the email, the end of it London, Greater London, and also you can get back to me as soon as you drive pass the house.for a friend of mine, i do not associate with people.
Looking forward to read from you
Gray

Hi Gray,
Thanks for the email but sorry,maybe I'm being stupid, but I don't understand what you're saying. What's London, Greater London? What does that mean? And please accept my apologies, but I don't know what you're talking about in the last sentence. What friend?I was asking which of the neighbours you know. How long have you and your wife lived there? What is your wife's name anyway - maybe she knows the neighbours better than you. I'd certainly like to make sure that your neighbours know who I am. I don't want to worry them.cheers

Dave



Hello Dave
Thanks for the email, i will like you to know that we stay in UK just for 4 Month,and we never have time for any body nor neighbours,so i will like you to go ahead and check the home, and also i will send you picture to the apartment.
Gray

Hi Gray
That's fine, thanks, but I still don't understand what the London, Greater London reference is. What is that please?If everything is fine with the apartment I could go to a local bank. Do you know where the nearest one is to the house?And what did you say your wife's name was?

cheers
Dave

Hello Dave
Thanks for the email,my wife's name is Mary, and also forget about the London, Greater London, and also i will like you to know that i don't have an ideal of the nearest bank to the apartment is
Get Back
Gray


Hi Gray
Sorry, I didn't understand your reply about London, Greater London. I was just trying to find out where the apartment is. Is it near the shops? Have you lived there very long?
cheers
Dave

Hello Dave
Thanks for the email, i will like you to know that i only stay there for 4 Month, and also not very close to the Shop
Gray



Hello Dave
Am waiting to read from you
Lee


Sorry, who is Lee?


Hello Dave
Am still waiting to read from you
Lee


Hello again Lee. I'm sorry I have no idea who you are but you seem to be writing to me from Gray's email address. Who are you?
cheers
Dave

Hello Gray,
Somebody called Lee is sending me emails from your address. Who is that? I'm going to the flat this afternoon. I'm surprised you say it's not near the shops. I thought it was at that end of St GXXXXXX Road as the people I know stay at the other end. But I guess I'll see this afternoon. cheers
Dave

Hello Dave
How are you today? am sorry i was unable to email.that why i told Mr Lee to ask if have been able to drive pass the apartment.an also let me know if you still want the apartment.
Looking forward to read from you
Gray.


Hello Gray
Oh, that's why I received two emails from Mr Lee. I was wondering why someone else was using your email address.
I did go to the property yesterday but before we say anything else Gray, you did say 212, didn't you? There seems to so much confusion in these emails I just need to check that you got the number correct.

cheers
Dave


Hello Dave,
Thanks for the email yes i did say so.what happend ?.and also i will like you to get back with your home address, where i can ship the Document to via DHL today.
Looking forward to read from you
Gray.


Hello Gray,
There appears to be the most terrible confusion in our emails. The people I spoke to yesterday who live in the house, and have done for many years, say they have never heard of you and have no idea who you might be. Possibly there are 2 houses with the same number? Or possibly you have squatters in your home who give the appearance of being a family?
What do you think Gray?
cheers
Dave



Hello Dave
Thanks for the email, i will like you to know that it still the same house,but a vacante apartment for you, and also i told you that i don't associate my any one,and also don't have that time to keep friends am always alone.and also am so happy that you check the apartment,and also those people you meet are old tenant, and also am not familary with them, since am a very busy man.
I will like you to get back with your Full Name, Full Home Address.and also i will like you to know that i will deliver the Keys to the House and Document to you, and also get you the Receipt to Delivery.
And also i will like you to go ahead and make the payment for first month,and get back with the Payment Confirmation.so that i will be able to deliver the Documents to you.
I will be looking forward to read from you
Gray.



Hi Gray,

Thankyou for your email Gray. The house I went to was occupied. By a family. They've never heard of you. They live there. You don't. I understand you are a very busy man. With time to write a lot of emails. I also understand that you are married to a woman called Mary. But according to your last email you are always alone.Please reply and let me know what your explanation is.

cheers
Dave


Hello Gray
I haven't heard from you for a day. I await your reply.
cheers
Dave

Gray? Hello?







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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Scamsters

My bank account has been drained twice. The first time, I was trying to pay a restaurant bill and my debit card was declined, despite the fact that I knew there was money there. After several frustrating calls to my least favourite Indian callcentre we established that it had been cloned after a visit to a pub cash machine on London's South Bank a few hours earlier. The restaurant, bless 'em, allowed me to leave without paying. (I went back the following day and paid. Honest!). The thieves had cleared out all the funds in a matter of hours but I was insured and got it all back.

The other time, I got a call in a Knightsbridge restaurant from Amex, a mysterious call because they simply wanted to establish that I was me, and since we were eating in posh territory, I thought it was all going to be embarrassing ("Rip his card up") But no such thing. The sommelier didn't need to take the armagnacs back. I then went abroad for a week while a bunch of thieves spent £2,000 on my card in a mobile phone shop in NW10. My card had been cloned before I got to the restaurant and the spending spree had started, but Amex were being cautious. Their loss. I got the money back.

