University of Redwood sounds a lot like Reed College, down to faculty and building names. And apparently it doesn't exist. [more inside]
Randolph Carter received an interesting proposition over email. A Nigerian politician offered the scholar a once in a lifetime business opportunity that could provide wealth for both parties if Carter could make a small initial investment. Carter needed the money to finance his research into obscure Polynesian cultures, especially references to a strange god named "Cthulhu"... [more inside]
As first reported on NPR back in April, Vision Media targets non-profits with promises of exposure on PBS stations around the country, but the promised spots (supposedly hosted by Hugh Downs) never actually air. Now, they seem to have resurfaced as World Progress Report, as reported by Public Citizen. [more inside]
Last week the playwright Alan Bennett was "relieved" of £1,500 by one of the simplest scams about - the distraction scam. The BBC provides a helpful guide to how not to get scammed while MSN outlines the 13 scams of the summer. For a more in-depth examination of the world of scams, The Real Hustle is an invaluable resource. [more inside]
Nokia's new ARG ad campaign seems to be co-opting activism for marketing. Written by Tim Kring of Heroes infamy. There's a good summary here. Strangely they managed to troll The Pirate Bay into a response and the bassist from Suede is doing the blog!
Anti-Identity-Theft Firm Lifelock was fined $12 Million in March for deceptive business practices by the FTC. More bad news: their CEO had his identity stolen 13 times after posting his own social security number in company ads as proof they could protect him. [more inside]
"i accept the fact that i am GUILTY… and will not hesitate to be prosecuted when the law catch up with me… and i know my God will forgive because i pray to him to replenish the pockets of my clients with double of whatever they loss" Mike Nash has a surprisingly frank chat with a 419 scammer.
Imagine: your book, a bestseller. A fishy Amazon gift card scheme run by "ResultsSource" apparently helped California Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Poizner get his book to #5 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Reporting by This American Life and Capitol Weekly [more inside]
Your dreams of rapping superstardom are stymied by your Scottish sound, so what do you do? Simple: reinvent yourself as a West Coast wild boy, with American accent and history to match. Keeping it real might be murder, but even when it all falls apart, at least you got to tour with Eminem and D12 – and you can salvage something by writing a book about it all.
The Wolffs At The Door An interesting story about a couple of elderly grifters in Massachusetts. The Boston Sunday Globe published a follow-up article today. [more inside]
"I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away." So said Mark Pincus, CEO and founder of Zynga, the company behind social games like Mafia Wars and Farmville. It's the latest revelation in a week-long bit of drama between TechCrunch and the companies running the shady virtual currency that makes the games profitable. [more inside]
Iraq Swears by Bomb Detector U.S. (Correctly) Sees as Useless. Similar to the now debunked Sniffex (as seen previously on Metafilter), the ADE651 detects explosives, firearms, grenades, narcotics, elephant ivory, bank notes, and according to its manufacturer's website, "human research." [more inside]
How to value and sell your gold. Probably a waste of time though, those real people who sold their gold on TV seem happy enough.
High-priced emergency locksmith services clog up local business listings (and Google Maps), driving all the emergency calls to their numbers. It's happened all over the country. E.g., a 'brash new locksmith company' comes to Madison, WI.
Claiming to have invented a perpetual motion machine in 2006, Steorn Inc. (previously on Metafilter here and here) challenged a team of 22 international scientists and engineers to "verify" their apparently impossible device. Last week the scientific jury announced their results: “The unanimous verdict of the jury is that Steorn’s attempts to demonstrate the claim have not shown the production of energy,” it stated. “The jury is therefore ceasing work.” [more inside]
It looks like the Auto Warranty phone scammers who keep calling your cell phone may finally be getting their comeuppance, right about ... now.
More brazen than Madoff? Former NYC hotshot attorney Marc Dreier (he of the now-defunct vanity firm), was arrested in Canada in late 2008, charged with spearheading an occasionally daring series of frauds. [more inside]
"Your article is ranking very well for term 'Cash4Gold'. Is it worth a few thousand to take it down?" [more inside]
The Things He Carried. "Airport security in America is a sham—'security theater' designed to make travelers feel better and catch stupid terrorists. Smart ones can get through security with fake boarding passes and all manner of prohibited items—as our correspondent did with ease."
