Sunday, November 27, 2016

Scammers Seeking More Victims

About five years ago, I posted a blog regarding an attempt by scammers to pose as the Grameen Foundation. Grameen soon discovered that their name was being used in attempt to defraud people and even learned about my blog.

Scammers have attempted to run scams while posing as various charitable organizations and it seems that their latest effort involves posing as Alwaleed Philanthropies.

On 13 November 2016, I received this text message on my iPhone:
Subject:Congratulations !!!
Our foundation picked you as beneficiary; send a message from your private email to :-  al_prince_96611@hotmail.c
The sender wasn't another phone number. Instead, the used an email address belonging to a faculty member of a local university. I don't even want to think about what kind of angry responses that person was subjected to by outraged recipients. I haven't posted that person's email address because I don't want her to receive any further communications from angry recipients of the scam text. The only email address that is actually valid is the one they want me to contact:
I decided to send a reply to the address they gave and see what kind of reply I would get. Alwaleed Philanthropies' email would be sent from, not A few days later, I received a response. I was surprised to see that it was sent from the same address:
Greetings To you

We are highly distinguished and honoured to be in contact and thanks for directing your responses to us. We believe strongly that you can help our humble course. Through our foundation you were picked as a beneficiary, knowing you are capable and competent enough to handle this transaction and offer of ours.

Our philanthropies and our humanitarian activities are without limits, I want to use this medium to send warmth greetings to you and your family. We talk less of ourselves, although we know each other for the first time. I'm writing to you on behalf of our foundation owned by Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal.

We have decided to make this donation for you and your family. You can read about him on the Wikipedia link I have provided to you: Alwaleed_Philanthropies
Alwaleed Philanthropies - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Alwaleed Philanthropies; Founded: 1980 (according to the "Letter from the Founder" at -annual_letter-block

Also for personal view and more details about his philanthropies e-32bn-fortune-to-charity- 10358806.html

Note: We do not make a public show of our philanthropic activities, we kindly advise this letter is confidential and should be kept personal,As you have also read in the link above that '' philanthropy is a personal responsibility'' This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for you and your family. If at any point in time you do not intend to complete this offer for personal reasons best known to you, please you should not disseminate, distribute or copy this e-mail.  Please kindly send a disclaimers message /notification via email immediately as feedback.  You are hereby notified that disclosing, copying, distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this information is strictly prohibited.

I want to believe you have read the link provided above. Our foundation has been involved in a lot of charitable and philanthropic activity for community services and educational benefit. Supporting philanthropic activities is part of our humanitarian mission to promote ethical social change and foster a universal sense of responsibility regardless of race, colour, ethnicity as we are all humans. We support and initiates projects around the world, regardless of gender, race or religion. We collaborate with a range of philanthropic, governmental and educational organisations to combat poverty, empower women and the youth, develop communities, provide disaster relief and create cultural understanding through education.

We have decided to touch the life of as many persons in your community, using you as a medium.  If you are reading this letter it means you have been picked to receive a donation ceded to you and your family and the entire community as a way of returning back to the public and to say thanks for your support directly or indirectly.  We may not know you, but in our family it is our culture and believes that as human we are all equal and that everyone has the right to work for a living, to support their families. Our offer to you may be little but we kindly advise that you put the funds to good use, so you can support your family and community directly or indirectly.

You are to receive the sum of  2,600,000 Usd directly to help foster our mission, to enable you to support your family, also carry out a community project and also support the less privilege, this is why  we have decided to contact you directly. It is important that you help carry our-our mission of making the world a better place, Together, we can build bridges for a more compassionate, tolerant and accepting world

Kindly send the below information so we can make adequate preparation for the disbursement of the funds to you and your family.


With this information, all necessary papers needed for the disbursement of the funds will be prepared by our attorney and deposited with our affiliated pay out finance house. 

We expect to read from you as soon as possible

Leila Al Solh
Just reading the email reply showed me that English isn't the first language of the sender, though it's better than most scam emails that I have received. An organization as large as Alwaleed would obviously have staff who could write emails in better English than this.

I sent another email in reply to this, asking for a contact phone number. Apparently, the scammers aren't as stupid as I had hoped, because they gave me Alwaleed's real phone number by which to contact them. Calling Alwaleed to ask about my "grant" would waste their time and mine, since no grant is coming my way.

Running a trace of both emails indicates Germany as their point of origin, not Saudi Arabia.

Both emails were signed with the name Leila Al Solh who is a real person and she serves at the vice-president of Alwaleed bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation. It is typical of scammers to pose as a real person associated with a charity they are impersonating.

It should be obvious that Alwaleed Philanthropies does not send out texts to people using addresses of people not attached to their organization. They don't offer money to people they don't know.

This is a scam. They have no intention of sending you any money.

Feel free to ignore any future text messages they send out to you.

Duane Browning

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Is Cohen & Beck A Real Law Firm?

I found this posted in a Facebook group I belong to:
This past Thursday 6/30/16, I got a call  on my cell from 872-444-2777 saying she was a from a company that tracks people down.  She wouldn't give me any information except to confirm my name and tell me to call 1-800-659-0702 with a supposed case number.  When I called, the lady identified herself as from Cohen & Beck a law firm (The Offices of Cohen & Beck, 414 West Grand Blvd. #424, Corona, Ca. 92878.  She confirmed my identity by stating(she told me, I didn't share anything)  my name (which was my maiden name), my SSN!!, DOB, and my mailing address and phone number!  She explained that I had an unpaid AT&T bill from 1999-2001 of $300+ and that it had grown to a larger amount.  They are starting a civil case in the County of Honolulu and that I could be liable for more than just that amount, it could be attorney and collection fees as well.  After asking as many questions as I could think of, I told her to send me proof.  Here are the problems with their story;

The largest problem is that my husband also received a phone call from the supposed tracking people too.  Our conclusion is that someone that had access to our mortgage paperwork leaked our info.  It is the only time that all our info was together and shared with anyone!  Spooky!  We had to call the credit report companies and put a 90 day notice of possible fraudulant activity and we are not both paying a monthly fee for monitoring.  Horrible Horrible people!
 Being somewhat familiar with how debt collectors operate, this looked like a typical, aggressive company which made threatening and intimidating phone calls, with the goal of making as much money as quickly as they could. However, when the victim pointed out their side, I had a feeling that something wasn't right here.

