December 31, 2006

Just When We Thought….

….we’d seen the last of the ilk of the Lads From Lagos, along comes a scam that’s seen great success targeting naive, desperate and/ or just plain stupid landlords and potential landlords.

Now, it’s part of my professional life to be aware of scams that a client needs to be protected against, but my area in that regard is mainly corporate — I’ve never had a real estate client and until I bought my house back in January, had never executed a real estate transaction.

Having to relocate for business purposes but not wanting to sell my house, I ran ads in the Charlotte Observer and at Craig’s List to rent it out. The only contact information I have included has been an email address. I’ve received several inquiries, including a number from overseas.

One of the first such contacts was an email from someone in Luxembourg, a man’s name in the signature, a woman’s as the owner of the email address. He explained that he is moving to Charlotte and in need of a place to live. I emailed him photos, he said it was exactly what he was looking for. Then he emailed that he would like to put up part of the deposit in advance, but that he needed most of what he had to pay for his travel, etc. He asked if he could send me the full amount of the 3 months’ (1st, Last, security) deposit to show his good faith, and if I could then cash it, keep one month and Western Union the balance to a woman in Montreal, whose last name was Smith.


I emailed him back that this was a bit confusing. He replied that the woman whose email he was using and the woman in Montreal were one and the same, his wife, but that she used different names in the two countries. He would pay the other two thirds of the security deposit and furnish his credit report and references when he arrived in the U.S.

Needless to say, this all sounded just the tiniest fraction of a wee bit unconventional all around. I seriously doubted that this person was going to be my tenant (well, duh!). However, curiosity piqued, I emailed him where to send the money, informing him that I would neither wire the balance to Miz Smith in Montreal or make any refunds of any kind until the payment instrument had cleared at my bank and they had credited the money to my account. I also told him that I needed him to scan his passport and email it to me.

At least twice (by then, it was more a joke, something to amuse myself), I asked him where the passport picture was, and he was “scanning and emailing it now”, but it never arrived, nor did a deposit. I wrote the respondent off as either a flake, someone who seriously needed to get his/ her affairs in order or a would-be scammer whose only barrier to success was a total absence of intelligence, and emailed him that I wasn’t interested in any further correspondence.

Subsequently, I have received email inquiries from a “woman” in London and a “man” in Australia. The former claims to be a computer engineer, the latter a “straight, Christian male model” who hails originally from Spain. Both have emailed that they would like to send me the full deposit, then have me Western Union two thirds to third parties who will apply the money to the respondents’ travel to the U.S. Each had a story, naturally, and each would pay the balance of their deposits and furnish their credit reports and references when they arrive in the U.S.

One thing that stood out in their correspondence was the fact that even though my ads indicated that I am renting out a 7 room house on 1/3 acre of land, their responses were either that they were interested in the APT for rent or the “room mate” availability. After having been emailed pictures and been told the nature of the rental, they all replied calling it the APT.

“Hmmmmm……” I thought, thinking about the respondent from Luxembourg, and not being a believer in coincidence, “Even though I haven’t had any inquiries from Denmark, there’s definitely something rotten there.”

So I visited Google and typed in, “renter scams”, and this item practically jumped out of the page at me.

“Durn!” I said (that wasn’t actually the term I employed), and when I read the Laramie (yeah, Laramie, as in Wyoming) newspaper article linked at the site, I was surprised at how many idjits there are in the world.

I mean, somebody you’ve never met or transacted with before sends you a check, asking you to forward part of it on to a third party, or asks you for a refund right off the bat, and you comply before the check has even had a chance to clear?

Clarification: I was only momentarily surprised, then I remembered the success of the Nigerian scammers (see Lads From Lagos, up top) and even some really big scores from the days when I worked in the futures industry. One of my clerks had brought me an account payout request, from one of our smaller branches, for half a million bucks. On looking at the account, I saw that it was a new account with the opening funds in the same amount received only two days previously. The account had made money and the A/E had blown out all the positions, so the entire equity was available.

On calling the branch ops manager and asking him how the funds received had been received, figuring via a fed funds wire, I was shocked to hear that the money had come in the form of a cashier’s check.

“Are you nuts!?” was my response. “Have you deposited the check?”

“Not yet,” he replied.

“What bank does it come from?”

He rattled off the name of some bank I’d never heard of, explaining that it was in the Marshall Islands. When I stopped laughing, I told him to expect a wire shortly instructing that no further transactions of any kind were authorized for that account until further notice, then called around to friends and counterparts at other houses. I learned that the bank didn’t exist, and that several other top brokerage firms had been ripped off for collective millions by these same scammers.