An online auction site called Swoopo, once called TeleBid, has hit upon an ingenious way to make money. They are an auction site not entirely unlike Ebay - but using a different auction scheme. Where EBay uses a slightly modified Vickrey auction system, Swoopo uses an auction system based on the "Dollar Auction" game - with interesting results. [more inside]
"Room With A Screw: My 45-day quest to convince a craigslist scammer to write me a poem-- and how she lost her mind and tried to become my friend"
It was wrapped in white paper, I am loosing my mind paniking because that was almost my whole pay how could I possibly recoop that you know|?
I found your money. It's uncanny: the next guy emailing to claim the money that Rob "found" always describes it precisely as Rob described the money to the previous emailer.
Winding their way down from California, they lost a few agents. Two were arrested in Albuquerque after they allegedly forced their way into the home of an elderly couple and beat them to death, raping the wife first.... Then, in West Texas, a van flipped, killing one agent and injuring three others. That's seven agents out of commission. That's about a $2,800 loss per day. After they turn in their cash and receipts, two agents, a pudgy girl and a lanky guy, hit the parking lot for a smoke.... It's a blast, they say. You lie all day to sell subscriptions, and you unwind afterward with some smoke. You tell the customers that you live a few streets over, that you go to the local school and play on the soccer team, that you just sold subscriptions to their neighbor, and the idiots buy it because by now you've got it down to a science. And on to the next town. And the next.
The Banyan Tree Foundation promised to take donations from contributors to be redistributed to worthy Canadian recipients. The foundation also gave donors inflated charity receipts for tax declarations, and donors were encouraged to borrow money to contribute even more, and did... from a company now owned by Banyan Tree president Robert Thiessen. Now, the money has stopped flowing, and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has called the organization a "sham" and is going after Banyan donors for past charity receipts totalling more than CAD$100 million. [more inside]
Recently, Psystar Corporation announced the Open Mac, now renamed "Open Computer," a $399.99 Mac clone. Besides violating Apple's EULA, and the license for the emulator that allows Leopard to run on commodity hardware, apparently the company itself seems a bit... shady. Metafilter's own Woz, on the other hand, says he might get one.
Want to be a recording star? The Great World of Sound is looking for new talent!
Soapy Smith was "the king of the frontier confidence men." Born Jefferson R. Smith, he gained the nickname "Soapy" after running a successful scam that the Denver newspapers dubbed "The Prize Package Soap Sell Swindle." He ran criminal enterprises in Colorado and Alaska until his death at the hands of vigilantes in 1898. Every year his descendants hold a wake in his honor. His story has inspired several books and movies. The Soapy Smith Preservation Trust maintains an extensive archive of his life and times.
Betavoltaic Batteries are supposed to last 30 years, run cool, and be inert and harmless when depleted. The batteries, which generate electricity from radioactive decay, have a 50-year development history, but breakthroughs at the U.S. Air Force Research Lab are said to make the batteries practical for use in consumer applications. So why doesn't the Air Force lab's website feature this discovery? Maybe because it's a hoax, or a scam.
Columbia Law grad is scammed, along with 78 other professionals, into working for free for weeks. Craigslist, some detective work, and the unusual motivation behind the scam all contribute to this interesting story of internets-related shenanigans.
Ted Haggard returns --with a cash for heaven offer to support him while he helps "broken people". Unfortunately, the procedure outlined is illegal, and the charity (Families With a Mission) is unregistered and run by a convicted sex offender. Meanwhile, Mike Jones, Haggard's favorite whore, pops up at a dirty bar trivia night (questions about Haggard and him, maybe nsfw, textwise)
The software awards scam. I put out a new product a couple of weeks ago. This new product has so far won 16 different awards and recommendations from software download sites. Download it now from PC World!
Previously featured on MetaFilter, "Free Energy" company Steorn had scheduled a demonstration of their revolutionary, world-changing, physics-defying contraption Orbo to open today at London's Kinetica Museum. But due to "intense heat" from camera lighting, their fake invention isn't working today. Here's the live web feed of an empty box. Incidentally, it seems that the Steorn folks have allies in high - very high - places.
Humraz is an auction site with a twist. Pay to bid, then once enough fees have been received, the lowest unmatched bid wins. Shall we play for £500? Or a house?
Restoring a sense of pleasure The Raelian movement has been discussed here before . Clitoraid is their latest scam and you can donate now to adopt a clitoris and help them build the Pleasure Hospital in Ouagadougou.
