Saturday, September 8, 2018

Hitting Back At Scam Calls

I have enjoyed many hours of listening to recordings of scambaiters calling telephone scammers and harassing them. Their goal is typically explained that, by wasting the scammers' time, they prevent the scammers from harassing someone else.

Scammers, usually either based in India or staffed in other countries by Indian expatriates, have posed as Microsoft Tech Support, the Internal Revenue Service, Canada Revenue, the Social Security Administration, etc and have stolen millions of dollars from people since these scams were first created. Recent arrests in India and the United States of scamming operations appear to have done little to stop scams from continuing. It's easy to start a scam operation, once you know how it's done, especially if people who participated in one scam operation simply move on to start their own.

While wasting scammers' time with baiting is enjoyable to do and to watch others do, I think that it would be far more effective to identify the phone numbers used by scammers, discover the company under which their phone number is registered and then contact that company in order to have the number shutdown.

Twitter is my primary source for the initial discovery of phone numbers being used by scammers, but I will keep my eyes open for other sources,

My primary tool for discovering the company that owns the number is Phone Validator, which is usually reliable. Otherwise, you can use Free Carrier Lookup. If these two sources disagree, simply file reports with both of them. However, neither of them can trace toll-free numbers.

For toll-free numbers, I use either 800ForAllTollFreeNumbers.com or Toll-Free Number Search by ATL Communications.

In case none of those sources can provide me with the information I need, I have to do a little extra digging and make my best guess.

The following is the contact information for all companies whose numbers have been used by scammers. If the information is out-of-date, I would appreciate corrections posted in the Comments section of this post and I will update the information here.

In order to keep the list up-to-date, I will remove numbers after about two weeks unless reports continue to be posted about them. Do not scambait the numbers listed on this blog. If you received a call from one of the numbers listed here, simply use the provided contact information to file a report. When making your report, please remember to include the date and time when you received the call.

382 Communications
Contact information: email support@382com.com

Aerialink
Contact information: http://www.aerialink.com/about-us/contact-us

Alcazar Networks
Contact information: Phone 484-664-2800
Contact information: Toll Free 800-349-6192
Contact information: Fax 866-740-4548
Contact information: info@alcazarnetworks.com

ATT
Contact information: https://www.att.com/esupport/report-call-or-text.html

ATL Communications
Contact information: https://atlc.com/contact-us/

AVOXI
Contact information: https://www.avoxi.com/contact-us/

Bandwidth.com
Contact information: https://www.bandwidth.com/legal/report-a-phone-number/ 
Contact information: call (844) 567-5064

Blitz Telecom
Contact information: investigate@blitztelecomservices.com

Century Link
Contact information: https://www.centurylink.com/business/resources/customer-support.html
Contact Information: email fraudoperations@centurylink.com

Conexiant Telecom
Contact information: email info@conexiant.net

Dialpad
Contact information: email support@dialpad.com

DISTRIBUTEL
Contact information: https://www.distributel.ca/

Five 9
Contact information: email info@five9.com
Contact information: email privacy@Five9.com
Contact information: Twitter https://twitter.com/Five9

Enflick
Contact information: email abuse@enflick.com

Exiant Communications
Contact information: https://exiantcommunications.com/

Grasshopper LLC
Contact information: call (800) 279-1455
Contact information: https://twitter.com/Grasshopper

H2O Wireless
Contact information: https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/mainControl.php?page=ContactUs

IDT Corporation
Contact information: https://www.idt.net/contact-us.html

Immediate Services, LLC
Contact information: 303-222-1540
(Note: this number may not be current. I called it and there was neither an answer or a recorded message. I cannot find a website or email address)

Invoca
Contact information: https://www.invoca.com/company/contact/

Inteliquent (dba: Broadwing, Broadvox, Neutral Tandem, Onvoy)
Contact information: https://www.inteliquent.com/contact-us

IPTelX
Contact information: http://www.iptelx.net/contact.php

Iristel
Contact information: email feedback@iristel.com

JM Telecom
Contact information: https://www.j-m-telecom.com/contact-us/

Level 3 Communications
Contact Information: http://your.level3.com/AbuseIssues
Contact Information: email fraudoperations@centurylink.com