But that's kid's stuff, the real scamsters are out there preying in the most surprising places.

Last year my partner had a stall at a Christmas Fayre selling stuff and in the myriad of paperwork that accompanies this kind of enterprise in London (this is not village fete territory, it's serious business) there was one letter which appeared to come from the organisers which recommended renewing a free online ad. Which she did.
Except it wasn't from the organisers. And it wasn't free. It was a scam operating from a Vienna PO Box, (previously they had been in Spain and Switzerland) whereby a bunch of thieves scooped up several thousand pounds a week just by simple deception. They're well known, they form different companies and adopt a variety of nationalities. The Christmas Fayre Company know who they are, the police know who they are, Trading Standards Authorities in Europe and the USA know who they are and the Daily Mirror has even exposed them. But they just plod on, changing company names, conning small businessfolk.

The bill was three grand and they got really heavy with us, and while we would have defended ourselves in court, I suggested that they might like to take their interest elsewhere. Or myself and my friends would come and pay them a visit.

The latest one, going on right now, is the most fascinating. A friend put an ad in Craigslist seeking an apartment in London and was contacted by a variety of people offering all manner of flats and accommodations. One in particular stood out, not by its friendly manner and pigeon English, but because it appeared to be from a couple offering a virtually free apartment ("pay us what you want"). It all sounded very jolly. My friend answered and was told by "the couple" that they were leaving the country and they'd like to send the keys round by DHL and trusted my friend, an honourable person, to look after their apartment for a very long time.

"The couple" then sent apartment details of a place in Baltimore, Maryland, by mistake.
In an apologetic followup they explained that they were also letting out an apartment there to a friend and the emails had got mixed up.

Hmmm.

The next email, slightly more urgent in tone, demanded that my friend hand over his address and banking details "so that the keys can be sent immediately with all documentation" and a banking address was attached from Lagos, Nigeria, which would accept the peppercorn rent. Once my friend had handed over his banking details too.

So, in exchange for a free house in central London, this anonymous couple who turn out to be from Nigeria and also have an apartment in Baltimore, only needed an address, a name, and some banking details.

All pigs fuelled up and ready to fly sir.






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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Breakfast with Eggs

OK so in the Imperial House it's breakfast time and the reason I know that is I've just spoken to someone in Washington DC who's about to go to dinner and its too late to call the UK because its midnight or something so I'll just have the eggs, peppers, prawns and dumplings. That's the 1000 year old eggs whose whites are jet black - and slightly translucent I discover forking one towards the mouth - and the yolks are dark green, and totally opaque and crumbly, with the bright pink ginger on the side. Yus. And the spicy prawns are spicy like a red not chilli-ed up curry. No bacon and eggs for me please.

And that chinese music is really really annoying now, just switch it off, please, because I was enjoying the Stevie Wonder, Tamla Motown and Soul from the sixties medleys with Diana Ross. Because I just saw Diana Ross. She was flown to South East Asia and sang two songs, one of which was a duet with a Chinese bloke, a star apparently, and then she launched into "ain't no mountain high enough, ain't know river deep enough...to keep me from yoooooooooooooooooo" and we all swooned. She was utterly utterly fantabulous, despite some slightly shaky background vocals and questionable dancers. She wore a fantasy frock of the brightest yellow you can possibly imagine - a huge spread out affair - that most of the women seemed to think was rubbish but I didn't. Then she went off to sing at the gala dinner which was populated by knobs and knockers, investors and high rollers.

Now in the hours between my dimsum breakfast and our dimsum supper last night which was not only in the same town, the same street but the same building, (we were even at the same table) I didn't even leave the room. Because I'm in the world's biggest casino. It's huuuuuuuge.

I used system 17 in the automated roulette. This is the same as roulette operated by a croupier but has the wheel encased beneath an acrylic dome, and the numbers are on a touch sensitive screen which you touch - sensitively - to bet having inserted your money into a slot. Slightly inhuman but still capable of managing system 17. System 17 is unique and I shall describe it here. You bet on no 17. Then cover adjoining lines, the red (or black) and other areas such as "second 12" or "even" (or odd). The beauty of the system is that you lose very very slowly. Sometimes as little as 40 dollars at a time (which in Hong Kong dollars means 30p). The system is different to Sytem 16, say, which loses your money FAST. Mainly because No 17 keeps coming up (and while I'm on the subject it would be nice if said 17 occasionally appeared during the use of the eponymous System 17). And as for the other systems, say 31 or 8 - ironically the Chinese lucky number, well they're welcome to it - they just don't work at all. No sir. In order to lose your money so slowly it feels like winning sometimes it's system 17 for me. Which is scientifically worked out. As well as being my birthday.

