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September 19, 2009

Scams, Money Laundering, and Other Scary Stuff

TLC welcomes our faithful friend Laurie Moore. If you think her books are blood-curdling, read this blog.WomanStrangledNewsFront [R]

Scams, Money Laundering, and Other Scary Stuff

by Laurie Moore

 

Let’s talk about scams.

You’ve heard the term pigeon drop, and you know about shell games. Now, the Internet has made it even easier for scam artists to prey on people’s greed and fleece them out of their hard-earned money. How many times have you opened email to find a letter purporting to be from the deposed ruler of some African country who just wants to get off the continent with his funds intact, and he needs your help to preserve his millions? For fun, see http://www.419baiter.com and check out the Stan Ifyob Abonime letters for more insight into a typical Nigerian scam.

A few months ago, a friend of a friend, “Nick,” a deputy sheriff who should know better, was communicating with not one, but three Russian women he met on Match.com. Amazing how in the course of a few weeks’ worth of emails a potential friendship turned into everlasting love. Despite warnings from friends and co-workers who knew these women were after his money, Nick believed one would turn into his bride-to-be. “Karina” claimed to be getting her documents in order when—imagine that—there was a hitch with the visa and authorities wanted more money. She didn’t have enough to make the trip from Russia to the USA. Would Nick send $600.00 to resolve the visa problem? I’d bet money the beautiful Karina was actually hairy Boris, writing from California. The romance came to a screeching halt when he informed her he didn’t have $600.00 in disposable income. Surprised? For more, see http://www.womenrussia.com/blacklist.htm

Hearing about Nick’s experience with the Russian Bride wasn’t my first exposure to scams. About seven years ago, I attended a money laundering conference in San Antonio put on by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Fascinating school. On day two of the conference, guest speakers covered a range of Nigerian scams such as the ATM contraption affixed to the bank’s Automated Teller Machine that records your PIN and collects your card, as well as scanning devices placed around freeways and bridges that scan the airwaves in search of credit card numbers. If a wireless caller gets too close to these electronics when they’re giving their credit card number, the box captures the number, and voilá!, they’ve got your charge card information.

 

Take it from moi, it takes a lot more time and trouble to correct identity theft (police reports, closing credit cards, contacting the three major credit bureaus to flag your credit, etc.) than it does to use a land line when reciting your credit card number over the phone. About a week after that conference, I was sitting in the bank’s drive-through when I made a credit card transaction over my cell phone. Two hours later, I returned to my office to find a call on my answering machine from a Western Union representative wanting to know if I’d sent five money transfers to Virginia Beach within the last hour using my credit card. Uh…no.

Recently, after I placed an online ad at the medical school, I got an inquiry from a prospective med student who claimed to be from Dubai who wanted to rent my garage apartment. I’m not in the habit of renting to someone I haven’t met, but I’ve been pretty lucky with tenants who were enrolled in the med school. So after a brief correspondence, I sent her a lease agreement. Instead of returning it signed and notarized, her “daddy” sent a check for $2,750.00 via UPS express. This amount was far in excess of what I asked for. Instructions dictated that I take the money out for the rent, and send her the rest via Western Union so she could get to the states.

It only took one look to know the check was bogus. And it wasn’t lost on me that the name of the corporation the check was drawn on happened to be Canadian Diamond Traders, Inc., out of Toronto, Ontario Canada. Even the signature on the check that purported to be from one David Thornton made me shake my head. It certainly didn’t match the name the girl had given me. Not to mention if you Google-search that company, you’ll see that name pop up in the selections. So I put together my own “sting” by working up my own police case before turning it in to the proper department. The person perpetrating this scam (who I decided was actually a man) even called me at two in the morning at the number posted in the ad, wanting to know why I hadn’t wired his “daughter” the money through Western Union. Uh…because I’m not stupid? Subsequent emails became more demanding in nature: Where’s the money? What’s the problem? It all came to a head when he wanted to know what I did with her check. The police have it.

I could go on and on about gypsies, tramps and thieves, but in the meantime, do any of you have a scam story you’re willing to share?