Local Access
Contact information: https://localaccessllc.com/

Mayfair Communications, Inc
Contact information: 800-629-3247
(Note: I called this number and heard a recorded message identifying themselves as Mayfair Communications, but I cannot find a website or email address)

OneVoice Communications
Contact Information: email info@onevoiceinc.com

Paetec
Contact information: https://www.windstream.com/contact-us/form

Peerless Network
Contact information: https://www.peerlessnetwork.com/contact-us/contact-hq/

Plivo, Inc
Contact information: https://support.plivo.com/support/tickets/new

Primus Canada
Contact information: https://primus.ca/index.php/ont_en/contact-us?unit=home

Real Time Cloud Services
Contact information: http://www.myrealdata.com/contact-us.html

Resporg Solutions Customer Service Number 800-804-3471 Customer Service Email info@resporgsolutions.com

Rogers Wireless
Contact information: https://www.rogers.com/consumer/support/contactus

Telengy
Contact information: email info@telengy.net

Telnyx
Contact information: https://telnyx.com/report-abuse
Contact information: email support@telnyx.com

TELUS
Contact information: Twitter https://twitter.com/TELUSsupport
Contact information: https://www.telus.com/en/bc/support/contact-us?linktype=footer

TextNow
Contact information: abuse@enflick.com

THINQ
Contact information: 1-877-506-0747
Contact information: info@thinq.com

Time Shift
Contact information: http://www.timeshift.net/contact.html

Twilio
Contact information: https://www.twilio.org/contact/
Contact Information: https://twitter.com/TwilioHelp

Vail Systems
Contact Information: https://www.vailsys.com/contact/

Verizon
Contact information: email ResearchandCompliance@verizon.com

Vitcom
Contact information: https://www.vitcom.net/contact-us/

XO Communications
Contact information: email abuse@xo.net

YMAX Communications
Contact information: email ReportAbuse@magicJack.com



Duane Browning

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The "Final Expenses" Scam

I received a letter from
Distribution Processing Center
PO Box 689
Marietta, GA 30061-9901
which stated that I may qualify for a state-regulated program to pay for my final expenses, which I assume means funeral expenses. The mailing contained no information regarding the company who actually sent it to me, nor did it include any information about how I could have myself removed from future mailings.

A quick Google search showed this to be part of a long-running scam that has been discussed on various forums and websites over the years, with no one able to figure-out exactly who is sending out these letters. I was able to find several reports regarding this company and others, using assorted Post Office Box addresses in Georgia. Switching PO Box numbers so frequently would be the typical response from a company or individual who may find their address being the recipient of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by people who are attempting to sue them, since the USPS will release the PO Box owners' information to a process server.

One thing that most people have agreed-upon is that the claim of a "final expenses" benefit is fictitious and anyone who replies will simply have their contact information sold to other marketing companies.

Aside from simply throwing the envelope in the trash, some people have stated that they've mailed-back the included return envelope, either empty or with shredded paper inside. I'm not sure if the company who mailed them out would get charged for the return postage or return postage costs are included in the mass-mailing fees initially charged to them by the US Postal Service.

One idea that may tempt some people is to attach the reply envelope to a heavy box and mail it back with the intention that the mailer will get charged for the extra postage. That will not work because the Post Office will notice it when it gets into one of their distribution centers, flag it and remove the heavy item. You can see verification of this in the video below:
Personally, I understand how people would want to take some small measure of revenge against scammers like this, but don't waste the Postal Service's time doing something like that.

If you want to do anything, you could simply mail back the empty envelope or run the contents through a shredder a couple of times before sending it back. As long as everything fits inside the return envelope, the USPS won't flag and stop it.

Just don't include a threatening note inside the envelope. The recipient could then report you to the US Postal Inspection Service and you could find yourself getting charged with a Federal crime for sending threats of violence through the US Mail.


