Come in a little closer friends,
Psst! Hey, wanna buy a new Sony color TV? Only $50... Or
how about this genuine Rolex watch for just $15. Most of us have
a little larceny in our souls and deals like that sound pretty
tempting, which is exactly how con artists work. It's always a
con when you think you're cheating the con artist, really it's
you who are being cheated. As the old saying has it, it's hard
to cheat an honest man. That "Sony TV" is most likely to be a
Genuine Sony Box with a couple of bricks inside. And the watch?
Even though it says Rolex on the face, it's likely a cheap copy
that will probably stop running long before the guy who sold it
to you does.
Seems like you can't get very far without someone trying to
put their hand in your pocket. Debt consolidation, ponzi
schemes, chain letters, pyramid schemes, home improvement scams,
telemarketing, credit repair cheats, gypsy games; they all are
designed to separate you from your dough as quickly as possible.
Some businesses seem to always be just one step inside the law,
but even some otherwise reputable companies have slipped into
really deceptive practices, as you'll see in a bit.
Now, for the purposes of this week's Funnies, I'm leaving
out hoaxes, which are not really designed to cheat people out of
money. Hoaxes are a sort of trick, more involved with magic and
practical jokes. Maybe you could say that a good hoax only
steals your self-respect. We'll stay just with the con artists
this time and deal with hoaxes in a future Funnies.
As I was ready to send this introduction, another spam/scam
appeared in my mailbox. This was an offer from an outfit called
"Top Quality Marketing" to give you "introductory information
absolutely FREE and show you how & where to get the credit you
deserve." Sure... All this company needs to do is get your name
and address, which they can sell over and over again to other
scammers. These sucker lists are very valuable.
With so much cheating going on, it's nice to know that we
can have confidence in some people. We know we can always trust
folks like: Dale Frederickson, Timothy McChain, Peter Adler John
Peterson, Kerry Miller, Helen Yee, Sylvia Libin He and Jenny
Peterson. Thanks for your contributions all, and now hang onto
your wallets as we enter places where no one's money is safe.
Have a Great Week!
OF FORD AND FRAUD...
After Henry Ford made his fortune, he went to visit his
parents old home in Ireland. While he was there in County Cork,
some of the local officials asked if he would contribute some
money toward a hospital for the area.
Of course, Ford was happy to donate, and immediately wrote a
check for $5000. The local officials had hoped for a little more
from the man who was at the time, the richest man in the world.
So it was probably not an accident when the next day, the
newspaper headline said that Henry Ford would donate $50,000 for
the construction of a new hospital. The officials told Ford that
it had to be a misprint and the paper would, of course, print an
But Ford had been approached for donations enough by this
time that he knew when he had been scammed by experts. Henry
said that he would be happy to donate the remaining $45,000, but
only if the new hospital would have a plaque over the entryway
that he specified.
The hospital was built and stands today, with the plaque
that Henry Ford ordered. It's a bible quote from Matthew, that
"Though I came to you as a stranger, you took me in."
IT'S THE WATER...
Bottled water is really popular these days -- all of the
best places have it. But it is expensive, considering that it is
just water (and maybe a shot of carbon dioxide for bubbles).
Most people can't really tell what brand of water they are
So it's no surprise to find out that some places try to
boost their profit margins by substituting regular H2O for the
high-priced stuff. In a recent study in the Netherlands, the
Dutch Consumers' Union reported in 31 restaurants, 11 actually
served carbonated tap water when customers ordered mineral water.
The water was "exactly the same as water from a tap in the cafe's
toilet," the report said.
Things aren't much different here in the States. The New
York Times reported last year that more than a third of the
bottled water sold in the U. S. is nothing more than filtered tap
water from city water systems. The newest trend takes this one
step farther: several cities are bottling their regular water and
selling it to consumers. People may be paying as much as $1 for
a quart of water that they could have gotten straight out of
their home faucets for 1/10 of a cent. (AP / New York Times)
YAHOO, I WON!
Oh, no you didn't! Not if you were sent any of a series of
messages from the Yahoo Web Search's new free Email service. A
message, purporting to be from "email@example.com" or
"firstname.lastname@example.org" told folks that they had won a free US
Robotics 56K modem from Yahoo in a promotion. All they had to do
was Email their credit card number for verification.
Except that Yahoo had no such promotion going. The free
Email address was set up via a relay machine in Germany, making
it impossible to know where it originated. Except that it was
someone with an unusual interest in credit card numbers.
Yahoo pulled the plug on these accounts quickly and said
they have taken steps to prevent a repeat performance by
eliminating Email addresses with words like "winner" and
"contest" in them. (Reuters)
SAVE THE MONEY
Late night TV is just full of ads for outfits like "Save the
Children" and "Childreach International." The spots usually show
pathetic slum kids in third world countries and solicit donations
to help improve the kids lives by sponsoring a child. In
response, the sponsors are supposed to get letters and photos
from the child.