A Japanese actress complains that her new poodle doesn't bark and won't eat dog food. Why's that? Because it's a lamb. Apparently as many as 2,000 people in Japan may have been duped. Let the punning commence.
Clive James on Scams and Hoaxes. "If the flim-flam man is sensible enough to offer you a return of only twice as much, the scam might even work. I was once defrauded of a heartbreakingly-large sum by a fellow writer who was smart enough to offer no return at all. True to her word, she didn't return my money either."
Craig's List ad causes woman's home to be destroyed. We have all heard about the numerous Craig's List scams and pranks, but this one takes things to a new low. Vandals ripped apart Laurie Ray's house after an ad posted on Craig's List invited people to take anything, and everything, they wanted. From the light fixtures to the hot water heater, everything is gone - including the kitchen sink.
Everybody loves Zombies. Everybody loves killing Zombies. Nobody wants to suddenly wake up surrounded by Zombies. Not when you thought you were just playing a video game.
Monty Python's Dead Parrot Sketch, Scammer-Style. (YouTube, approx. 7 mins.) The video was created by a Nigerian email scammer who thought he was producing a video for a victim he tried to scam. The victim fought back. Read the whole story (it's a long story, with many tangents, but fascinating) in two parts from 419 Eater: Part 1, Part 2. For reference, here's the original Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch.
How the underground hacker economy works. Black hat hackers and other scammers make money through methods ranging from pumping penny stocks to re-shipping rings. Meet the four most wanted cybercriminals.
Stacey Finley convinced 22 friends, neighbors and relatives that she could have satellites scan their bodies for disease, then have CIA agents administer secret medicines to them while they slept. [via]
Blue Moon Fiber Arts, an independent Oregon-based online yarn store, has a sock yarn club that knitters can join and receive a bimonthly shipment of sock yarn and other goodies. They have run it before with great success, and it has grown in popularity to the point that they have a waiting list to get in. When they started it up again for the new year, their bank decided they were running some sort of scam because that many people couldn't possibly be interested in sock yarn. Wrong. You don't mess with knitters. This is a group that has raised over $275,000 in the past year for Doctors Without Borders just because a popular knitblogger asked them to. Not surprisingly, the knitbloggers are pissed. There's already a knitalong underway in protest.
How can a credit card company fool you? Let me count the ways. When Brad Kehn received his first credit card from Capital One Financial in 2004, it took him only three months to exceed its $300 credit limit and get socked with a $35 over-limit fee. But what surprised the Plankinton, S.D., resident more was that Cap One then offered him another card, even though he was over the limit -- and then another and another.
Anyone ever win McDonalds Monopoly? Mmmm.... It's McDonald's Monopoly season again! Looking for Boardwalk? Good luck. Where are the winners(pdf) now? Or is it all just a fraudulant scam? Mmm... I'm scoffing it!
The Secret is the brainchild of Australian TV producer Rhonda Byrne. There's a bulletin board where those in on The Secret can discuss their vibrational progress. What happens when you carry the ideas of positive thinking and the power of intentions too far? Sometimes the results are heartbreaking, other times damned creepy. You may need all three gratitude rocks to soothe your soul if you think about this stuff too much.
Great fakers scammed ancient Italy. An ingenious counterfeit-coin scam has been rumbled by scientists in Italy. But no one is going to jail, because the forgers lived more than 2,000 years ago.
Murder for hire, hypnotism, celebrity marriage, Federal agents, million-dollar yachts, hang-gliding "accidents", collegiate endowments, and diploma mills. Even the author of the piece has an interesting back-story.
Is your podcast being hijacked? The nature of RSS and podcast content makes it really easy for somebody to create new feeds based on somebody else's content and pass it off as the original through directories like Yahoo's or iTunes; then, of course, they potentially add advertising or use the built-up audience to extort the original podcaster. Podkeyword, the organization that has sparked concern about the issue, says they're not doing anything illegal or unethical; correspondence between Podkeyword and the guy whose podcast is at issue is available. [First pass legal take here, potential third-party retribution here; via.]
Another class action suit, another lousy settlement. Are or were you a member of Netflix? Sign up for your benefits under the class action settlement, and receive a free upgrade (or for former members, a free month) of service. That is one whole extra DVD at a time per month. Doesn't sound so hot? It gets better. The next month, they'll keep you on the upgraded plan and raise your bill to match it! Class action settlement, or class action fleecing?