Duane Browning

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Workplace Compliance Services

In July 2018, letters were mailed to owners of limited liability companies (LLCs) in Hawaii that were apparently sent by a company calling itself "Workplace Compliance Services". The letter and the envelope made it very clear that they had not been sent by a government agency, but by a private entity. The letter was a form filled-out with the LLC's business registration information, along with a request for fees, which would pay for Workplace Compliance Services submitting the annual report required of all limited liability companies operating in Hawaii.

The fee charged by the State of Hawaii when submitting your annual report is twenty-five dollars and Workplace Compliance Services was asking for an additional $75 as a "processing fee", for a total amount of $100 that LLC owners were being asked to pay. I would also like to point-out that there is no way to tell if these people will actually take care of filing your LLC's annual report, even if you pay them. They could just take your money and run.

Workplace Compliance Services and similar outfits have worked their respective schemes in several States already, so Hawaii isn't their first rodeo.

I've Got Their Number

The toll-free number they provide to contact them is 877-770-3555 and it comes up in Internet searches related to past and ongoing mailings these people have sent. The top result of my first Googling of this number reveals what may be either a previous or simultaneous incarnation of this company, called "Business Compliance Services", which was reported in Georgia. I've seen other posts about a company calling itself "Corporate Compliance Services", which was active in 2016 but there are no recent posts about them.

People have also reported receiving calls from that number, though messages weren't left on their voicemail, so it seems that mailing letters is their preferred method of operating. The reports are found on WhoCallsMe and 800Notes.

Interestingly, the phone number also comes up in a search as having been posted in a classified ad in The Employment Guide Northern New Jersey in the October 20 -26, 2014 edition on page seven. I tried a WhoIs for the website GuitarsForCash.com and came up with nothing. I doubt if it's the same people, though. The toll-free number was probably abandoned by the guitar guys and later purchased by the new ones.

The postal stamp on a letter received in Hawaii indicates that the place of origin was in zip code 33912, which is Fort Myers, Florida.

I actually called the number to see what would happen and heard a voicemail message. It's a professionally-done recording and the woman's voice betrayed no accent. The voice seems to be of a Caucasian woman, which is the only thing I could get out of listening to the message twice. Their business hours are from 9:00am to 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time, which lines up well enough with the Florida zip code on the letters received.

The mailing addresses provided in their mailings across the United States indicate a preference for using UPS Stores to receive their checks. A few examples:

Georgia: 4279 Roswell Rd NE Atlanta, GA 30342-3769
Hawaii: 4348 Waialae Ave #700, Honolulu, HI 96816
Louisiana: 721 Government St #103-118, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
New Jersey: 1977 N. Olden Avenue Ext #650,  Trenton, NJ 08618

Either they have a co-conspirator picking up the mail from these places and forwarding them to their actual headquarters or UPS may be forwarding them, but I don't know if UPS offers that kind of service.

In one letter sent out to Louisiana businesses, the letter states that all orders will be processed and shipped from their corporate office in Lansing, MI. So, we've gone from Fort Myers, FL to Lansing, MI which is over a thousand miles away.

My Call to Workplace Compliance Services

Being curious about how they would react to receiving a phone call that made more direct inquiries about their company, I decided to take a chance and give them a call. Using a Talkatone number, I called the number provided. After the initial recorded answer, I was forwarded to a woman named Emma. I asked her about who they are and what kind of services they offer in exchange for that $75 "processing fee".

Her response was fairly straightforward: they would file my report for me. I mentioned that LLCs in Hawaii can do all this in-person or online, without any additional fees, saving themselves any sort of extra charges. Since Workplace Compliance Services doesn't have an attorney or accountant in Hawaii to represent them or act on their behalf and they aren't even registered to do business in Hawaii themselves, sending them my money simply made no sense. I didn't mention I also didn't see what would stop them from just keeping my money and not doing anything for me.

She got a little cocky when I mentioned that the Better Business Bureau in Hawaii had posted a warning about those letters and she replied "The Better Business Bureau isn't the government.". In reply, I informed her that the DCCA had also posted a warning and that the DCCA is a government agency in the State of Hawaii. She had no answer to that point.