So, I decided to look up Cohen & Beck to see what I could find. It wasn't easy. Aside from some negative reviews on Yelp, they have almost no Internet presence.

I called the California Bar Association to see if Cohen & Beck was even a real law firm. But, they couldn't help me without the name of a specific attorney, which the victims hadn't provided.

I did find the website Cohen & Beck at but it's such a barebones website that
it wasn't helpful either. No names are provided of any of the attorneys. Just a toll-free contact number and a link to make payments.

Making little headway, I did a WhoIs search on the site and learned that it is registered anonymously. Furthermore, it was only recently created. The site came online in February 2016, which contradicts their site's claim that the firm has been around for years.

Having a strong suspicion that Cohen & Beck isn't even a real law firm, I decided to find out if they are even registered as a business, which all law firms are required to do. Finding this information wasn't difficult and I soon found the names of all law firms registered as a business in Corona,
California. To make this plain for you: as far as I can tell, the Law Office of Cohen & Beck is not registered as a business in California.

Unless Cohen & Beck can prove otherwise to me, I am convinced that this law firm does not exist and calls the victims received were part of a scam.

After looking into the legitimacy of the supposed law firm, I decided to have a look at the physical address itself, which appears to simply be a mail drop. Mail drops are commonly used by shady operations to hide their true location from people who may wish to serve them with a subpoena. But, it isn't unknown for one underhanded operation to share its address with another.

Other companies that claim the same address as Cohen & Beck likewise are involved in the legal profession in some way. Such as legal document preparation, process serving, mediation, etc. Companies using the same address include, but are not limited to:
ADR Group
and Sentry ADR Services

 Given that all of three companies use the same address and do the same kind of work, it is possible that they are run by the same people.

IMPORTANT: Unless you live in a jurisdiction where the law firm of Cohen & Beck is licensed to practice law, they would be unable to file any lawsuit against you. The debt collectors would have to contract with a law firm in the jurisdiction where you live to file any case against you.

I called the toll-free number for Cohen & Beck a few days ago and heard a voicemail recording as if I was calling a real office. I was calling after business hours, so this didn't surprise me. But, today I called both numbers and the first number (from the "investigators") is no longer in service, while Cohen & Beck is using a generic voicemail recording. In a perfect world, it would be because too many people have called "Bullshit!" on these clowns.

Duane Browning

Monday, May 30, 2016

Another Computer Virus Scam

While reading an article, my computer suddenly froze and this message popped-up, along with a recording

The message reads:
Error 268D3
Please call us immediately at 844-576-0464
Please do not ignore this critical alert. If you close this page, your computer access will be disabled to prevent further damage to our network.
Your computer has alerted us that it has been infected with a virus and spyware. The following information is being stolen...
> Facebook Login
> Credit Card Details
> Email Account Login
> Photos stored on this computer
You must contact us immediately so that our engineers can walk you through the removal process over the phone. Please call us within the next 5 minutes toprevent your comuter from being disabled.
Toll Free 844-576-0464
Needless to say, it's been longer than 5 minutes since I saw this bullshit and my computer is still working fine.

This sort of thing is caused by a piece of malware being inserted into a website that causes your browser to freeze, with the accompanying pop-up and recording starting to play. Trying to close the browser by clicking the little X at the top or trying to switch windows won't work. The only ways to close the browser are to
  • right-click the box at the bottom of your screen and click "Close";
  • you can type on the ALT and F4 keys; or
  • you can simply turn your computer off. 

I ran a CCleaner scan after closing my browser, to make sure there was no residual malware on my computer.

What happens if you call the number?

Well, you'll be told that it's Microsoft Support and that they received an alert that your computer had been infected. While Microsoft is very good at creatingnew computer technology, they cannot monitor the entire Internet, looking for malware infections. They can't and no one else can, because the Internet is too vast. It's the same reason we can't remove the plastic polluting our oceans. It's ust too big and the prblems could be anywhere.

Considering how much damage viruses and other malware cause computer systems around the world, if Microsoft could find it all, don't you think they would have done it by now?

I don't even need to call the number to know what will happen if I do. I'll get somebody with an Indian accent answering the phone who will then ask me what kind of computer I have. If I tell him/her, they'll begin what they'll tell you is the "virus removal process", which is actually their attempt to get you to give them control of your computer. It's a bit complicated to explain, but there's in no virus hijacking your computer, it's a simply, annoying program that convinces you to call them so that they can con you into giving them control of your computer.

So, you don't have anything to worry about. Just don't call that number from your own phone.

If you want to hit them back, here's my suggestion:
1) write down the number they gave you to call;
2) go to a pay phone and call the number. It's toll free, so it won't cost you anything;
3) when they answer, tell them that you got the pop-up and recording. Make sure they identify themselves as the people the pop-up told you to call, because the scammers may abandon using the number at some point and you don't want to victimize an innocent person;
4) when they begin asking you for your computer information (type of computer, model number, etc), tell them "FUCK YOU!" over and over again. See how many times you can tell them "fuck you" before they hang-up. Try to say it to them 100 times. If you make it to a hundred, let me know in the Comments section below.
5) since it's a toll-free number, you can call them anytime you want. Call them and start abusing them whenever you need to let-off some steam. Just remember to use a pay phone, so that they can't call you back.

Moving on.

Duane Browning
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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dr Okosun Curing Tinnitus With Magic?

