I used to dream about all sorts of things when I was younger. Many of these dreams were of the typical sort, involving nipples and wheels and such. Of late I have been dreaming about food. Literally. I have dreams about freaking food. No wonder I am fat.
My longer form dreams are about finding a bag of money along the roadside.
At some stage your dreams suddenly lower their expectations and it all comes down to comfort… food or cash. I suppose that is why I write, why I focus on writing fiction, to express my own dreams, to help people guide their dreams. At times I have written fiction for money, which is sort of a dream convergence. There are other people also engaged in this craft, although some of them do not label their works expressly as fiction.
THE STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF
I have been neglecting the whole MAIL FRAUD beat for a while now. Mostly this is because I have been submerged for months in the re-write of Weird Detective Mystery Adventures, the re-write of two novels, the marketing of another novel, a change of day jobs and other life events. I intend to make amends for this lack of blogger activity over the next few months. When it comes specifically to the Mail Fraud beat, not much new or new-fangled had crossed my path in a long time. The Sweepstakes Audit Bureau seems to still be in business, despite my various reports here, as is the goof ball with his bad magazine marketing program and the guy running a contest “of skill” using a twenty-five year old abridged dictionary as the final and sole authority of which answers are correct. Even this wonderful scam is nothing all that new.
The Pitch: A shipping container has arrived with your name on it. It contains a new BMW. Seemingly the Beemer is paid for and insured and now all you have to do is file a claim and it will be released.
For fun and snicks, my oh-so-official Valuable Insurance Notice came in this bread wrapper-like sleeve.
No, Fedex has not expanded its services to a ground group called Pedex. And ‘Pedex’ as word or concept has not been copyrighted—because it can’t be, © or no ©. It could be trademarked, if the Fedex people or their lawyers were suddenly rendered deaf, dumb, blind and bankrupt. In any case, it’s not even a proper shipping label because it cannot be printed on.
The bread wrapper envelope is the most credible part of the presentation. Generic or not, a run of plastic sleeves takes some forethought to set up. My guess is that was remaindered from some other junk mail run. The rest of this is the product of a good color laser printer and a professional folding machine—high end office automation, but nothing out of the ordinary. The fascination with long pieces of paper escapes me except that they are perhaps kin to other legal documents.
The skinny: He wants twenty bucks for processing. In return for this, he will release your claim on this shipping container. Inside the container are a BMW, a laptop computer, a Sony Theater system and “one Professional Maid Service.” That’s right! They’ve shipped at least one human in the container, which would be an admission of some sort of crime, if this pitch made any sense whatsoever. So for $20.00 you get one of these items—or—“over one million pieces of jewelry.” Which is to say that you will get “a” keyring. Very amusing.
(I held off on posting this for two years, partly because my examples were so underwhelming. Although the cost of producing semi convincing scam material has now fallen into the reach of everyone with a temp job as office help, the increase in postage rates has curtailed much of this activity. The scamsters can only afford to target the elderly at this point. My love for big band music not withstanding, I am not quite the geezer demographic sought, so a lot of my mail of this type has slacked off. Another thing holding me off is Microsoft’s new operating system eliminated my photo altering program. I used to doctor these things with the Ajax Telegraph logo to disguise my name and address. Now I have to use the silly paint program to run blue lines through things. I hate it when my blog looks like crap.)
This is another laser printer produced long form asking for twenty bucks. As with Emerson Publishing (DBA Sweepstakes Audit Bureau), our pals at Consent Advisory Services (of either Las Vegas, NV or Gilbert, AZ) are offering a report on where you can win money. They do not have $250,000.00 in ‘Monies & Durable Goods’ nor are they running a contest for such. It would not surprise me if it was the same report Emerson is so fond of offering. But it could just be a packet of coupons.
At least Emerson and Consent Advisory are offering something proprietary. This group of scammers is offering me a government grant, perhaps reselling me a government document. Although it says GRANT all over this silly phony replicant of a computer form, the plagiarized fine print on the back says it’s a report about sweepstakes. It’s a near word for word copy of Emerson and Consent Advisory’s rules, so maybe these guys are former cell-mates.
The upswing of our GRANT broker’s pitch is that he would like you to send him a check or money order made out to ‘AM’. Like all true scammers, he’s left a box to check, should you feel the need to just send him ‘Cash’.
It has been my experience that there is a bit more to these letters than meets the eye. Many of them are trolling for marks, attempting to locate the unaware or the elderly and unattended to. If you respond to them in any way you can count on some sinister follow up. My own last interaction with Emerson netted me a phone call from some scammer claiming to be a police officer. You don’t want to put yourself in proximity to these people.
My interaction with Emerson was a while ago and it seemed to me that the whole mail order contest scam was going the way of the Betamax. Given what I had collected, this is a beat I felt I could retire.
Until I got this.
This is flat out fraud, the product of a “professional” fraud ring. To be clear, this is not from Publisher’s Clearing House. There are some tell-tale clues to this, the weird and erroneous “International Lotto Commission” stamp just being the most obvious. I invite you to read this thing carefully. True to their word, they did send me this wonderful check.
I have won six hundred thousand dollars, but they are sending me a check for another amount to cover incidentals. (Seven grand worth of incidentals?) The check is from an entirely different company. But in order to cash this check, I have to call Alex Gomez to make some sort of arrangements.
It’s an elaborate set-up for a pigeon drop. The check is no good. The company listed is out of business and the account closed long ago. (I have stripped the routing number.) Had Alex Gomez been in a position to make his pitch, he would have advised me to provide him with a credit card number or my own bank routing number or—if he and his pals are as direct as I think they are—simply hit me up for a “good faith” payment, probably for six grand. In the end, the only real money involved would have been the cash I sent to Alex and his pals.
I did call Alex Gomez at 4:00 AM in the morning. I got his none too convincing voice mail. He left a message for his drug dealer on the system. I didn’t leave a message. The next day someone called me from his number and left a voice mail on my cell phone claiming to be a police officer. He was demanding a call back and threatening my arrest. Without using my name.
I did contact Publishers Clearing House and confirmed that I am not a winner. Truth be told, I have had dealings with them once before. When it comes to dispensing cash, they do not use any third parties. If there is even a chance that you are in the running for one of their contests, you will receive a form in the mail which you have to sign and send back to them.
Publishers Clearing House is used as a pretext for many scams of this type. It’s a daily occurrence. I also reported this to the postal inspector and Alex Gomez’s cell provider.
And now I’ve told you.
(Full disclosure: It would have been nice to win 600K. I could certainly use it. My detective work on Mr. Gomez and his idiot pals was fast-forwarded by my pal Terri, who figured out the letter as I read it to her over the phone. By the time I called Gomez, I knew the whole thing was fake. I called Publishers Clearing House not so much to report a crime, but rather because a man’s dreams die hard. By the way, I’ve lost two cars in one year, so the BMW would have been nice, too.)