I also pointed-out that they're using a UPS mail drop in Honolulu as their mailing address, further raising suspicions about their legitimacy. If you've read this blog's other entries, you'd already know how scammers use mail drops, rather than a real address, in order to obscure their true location and prevent people from finding out where they are so that they could be served with court papers.

I asked for their actual location and was quite surprised when she gave it to me:
7718 Northport Drive
Lansing, MI 48917

A quick search reveals this to be a warehouse, rented for industrial use. There are listings of other companies using this as their mailing address and it's a pretty big place, too.

This fits-in quite well with what I noted earlier, that the orders placed with them would be processed from their office in Lansing. Of course, I'm left to wonder why they stopped putting that information on the mailers they sent out. It's probably because people are far less willing to send money out-of-State to a company they've never heard of to take care of something they can do themselves. Using a local address would make people feel easier, until they realized that it's a UPS mail drop. So, if there's no local office or representative, there's no one in your vicinity to whom you could complain or sue if the paperwork isn't filed. It just looks like they're just trying to lure people in by letting them think they're dealing with a local company, rather than outsiders.

The Company Behind the Mailings

I decided to find-out if Workplace Compliance Services is even a registered business in Michigan. Again, I was quite surprised to discover that it is and you can see their registration here. Workplace Compliance Services is actually a dba (doing business as) company under the parent corporation which is called ANS, Incorporated. There are several "assumed names" - as they are known in Michigan - operating under the umbrella of ANS, Inc:

  • BUSINESS COMPLIANCE SERVICES
  • FLORIDA ASSUMED NAME SERVICES
  • FLORIDA FICTITIOUS NAME PUBLISHING
  • MAIL PROCESSING CENTER
  • NATIONAL PASSPORT EXPRESS
  • WORKPLACE COMPLIANCE SERVICES
Business Compliance Services and Workplace Compliance Services were both registered on the same day, 7 February 2018.


The company is owned by Steven Fata and the address on the registration matches the address Emma gave me, so that part of it was truthful. Steven acts as president, treasurer, secretary and director for ANS, Inc.

The Unsinkable Fata Brothers

Steven Fata may be engaging in some questionable behavior with these mailings to LLCs in Hawaii, but he's not an idiot. Acting as his registered agent is attorney David R Brake of the law firm Knaggs Brake, P.C. in Lansing, MI. and David is a certified attorney in US District Courts, as well as the US Supreme Court. That kind of expertise must have come in handy, when Steven faced legal repercussions for some bullshit he tried to pull in the past.

For your own edification, here is Mr Brake's contact information:
DAVID R BRAKE, ESQ
7521 WESTSHIRE DR STE 100
LANSING, MI 48917
TELEPHONE: 517-622-0590

Back in 2013, Steven Fata got into a bit of trouble for allegedly misleading small businesses where his company, called Corporate Records Services, offered a service in exchange for money. That's not a problem in itself, except that they had no real right to charge for it.

The Better Business Bureau put out an alert on another company Steve was associated with, The Mandatory Poster Agency, Inc., which he co-owned with Joe Fata and Thomas Fata. The three brothers were also sued in 2015 by the Michigan State Attorney General who filed a suit to shutdown that company.

Steve and Thomas got into more trouble in 2014, when they got sued for alleged misleading mailings sent from their company, Corporate Records Services. Several States had initiated legal action against the Fata brothers.

Even a State as far from Michigan as Delaware was a legal battleground for Steve and his brothers. If you're such an asshole in Michigan that Delaware hates you, you're probably not going to have many friends in the other 48 States.

I have to admit that, it must be worth it for them. After all the legal trouble into which they've found themselves embroiled, they must be making enough money from it all or else they would have quit years ago.

Then again, they could just be too stupid to realize that they'll eventually always get caught and sued.

I'm Such A Rat Fink

Taking the information I've gathered about Workplace Compliance Services and collecting it all on one page (actually, the back of one of the letters they mailed to a Hawaii LLC)  I paid a visit to the offices of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs in Downtown Honolulu and handed it off to the clerk on-duty.