So yeah, my surprise at the number of people who get skinned by such scammers dissipated pretty quickly.

The easiest marks are those who allow wishful thinking to dominate over common sense. The broker who took on the scamming client saw more commissions coming out of a $500,000.00 account than from among a pool of clients who rarely had even ten per cent of that amount in house, and just as important, he envisioned being a heeeero in the branch office, eventually getting out of his cubicle and into his own office, with a “title” — that’s one way brokerage houses “stroke” their better producing A/Es. Branch management envisioned such accounts as putting their branch on the map. The scammer envisioned another in a series of gleeful laughs at “stupid Americans” and a visit to his offshore banker. The broker, the ops manager and probably the branch manager, unless he had some serious connections, would have been pounding the pavement had common sense — me — not prevailed in the matter.

The first time I ever received a Lads From Lagos email (some minister of education or other, after the former president had been beheaded, needed help getting twenty mill out of the country that he and the headless fellow had embezzled from the treasury and would cut me in on 20% for my assistance), being new to the Internet at the time, I forwarded it straight to the Bureau, and learned what the scam was about shortly thereafter. Man, I really could’ve used that four million, too (sigh)….

In the case of the rent deposit scammers, the hits are much smaller, but we’re still talking significant money to a small businessman or someone like me, who is looking to rent out a single property. For example, let’s say you have a unit for rent and are asking for a thousand a month, with a deposit in the amount of three months’ rent. The scammer sends you a counterfeit cashier’s or traveller’s check, or a money order for three thousand and asks that you wire two thirds to a third party, or they send you, say, five thousand and ask, as a favor if you’ll mail the two K extra to said third party, offering to give you some extra cash when they arrive, as well as the balance of the deposit in the first case. You deposit the payment instrument at your bank and wire the two thousand. A day or two later, they email you that they’ve had a change of plans or whatever, and want you to return their entire deposit, which could be either one thousand or three thousand, given the above numbers. Being an ethical person who believes everyone else is as honest as you are, you comply immediately. Having other things to do, you put it off for a day or two and suddenly learn from your bank that you’ve been ripped off. You’re in luck! They only got you for a couple of thousand, plus the bouncing check fee the bank’s going to charge you (And the banks were made of marble, with a guard at every door, and the vaults were stuffed with silver, that the people sweated for….).

Now figure that the scammer who hit you has used software that gathered a list of thousands of rental advertisers and emailed all of them. What, you have to wonder, percentage of these potential victims has been suckered? Like PT Barnum was credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

Brings to mind an old (is there any other kind?) Neil Sedaka song called Run, Sampson Run and the line, You can bet your bottom dollar he was gonna get clipped.

Everybody, Happy New Year!!!!

by @ 10:45 am. Filed under Assholes

December 28, 2006

This Is Priceless

Kerry eats alone, heh heh.

Our troops pretty much told Kerry what they think of him by not telling him anything at all.

The schmuck!

H/T James Taranto

by @ 12:14 am. Filed under Liberals(spit!)

December 27, 2006

Some Rambling

So, Chanukah and Christmas have come and gone.

So has Ramadan, the month in which many devout Muslims traditionally endeavor to slaughter as many infidels as possible, chaffing at the bit to get to those virgins they have long been conned into believing await them in “Paradise”. Given the respect of Islam for women, I suppose the Islamess (now, that wasn’t very PC, was it?) who manages to murder some unbelievers during Satan’s Month gets 73 male virgins to stifle and abuse her for all eternity.

One of the reasons police officers hate getting involved in domestic battery cases is that on all too many occasions, after all the paperwork and expended energy and man (or woman) hours, the female victims forgive dear hubby and drop the charges. There are battered women out there who do this repeatedly and, worse, stay with the abusive husband after multiple beatings and the psychological abuse that goes hand-in-hand with such a relationship. One of my friends who’s a big city cop, a detective with over 25 years on the job has become so cynical about the issue he once said to me, “What’s all this about battered women? Personally, I think they taste better raw.”

Now imagine a religion whose very scripture dictates that women live like the above described, slaves to their husbands, fathers and brothers, without the options of escape that women have in the civilized world(oil revenues do not make a country or region civilized, only rich).

It makes one grind ones’ teeth with pure rage, unless one is an American feminist, then it’s perfectly okay. To say otherwise might justify being un-PC regarding Islam, and that would conflict with the political agenda of the left, to which the bulk of feminists belong. I’m sure there are a few feminists out there who are patriotic Americans, I just haven’t met any that I know of. All those I’ve met – I used to live in San Francisco and get out a lot, so trust me, I’ve encountered quite a few in my time – have been “card carrying” members of the portside persuasion.

