Friday, October 10, 2008

Phishing, Phraud and Phun

On Phishing, Phraud and Phun
I’m sure, Dear Readers, that you’ve been a victim of the Nigerian idiot who has millions in his bank account in the name of either yours, or some Government official who has suffered some sudden demise. The claim is often the same; one only has to send some ‘administrative fee’ to ensure that vast amounts of money will descend upon your personal bank account in nano-seconds. This fraud is known by various monikers, including the ‘401 scam’. These usually refer to Nigerian individuals who have either been refused entry in the UK, or one of the many lunatic locals in Nigeria who believe that the average member of the human race who live on this planet will send their hard-earned crust to these people. Oh, and I forgot, that the UK police estimate that about 20% of the UK’s populace actually do this. Sorry, but the ones who have done this - you’re jerks.
The second scam involves ‘cashing cheques/checks which have been drawn on US banks and we have no US bank account’. I got involved with one ‘Mike’, who asked me to help him. Mike was a delightful person. Lived in Erith, Kent. Sold rare African paintings to US persons who had no UK bank account. Unfortunately for Mike, I worked at the Woolwich BS (no, Building Society) about a mile away, and I knew the address was false. I contacted one of the UK’s daily newspapers. To cut a long story short, I still have in my possession a banker’s draft for $6,250 made payable to me. It looks authentic. My US bank said it was OK. I placed the funds in one of the bank’s savings account, after alerting them to the fact that the money was probably fraudulent. The draft was sent to me by UPS. Mike called almost hourly on my cell phone to check on its progress. After six weeks, the bank informed me that the draft was fake, and that they would debit my account. Harrumph/Bugger. By now, Mike had disappeared into that quagmire that is ‘Internet Fraud’. The UK newspaper no longer wished to know about this. 123 points down on my credit report in the US. More Harrumph/Bugger.
Avid readers of my column (you must be out there somewhere, aren’t you?) will recollect that I had my UK Bank card rejected in Canada. I received a new card. Complete with ‘Chip and Pin’. This ‘Chip and Pin’ will eradicate even the most prolific of hackers, and ensure that my meagre funds are safe. That’s what the banks in the UK say.
Until I get to Tesco, that is. Tesco is to the UK what Winn Dixie/Publix is to Florida, but with prices that are twice as much – it’s a UK ‘thing’. I tried to get to use the new card at their ATM, but it failed. Now this should have rung warning bells. I later tried to pay for my groceries – veggies, juice, does anyone really want to know what I buy at grocery stores? If you do, get a life! Be that may, my card was ‘declined’. This is a universal word which attracts the attention of a ‘Manager’ within nano-seconds. Shouts of ‘Unclean’ comes to mind. One of my US bank cards does the trick. But it doesn’t have the ‘Chip and Pin’. Sharp intake of breath from all concerned, except me. It requires the Manager to verify my signature with HQ. Is this a fate worse than death, I question? My Florida driver’s license serves to probably ensure that I am a possible phraud. To bore you no more, I am let out with my groceries, feeling suitably humbled, along with some cretin in the line behind me who called me a ‘Bleedin’ American’. My retort that ‘we’ saved his ass during the war, almost started another war.
When I got home, I spoke to Gupta in Mumbai. I confused them all, as there is a Welsh only number that I can call. I now have yet another card on the way....... There’s lovely for you isn’t it.
I’m going to have a few brewskis with my son in the morrow. His birthday. I'm going to enjoy this over the phising and phraud! How I wish I was 37 again!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Visit to The Colonies