When I mentioned the letter from Workplace Compliance Services, she immediately reached over to a stack of papers next to her on the counter and handed me one. They've received so many complaints about those letters, that they keep a stack of the DCCA's statement and warning on the counter to handout.

But, I showed her the information I'd gathered and told her where I got it from, her eyes immediately brightened and she greedily read all the information like it was a map to buried treasure. Hawaii State attorneys are apparently already gathering information on their own for potential action against the people behind it. They may already have had the information I gave them, but it didn't hurt to offer a little help.

Hawaii State attorneys may soon get in-touch with ANS, Inc's attorney, Mr David R Brake, Esq. As I said, he's a pretty qualified attorney, but let's see how good he is if history repeats itself and he has to deal with dozens of lawyers from across the country. The Fata brothers' track record isn't exactly stellar in the courtroom.

Conclusions

The only real way to stop Steven Fata is to hit him with a fine so big that it would easily eclipse all the money he's made with Workplace Compliance Services and Business Compliance Services. If he makes more money than he loses, it only encourages him to keep going. Why stop when it's profitable?

There's a saying that Steven Fata seems to have lived by: "Stupid people deserve to get swindled.".

Workplace Compliance Services and Business Compliance Services have only been around for five months, as of this blog post. In that short amount of time, they've already achieved nationwide notoriety.

Sadly, they aren't the only people out there doing this and the only way to make them stop is to hurt them financially more than they've hurt other people. If the States don't burn these guys down to the financial ground, they'll just keep going.


Duane Browning

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Jedi Meditation Made Easy

I've found numerous websites and Facebook groups founded by people who claim to be following a version of the Jedi religion from the Star Wars saga. It always amuses me how people can refer to themselves as a "Jedi Master" when there really isn't a Jedi Order to bestow such a title on anyone. Of course, I realize that these people likely gave themselves that title or it was given to them by the group to which they belonged.

That being said, I've done a bit of research on such groups (being a fan of Star Wars, myself) and decided that I have as much right as any of them to offer instruction in two methods of Jedi meditation.

So, here I go:

The Greater Meditation

This method involves a total involvement by the person meditating and requires committing yourself for a certain period of time, as opposed to the Lesser Meditation described below.

Before you become accustomed to this method, it is advised that you allow yourself to be as physically comfortable as possible. I suggest that you bathe, brush your teeth, wear comfortable clothes and have something to eat or drink, if you feel the need. Not taking care of these things beforehand may prove to be a distraction while you are meditating. You may eventually be able to meditate even if you were covered head-to-toe in mud, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Set a timer to for about twenty minutes before you begin. This is advisable when starting, though you can eventually progress to meditate for longer periods of time. As you needed to learn how to crawl before you could walk and walk before you could run, you should start with a short period of time before you begin meditating for longer stretches of time, if you feel the need to do so. I think twenty minutes is just about right. Playing a twenty minute clip of "meditation music" may be helpful for some, but it could also provide a source of distraction. Do whichever works best for you. Personally, I prefer to meditate in as quiet an environment as possible.

I advise that you sit while doing this meditation, as standing may become disorienting and tiring. However, you could remain standing, if you are comfortable with it. However, you should not lay down, as you could accidentally fall asleep while meditating.

First, assume a seated position that is comfortable. You can sit in a chair with a back or sit cross-legged on the floor, whichever you prefer. The Lotus Position can be uncomfortable and distracting to people who are not used to it, so I advise against it. When seated, keep your back straight and your hands in your lap, palms up. Set the timer and close your eyes.

Allow yourself a minute to settle-into your meditation. Simply breathe in and out for about a minute.

When you feel settled, mentally repeat this mantra in your mind without speaking it out loud:
"I am one with the Force; the Force is with me."

Yes, you first heard that line in the movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story".

Repeat this mantra when you breathe in. Take slow, even breaths and try not to rush.

