Imagine you’ve been chatting with this nice Nigerian gentleman who would like your help cleaning several million dollars in black money that he claims has been treated with dark ink for ’security purposes.’
If you pay a few thousand bucks to the men, they’ll clean the money and give you half.
You’re not sure about this and so you google ‘black money cleaning’
At the top of the page you see two advertisements for companies that specialise in the process: Anzia and Century1.
You click on the links and find information that verifies the men’s claims.
So you hand over the cash.
In reality of course, the whole thing is a scam. There is no such thing as black money.
The con artists have paid google to advertised their fake businesses. Google are not just taking money from the swindlers, they are actively helping them promote their cause. They may even be considered accessories.
Even the search engine regular results support the swindler’s claims. Over the ten links on the front page, one is the wikipedia page explaining the fraud and one is a blog about scams.
The rest of the links are created by con artists to promote the swindle.
You can watch dailymotion/youtube videos, visit facebook pages and buy products on alibaba. All related to black money cleaning.
Google’s mission statement has always been “You can make money without doing evil”. I don’t know about evil, but this does seem a little dodgy.
Eventually, the first player bids 99 cents, accepting a simple penny as payment for their effort. The second sees any hope of profit dissolving, but they do see a hope of breaking even. Only one penny more and they can walk away ’square.’ They bid a dollar. The first player now has a choice; it’s silly to bid over a dollar on a dollar. But it’s even more silly to give up 99 cents. Paying a little more minimizes their loss. In the end, both will bid far more than a dollar, putting them in debt, in the hope of making the smallest loss.
The same thing happens when we gamble or give money to a con artist. Rather than just cutting our losses and going home, we keep on betting and believing, hoping to recoup at least some of our losses, unwilling to admit that we’ve been played for fooled.
The first review of Rob Mond and my documentary on the classic scam Three Disk Monte is in over at TMC. Steven Conner writes:
The documentary is very good IMO and Nicholas has done an amazing job. The wait was long and sometimes seemed uncertain but the result is excellent. I find the disks handle really well in fact, better than cards at least for me. No more bending or re-adjusting. Just get and go. The instructions are excellent and all credits are properly given. As with all cons, magicians don’t always do them justice as with the real people. What can I say about the disks except top notch and the quality is certainly for the worker. These will be something that will be used. Nicholas performing the Bonus was a treat as well. If you haven’t purchased and want a set, I suggest you get your order in as this will become a classic.
Remember It’s A Wonderful Life? When Jimmy Stewart offered to lasso the moon for Donna Reed?
If you love that saccharine stuff, you’re going to love the latest swindle to rear its head in Australia.
Swindlers are claiming they can sell you a chunk of the moon, offering lunar land packages at sixty bucks per square kilometre.
The company, Moontastic, is doing the same thing that American star and lunar sellers have been doing for years, selling off property that the owner can never actually claim.
The whole scam reminds me of Gregor McGregor, the Scottish con man from the nineteenth century who invented a fictional country called Poyais. 240 victims paid to settle the new country. 180 of them died looking for the non-existent land.
Once you’ve paid the earth for the moon, you get a certificate that the company owner calls “a bonafide statements of intention to own.” You don’t own it, you just ‘intend’ to own it. In the same way that I ‘intend’ to lose 10 kilos and do my taxes on time.
The scam isn’t illegal but the secretary of the Space Industry Association of Australia Michael Davis said it best.
“Just because there is no law prohibiting something does not mean it is lawful and legitimate.”
Or maybe I’m just a cold hearted old cynic who can’t see this for the romantic gesture that it is.
I did a gig about ten years ago for a festival that failed to pay me. After months of emails and phone calls, I finally got a check for…$35 less than I was owed.
I rang the organiser who said “yeah, you got paid last and got all the money left in the account. But it’s only $35 right?”
I was furious. It was only $35, but it was my $35.
Now, ten years later, I find myself getting angry about another $35.
This time, the $35 isn’t just mine. It’s your’s.