Happy Saturday!

Laurie

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Comments

Only that I was a victim of a quick change artist -- and ya know, I hate calling them an artist, but is true that he knew his art -- when I was working the cash register of our restaurant. Left me shaken when I finally realized what had happened.

I opened my credti card statement once to discover two $1000 charges to Western Union. Called the cc company immediately, and they cancelled my card, sent me a new one and absorbed the charges--but only because I'd been a cardholder with that company for 18 years. Since then, they've had to change my card 3 more times because they suspected it had been compromised. And don't get me started on my husband's situation! There's a felon with the same name who never pays his credit card bills, which manages to get on our credit report, not to mention allthe dunning phone calls. And my husband is a banker himself! So scams and ripoffs are rampant.

Thanks for being our guest, Laurie. Even if your message is a bummer!

A friend's mother, a widow in her 50s, got involved in a dating site scam. Luckily, they didn't get to the point where she sent any money.

We had a problem locally where several popular gas stations were fitted with devices at the pump that read your card information when you scanned it to pump gas.

Some people are way too clever, and don't use it for good, unfortunately.

Before the age of electronic identity theft, I had my purse stolen. The perp then somehow got the DMV to issue her a new license with her picture and signature (which were nothing like mine). She subsequently got busted for DUI and never showed for her court appearance. Long story short - I managed to convince the police that an error had occurred while they were escorting me to jail, talked to the appropriate authorities, and thought I had resolved the problem. It took a full 10 years to completely expunge the issue from my life!

You won't believe this, Laurie, but I swear I'm not making it up. We have a friend and neighbor named Nick who married a Russian woman! It was over 20 years ago, and they're still together, but she was a mail-order bride.

Another friend married a woman from Australia that he met via mail, and his second wife is from California (but Filipino), and he met her online. This guy is a paraplegic, and he would have had a tough time meeting women in the usual way, but he's had excellent luck with making them fall in love with him long distance because he's such a dear, intelligent and caring man. It would certainly take more than a little trust on both sides to successfully marry someone that way, though.

Fortunately, knock wood, no one in our family has gotten scammed badly enough to make a story out of it, thank goodness. It's such a hassle, as Mary Storyteller will tell us later, I'm sure.

Kerry: "It took a full ten years to completely expunge the issue from my life!" Not to mention the expense, as I know how much I charge to expunge criminal records and can't imagine it would be cheaper anywhere else. My heart goes out to you.

As an aside, our own DPS, who most Texans think is infallible, sent my friend Maggi the drivers license of a woman in South Texas. It stood to reason that the woman in South Texas got Maggi's license, but who knows? There were about 200 people who got what was supposed to be sent to someone else. She turned in the incorrect license and had hers re-done. Imagine her shock when she recently went in after 6 years to get her license renewed, only to find that it had already been renewed! We're playing the waiting game...

Karen in Ohio: "...he's such a dear, intelligent and caring man." I'm a firm believer that water seeks its own level. If he's your friend, then you must be a dear, intelligent and caring woman. I suspect, though, that your friends are the exception to the rule. Some of those websites say that women are so desperate to get out of Russia that they'll do anything (a doctor's salary of $100 per month is considered exceptional).

Oh, poor Nancy! I know the feeling about someone else's credit information being attached to your own. My former husband's ex-wife's credit (it was bad) attached to mine the day I married him, because we have similar sounding (although spelled differently) first names. That was almost 30 years ago, and it still occasionally pops up. Regarding the thousand dollar charges, I blame the credit card companies for writing this off instead of going after these criminals when they know who they are. I suppose they've come to consider credit card theft as an occupational hazard--although in most states, it's a felony.

Kerry - Holy Cannoli! That sounds like the outline for a book!

Hi Laurie - great to see you here!

We are off to the Ren Faire. I am planning to stomp on some grapes.

Hollygee: "I was a victim of a quick change artist." I could see that easily happening to me. I don't do math, can't cypher in my head without extra fingers, toes and time, and I don't balance my check book because I don't like dealing with numbers. Matter of fact, I could've been so much more if I hadn't been stumped by square roots. Nevertheless, I now understand the practice of leaving a customer's currency on the open cash register while the change is being counted out...at least they can't say they gave you a twenty when it really was a five.