You may find yourself becoming distracted by external stimuli. This will be a problem when first starting-out, but you'll begin to be able to block out such distractions with enough practice. Don't worry about your becoming distracted, but do not allow yourself to remain so. When you become aware that you have been distracted, mentally pull yourself away for it and return to mentally chanting the mantra,

Breathe in,
"I am one with the Force; the Force is with me.",
Breathe out,
Breathe in,
"I am one with the Force; the Force is with me."
Breathe out,
and so on.

You may find that you've lost track of time and may start wondering how much has actually gone by. Don't worry about such things.

Breathe in,
"I am one with the Force; the Force is with me."
Breathe out,

Eventually, your timer will sound. Reach over and shut it off. Remain seated for a couple of minutes to allow yourself to ease-out of your meditation.

That's it.

The Lesser Meditation

In some ways, the Lesser Meditation is more versatile than the Greater, because it can be done anywhere and for any amount of time, long or short. You could do this while seated, standing or laying down.

Like the Greater Meditation, you breathe in and mentally recite the mantra "The Force is with me; I am one with the Force." and then exhale. There is no need for you to close your eyes and I would usually advise you to keep them open during the Lesser Meditation.

This method can be done when you are waiting in line at the store, when you find yourself getting angry for some reason, you're stuck in traffic, having a hard time sleeping, etc. There is no such this as this meditation not being long enough. It simply allows you to calm and center yourself as needed.

Conclusion

These methods could each have their respective place in your life. The Greater Meditation should be done once or twice everyday, depending on your available time. Some may prefer to do it once in the morning as they get ready to start their day and once at night as they prepare for bed. A minimum of once daily is advised.

While the Greater Meditation involves a dedicated amount of time, the Lesser Meditation can help you relieve the stressful things that arise throughout your day and can be helpful in maintaining your inner balance and peace.

So, each serves an important function.

This blog entry isn't going to encourage you to go out and buy a lightsaber, Jedi robes or any books. Instead, I offer to you instruction on meditation techniques that you can easily learn and use.

If you try either of them, let me know in the Comments section how it's going for you. I will not allow anyone to try to sell merchandise in the Comments section and such comments will be deleted.

May the Force be with you.


Jedi Master Duane Browning

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Possible Vacation Rental Scam

A friend asked me to check into an ad that she saw posted on Craigslist, under the "Volunteers" section.
ATTENTION!ATTTENTION!!ATTENTIO!!! (O'ahu, HI)  
We're currently seeking for someone that can post ads on craigslist for 2-3 hours daily and earn 300$ weekly. For more info you can buzz Fred on (802) 851-0347. 
NOTE: You must be 18 years or more and no pranks please. 
First, I found it rather odd that the ad would be posted under "Volunteers", instead of under "Jobs". I also noticed how they posted the ad five times in one day on June 6th, which pushes a few buttons on my Scam Sensor, right away. Plus, reading the ad indicates that they might not be a native speaker of the English language.

Okay, the phone number uses a Vermont area code, which is already a bad sign. Accepting any kind of job offer from someone out-of-State is usually inadvisable, unless you can verify their identity.

Attempting to call reveals it to be a Google Voice number, which provides a great deal of protection if you want to conceal your identity. The person behind it did respond to text messages, though. The phone number doesn't show-up in an Internet search, of course. So, there's no way to verify their identity.

From what I was told, the "job" consists of working between two and three hours a day. In that time, you'll be given about twenty ads to post for vacation rentals in South Carolina and in Hawaii. After a week's work, you'll get paid three hundred dollars, via Paypal, bank transfer, cash bank deposit or check. If you work seven days a week, three hours at a time and make 300 dollars, that comes to a little over 14 dollars an hour. If you're only working five days, that's twenty dollars an hour.

That ain't bad.

Before you begin posting ads, you're expected to set-up a new GMail account specifically for this job with an accompanying Craigslist account, the passwords for both accounts are to be shared with "Fred". His reasons for wanting the log-in details? He claims that he needs your passwords in order to verify the accounts. This is, of course, bullshit. You can verify any email account's existence by simply giving the other person your email address and telling them to send you a message. My friend did that and received an email from an account registered to James Owen, not Fred Jose. Supposedly, this is yet another person that had contacted Fred about the job and provided the log-in details for his GMail account. Another possible victim may be someone named Favian Hernandez. So, Fred won't send you anything using his own email address, preferring to use other people's.