If you visit a Coles or K-Mart or a McDonalds in Australia and pay less than $35 with a card, you won’t be asked for a PIN or signature. You don’t need to prove who you are. In other words, anyone can take your card and use it at these shops.
You can’t opt out or go to another bank because the Fast Pay system is an industry wide policy. Every card from every bank is now open to small scale fraud.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t go to Coles, K-Mart or McDonalds because it is the con artists who are taking advantage of the system.
I spoke this afternoon with Judy Shaw from VISA who was the only person I could find willing to discuss the issue. Coles, K-Mart, McDonalds and the banks I called all ducked the issue or ignored me.
Judy stated that the system is low risk because a) Fast Pay only applies on transactions $35 or less and b) you will get your money back if you get scammed (after going to your bank and requesting a fraud report and waiting several weeks).
However, none of this explains why the big banks feel it necessary to save 20 seconds at the check out by not asking for the PIN or signature. All of those twenty seconds saved will get added up and lumped onto the poor sod who has to go chasing down their thirty bucks later on.
I reminds me of a dodgy housemates who steals money from your wallet and then, when you complain, rolls his eyes and says. “It’s only a few bucks. I’ll pay you back. Just chillax man.”
Where is the opportunity to opt out of the system?
We should be able to go the bank and tick and box that means a PIN or signature is required for all transactions.
Credit card fraud is on the rise. Skimmers and card duplicators are rife. It’s never been more risky to use a credit, dedit or key card. Why make things less safe?
But I’ve got to relax. It’s taking me back to ten years ago when I yelled at a festival organiser for stiffing me.
Con artists have a habit of honing in on the desperate, the credulous and the zealous.
And there are few people more desperate, credulous and zealous than the fans of Harry Potter.
After all, they stumped up money twice to see that last book split into two separate films when there is barely enough material for one.
That is why, despite having more money than the US economy, J.K. Rowling has created Pottermore, a chance to re-read all of the books online plus get access to extra bonus material deemed too crappy to put in the actual books.
Rowling opened the website for a few weeks to a small number of people who had the chance to access the half finished site. To participate, you had to jump through more hoops than a quidditch quaffle answering trivia questions and following links.
And this is when the con artists showed up.
Websites started popped up offering people free access to the site if they would only hand over some personal details.
Other con artists hit eBay, selling fake accounts at one hundred dollars a pop.
Worse still, some users have found themselves accidentally signing up to premium services lines, like daily horoscopes, thinking they are getting their daily dose of Potter.
This all happened despite the fact the site was closed down two days ago until the official launch in October.
So until these scammers get caught and locked up in Azkaban or have their souls sucked by dementors, just take a deep breath, relax and remind yourself that it’s only a book.
How to do it. How to win the lottery and never work again in your life.
Well it’s possible. All you need to know are the two magic words known only to a handful of MIT statisticians and gambling investment companies.
Cash WinFall is a little known game run by the Massachusetts State Lottery. It’s a small lottery that peaks every now and again with jackpot of $2 million. If the jackpot doesn’t pay off, the rules say that the winnings need to be spread out over several smaller prizes over the next week.
Suddenly, for one week, the usually small prizes at the bottom end of the lottery spike in value. For a very small window of time, the odds swing the direction of the saavy gambler.
Early on 12 July, an elderly woman named Marjorie Selbee walked into Billy’s Beer and Wine and bought 150,000 $2 tickets in the lottery, tying up the ticket printing machine for hours. So long as they purchased over $100,000 worth of tickets, Selbee on her husband Gerald were almost certain to turn a profit. Since her husband was also buying hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of tickets, this was pretty much a sure thing.
MIT-educated statistician Mohan Srivastava has claimed that, if someone was to buy 200,000 tickets during rolldown week, they could expect to make between $240,000 to $1.4 million in profit.
And the Selbees are not alone. A select group of gamblers make a very good living from playing the lottery during Rolldown Week.
Of course, now that the word is out and more and more people take advantage of this mathematical quirk, who knows how long the game will be profitable.