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!!!!

Posted by Seth at 10:45 AM | Comments (21) |

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.

Posted by Seth at 05:38 AM | Comments (6) |

November 27, 2006

This Is Too Funny

And here we have a sterling, totally blatant example of liberal hypocrisy in its finest hour, courtesy of none other than John Edwards, our former Vice Presidential candidate.

Posted by Seth at 10:22 AM | Comments (8) |

November 19, 2006

Murderous Exasperation

I was perusing the comment section at another blog yesterday and read a liberal's comment that made me thankful he and I were not in the same room -- had we been, I probably would have strangled the son of a bitch out of sheer frustration. My own comment, in reply to his, was as restrained as possible, I believe it remained within, though pushing the envelope, the boundaries of respect due the owners of that most excellent site.

I mean, these people (not the owners of said most excellent site, but liberals) are such -- such varmints!


They claim to be champions of human rights, for example. Here in America, human rights are honored more than they are anyplace else on earth. Freedom of speech? C'mon. Here, you can shout obscene jokes about the President from the rooftops if you feel like it.

In the Soviet Union, you'd have been hauled off to the Lubyanka, or perhaps Lefortovo Prison, in a heart beat, and not seen again for quite some time, if at all.

If they needed information they thought you might possess, there was none of this patty cakes BS like water boarding or playing loud music at you, they were somewhat more practical -- maybe running some electricity through your genitals, or shooting you up with interesting chemicals like lysergic acid mixed with amatol that might get you to babbling, but might also scramble your brains permanently. Then again, permanently might have only meant a couple of hours, anyway.

So what did American liberals do? They extolled the virtues of communism in all its grand superiority over capitalism, even as they enjoyed instant gratification at the local mall while Soviet citizens were standing in bitter cold, in four and five hour lines, to buy a potato.

North Vietnam, an oppressive communist regime, invades the south, and our country defends the South Vietnamese against the north and its VietCong terrorist apparat. Liberals at home fight tooth and nail against the conflict. They influence politicians, who influence the war effort itself, prolonging it by several years. They eventually succeed in getting our troops pulled out. They rejoice. Ho Chi Minh's communists sweep into South Vietnam and butcher hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then they enslave the country under said oppressive government.

Meanwhile, here in America, the liberals are celebrating their "victory". They could care less about the fates of those poor souls thousands of miles away, human beings they've helped murder as surely as if they'd been there, splattering brains across the ground.

In the 1990s, there was brutal conflict in the Balkans. Muslims were slaughtering Christian Serbs, and Milosevic's people were killing Muslims.

The EU, led by Germany, exploited the violence in order to get a foot in the door for influence in the Balkans. They altered intelligence reports and manipulated the media to paint a gruesome picture of Muslims being victimized via
"ethnic cleansing" by Milosevic's people. Peaceful, nonviolent Muslims, victimized!

Then-boss liberal Bill Clinton bought into it and got us into it, and we helped eliminate a lot of obstacles al-Qaeda and fellow travellers faced in the day-to-day ethnic cleansing operations they were engaged in over there.

Milosevic was arrested and tried for his "crimes" -- and died in custody five years later without ever being convicted of anything.

Muslims in the Balkans continue murdering Christian Serbs to this day.

Onward to Iraq, and to the global war we are waging to defend ourselves against the abolition of liberty under Islamic rule.

There we are again -- which side are liberals on?

The other side, of course, as usual!

America's enemies, any enemies, have never had a better friend than a liberal.

You want some liberal friends? Just declare war on the United States and they'll be coming out in droves to shake your hand or, if requested, stick their noses wherever you wish.


Certainly not on our side, ever, yet when you state this obvious truth, they will actually argue the opposite, as often as not with that smug smirk that brings out the strangler in many of us....

Posted by Seth at 04:48 AM | Comments (25) |

September 27, 2006

Failures In Action

The last two Democrat administrations, totalling a dozen years, failed us miserably.

So what do we get as consolation prizes?

We get Failure #1, the 4-year-failure, travelling the globe, badmouthing our country at every turn while swallowing sans gag reflex for our enemies. They love his deep-throated voice.

We get Failure #2, the 8-year-failure, losing his composure, big time, during a FOX interview. The only thing he didn't do was challenge his host to a fist fight. This particular failure constituted a moral blemish on our country during the 1990s. He couldn't even be faithful to his wife, how could anyone have expected him to be faithful to his country?

Just speculating on the merits, or lack thereof, of those our anti-morality, anti-America political party chooses next to try to elect to the highest office in the land when they are able to catch America sleeping.... The gigolo last candidate they served up, the fella with the dubiously documented war record, sure proved a piece of work...

What will they endeavor to foist upon us next, the sociopathic wife of Failure #2?

Posted by Seth at 08:07 PM |