He also claims that he needs to monitor the ads and follow-up with the responses. I've always understood that working in the vacation rental business involves working long hours and struggling for every dollar you can get your hands on due to the intense competition in that line of work. If I was working in the vacation rental business and had other people posting ads on my behalf, I'd have them forward the responses to me, so I could respond to them with my own account, answering any questions they had and close the sale. I certainly wouldn't trust some lackey with what is likely to be my main source of income.

Note: when people work for real vacation rental companies, they get a company email account, they don't use GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. That's one way to tell the real people from the frauds. You should also read this.

The person sending the texts to my friend identified himself as "Fred Jose", originally from Vermont, but has lived in Hawaii for five months. A search on Intellius reveals no person by that name in their records as having resided in Vermont.

He also claims to work for Holiday Lettings, which is a company based in the United Kingdom. Again, there is no listing I can find of anyone named "Fred Jose" working as an agent for that company.

In addition to setting-up a GMail and Craigslist account, then giving "Fred" the log-in details, he also wants you to provide him with your full name and address, along with your preferences for how you want to get paid.

You may be wondering why he would go through all this trouble? Why not simply set-up fake GMail and Craigslist accounts on his own under fictitious names?

Well, one reason is that one person can only post so many ads in a day or even a week. If you have two people posting 20 ads a day, seven days a week, that's 280 ads a week, adding 140 more ads per person that you recruit. However, the main answer is that it provides an extra layer of protection for himself. After all, when people learn that they've been scammed, they'll file a complaint with Craigslist, GMail and law enforcement to discover the identity and location of the scammer. All Fred has to do is add your address to the GMail account and the cops will come for you, not him. It's also quite possible, even likely, that Federal law enforcement could get involved with an investigation like this. After all, you're potentially defrauding people in other states and anything that crosses state lines automatically becomes a Federal matter. So, you could find yourself on the hook to reimburse people the money they lost, along with maybe doing time in a Federal prison.

As for Fred, he'll be safe and sound somewhere, spending your money on hookers & blow.

Yes, I have no doubt that "Fred Jose" is running a vacation rental scam, apparently targeting people in South Carolina, Hawaii and possibly other places. Why else to hide behind multiple email accounts and a Google Voice number? Fred offers no proof of his identity or employment, you're supposed to take his word for everything.

So, if you've answered the ad posted by "Fred", ask him to send you a picture of his business card, along with his company email address. If he won't, it's likely that he's running a scam and you can move on from there.

UPDATE: I have been informed that Fred was asked to provide a picture of his business card and refused to do this. He stated that he only provides his business card when people are actually renting the property. Instead, he sent a picture of his supposed Colorado ID, which has the name "Daniel Madrid Jose", instead of "Fred Jose". He claimed that "Fred" is a nickname given to him by his friends.


Duane Browning


Sunday, June 10, 2018

The "Active Shooter" Game

Imagine being so devoid of humanity that you develop a game where people can play as an active shooter going on a murderous rampage through a school.

If you're Anton Makarevskiy, you don't have to imagine, since that's what he did. As if just thinking about making such a game wasn't bad  enough, he set-up an Indiegogo page to raise money in its support. To their credit, Indiegogo shut that shit down.

The name of their company is "Revived Games", which is unfortunately very similar to the name of another company, "Revived Gaming", who took no small amount of misdirected abuse because of the similarity. For the record, Revived Gaming is an e-sports organization; they don't develop games.

The website for this game is activeshootergame.com and its anonymously-registered in Russia, but their servers are Bluehost, which is an American company.

According to their forums, three people were behind the Indiegogo campaign. I'm including links to their respective Twitter accounts:
They also have a YouTube channel, where Makarevskiy publishes under the name "Arthur Belkin".

