Stephen Winn

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Steal from a Writer? How Dare You!

Posted by Stephen Winn
I feel exhausted when I think about how many times someone has tried to rip me off lately. It's now reached a point where I get at least a couple of attempts a month. Here are a few of the more interesting examples I'd like to share with you...

Case 1:
I received a letter by email from a law firm in Spain—yes, you read that correctly, Spain. A Mr. Gonzales wrote that a distant relative of mine who happened to be a wealthy business mogul, had died tragically with his entire family. It happened in an earthquake in China while they were travelling there, and he left a fortune behind in a safe deposit box with no one to claim it. Enter me, stage left…the heir to my distant relative’s fortune. Mr. Gonzales wrote that the fortune is supposed to be over $9,000,000.00 and I’m told I get half while the lawyers who contacted me get the other half. My first reaction was that if this is legitimate, that’s one hell of a fee for the lawyers to settle my dead relative’s estate. Of course, this is more than likely not legitimate and is simply all about getting my banking and other personal information so they could steal my money which is the only real money in all of this.

Case 2: I received three calls on separate occasions from male callers that had a heavy accent and sounded to me like they were from India. They claimed I had to call a certain number TODAY or be charged with tax issues and face court proceedings because of my negligence to pay some tax arrears. Well, you probably can’t find a more up-to-date taxpayer than me, so I called my friend Tom who is also my Accountant. His first words were, “Not that scam again! I guess it’s your turn.” I told him I was furious that criminals can frighten people like me and was going to report it to the blood sucking tax collectors who vacuum up all of my money each year. He told me to go ahead but assured me that I’ll get nowhere with them. He was right, I didn’t—in fact, I was told it happens all the time and that a tax collector would never call me on the phone about such issues. I would get a letter first—and if the situation was dire—it would be sent to me by registered mail. I was told that these scammers primarily operate out of somewhere in India as well as several other Asian countries. They secure a phone number with an area code identical to where your country’s revenue service is. They then give you this number so you can call them back to make your payment. When you do, they answer as if they are the federal revenue agency. They tell you once again that you owe a ton of money and better pay immediately by using your credit card or line of credit. I know this because I called them back—I was curious about what they’d tell me. Despite the fact I had a recording of the scammer calls I received, it didn't matter to our revenue agents—they have heard it all before and weren’t interested in what I had to say. They didn’t care about any ‘proof’ I could provide. Too bad, so sad.

Case 3: I recently received an email, supposedly from a bank—a bank that I haven’t done business with for years. The email was in full color with the bank’s logo across the top of the page and seemed identical to the real thing I had seen many times before. The email described a problem with my bank account details and urged me to update my personal information by filling in my correct bank account number (of course!) so it could be checked against the one they have on file. For security reasons over the internet, the email didn’t reveal my account number on file with them—I had to provide it—sure, of course. Since a branch of the bank in question wasn’t far from my office, I decided to take a copy of the email and march right in there and show them my proof of this scam. I proudly presented my ‘proof’ at the front counter, only to be told they had seen this same thing a hundred times before. “But aren’t you going to do anything about this?” I asked, feeling shocked and disappointed. “No, I’m not,” was her final response to me, said with a look on her face that I’m sure was meant to signal I was clearly a fool. I left feeling totally dejected and with my sense of righteousness on hold.

Case 4: Then there’s the one about an internet service provider who assured me I was signed up for the exact services I had requested. A couple of months later, I discovered my credit card was being charged an extra $100 monthly fee for ‘additional services’ I hadn’t requested and didn’t need. When I called to straighten the situation out it became clear to me that the commissioned salesperson who sold me my plan had been creative with my account and raised their own commissions at my expense. So, I had to cancel the additional services I didn’t need which ate up over a half hour on the phone, and then I was finally told that only the current (third) month could be credited back. The other two were behind us now—so deal with it. I objected saying, “Hold on—not so fast!” It fell on deaf ears and I was told they’d get back to me. That’s when the call ended. I have yet to receive a response.

So…my question to you is: Am I getting picked on a lot more than you are? Do I have the word ‘Sucker’ tattooed on my forehead? Please share any tales of woe about attempts made to cheat you that you’ve had. I’d really like to hear about them. Once in a while, misery does love company.     

Posted by: Stephen Winn


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