And when you've lost, say, a thousand dollars, in America you'd go back to your room and go to sleep and then wake up and slowly remember it then try not to mention it to anyone, or specifically someone whom you know really well, so that you can go about your daily business trying not to think about what you might have done with 1000 dollars. But in China you can lose 1000 dollars (this is about 60 quid) and be so not bothered by it you can go and have some 1000 year old eggs right away! The Chinese would like the symmetry.

The dumplings arrive scalding hot and instead of the Chinese wine we had the previous night - god the wine took a long time to come, I'm sure they sent out to Oddbins for it - we're having green tea. Without mint. No idea why, as I'm sure I've never had green tea with mint before. And it's a fine breakfast. 7am and the light hasn't changed becuse like all casinos there are no windows or clocks. There are hundreds of Chinese people betting beside me, some are arguing with their wives/girlfriends and the Chinese Authorities have apparently held the adjoining border open to facilitate all night gambling on opening night. Nice.








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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Forcing the Issue

https://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/photos/west-pier-brighton.jpg
The resplendent if awkwardly named City of Brighton and Hove is a fine place, much improved of late with some strenuous work along the seafront, as if to compensate for the ugly reminder of what might have happened if the West Pier had ever been restored rather than left to rot and finally be torched (twice) by professional arsonists. There's a volleyball court, basketball, a new safe paddling pool (the old one is filled in) and an array of restaurants, bars, fish and chip shops and so on.

On a September evening as the sun sets over Shoreham Power Station's single chimney there's barely a finer stroll/jog/dogwalk to be had. And once you reach the border with Hove, marked by the smartly refurbished Embassy Court, you can take a gander up Western Street to Norfolk Square, as Nationwide is wont to do.

Western Street is a bit grey now, even on an autumnal evening, but the gayness of the Bedford Arms brightens it up and a few wee restaurants run by couples open and close their doors with relative frequency. At the moment, there's only The Gingerman which has not only survived but thrived in this out of the way place.

Now The Gingerman is one of the best places to eat in Brighton. It's a small, cosy restaurant just yards from the seashore and specialises in top quality modern food, well sourced and thoughtfully cooked and presented. It's got two sister premises now and manages to survive the vagaries of modern catering.

However on Tuesday night, in order to dine at The Gingerman you would have had to negotiate your way past a large picket line. 12 members of VIVA - the militant wing of vegetarianism -were protesting against the use of foie gras. They spread their large banner across the small pavement, blocking the entrance, handed out leaflets, and by megaphone informed the bemused residents of this quiet street that ducklings being caged, tortured and killed was not acceptable. Geese too. And everyone should boycott the restaurant until they took it off the menu.

Except it wasn't on the menu. Pig's head was, but foie gras wasn't. A neighbour pointed this out to them and was shouted down, the main defence being that it was on the "website" menu. Which I checked. And it isn't. But let's not get bogged down in detail. I would imagine that pate de foie gras might appear on the menu, sometime.

One of the protestors, all the way from Nottingham she told me, explained that it didn't matter how small or fragile a business was, if they were serving foie gras (which they weren't) they would be targeted.
"But what happens" I asked, "If they go out of business?"
"Good," she replied, "One down"
I explained that there were probably a thousand more targets in the Brighton and Hove area that might merit such a large protest.
"Like where?"
"Well," I suggested, "What about the biggest hotel in Brighton for example, the Grand?"
"They don't serve it".
So I got out my mobile and called the Grand, got through to the King's restaurant, and was told that they had on the menu a starter of Ballotine of Foie Gras. There was a momentary silence. "Well they said earlier they didn't have any"
"But they do. Why don't you all go round there?"
"Em....because we're here"
At which point the exasperated neighbour intervened again, flourishing a menu and explaining that the Gingerman didn't serve etc etc.......and then a wee waitress poked her head out the door and said with only the faintest hint of frustration in her voice
"We don't serve foie gras" in an attempt to shoo them off.
This was turning into a sketch from Monty Python.
"What about the supermarkets?" I asked, "They sell tons of the stuff"
"I ain't seen it" said the Nottingham woman, who then confessed that she'd never looked for it, being a vegetarian.
"Waitrose don't," the woman with the megaphone announced,
"They have a policy not to sell it"
Well they might, but there's no mention of it on their website and I'm sure I've bought at least pate de foie gras in my local branch. (I only ever buy the real stuff in France)
"Well why not go to Tesco or the new Sainsbury's then?"
They looked at each other with raised eyebrows as if I was a stupid child unable to add up my numbers.

Then the police arrived, who explained that they happened to be driving by, hadn't been called by anyone, and suggested that the small doorway shouldn't be blocked. They refused and explained it was their right. The neighbour then intervened again and said "They don't sell foie gras, we've been telling them since they turned up". The policemen looked as if he regretted stopping. It was all very Brighton and jolly.

Now, I like a mixed diet, and I've eaten foie gras on occasion, so I'm inclined towards the view that bully boy picket lines shouldn't be choosing such small targets, especially places which don't even have foie gras on the menu, but I suppose we have a right to protest, picket and create a fuss anywhere we want.







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