So, if you've sent an abusive Tweet or direct message to @Gaming_Revived, in the mistaken belief that they were behind the "Active Shooter" game, I hope that you'll do the Adult Thing and send a apology to the 100% innocent people that you abused, especially if you threatened them! 

While I personally find a "game" based on such a premise to be morally repugnant, there is no law against such games being created and I personally don't think that there should be such legislation.

Sure, you can send a Tweet to express your outrage to @ataberdyev and/or @ACID_WTF and I doubt that it would do any good because I don't think they care what anyone thinks. Russians haven't experienced school shootings like have in America, so they don't take them as seriously. I guess they see such incidents as a natural byproduct of our national love affair with high-powered firearms.

So, before you send an angry message to company because of something you think they've done, take the extra step and make absolutely sure they did it.


Duane Browning




Thursday, June 7, 2018

Drying Your Wet Shoes

Getting away from the serious stuff, I'm going to share how I dry my shoes when they get waterlogged over the course of my workday. I learned this method while working as a bike messenger in Honolulu and it has certainly helped prevent my having to wear soggy shoes the day after a heavy rain.

It's always a good idea to have, at least, two pairs of shoes that you can use for work or school during the week. So, while one pair is drying, you can wear the other.

Okay, you come home from work or school and your shoes are soaking wet. Your shoes are so wet that you're leaving little puddles with every step you take.

Take off your shoes and socks, but don't put your wet socks in the hamper or they'll stink-up all the clothes you have in there. Instead, wash your socks in the bathroom sink, using dish soap or bath soap to kill any kind of bacteria from your feet. Once you've done this, hang them from your shower rod to dry. Once they dry, you can throw them into the hamper.

Drying your shoes will take a bit longer, because they are made of thicker material than your socks. This is why it's good idea to have a spare pair of shoes.

First, take the laces off. Holding one lace firmly from one tip between your thumb and forefinger, pull the lace between your fingers to squeeze the water out. Do this until the water stops running out. Instead of using your fingers, you could hold the lace between two pens or anything that is firm and not absorbent.

Next, take some old newspapers, wad pages up into little balls and stuff them into your open shoes until there's no more space. Seriously, just shove wads of newspaper in there. Then re-lace your shoes and tighten the laces up and much as you can. This will reduce the amount of space inside the shoes and allow the newspaper to make physical contact with the wet interior of the shoe. The newspaper is naturally absorbent and will absorb the water from your shoes into itself. As you are tightening the laces, you'll notice water being forced out of the shoes because the insides are filled with newspaper.

For the final, open part of the shoe where your foot goes in, shove in more wads of newspaper and make sure that it makes contact with the sole and sides. Take a piece of string and wrap it around that part of the shoe to hold the newspaper inside.

You should make certain that there is no part inside the shoe that doesn't have newspaper. Any unfilled spaces will not get dried-out. Wrap each shoe individually with newspaper, top to bottom, front to back.

Leave the shoes to dry for about an hour. Personally, I leave them on my bathroom next to inside of my door to take advantage of the air circulation.

About an hour later, open-up the shoes without removing the laces and remove all the newspaper wads. You'll notice that the shoes are a lot less water-logged, but still not completely dry. Simply take more wads of newspaper, fill the shoes up  and wrap them again. Once you've done this, leave them for about two hours.

When you come back again to open the shoes, you'll notice that the wads of newspaper are a lot less wet than the previous batch. The shoes may now be dry enough to wear the next day and you could stop and this point, but I recommend filling the shoes up again with more ads of newspaper and leaving them overnight.

When you open-up your shoes the next day, they should be dry. If not completely dry, you still have your extra pair of shoes. If you decide to wear them, liberally spray 91%-strength isopropyl alcohol inside your shoes to remove any remaining moisture and kill-off any odd-causing bacteria. Let the alcohol work for a few minutes before putting the shoes on. If you decide to wear your other pair of shoes, spray the insides of your drying shoes with the alcohol and leave to dry for the day. When you get back, your shoes should be completely dry and odor-free.

Sure, it takes a bit of work. But, it's preferable than wearing soggy shoes for the whole day.

You're welcome.


Duane Browning