It seems that whenever I write blog about any scam product that touts itself as a tinnitus cure, I get a comment posted about some supposed miracle worker in Nigeria. His name is Dr Okosun and here is the post I've been finding in comments:
I'm giving a testimony about Dr. OKOSUN the great Herbalist man, he has the cure to all manner of diseases, he cured my Tinnitus Ear virus, though I went through different website I saw a testimonies about this herbalist, I was like: 'Many people have the Tinnitus virus cure why are people still suffering from it?' I though of it, then I contact Dr. OKOSUN via email, ( I didn't believe him that much, I just wanted to give him a try, he replied my mail and Needed some Information about me, then I sent them to him, he prepared the (CURE) and sent it to Airfreight Online Courier Service for delivery, he gave my details to the Courier Office, they told me that 3-5 days I will receive the package and i took the medicine as prescribed by him and I went for check-up 1 week after finishing the medicine, then the Tinnitus was no there, if you are suffering from Tinnitus virus you to contact him on his via email address: or call him +2348107584479,
He can also cure you from others sickness such as.
ALS cure.
you need your EX husband back.
you need money ritual.
Thanks for taking time to read my post, again his email on DOCTOROKOSUNSPELLTEMPLE@GMAIL.COM or call or whatsapp him on +2348107584479. wish you good luck

I decided to find out a little more about this guy. A quick Google search reveals this exact post, word for word, has been posted numerous times across many forums and there are several Google + accounts which seem to exist solely for the purpose of advertising him and I've seen many posts on Facebook on his behalf. It's pretty obvious that the individual(s) posting these messages don't speak English very well, which is obvious from the poor spelling and grammar. They don't seem to be medically informed either, since tinnitus isn't caused by a virus.

Since these idiots have pestered me before, I sent him an email and received this reply
You are welcome to DR OKOSUN home is a great temple which has been in existence for the past 67 year and it has been past from generation to generations.
What I do here is 100% guaranteed and no matter what the problem is, my spell must work for the power behind it is very powerful and secured, no harm and very easy, And this temple is a place of seriousness what I want here is real people who really want their problems to be solve and not a playing ground. And in this temple there are rule that can never be violated: {1} Do not tell anybody about the spell until you have seen result {2} Do not work with me and the same time work with another spell caster it is either you make a choice {3} Do not come here for jokes or take spell casting for granted 

This are the rule and regulation you must follow in other for a good spell casting and to get good result of 100% guaranteed. But before i start with the cure your info will be needed,As the info you will provide below will be fine and OK.
If I get the detail I will proceed with the cure, for you have make the right choice for contacting. 

Hope to hear from you. Best of luck 

I actually had to clean up the above reply that he sent to me because it had sentence breaks everywhere and it looked like he just copypasted it and sent it out without checking it first. Notice, it says "Attention" at the end? At the footer of some of his emails to me, I noticed that he had sent it out using his Blackberry phone, which explains the sloppiness.

The name "Okosun" is a real name that seems to be rather common in Nigeria and searching for a Doctor Okosun turned-up several legitimate medical doctors. There's also a famous evangelical preacher, Sonny Okosun. Aside from a Google + page and a Twitter account that hasn't been used in a long time, this guy doesn't have an Internet presence, aside from his people posting anywhere and everywhere. I'm certain of two things:
  1. he's not a doctor or even a witch doctor;
  2. "Okosun" isn't his real name
I had asked him if he had the cure for tinnitus and he sent this short follow-up to the first email:
My child I have the cure
Knowing a bit of how magic is supposed to be done, the requests for my name, gender, age and picture don't seem to be unusual. But, why would he need my mobile number? My picture could likely be used as part of some other scam or to tell falsely people that I'm one of the people he's cured.

I sent another email, asking if he needed me to travel to him so he could work his magic with me there and if he required some sort of financial "donation" before he could get to work. I received this reply
hello my child,
i am going to prepare the herb and send it to you in your country through coral service, so before i can proceed forward you have to provide the details needed.
hope to hear from you soon.
best regard.
I think he meant to say "courier service", not "coral service". Aside from the obvious fact that English is not his first language, he didn't seem to read my email all the way through the first time and had to later send this response to whether a financial donation was required
You are paying 200 $ only to purchase the items, that will be used to prepare the herb.
Being curious as to how I would send him the $200 he's asking for, I sent him a reply with some bullshit information I made-up. I told him that I didn't have a mobile number because tinnitus made me deaf in both ears. I also didn't send him a picture. I figured that he'd let those slide in anticipation of my sending him 200 dollars. Here's what he said
Hello my child,
now that i have receive your information i want you to know that your sickness will be cure with my herbal medicine okay?
so my child i don't ask money for me to cure you but after i have prepped the herbal for you,immediately after using it you will go for
a test and you shall be tested Sickness negative okay.but you are only going to pay for the herbal items. which i am to use to prepped the
cure of your sickness okay?
items needed
1. Essin Atalodo
2. Udurele
3. Owewe
4. Upakensi
5. Ogili and Umelen
total is 200usd
as soon as i get this herbal items i will prepped the cure of your
sickness, so that you can leave a peaceful with your love once okay.
Which was soon followed by this
Alright my child, so I will start working immediately so I will send you the items am to buy so that I can prepare the herb and send it to you
Not surprisingly, the entire email he sent to me is an almost exact copy of a post from a forum that was placed several months ago by a user called kelvin Marty on January 19, 2016. I was somewhat surprised that he didn't press me for a mobile number, but I suppose the story I gave him was convincing.

I Googled the names of the items he says that he needs and only one came back with a result. "Owewe" is the word for "cannon", so I'm guessing it's not some sort of herb or plant. While it is possible that all of these things are real herbs and these are simply the names they are known by locally, I think it's more likely that the names are made-up.

It didn't take long for this guy to smell blood and that the moment had come for him to cash-in. Shortly after he received the information I sent to him after pulling it out of my ass, he finally sent this
Hello you are to send the money through western union money transfer, these are the details you are to send to Receivers name: Ebhohimen innocent Receivers Country : Nigeria Receivers State : Edo State Security questions : My favourite colour Security answer : RedAfter sending you send down the following Sender full name..........Sender country.......Sender state..........Amount sent.....MTCN pin......Text questions....Text answer....
At this point, it's pretty clear that there is no "Doctor Okosun". It looks like the name of the person I've been corresponding with actually is named Ebhohimen Innocent. This name does appear to be rather common and I found several people on Facebook with it, all of them Nigerians. I'm not accusing any of them of running this scam, though.

How this scam was supposed to play-out, as the scammer had initially planned it was:

  1. I contact him and ask for his help;
  2. He replies and asks for my information, not including my mailing address;
  3. I send him my information;
  4. He sends his thanks for my info and tells me to send $200 to him via Western Union while he gets to work on brewing the potion;
  5. I send him the money;
  6. He asks me for my home address so he can have it delivered to me;
  7. I send him my address;
  8. He tells me the potion is on its way;
  9. When it doesn't arrive, I contact him;
  10. He tells me to wait a few days;
  11. When it still doesn't arrive, I contact him again;
  12. He probably tells me that there was a problem with shipping and asks me for more money to hire a different courier service;
  13. When it still doesn't arrive, I contact him again;
  14. He probably tells me that it was lost and asks me for more money so he can start all over again;
  15. and so on.