Having returned to The Old World in February, I ventured out to see family in Canada (one of Pam's cousins) and then onto Florida to see my own kin. The flight to Canada was awful, some girl of about 5 kept nattering the whole flight, in a very loud squeaky voice. I was tempted to fix her vocal cords, but the plastic cutlery was not strong enough. But, once arrived, it was nice to see the sun! It has forgotten to come out here in the UK for two months now.
The first job was to get some beer. In Ontario, beer is only available in beer stores, run by the government. You usually go up to the (only) cashier, and order what you want. They will go out of a door, and the beer appears on a conveyor belt type of thing. The cost is almost on a par with beer in the UK - expensive, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. These beer store employees are on a par with rabid alligators when it comes to manners and demeanor. They must be related to government workers in the UK. They are called 'civil servants' here in the UK. Both words are oxymoronic in their world.
I digress. I got the beer. I then went to an ATM to get some cash. My bank in the UK declined my card. Once settled into my abode, I called the bank in the UK using the number on the back of the card. Spoke to some guy in Mumbai. He put me on hold so that I could talk to the correct person. This holding pattern lasted 11 minutes - all at my expense of course, but he did assure me that the call would go through. Eventually, I spoke to another guy in India. By now the quality of the line was abominable, and it was very difficult to understand him. The gist was that they'd noticed I'd tried to make a withdrawal in Canada, and as I hadn't told the bank that I was visiting Canada, they'd canceled the card. Best not to put into print what my reply was in case children might read this, but I did ask when did they decide that I needed to tell them of my travels. Pulling teeth from a hen in heat would have been easier. I was lucky, I could still transfer funds to my wife's account, who could then withdraw money. Her card had been cloned the week before, so they knew she was on the road.
In the meantime, we went for a meal, and I tried to pay with a credit card. Declined. Turns out this one (from a US bank) had been cloned, and a new one issued a few days previously. As it is a US bank, the card had been sent to my US address (I'm not allowed to have the card using a UK address). The new card was sitting at my daughter's house, waiting to be activated. Fortunately, I had another credit card, but I'm beginning to think that the best way of traveling is to carry wads of the real thing. Plus a 44 Magnum.
I made it to Niagra Falls, and duly lost $40 at the Casino. But it was nice to be there as I met up with the widow of my old buddy Bob who passed away a couple of months back. Joyce and Bob moved to Ashtabula, Ohio about a year back, which is only about a two hour drive from Niagra. I still miss Bob, he and I used to chew the fat a couple of times a week over a few brews. When he retired a few years back, he bought a PC, and became one the most knowledgable amateurs I've ever met. He was good. (Worth mentioning that Rik saved his life story which Bob had written and somehow managed to delete!) He and I were known the Grumpy Old Men where we lived. Very appropriate. Bob was also an avid reader. He would read history books, science books etc and could ingest the knowledge where I could only marvel at his ability to understand the big words. He was chief security officer at a casino in Vegas at one time. Told me about a lot of tricks that people get up to. RIP Bob. You're sorely missed.
I also managed to meet up with an expert blogger - Ricardipus himself. A terrific guy, and he showed me around his place of work. An excellent time was had chatting and sorting out the woes of almost every country in the world. Except France.
He's a great guy, and added to this was the fact that he spent a year in N Wales when a lad in short trousers. We discussed why the Canadians insist on placing all signs in French and English. Even where no one speaks French. We also discussed why they went metric. Bad move in my view.
Then off to Florida. God's own country. Having lived in, or experienced many countries, I still believe that the US is the best country in the world. Many people berate Dubya, but despite the politicians, the country is still great! I fear that if Obama wins, things will dramatically change. (Enter Joy with rebuttal... In my defence, the Dems should have chosen Hillary. She did get more votes after all. I fear that Joy and I will finally agree on something!)
Unfortunately, another flight to Florida spoilt by screaming infants. But my daughter and granddaughter were there to meet us! We spent 4/5 glorious days, sitting outside on the beach, getting sunburnt, and generally enjoying the heat. It was 91 which I believe is about 32 in new money, or Civilized as my Antipodean friend would say. It was great on Sunday to get an opportunity to drink beer, watch the game (the Bucs won in overtime) and meet up with the old gang. A lot of my old buddies turned up at my daughter's house. My son-in-law and I sang a few songs while I was there. We do that. Make the words as we go along. The tune is irrelevant. Maybe we sould be on one of these talent shows, maybe not. My granddaughter is delightful. Most people who know me know that I have a passionate dislike of children and babies, but this little girl is like my grandson - special. Cute too, well, I guess taking after her grandfather.... Maybe I'm mellowing in my old age.
The flight back to the UK was the worst ever. An infant cried solidly for over six hours. The child was obviously distressed, and the parents had no idea how to calm the child down. I wondered if the child was really theirs. The proffered food was an Indian Curry, complete with onions and garlic. About 30% of the passengers were Asian, so I suspect this concotion was to their delight. However, not all Asian food is ruined by these ingredients. At least the bread was edible.
The pilot and crew were from 'Keybeck'. No one on the flight could not understand English, so the need for French was superfluous. It would not be so bad if the crew spoke French, but the accent that the Keybecks pass off as French is not French.
Upon landing, it was 3 degrees Civilized. Or very uncivilized after 91 in Florida....
Now to enjoy the trauma that is jetlag. I swear that once I hit 40 (in hexadecimal), it has gotten worse. But I have the Internet to amuse me at all hours.
Here endeth today's lesson.