So much for four paragraphs of my usual digression.

My Christmas weekend included a couple of colleagues from overseas who are “stranded” in DC through mid January working on a project, flying down to Charlotte to visit me from Sunday to Tuesday. On Christmas Eve, I roasted a 6 ½ pound duckling – my first, in fact – and found it to be quite a wrestling match just seasoning and stuffing the damn thing, it got pretty messy, but only in the immediate work space, and I got online for some tips. It came out perfect, crisp skin and tender meat, with most of the fat and grease bled off. We put quite a dent in my bar, especially in the single malt, tequila and brandy departments, and had a great and mutually informative time talking shop, telling funny stories and extreme off-color jokes and watching my Star Wars DVDs and Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on the 62” Toshiba in the den.

Yesterday I had the TV on in my office while I did some work, and watched a couple of films via DirecTV.

One movie I watched featured Jordana Brewster, and really hit home with just how far Hollywood has gone in its liberal propagandizing efforts.

It was called D.E.B.S., and it was about an all schoolgirl (plaid miniskirts, shirts and ties) federal law enforcement agency (S.W.A.T. style), who are the D.E.B.S., vs. Brewster, same age bracket, who is a major international criminal.

It is a cutesy kind of film, and the only real plot is the blossoming lesbian relationship between Brewster and the leading D.E.B. The message was that love knows no gender, and the ending was one of those “happily ever after” kind of endings, the two lesbian lovers go away together at the end with the help and blessings of the rest of the D.E.B.S. on the team. There was no sex and no nudity in the movie, so….

…. it was rated PG-13.

Now, keep in mind that I have a lot in common with lesbians, there is one living inside me that…. Oh, never mind….

The other film made me wish I hadn’t turned on the TV at all, it proved to be the only Samuel L. Jackson film I’ve ever watched that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. It was called Freedomland and the only two descriptives I can produce for that one are “depressing” and “tedious”. No doubt the consensus of reviews called it “brilliant”, “inspiring” and the like. I found the part where Jackson’s character is trying to get the facts from the woman and her rambling on with her back story to be frustrating (perhaps because I’ve done investigative work, including interrogations, before, and it really sucks to have to endure unavoidable extemporaneous BS when all you want or require is “the facts”).

At the moment, I’m sort of recuperating from my guests’ visit, sipping brandy (hair of the dog, so to speak) with coffee and listening to some old stuff like the Beatles and some much older stuff like Bach, with some Al Stewart mixed in, including tracks like Timeless Skies, Lord Grenville and Roads to Moscow. My all-time favorite Beatles song, from Magical Mystery Tour is playing at the moment: Hello Goodbye.

So, Gerald Ford has passed away, the former President who was never elected – Agnew preceded him as VP, if my memory serves, and Ford succeeded Nixon, then pardoned him in the wake of the Watergate affair, which ticked off a whole passel o’ Democrats and was instrumental in Jimmuh Cahtuh beating him in ’76. I was a Democrat back then, and, well… I owe Carter a great debt – he was the POTUS that turned me into a Republican. Thank ya’ kindly, Jimbo! Too bad he turned traitor, altogether, an enemy of both the United States and Israel. And this is the legacy he chooses in his endeavors to correct the memories of his failed presidency. Go figure.

Go with G-d, Mr. Ford.

Ah, the track that just began is one I forgot I’d included in the play list, Emerson, Lake & Palmers’ Bitches Crystal. Come to think of it, that means Tarkus is next. Yay!

From the mellow to the vigorous….

I know, I’m rambling here, but… that’s why I titled this post thusly.

New Years 2007 is five days away, New Years Eve ending 2006 is four days away.


And the focus of my personal nostalgia exists in the 1960s and 1970s. I often feel like Fred Flintstone guest starring on The Jetsons.

Where the hell is a time machine when you need one!?

by @ 8:38 pm. Filed under Uncategorized

December 24, 2006

December 21, 2006

Acts Of War?

It would seem that the term “porous borders” when describing America’s national boundaries, is a profound understatement.

Gun-toting members of the Mexican military are crossing regularly into U.S. territory, where they are partnering with drug cartels and criminal gangs to protect sophisticated smuggling operations, according to Texas sheriffs and lawmakers.