Where my personal information winds-up is anybody's guess, of course. At the very least, if I just give-up right away, he's still got $200 of my money burning a hole in his pocket. If he notices that I've given-up on him, he'd likely use the information I've given him to pester me into giving him another try

This isn't something new for him, either. While he's been using the name "Okosun" recently, he's used names like Lano, Suku, Dibia Agbakor, Ezomo and many others.

At least with Tinnitus Remedy, Tinnitus Miracle and Tinnitus Terminator, you'll get something for your trouble. A book, some CDs or a digital download. They're all useless, but you're actually getting something for your money and none of them costs as much as Dr Okosun's magic formula.

My "Witch Doctor"Collection

It seems that either Dr Okosun is running scams under other cover identities or some other con artists have followed his lead and set-up shop for themselves. The following is a list of other "witch doctors" who have either spammed this blog (those comments get deleted) or have contacted me privately. I'll add more as they become known to me. I am listing them alphabetically.

Doctor Dada
Whatsapp him +2349053287581

Dr Enato
Whatsapp (+234) 8158836717

Joseph Alberto

Dr Kpelede Temple
Telephone 2347038111854

Dr Luka

Dr Miracle

Dr Okosun
Whatsapp +2348107584479

Dr Omoa
Telephone  +2348141309378

Dr Osas
Telephone +2349036919200

Dr, Sebi
Telephone 19147094469
WhatsApp 2348158836673

Dr Uze
Telephone: + 2348126257125

Dr Wafe
Telephone +2348158836717

Dr William

Duane Browning

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Honest Review of "Tinnitus Terminator"

Tinnitus Terminator is the latest in a long line of supposed "cures" for tinnitus. I found out about it when I clicked on a link to what I thought was a news article, but was just an advertisement.

The video was different from the others because it showed the actual person who was speaking. If they thought they'd garner some automatic credibility with this, they were wrong.

The presenter is a man going by the name Timothy Seaton and he claims to be a music executive. He never says what company he worked for, though. Doing a search on LinkedIn showed many professionals with that name. However, only one had anything to do with the music industry and he worked at DMX MUSIC as vice president of premier accounts. The person in the video claims to live near Denver, CO and the executive at DMX lives in Austin, Texas. So, it's obvious that they are two different people.

But, the Timothy Seaton shown in the video also presents an interesting problem: what does he really look like?

I know, the answer seems obvious: he's in the video. You can see him, so you know what he looks like, right?

Actually, no we don't.

Here's Timothy Seaton #1 from the video posted at showing this picture and the voice of the speaker identifying himself as Timothy Seaton.
Image result for Timothy Seaton

But, there's a problem. This man's name isn't Timothy Seaton. This is actually a picture of Todd Bradley, who is a software designer from Denver, Colorado. Mr Bradley actually did have surgery on his left ear back in February 2015, but it wasn't for tinnitus. It was for autophony and here's the link to Mr Bradley's blog where he talks about it.

Now, here's Timothy Seaton #2 from the videos posted at

Timothy Seaton Author of Tinnitus Terminator

Obviously, they are two different people and other reviewers have noticed this, too. This should be a deal-breaker, right away. Why trust a product that uses two separate people going by the same name, both posing as executives in the music industry and using the exact same script in both videos? Between the two men, it is the second one whose video has been distributed more often. But, I wonder what enormous idiot forgot to take the first one down before someone like me found it?

It is possible that the scum behind all this would have been aware of potential problems if/when Todd Bradley became aware of their unauthorized use of his image in their video, so they got a second actor to play the part, but kept the backstory. Still, why leave the video online?

Fucking morons!

As I said, Tom Bradley did have ear surgery. Here is a picture of him from his blog, taken while recovering from surgery
Image result for Timothy Seaton

Now, here's a picture of Timothy Seaton #2 while supposedly recovering from his own surgery.

Unfortunately, you'll have to watch the video to see where they use it, since you have to watch the video straight through and you can't jump around.

I don't know if Todd Bradley is aware that his image has been used to sell this product, but I intend to inform him at my first opportunity. (UPDATE: Mr Bradley was contacted)

I didn't make this one myself. I got it from their website. Can you tell me, with a straight face, that it isn't the most obviously 'shopped picture that you've ever seen? Would it have been so difficult to have the guy lay in a bed and wrap a bandage on his head? It would have taken only a few minutes. It's like they aren't even trying!

Okay, now for the websites:

But, is registered in Panama (UPDATE: changed from Iceland), which puts it outside of US law enforcement's reach. However, its registration expires in August 2016, so it probably won't be around much longer.

UPDATE: the website  has been renewed and expires in 2017
ANOTHER UPDATE: now redirects to, which is also anonymously registered in Panama. So, Todd Bradley's picture doesn't appear there anymore. The site was created in November 2015 and updated in October 2016.

The other websites mentioned above have William Doil of Glenview Partners Inc as their domain registrant. Mr Doil isn't only putting up websites for Tinnitus Terminator, he's also registered numerous other sites that deal with stuff like hair loss, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, winning the lottery and numerous other subjects. Most of their websites have videos with a person speaking on-camera, which makes them a little better than Tinnitus Remedy or Tinnitus Miracle that I blogged about previously. People tend to trust a product more if they can actually see the person trying to sell it to them.

Given the involvement of William Doil in such a large collection of websites hawking such questionable "cures" for such a variety of ailments, it doesn't lend much credibility to Tinnitus Terminator, does it?

At the bottom of one of the Tinnitus Terminator websites I mentioned, I noticed this:
"Copyright © Timothy Seaton"

Well, if it's copyrighted and Mr Seaton lives near Denver, Co as he claims, then his copyright should be listed with the US Copyright Office. It should be, but it isn't. There is no copyright held by a Timothy Seaton, for anything and there is no copyright listed for Tinnitus Terminator.

I'm not surprised. Not at all.

But, what about Timothy Seaton's life history with tinnitus and the claims he makes about Tinnitus Terminator? How does they stack-up?