But an investigation by the Chicago Tribune has shown that
many such organizations are "rife with scams". Not all were
found to be cheats, but many of those that are most highly
promoted are. The paper sponsored several children anonymously
for two years, then made surprise visits to their villages. In
one place, they found that the children's letters were actually
written by a 44-year-old teacher hired by the charity. In other
cases, they found that the sponsored children had been dead for
years, though the letters kept on coming and the sponsors kept on
Quite a few countries, including the U. S., are replacing
their currency to try to stay ahead of modern forgers with color
copiers and computer scanners. Last year, Austria replaced their
1,000 schilling notes (worth about $80 US) with notes that
government claimed were impossible to forge.
Maybe more like impossible to tell from forgeries. People
in Austria have found that the new notes come in different sizes
and patterns, and that the blue "anti-copy" stripe down the sides
varies in width. Worst of all, the purple numerals on the bills
can be easily rubbed off, making changing denominations much
Some folks in Japan have recently discovered that the Korean
500-won coin works in vending machines as the much more valuable
Japanese 500-yen coin (worth around $5 US). Korean customs
authorities recently stopped four Japanese tourists who were
attempting to leave Seoul with over 18,000 coins.
Meanwhile, in Australia, optimistic con artists have made
several attempts to get banks to cash an American $1 million
note. Why, they even had an official-looking "certificate of
Except that the U.S. government has never printed a $1
million note. (Reuters / UPI)
MAKING EYE CONTACT
The American optical company, Bausch & Lomb, was fined $1.7
million last year in a multi-state investigation of their contact
lens business. Investigators found that the company was selling
the same lenses for prices varying between $2.50 and $23 a pair.
So what was the difference between the cheap and expensive
lenses? "The lenses are the exact same physically--the only
difference was their instructions for use," said an
THE GREEKS HAVE A WORD FOR IT!
How much could two beers cost? Two tourists in Athens found
out recently when they were presented a bill for $863. City
officials said that the beers should have cost no more than $11,
and fined the owner of a center city cafe one million drachmas
($about $4,000) for overcharging. Athens depends heavily on
tourism, and cafes and clubs there are famous for overcharging
foreigners. A Japanese tourist was surprised at an Athens bar
last year with a bill of $5,166 for eight bottles of Greek
champagne worth about $200.
READING FROM THE CLASSICS
One of the classic swindles in America was the Grand Central
Fruit Stand Swindle in 1929. Two Italian brothers, Nick and Tony
Fortunato, received a letter from "T. Remington Grenfell, Vice
President of the Grand Central Holding Company." In the letter,
Grenfell said that he represented the company that ran Grand
Central Station for the New York Central Railroad, and claimed
that the famous information booth in the center of the huge
terminal was wasting too much money, so the railroad had decided
to turn the information booth into retail space. The Fortunatos
had been selected to turn the stand into a fruit stand for a
rental of $2,000 a week, with the first year payable in advance.
While the brothers thought that $2,000 a week was pretty
steep, they saw dollar signs dancing in front of them when they
thought of the millions of travellers that would pass their fruit
stand in the center of such a busy place. Why, they could make a
fortune selling expensive gift baskets. So the brothers decided
to take the chance, and met with Grenfell in an office building
connected to Grand Central Station. There they presented a
cashiers check for the whole $100,000.
The brothers troubles really started when they showed up a
feew days later with a gang of workmen, ready to remodel the
information booth into a fruit stand. The brothers ordered the
confused information clerks out, words were exchanged, and
eventually the railroad police were called. When the brothers
insisted that the police come with them to meet Mr. Grenfell,
they found the offices empty -- abandoned. There was, railroad
officials assured the brothers, no such thing as the "Grand
Central Holding Company;" the railroad ran the terminal itself.
The brothers never quite believed this, convinced that a big
company had tried to take advantage of them and cheat them out of
their savings. For years afterwards, the brothers would show up
in Grand Central Station, cursing, shaking their fists at the
information clerks and hurling insults in all directions. In
other words, just another part of normal life in New York City.
UP IN SMOKE
A man in Charlotte, North Carolina bought a box of very
rare, very expensive cigars and carefully insured them against --
of all things -- fire. After smoking all of the cigars, the man
then filed a claim with the insurance company, claiming that the
$15,000 box of cigars had been lost in a "series of small fires."
Of course the insurance company refused to pay. The man
then sued them, and won, because the insurance company's fire
policy hadn't defined what would have been an "unacceptable
So the man won, right? Well, not quite. After cashing the
check, the insurance company had the man arrested and charged
with arson, since he'd clearly been the one who set the series of
small fires. He was found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail
for each count of arson - 24 in all.
© 1998 by Bill Becwar. All Rights Reserved.