Many years ago, well before my ownership of horses entitled me to free parking, I found a great place to park when going to Hastings Park or the PNE.
All of the PNE lands are bordered to the north by McGill Street, and to the north of McGill street is New Brighton Park. And whereas parking at the PNE was $10, parking at New Brighton was only $2. There was a guy there, orange vest and little pad of paper, wad of cash for change if needed… he’d take your two bucks and let you in. It was a bit of a hike, because you had to walk up, and all the way around.. but no big deal; it saved a significant amount of money, especially if you added it up over time… and this went on for years.
One day, the PNE called up the City of Vancouver and said to them, hey… your guy at New Brighton… he should be charging more. And the City of Vancouver replied… what guy? And so unravelled what can only be labelled as an excellent example of opportunistic creative entrepreneurship… or simply, a scam.
Scammers come in all sorts of shapes a sizes… an infinite array of criminal opportunists. A very common one these days involves scam emails. Nigerian princes with fortunes to hide, Powerball winners with millions to give away, ex-army officials with bricks of gold to launder… an endless list of creative criminals.
I have an email address — fake name, fake address… that I use exclusively for mailing lists and subscriptions where I want to read content, but not interact. They don’t need to know who I am. As you might imagine, this email address has become polluted with spam…. and scam emails. At least one a week… some version of “I have millions of dollars to send you; please send me some small amount of money so we can process it”. I sometimes reply with one sentence, and it turns into a conversation until they eventually figure out I’m just wasting their time. But two relevant stories… one was years ago… here’s what happened:
The guy (in Nigeria) wanted to send me a gift card with $200,000 on it… but needed me to send him $50 to pay for shipping it to me. That there are people who would fall for this baffles me. But anyway, I said to him… sure… I sent you the money… here’s the Western Union MTCN number… and made up a string of digits. He wrote back and told me he went to WU and tried to cash it in… but the number I’d sent was no good. It was only 9 digits, and the MTCN should be 10. Oh… I’m sorry, you’re right, I missed a digit. Here’s the correct number… and I just added an extra digit in the middle of it.
He wrote back two days later, angry that he’d once again gone to WU, and been rejected. I told him I’m so sorry… looking at it now, I think I said 4 to one of the digits, but it’s probably a 9. Bad handwriting from the WU clerk.
Two days later he wrote back… very angry. He’d gone again, been rejected of course, and been told that if he shows up again trying to scam WU, he’d be arrested. Then he gave me a whole sob story… how he’s an old man, he has to take a bus 90 minutes into Abuja to get to Western Union, he doesn’t time for this and so on. Oh… I felt bad. Poor scammer.
So I got an official WU form and filled it out with great precision. Even the handwritten MTCN number, with a digit that could be either a 4 or a 9. I made it look official, put some official time stamps and everything on it. It was a real work of art. Then I sent him an angry email, with a scan of my masterpiece… saying… listen you idiot, I’m not sure if you or the Western Union people are the brainless ones. Here’s the official paperwork I got when I sent the money. Take this to WU… and go get your money and send me my giftcard. Jeez.
Well… I never heard from him again. And there are a few possible scenarios, one of which is he’s in jail. I hope so. One less scammer preying on gullible people.
The second story is happening right now, and I’m not sure what to do. I recently answered one of these scammers with a sort of “I already sent you the money” email. Note… this is an excellent way to engage… because if they fall for it, they’ll think they’ve got “a live one” on the hook. I sent that message, and it turned into a back-and-forth, but what happened recently was this… I told her I’d send the money again, and she said great… and sent me all of her banking info. Real name, real home address and bank account info. Huh… now what. Call the cops? FBI? Ship her a glitter-bomb? Blackmail her? So many possibilities!
The vast majority of the time, the scams are all about money. Follow the money, and you will find the scammer. But once in a while, it’s about something totally different.
Such was the case last week and yesterday, with a bunch of teenagers using TikTok and other social media, and totally scamming the Trump presidential campaign. It fooled everyone, including me. I thought there would be hundreds of thousands of people crowding downtown Tulsa, because we were told how much interest there was in that rally. They had expected to fill 22,000 seats inside, and an extra overflow of 40,000 outside. In the end, the inside had a little over 6,000 people. The outside was cancelled.
Ironic of course, that the rally was to pay homage to the biggest scammer of all. And interestingly — perhaps appropriately — this rally might actually end up being the beginning of the end. There’s only so much people can take, and every time Trump goes off-script, all bets are off. He’s said many stupid things “off the cuff”, when he switches from the teleprompter to his brain, and usually the damage control can take care of it. But this time? Even his own people had nothing. They served up the lamest of the lame excuses, the one that works ok in grade 1… when you don’t quite get it… when you’re still refining your sense of humour. When Jimmy has dipped Cindy’s ponytail into paste, thinking it’s funny. But it’s not, and she’s crying… so Jimmy serves up the good old “I was just kidding”.
Well… what are they going to say, to remove the Trumpian foot out of his mouth? There’s nothing to say. “I was just kidding” isn’t going to fly; not because it’s not funny, but simply because he wasn’t kidding.
What Trump said basically was… “My reelection is so much more important than all of you, that I really don’t care if you all die… well, ha ha, not all of you… but let’s not go crazy testing you all… because we will see numbers that will make me look bad. So let’s just slow down this testing, and pretend things are not as￼ bad as they are.”
That’s a heavy dose of reality for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. The guy you’ve been defending for more than four years, telling you, in your face, literally… it’s ok if we don’t know you’re all sick. That’s not as important as my re-election.
Maybe, just maybe… some people will wake up and see… that they’re being scammed, by the greatest scammer of them all.