Not very well.

Mr Seaton claims that his doctor recommended a surgical procedure because it seemed that one of the three bones of his inner ear was broken and this was causing the ringing in his ears. So, they had to open him up to fix the problem.

He doesn't explain how one of these bones could possibly have been broken and I don't even know how that would be possible, aside from a traumatic head injury. But, the only surgery that I've heard about performed on the bones of the inner ear would be a stapedectomy which would be done as a treatment for osteosclerosis which is an abnormal hardening of the bones of the inner ear due to mineral buildup, not a breakage.

All these supposed "cures" for tinnitus claim that doctors and the pharmaceutical industry would rather sufferers paid for drugs or expensive surgeries to treat tinnitus, rather than giving them an outright cure. But, as I've said before, there are no drugs prescribed to treat tinnitus nor any surgical procedures recommended to correct it. So, Big Pharma is making diddley-squat from it!

While Tinnitus Terminator claims to use sound as a way to "retrain your bran" to cure tinnitus. use of sound therapy has already been used for years. So, this is old news, not a new revelation. As an example of how long sound therapy has been used, this is how William Shatner has managed to live with his tinnitus after being injured on the set of the Star Trek episode, "Arena".

For all their claims that there have been clinical trials for Tinnitus Terminator and that actual researchers have been involved in testing the product, they never provide you with the names of the people or institutions who conducted the trials or the actual scientists who did the work. You're simply supposed to take their word for it.

Here's something from their own website (scroll to the bottom) that you should see. I have not altered the text in any way.
All information and results stated on this website are for information purposes only. The information is not specific medical advice for any individual. The content website and product should not substitute medical advice from a health professional. If you have a health problem, speak to your doctor or a health professional immediately about your condition. The statements presented here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Neither the retailer nor the author are engaged in rendering medical or similar professional services or advice via this website or in the product, and the provided advice is not meant to replace the professional medical advice.

Naturally, Seaton claims that the Tinnitus Terminator videos are under constant threat of being taken offline because Big Pharma "doesn't want the Truth to get out". But, there are four registered websites and seemingly hundreds of people out there hawking this product. So, there's no danger of it being silenced.

But, what about the product, itself? What do you get in exchange for your money?

You get a digital copy of the book and some music files to download, which are sent to you via email.

"But, wait!" you say, excitedly, "what about the picture of the book I saw on the Interwebz?".
Image result for tinnitus terminator

It doesn't exist. There is no physical copy of the book that you can hold in your hands, which again is different from Tinnitus Remedy and Tinnitus Miracle, which do provide you with books and even CDs.

You have to admit that it makes sense. Since there's less money that Tinnitus Terminator has to spend printing books, burning CDs and sending that crap out in the mail, there's more of your money that they can keep for themselves. Genius!!!

Of course, if you have a problem downloading it from your email, there's no way to contact these people to correct the problem. Either way, you're pissing away your hard-earned money.

***New Information Added on October 15, 2016***

Sometimes, when I blog about the various "cures" for tinnitus, people ask me if I've even read the book(s) the sellers are offering. Of course, I don't. I don't need to, since I have their websites or videos from which to draw my own conclusions.

However, I was able to obtain - for free - a copy of the "Tinnitus Terminator" book and I'm able to comment about its contents. No, I didn't hack their website or borrow someone else's copy. The link showed-up in a Google search because these guys are apparently morons.

So, here we go.

On the very first page of text, there is this:

No part of this document or the related materials may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, by any means (electronic, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior permission by the author/ publisher. The service and the materials contained in this eBook are based on the author’s research and experience. The research has been done through credible sources to the best of our knowledge.

In no event shall the author be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, punitive, or consequential damages of any kind whatsoever with respect to the service, the materials and the products contained within. This eBook is not intended to be a substitute to professional medical advice.

Apparently, they weren't counting on the Fair Use Doctrine, which allows limited parts of a book, video, etc to be duplicated for the purposes of review and commentary, which is what this blog is about.

The "research" that supposedly went into Tinnitus Terminator was done by the author, along with his "experiences". However, the author is not mentioned by name, so we are left to assume it was done by Timothy Seaton, who never even claimed to be a physician. So, a guy who doesn't even have a medical degree is going to give me advice about a medical condition? No, I don't think so.

The second paragraph is supposed to protect the author from any harm that may come to anyone who actually follows his advice. So, if anything good comes from you following Tinnitus Terminator, it's because of the author. But, if anything bad happens, you're on your own. See how that works?

On top of all that, they say that Tinnitus Terminator isn't meant to be a substitute for medical advice, which is interesting when you consider how they claim that physicians couldn't help Seaton with his tinnitus and would simply prefer to have their patients spend their money on drugs and surgeries that don't work.

Even without delving into the specific claims made in the book itself, I quickly realized that the book probably isn't copyrighted. The reason is that it contains other people's copyrighted material. You cannot copyright something that contains other people's copyrighted work without first getting the permission of the original copyright holder. Examples include, but are not limited to:
  • a photograph of Jimi Hendrix on page 3. All images of Jimi Hendrix are the property of Experience Hendrix, LLLC
  • a cartoon illustration is placed on page 10, but with the artist's signature edited out. Despite this rather dirty trick, I was able to find the original and discovered that it's owned by Canadian artist, Brian Fray;
  • a picture of Macaulay Culkin from "Home Alone", a film owned by 20th Century Fox, is on page 25; and
  • on page 62, there's a picture of the character Nemo, from the Disney-owned film "Finding Nemo".
Other pictures featured in the book may also be copyrighted works, but most appear to be clip art.
It appears that whoever put this book together didn't spend a lot of time worrying about other people's copyrights, though warning people to respect his own.

Much of the book consists of describing the different types, causes and treatments of tinnitus that are already available to read online in various websites, so you didn't need to buy the book to get this information. In fact, you can browse through the forum at Tinnitus Talk and get all that information and more for free. To me, it looked like the author is trying to impress people with his knowledge. In my case, he failed.

