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A Scam By Any Other Name Would Still Smell January 28, 2015

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.

PT Barnum is famously accredited with saying “There’s a fool born every minute.”  If I could get a dollar from anyone I fooled I’d be pretty rich.  And some less-than-reputable people are doing just that, every day.  Scammers get a lot of people to hand them money.  Credit card fraud.  Spam emails.  Pop-up windows.  Links to irrelevant websites.  Computer Viruses.  Straight up, simple Theft.  And deception.  For some people, some of these are a gray area.  To me they are all darkest evil.

I once took a job from a guy in a nice suit who drove a nice car who had a slick smile.  He promised me things after 90 days of employment, and then more things when I became a permanent employee.  It turned out this was that as a temp, and that was nothing like what he had promised, and by the time I waited 90 days, this was that again.  I went on to become full time, and this turned out to be that again, and I got less than I was promised.  When it happened, I looked back and promised myself to get it in writing next time.  Since then I’ve been more aware.  But I should have already known better.

I once answered a classified advertisement, when I was very young.  I was fresh out of college and needed money like everyone else.  I sat through a minimally paid orientation program that was to last for a few days, after which we were to sign on the dotted line and be put to work to make a lot of money.  The promises were great.  The presenter was a man in his 50s, wearing a pretty gold ring and a pretty gold watch and a pretty suit and dress shoes told us things about his product.  It was “industrial strength.”  We would be selling “to corporations.”  He even told us it wouldn’t be door-to-door, but instead would be referral driven, with referrals coming from the corporate office.  He told us about the reward structure, how we could earn various pretty sales premiums, and we would even earn money just for setting up and displaying our products to customers.

The guy showed us the flashy stuff: the rings, the watches, on up to cars and boats and even a nice house.  About the end of the second day of this, I suspected something was amiss.  A guy sitting behind me mentioned he had quit his previous job to come and hoped it wasn’t some kind of scam.  We hadn’t seen the product yet.  I quipped, “it’s probably door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales.”  Not that day, but the next day, the product was revealed to us.  That’s right, after some missed three days of working a regular day job, they finally showed us the product.  A vacuum cleaner.  And it was referral driven, but also door-to-door, and there would be no sales to large companies as they had hinted, or perhaps actually stated.  If I had a recording device I should have made a recording and sued.

Somehow this was legal.

My own mother-in-law owns one of their older, heavier models, and it still works.  I admit, the product is great, but it’s very expensive and the way they tried to get us to sell it was, plain and simple, shady.  That was years ago.  Perhaps they have changed their technique.  But I’m not going to request a demonstration so I can interview the poor sales person to find out if they walked some sort of blindfolded plank, or jumped in with both feet willingly.

I hate watching television, although I do have favorite shows I’ll watch when I can catch them.  When I watch the TV, I just don’t like the news, the commercials, the reality TV shows, and the talk shows.  That’s about 95% of modern television programming.  They have trailers for movies, and I get that.  They want you to want to see the movie, so they show you just enough of the good parts to make you want to see how things turn out.  But now, the news media have switched to a trailer technique.  They tease, “The world is coming to an end!  Find out how, and how we might be able to avert certain doom and disaster, tonight at 11!”  Or worse, “Tonight our investigative team will report about a series of break-ins in the local area!  The victims were beaten, raped and robbed and their cars were stolen from their garages.  Find out where, tonight at 11!”  This last one I heard in the morning, and had to wait until evening to find out.  As a matter of public safety, that news, as bad as it sounds, needs to be reported immediately, without all the slick production values and personal interviews the station wanted to put together.  We locked the doors, and I glanced back at the flimsy glass in the windows of the house, knowing if someone really wanted into the house bad enough, they could get in.

But I felt baited to watch at another time, and I really didn’t feel it was necessary.  If my wife, or someone else, had been attacked that day I would think the news media outlet should be held responsible for not issuing a clearer warning for the law-abiding citizens to be on alert.  It felt like the news media were conspiring to give the criminals one more day to keep doing what they were doing, and a warning to skip town after that.  In clearer terms, conspiracy felt like it wasn’t the most apt description, but aiding and abetting was.  Who do these people know?  Who’s helping them to get away with this crap?  Shady.

I get a phone call every week or every other week, from a charitable organization asking for help.  They may be reputable, but then you look them up and it turns out some aren’t even directly connected with the organization they’re purporting to support.  Some people stand on the street corners with permits, collecting change for this or that.  I looked up one of those organizations and found out they come from a whole different state!  Shady.

I received an email today, from a source I generally trusted.  I opened the email and there was a link to a presentation, and I was curious.  The presentation started and it was a lengthy article in presenter-controlled video form so I couldn’t skip to the important parts or to the end, and it took more than 5 minutes and I still didn’t get the important information they wanted me to know about.  My this-is-a-sales-gimmick radar went off and I closed the presentation down before I got to the part where they said we’ll tell you how this great thing works for $29.95 plus S&H.  I hate those almost as much as I hate the emails sent from a blind email box that ask you to click here for your invoice, or your report, and they highjack your computer and stick a virus on it.  Some of them then follow with a popup that says to call them and they will remove the virus and protect your computer for $29.95 per year.  I have learned several scam-y sounding email formats and I delete some even if I know who sent it to me.  I just hate to be messed with, and some people act like they have nothing better to do with their time than to torment me.  I think some of them might be legal, but I know all of them are shady.

Certain car dealers and their bait-and-switch pricing drive me crazy.  Certain auto repair shops with their “I wouldn’t drive it like that myself, unless you let me put this new part on it,” too.  Q:  How do you know who to trust?  A:  You don’t.  Somehow it’s all legal.  Sometimes, you get your money’s worth and find one reputable one.  But too frequently, it’s shady.

Q: Who are you, demons?
A:  We are LEGION.

I hate every one of the legions of people who are in the service of the deceiver.  And I hate their father too.  I’m not supposed to hate the sinner, just the sin, but it’s hard to separate the two.  If it were my universe, these pigs, and the spiritual darkness which motivates them, would be abruptly ended.  But alas, or fortunately for them, it’s not mine.  Beware, people.  A scam is a scam is a scam, and they are legion.  Some of them are well concealed behind some shred of twisted legality, and behind their flash, celebrity, glam, promises, and perfume.  But in the end they all still smell bad.

In his book “No Exit,” Sartre is famous for the expression, “L’enfer, c’est les autres,” which translates, literally, “Hell, it is the others,” or “Hell is other people.”  Not exactly a universal truth, not exactly loving, but close to the former.

Ever been scammed?  It keeps happening to me because the scam switches and I get blindsided again.  Will it ever stop?  Can we have people who really care, offering the truth in love, instead of pirates who sell half truths for profit?

Someone tell me again, why am I a suspicious-minded introvert who dislikes most people and is well on the road to becoming a full-on hermit?  And how is that a bad direction to go?



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