Hmmm. Given that our Democrat politicians and the MSM pounded the blame on President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld for the misconduct of a few soldiers at Abu Graibh, they will prove beyond any shadow of a doubt their shameless hypocrisy if they don’t give equal time to the president and military whip of Mexico, though I won’t hold my breath — even though these are, technically, invasions of our sovereign soil by the active duty military of a foreign country, things done against America seem to be “okay” with the left, it’s only when the U.S. defends itself or attacks its enemies that they seem to have a problem.

However, I digress.

On one occasion early this year, deputies in pursuit of suspected drug dealers encountered “heavily armed soldiers in a Humvee,” while trying to apprehend individuals driving “load vehicles” for drug shipments, Hudspeth Sheriff Arvin West told a congressional hearing subsequently.

Although some of the narcotics were seized, the deputies were forced to suspend their pursuit once the Mexican soldiers intervened, according to West’s testimony.

Sheriffs in neighboring parts of Texas are also familiar with the techniques used to protect drug shipments in Hudspeth.

According to Sheriff Leo Samaniego of El Paso County, Mexican soldiers perform “flanking maneuvers,” forcing deputies into defensive positions.

“They are very involved in safeguarding these drug shipments,” he said of the Mexican troops.

Samaniego said he was in contact with farmers in the area who reported witnessing such incidents regularly.

It’s bad enough that Mexicans are able to sneak across the border to violate our immigration policies, but armed troops in military vehicles? Making forays into our country across that same border, to interdict our own law enforcement people in the pursuit of their duties?

While I acknowledge that there’s little chance of a full scale invasion of the U.S. by Mexico, what is distressing is that our southern border is so ill secured that this could be happening not as isolated incidents, but on a routine basis. If Mexican troops can do this, consider how many satan worshippers Muslims could sneak in, loaded down with weaponry, over a period of days or weeks, to perpetrate one or more terrorism operations.

by @ 10:27 am. Filed under Homeland Security

December 19, 2006


First Democrats were “threatening” to leave the country if George Bush was reelected, now a Democrat, a former Clinton aide no less, is threatening to leave the country if Hillary gets elected President.

Political strategist Dick Morris is so disgusted by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency that he’s announced he’ll leave the country if she wins the Democratic nomination.

Appearing on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes,” Morris – a former aide to President Bill Clinton – said that Bill and Hillary both suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder: “When they don’t get enough attention, they’re disordered.”

Go figure….

by @ 1:42 pm. Filed under Democrats

December 17, 2006

Yeah, I Know, You Can’t Depend On Anybody….

…. these days.

I’ve pretty much learned that the hard way, belonging to a conservative blogger group.

I recently did a post {re the Air Force Academy} whose comment thread would have been well aided by a member of this group who had been there, done that, so to speak, and he pretty much shined me on, even though I requested his help.

As a result, I will no longer affiliate myself with the group, because I know that they are bogus allies.

No more alliances for this kid, I’ve learned my lesson.

Right at this moment, I’m listening to Songs Of Leonard Cohen and taking a break from working on my house for the tenant who will be here after the first of the year.

I actually plan to make a lot of changes — I need to bring in some outside help.

Despite a friend’s help in hooking me up with Haloscan trackbacks, that’s not working either, except for the very first trackback, I get none. (Googling my blog, I learn this) and neither is the help I thought I was getting in blocking spambots.

Bottom line: I can’t depend upon anyone I know via the Internet. Whether or not it’s their fault, they simply don’t or can’t deliver.

In short, I can’t guarantee my longevity at Hard Astarboard — I am becoming so frustrated at so many things that, well…. Let’s put it this way: I’m not a computer dude. I use a computer, but to me the technical details are pretty much like Sanskrit.

If I could get away with it, my home phone would have a rotary dial.

All that said, we will see what develops….

by @ 9:48 pm. Filed under Just Editorializing

The Government Once Again….

…. proves that this is not the free country intended by our founding fathers, interfering, and not for the first time, with the competitive structure of the marketplace.

Of course, scum sucking, piece of shit, treasonous, commie liberal politicians are at the source of this particular infringement, but what’s new? They always are!

In this case, the victim is a dairy farmer who chose to charge less money for his milk.

by @ 5:08 pm. Filed under American Rights, Liberal Agendas, Liberals(spit!), Not Good, WTF!!!!?

December 16, 2006

This One Came In An E-mail….

…. and I just had to share it.

Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting.

Well, for example, the other day I went downtown and went into a shop. I was only in there for about 5 minutes, and when I came out there was a cop writing out a parking ticket.

I went up to him and said, “Come on, man, how about giving a retired person a break?”

He ignored me and continued writing the ticket.