In my opinion, the book makes a rather idiotic claim that
By the time you have finished this book, you will no longer be yourself. This book can help you find a better life for yourself, one where you can be more relaxed, more at peace, more in tune with the world and, above all, completely and utterly happy.
I'll admit that, for many people with tinnitus, having it gone from their lives would lift a tremendous amount of personal stress off their shoulders. But, for most of us, tinnitus isn't so crippling that our personal happiness is impossible. Even if my tinnitus were gone tomorrow, it wouldn't necessarily mean that I'd spend the rest of my life "completely and utterly happy"; I'd simply have one less bit of stress in my life.

I also found it laughable that the book recommends and gives instruction for meditation, as if no one else would have thought to use it to cope with the stress caused by tinnitus. I've read numerous books about meditation, all of them written by authorities in their field. I'm certainly not going to take any tips from some clown selling a supposed "cure" for tinnitus when I know absolutely nothing about him. You can learn about meditation for free from watching YouTube videos, browsing the Internet or reading books from your local library.

In Chapter 4, as part of the Tinnitus Terminator program, two forms are provided to print out and use as part of a self-evaluation test. Supposedly, the test was developed by "reputed audiologists", but the reader isn't told who these audiologists are and what credentials they possess. Sure, audiologists work with people suffering from tinnitus, but we don't know how much experience the test developers have in that field. They could have a lot, a little or none at all.

As far as the actual program is concerned, it consists of using sound therapy. You can download some music files to listen to which are supposed to "retrain your brain", but that's not how sound therapy works. It's more like a masking effect that covers the tinnitus sounds you're hearing. Again, such masking sounds are available for free download off the Internet. Personally, I just turn on my electric fan when I'm home.

Despite admitting on the very first page that Tinnitus Terminator isn't a substitute for medical advice, they say this on page 5:
This program uses sound therapy to physically re-train how your brain works – cutting off tinnitus without the drawbacks of drugs, doctor visits or surgery. You’ll stimulate the parts of your brain responsible for properly perceiving sound and even cure your tinnitus within 30 days.
The author has no medical experience, but he knows how your brain will be affected by the program? Where did he get this information from? Nowhere in the entire book is the name of a single medical doctor who will vouch for Tinnitus Terminator and back-up the claims presented in this book. No qualified physician is going to put their name out there and risk their reputation on this quackery!

Essentially, Tinnitus Terminator tells you to relax and feel good about yourself, keep a "Can Do!" attitude and listen to some music. That's about it.

You can go to the link I provided above to read it for yourself.

***End of New Material***

These people are parasitically feeding off the frustration felt by many people living with tinnitus, especially those whose condition causes disruption of their personal and/or professional lives. While tinnitus doesn't physically cause you pain, you can suffer on an emotional or psychological level, due to the nonstop noise. There have even been reports of people committing suicide because they couldn't live with tinnitus anymore.

If you really want to talk to people who know what you're going through and you want to keep informed about the latest research on tinnitus, I strongly suggest that you join the forums at Tinnitus Talk. Members of this forum do live with tinnitus of various degrees of severity and they do keep abreast of ongoing research. They all know what you're going through because they're going through, too.

For the sake of Full Disclosure: I have tinnitus in my right ear and I have been living with it for most of my life. Most of the time, it isn't too bad. But, sometimes, it seems like I can't hear anything else but the constant buzzing in my ear. I've learned to live with it.

Legal stuff: My posting of pictures from Tinnitus Terminator affiliated websites, as well as from Todd Bradley's blog are covered under Fair Use. So, there!

Duane Browning

Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Nightmare Experience With UPS

I've owned an iPhone 4s for nearly two years. At first, it was a really good phone for me, aside from the fact that it seemed to bleed power quickly and I couldn't change the battery. When I had an Android, I kept a spare battery handy, so I could switch them out when one ran out of power. That's one thing I liked about Androids over iPhones. Still, I soon grew to love the 4s, which had better performance than my old Android anyway.

However, after the last software update for my 4s, it didn't perform as well as it should: it began to get very hot when I used it for several minutes at a time or when I charged it, it would sometimes freeze-up when I tried to text, etc.

I decided to upgrade to a new phone with my provider, Credo Mobile. I called them and ordered an iPhone 6s, which Credo told me would be sent out via United Parcel Service (UPS) two-day delivery. It was sent out on April 18th and I was supposed to receive it on the 20th. I checked the UPS tracking number which verified the date of shipping and expected date of delivery. Everything seemed fine.

When the 20th came and my phone didn't arrive, I checked the tracking information. It had arrived at the UPS facility in Louisville, KY on the 19th and the tracking information indicated that it hadn't left there. I figured that the computer system simply hadn't caught-up. I called UPS to check on the status of my delivery and was told that the two days didn't start on the 18th, but on the 19th, because UPS hadn't actually received it until then. So, the delivery would take place on the 21st. Fine. Whatever.

Well, the 21st came and my iPhone still didn't arrive. According to the tracking information, it still hadn't left the Louisville depot. I called UPS again. At first, the operator tried to convince me that it was still in transit, but soon realized that the iPhone had been at Louisville for two days and hadn't been scanned-out. He told me that it seemed like my package had been "misplaced". I corrected him by stating that it had obviously been lost.

Upon realizing that he now had a lost package report to make, the operator told me that UPS' procedure in such cases was to file a Lost Package Report and do a search in an attempt to locate it. This search would take eight business days, since UPS doesn't work on weekends. So, the eight days began on April 21st and would end on May 3rd.

Needless to say, I was upset. I vented my frustration on Twitter, which elicited the response of the Help Team. They replied to my tweets by asking for my tracking number, so they could look into it. Each time, they told me the same thing: it was under investigation as a Lost Package.

Curious as to whether others were experiencing similar problems, I searched for "@UPS lost" on Twitter and found others complaining about their lost packages. Noticing people mentioning lost cell phones and computers, it gave me a feeling that I may never see my new iPhone, after all.

There have been news reports of UPS employees helping themselves to packages in the past. Articles from 28 January 201320 July 2015, 22 October 2015 and other incidents made me doubt if my iPhone would ever find its way into my hands, since iPhones, iPads and other expensive electronics seemed to be the preferred items to be stolen.

It's not like FedEx was immune to employee theft, either. Four FedEx workers got busted earlier this year, in fact.

I have no idea if a US Postal Service employee has ever committed mail theft. Of course, theft of US Mail is a much more serious offense. While stealing from UPS or FedEx could be prosecuted under theft statutes in the states where they occur, theft of US Mail is prosecuted under Federal law and the penalties are much more severe, something that any Postal Service employee would know very well. If you steal from UPS or FedEx and get caught, you only have to deal with the local police or sheriffs. If you steal US Mail, you'll be facing the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which is no fun, at all. You can't escape the Postal Inspectors even by leaving the United States, since they can follow you to whatever country you escape because they have international authority.

Anyway, back to my recent experience.

My options seemed to be limited to waiting-out the eight business days until the investigation was over. I made sure to notify Credo about the lost package and they waited for UPS to get in touch with them whether to report the package found or to inform them that they couldn't find it. If they couldn't find it, Credo could ship me a replacement and send paperwork to UPS for reimbursement for the lost iPhone.

Out of frustration as the eighth day approached, I contacted UPS on May 2nd to see if any progress had been made. A woman named April sent me this
Dear Duane,

I'm very sorry for the position that you're in. At this time, there's nothing new. The investigation still has until the end of business day tomorrow, 05/03/16, to conclude before moving on to the next step, if needed. I will continue to monitor this for you and will contact you again via e-mail by the end of business day on Wednesday, 05/04/16.
April P.
UPS Social Media Team
May 3rd came and went. I waited for April to email me on the 4th, but she didn't. I then sent UPS an email, to which I didn't receive a reply right away. So, I called them and spoke to an operator named Derek.

At first, Derek was under the impression that the eight days hadn't yet elapsed. After he double-checked, he realized that we were now in Day 9 of an 8-day investigation, so time was up. Rather than admit that the package was lost, Derek stated that the investigation team had requested an extra day to look for it. I was understandably angry at this. The 8 days had expired and now UPS had given themselves more time, without informing me that they would do so. I pointed-out that, if they could arbitrarily give themselves one more day, what would stop them from giving themselves another day after that or another week or a month?

Derek argued that they only needed one more day. So, I asked if I could call beck the next day and mention that "Derek had assured me it was only going to be the one extra day" to which Derek stated that he couldn't commit to that, since the investigators could, in fact, extend it again. So, UPS could take their sweet fucking time looking for my package and I had no option but to wait for it to be over.

Again, I called Credo to keep them updated. Like me, they were upset with how UPS was handling the situation. Not only was a customer waiting for a phone he had ordered weeks ago, but the phone was likely lost and Credo couldn't file for reimbursement until they received notice from UPS that their investigation was over and the phone was, in fact, lost.

A little after midnight, I called UPS again, since Day 9 was now elapsed and we were in Day 10. They had taken an extra day and it was gone. Again, the operator told me that the investigators needed more time.

Furious, I called Credo again. I explained to the operator that UPS seemed to be dragging their feet on my lost package and had zero problems giving themselves extension after extension, while expecting me to sit and wait for them. To my relief, Credo agreed with me that I had waited long enough. UPS had used-up their eight days and it would be grotesquely unfair to expect me to wait any longer. Credo sent me another iPhone 6s via UPS Overnight delivery, which arrived right on time. I was understandably concerned that they were using UPS again, considering my first one had disappeared into thin air. But, Credo has a contract with UPS, so they were my only option. I hoped that the Overnight delivery would travel through a different path within UPS than the two-day delivery, to avoid whatever black hole into which my iPhone had disappeared.

I was surprised to receive an email from April at UPS later the same morning as my last call to them and she sent this:
Dear Duane,

I apologize for the delay in my response. I was out of the office unexpectedly.

The investigation has been concluded and they were not able to locate anything. However, it was noted that the description provided was insufficient. Do you have any additional details that you could provide to conduct the step involving our search of our Lost and Found department again?
April P.
UPS Social Media Team
I suppose it's too much to have expected her to have someone else in her office to contact me if she was out. Whatever. I told her that it was an iPhone 6s, shipped to Honolulu by Credo Mobile. I didn't miss the part where she stated that the investigation was "concluded", but then went on to say that the description of my lost package wasn't detailed enough, as if it were somehow my fault that they weren't able to find it. Later, I received this message
Dear Duane,

I'm sorry. To search for "iPhone 6" can pull up multiple entries. Do you have the serial number? Color? Anything else?
April P.
UPS Social Media Team
I then told her that it was Space Gray and I gave her the device number. "Multiple entries" made me wonder if there are piles of lost iPhones sitting in their Lost and Found Department. I later received this
Dear Duane,

Thank you. I've reached out to my corporate contacts in our Lost and Found department to perform a search again with this updated information. As soon as I hear back from them, which I expect today, I will let you know.
April P.
UPS Social Media Team
As if the information I had already sent wasn't specific enough, I received this ridiculous message:
Dear Duane,

I've heard back from my contact and have been told that this, too, is too broad of a description to allow an effective search. Was this phone new in the box, with all of the accessories? How many gigs did it have? Were there any accessories? Is there anyway to contact the shipper to request more details?
April P.
UPS Social Media Team
It was coming from Credo Mobile, so of course it was "new in the box"! By the way, what possible fucking difference does it make how many gigs it has? Do they have mountains of Space Gray iPhone 6s' sitting in their Lost and Found Department?

Since I received this last email on the morning my replacement was due to arrive, I didn't reply right away. At this point, I sincerely felt like they were simply fucking with me. I won't believe that the "label fell off", if they try that excuse with me. Credo ships their products out in brown cardboard boxes and the label is a sticker placed on the side. On one side of the box is the word "CREDO" stenciled in bold, black letters. On the other is a sticker about the lithium ion battery the iPhone contains. Anyone looking at the outside of the box would probably realize immediately that an expensive electronic device, like an iPhone, is inside.

To put this as plainly as I can: for the label to fall off the box, the box would have had to be torn to pieces!

Much to Credo Mobile's credit, by new iPhone 6s arrived as promised and I am making myself acquainted with it. I made sure to have Credo declare the other iPhone lost or stolen and have it blacklisted.

If it was stolen to be sold on eBay, Craigslist or somewhere else, then whoever sold it is going to have their customer coming back to them for a refund pretty quickly.

I wish I could say that this was my first negative experience with UPS, but it isn't. I won't go into details of my previous problems with them. But, there are some companies that I have stopped buying from because they send their merchandise via United Parcel Service and I won't subject myself again to the poor customer service that I have suffered from that company.