I called him a “Nazi.” He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tires. So I called him a “doughnut eating Gestapo.” He finished the second ticket, and put it on the windshield with the first.

Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, I didn’t care. I came downtown on the bus, and the car that he was putting the tickets on had a bumper sticker that said “Hillary in ‘08.”

I try to have a little fun each day now that I’m retired.

H/T Shana

by @ 2:18 pm. Filed under Humor

December 15, 2006

Ahmadmanjihad’s Effective Strategy

In engaging his full scale Holocaust denial campaign (even to the extent of having held his global conference on the subject earlier this week), the Iranian president is embacing a multifaceted and highly effective strategy that demonstrates he is, indeed, no dummy (or perhaps he is, and the leaders of certain western countries are just dumber than he is), according to an on-point analysis by megaperceptive columnist Caroline Glick.

So why is the guy who is gunning for a new Holocaust belittling the last one?

First of all, by doing so he empowers those Germans and friends of Germany who carried it out. By denying the Holocaust Ahmadinejad turns the Nazis into victims and so provides a space for them to express themselves after a sixty year silence. Indeed, in Germany neo-Nazism is a burgeoning political and social force that proudly parades its links to Iran.

The German fascist party NPD’s followers demonstrated in support of Iran at the World Cup in Germany last spring. This week, Der Spiegel reported that attacks against Jewish children have increased markedly in recent years. Jewish children and their non-Jewish friends have been humiliated in anti-Semitic rituals unheard of since the Nazi era. “Jew” has become one of the most prevalent derogatory terms in use in Germany today.

Iran’s adoption of Holocaust denial as an official, defiant policy gives legitimacy to this striking phenomenon. This is especially the case since Iran is blaming the Jews for silencing these poor fascists. In his same letter to Merkel Ahmadinejad wrote, “The perpetual claimants against the great people of Germany are the bullying Zionists that funded the Al Quds Occupying Regime with the force of bayonets in the Middle East.”

of course does not limit his efforts to the Nazis. He is also setting the cognitive conditions for the annihilation of Israel for the international Left by presenting Israel’s existence as a direct result of the Holocaust. As Iran’s Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki said this week, “If the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt.”

In short, Iran views Holocaust denial as a strategic propaganda tool. By downgrading the Holocaust, Iran mobilizes supporters and paralyzes potential opponents. Its coupling of the last Holocaust with the one it signals daily it intends to carry out, wins it support among the Nazis and the Sunnis alike. Its presentation of the Holocaust as a myth used to exploit Muslims wins its support in the international Left which increasingly views Israel as an illegitimate state. So by denying the Holocaust Iran raises its leadership profile both regionally and globally.
Indeed, even if the Left doesn’t buy into Holocaust denial, it can still agree with Iran’s conclusion that Israel has no right to exist. As Mottaki explained, “If during this [Holocaust denial conference] it is proved that the Holocaust was a historical reality, then what is the reason for the Muslim people of the region and the Palestinians having to pay the cost of the Nazis’ crimes?”


Merkel and her fellow Germans have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past three years condemning the Nazi Holocaust. This week they even organized a special Holocaust condemning conference in response to the Iranian Holocaust denying conference.

over the same time period, they have conducted negotiations with Teheran as part of the EU-3 that have enabled Iran to continue its nuclear progress; obstructed US efforts to levy sanctions on Iran; and maintained active trade relations with Iran. Merkel’s government has continued the practice of providing loan guarantees to German firms doing business with Iran. In 2005, German-Iranian trade stood at about $5 billion.
Now, after three years of disastrous negotiations with the mullahs, Germany has finally come around to supporting the European draft sanctions resolution against Iran being debated in the UN Security Council. The problem is that the proposed sanctions are so weak that they will have no impact on Iran’s ability to move on with its nuclear bomb program.

The obvious fact that the sanctions will have no impact on Iran has not made a dent in Merkel’s refusal to support military action against Iran under any circumstances - a refusal she reiterated while standing next to Israel’s Prime Minister on Tuesday.

Yeah, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, that completely clueless waste of skin who is as much a threat to the future of Israel as is the Iranian President.

Olmert was apparently too busy admitting that Israel has nuclear weapons only to take back his admission hours later, absurdly praising Russian President Vladimir for his opposition to the “nuclearlization of Iran” which Putin is actively promoting, and promising to give Judea and Samaria to Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas to take issue with Merkel’s statement. And that is a pity, because by taking issue with it, he would have gone far towards destroying the effectiveness of Iran’s Holocaust denial strategy.

Read the entire OpEd here.