At least two companies from whom I've bought goods have told me that many of their customers have also complained about UPS' service quality.

If I could avoid it, I would never again buy from a company that ships by UPS. Unfortunately, that isn't the case, since there are some purchases I need to make for my job and those companies use UPS exclusively.

So, I'm basically fucked when that happens.

Duane Browning

Monday, April 11, 2016

IRS Impersonator Scam

I received a phone call last year from some scammers impersonating the Internal Revenue Service.

The first call was actually a recorded message, telling me that the IRS had been trying to contact me. The recording informed me that I was the defendant in a lawsuit the IRS was filing against me, I was then notified to call 202-697-9892 to speak to them about it.

I had heard about this scam already, but didn't know the details. I have to admit that I was more than a little afraid. and I had momentarily forgotten that the IRS doesn't notify you of impending legal action against you by calling you on the phone. They always notify by by mail.

Calling them, I spoke to a man calling himself Jordan Belfort and he rattled-off some numbers as his Operator ID. He already knew my mailing address, which made me think the call was legit, as well as the fact that my Caller ID showed the call as originating from Washington DC.

"Jordan" spoke with a great deal of authority over the phone, though his accent made him difficult to understand. When he told me exactly how much I owed, I began to get suspicious. The amount was not particularly large and seemed too small for the IRS to even bother with a lawsuit. Sure, for outright fraud, they'll have you arrested and for money owed, they can seize your assets, but that's usually for large amounts, like in the tens of thousands of dollars. For a few thousand dollars (they claimed I owed about $4000), they'd usually try to set-up a payment plan, if you can't pay it all at once. With interest and penalties attached, of course.

"Jordan" advised me to hire a criminal defense attorney and that is where my doubts began to solidify. Why hire a criminal defense attorney for a civil matter? These are two different fields of Law. While the IRS can and has put people in prison for tax evasion, putting someone like me away wouldn't get them their money. The IRS would actually lose money in the costs of a trial, not to mention my incarceration and they'd never get the money, since I have few assets.

So, I began to get confused, since a real IRS agent would know the difference between criminal and civil matters and why all the fuss over a few grand?

Finally, I decided to see what his reaction would be if I offered to pay it and simply avoid a trial altogether. He then told me that I could settle it out of court, but warned of  my arrest if I didn't.  When I told him that I would contact my attorney and then call him back, he told me right away that, if I hung up, the system would flag my number and a warrant would be issued for me, resulting in Federal and State law enforcement being notified to arrest me.

Okay, the Feds I understand. The IRS is a Federal agency, but why would the Hawaii State Sheriffs get involved? This wasn't a State issue.

In addition to confusion between civil and criminal matters, "Jordan" was obviously unaware of the separation of jurisdictions between State and Federal law enforcement. Neither the Hawaii State Sheriffs or Honolulu Police Department would arrest me for owing money to the IRS. It would be the Treasury agents job.

When I confronted him over the apparent rush, he became defensive. As I calmed-down, I remembered the IRS scam that has been going-on for quite awhile. As I said, I didn't know much about it and I should have. That's on me.

However, I did learn a few things: they have my name, address and telephone number. While their having my name and phone number didn't alarm me, the fact that they have my physical address was more than little scary. They seemed to also know a bit of my tax history. While these could have been guesses, they were disturbingly close and makes me wonder if hackers had infiltrated the IRS database, stole files and sold them on the black market.

I finally told "Jordan" that I believed him to be one of the scammers I had been hearing about, since he wasn't acting like any IRS agent I've ever met. He got very quiet, assuming the jig was up and said "Okay." before hanging-up on me.

I should have Googled the phone number before calling, but the call came at just the right time of my workday when I am most stressed-out and the call pushed me over the edge. Finding confirmation of my suspicions online, I learned that this phone number has been used many times over the past year to carry out this scam. I called the IRS Inspector General to file a report. I also blocked the scammers' number, so they couldn't call me again.

There are dozens of phone numbers associated with this scam. I have done just a little bit of searching and here is a list of what I've found so far:

  • 201-406-0000
  • 202-754-8420
  • 202-766-9713
  • 202-580-8150
  • 202-506-9828
  • 202-492-8816
  • 202-468-5896
  • 202-459-1993
  • 202-413-8901
  • 202-640-0113
  • 202-751-1163
  • 202-320-3853
  • 202-470-2879
  • 202-697-9197
  • 202-864-1791
  • 202-800-5631
  • 202-470-0142
  • 202-657-5868
  • 202-506-9044
  • 202-239-5947
  • 202-697-9892
  • 202-803-4318
  • 205-315-6049
  • 206-317-9184
  • 206-462-5024
  • 206-488-5864
  • 206-451-3624
  • 206-347-2217
  • 206-319-6368
  • 206-319-2965
  • 206-488-6870
  • 206-204-5553
  • 206-201-2024
  • 206-488-7405
  • 206-488-7807
  • 206-495-9583
  • 206-866-5895
  • 206-905-9687
  • 206-922-6126
  • 213-141-5163
  • 216-242-1287
  • 240-523-3767
  • 305-432-9583
  • 305-713-1042
  • 305-676-5752
  • 315-704-1315
  • 347-783-6863
  • 347-349-5244
  • 347-944-1193
  • 352-453-1081
  • 360-359-7712
  • 360-209-8907
  • 360-200-6829
  • 360-347-1794
  • 360-851-4838
  • 412-203-0114
  • 415-800-4078
  • 415-358-1618
  • 415-900-4372
  • 415-937-6881
  • 509-643-4382
  • 520-955-6201
  • 605-550-4956
  • 605-440-3495
  • 619-548-2875
  • 619-324-4087
  • 646-740-0186
  • 716-206-3218
  • 757-254-0365
  • 760-269-4504
  • 773-786-9513
  • 773-796-4967
  • 802-766-1834
  • 904-210-2543
  • 917-310-1424
  • 989-858-2734
This list of numbers used by scammers is certainly not complete and it is likely that more numbers are being used everyday. Keeping a list like this current would be impossible.

If you've been contacted by these scammers, you can report them to the Internal Revenue Service by using the IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting link.

Duane Browning