Laura (in PA):"...a widow in her 50s got involved in a dating site scam." Not familiar with that one, so thanks for sharing. I'll get right on that. The only dating site scams I'm familiar with are the cads who hold themselves out as single when they're married or in prison. In prison, you say? Well, if they're in prison, they're in a committed relationship, right?

I did recently hear about a nursing home scam out in California (and this concerns me because we'll all be there before you know it) wherein veterans are encouraged to turn over their life savings to the nursing home in exchange for a perpetual stipend. This is so frightening on its face, and lends itself to good book material. Can't you envision some elderly veteran doing this, and then unexpectedly expiring shortly thereafter? This happened to the mother of a friend of mine. Thank goodness the lady (a retired Army nurse) had the foresight to call her son, a law enforcement type, who immediately contacted the Attorney General's Office. Now there's a huge investigation going on because this is a "major"...ahem...nursing home chain. You just have to be very careful, these days, not to fall victim to people who want quick, easy money.

One other thing my guy-cop-California pal told me about within the last 2 weeks...his neighbor, a retired policeman around 84 years old received a visit from two nicely dressed women claiming to be cops. Long story short is that they were allegedly investigating cable theft from one of his neighbors. They got him to let them into his house and then told him they needed him to show them where the cable connection was outside. As he was escorting them out to the back yard, one of the women dropped back and disappeared. When he realized there were no longer two of them, he feigned that he couldn't see and went back inside for his eye glasses. He kept a Mossberg in the closet by the front door, and when he stepped back inside, he quietly got it out. Imagine the shock when he sneaked into the bedroom and racked the shotgun. The woman stealing from his jewelry box froze, but the other woman came in behind him and drew down on him. Mexican standoff. Fortunately, he convinced the one with a gun that his shotgun had a hair trigger...anyway, they solved about 40 burglaries on that one case alone, once those ladies were identified. Don't you want to just say, "Go get a real job already?"

Soooo....Hi there Laurie!
Yes the world is full of bad people. I got a bill from another city a while ago that I'd never been to. What is this?
The fraud dept said they had a credit card to make the purchase. I said no way it was in my wallet. Dang if they didn't have everything correct but my birth date.
So how do they do that? How could a company like Lowes NOT check a $600.00 purchase? I ran three dancewear stores and anything over $50.00 I had to call in for an authorization.
Sometimes I think the stores are in on the scam. Or at least the sales person.
I only buy things on line at Amazon.com and I use my Amazon Visa. I don't buy anything on my cell and don't answer odd calls.
What will they think of next?
And yes it is a pain to deal with the big 3 credit houses.
Just saying.

Internet crimes and scams have shot way up the ladder, and trust me, there's no stopping it.

But, here's a new favorite:

http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/525232.html

Guy broke into a house, ransacked it, then stopped to log in and check his Facebook page. Problem is, he forgot to log out!

I'm sure Laurie's seen the same slogan, but once again, it bears repeating: a sign I saw on the wall in a FBI office years ago:

THANK GOD THEY'RE STUPID

Professor Moriarty this guy wasn't....

Just the other day I got a letter in the mail from Discover (I do have a Discover account) saying that I'd won a sweepstakes which I'd "entered" by using my card for a transaction. All I had to do was send the "taxes" and they'd forward me my $10,000. Yeah....I'm sure. Postmark from Canada...questionable grammar. I called the fraud department for Discover and sent the letter to them. They were very....um...unsurprised.

My sister was selling a cabinet on Craigslist when she was contacted by a buyer who wanted a shipper to come and pick up "the item" from her. They would fedEx a check to her and she was to cash the check and take the money for the cabinet and pay the shipper. She said fine....as soon as the check clears. Of course he insisted that the shipper was on a strict schedule and he needed the item (he kept referring to the cabinet that way) as soon as possible. The check came and she forwarded the whole thing to the attorney general. When the guy started harassing her about the check she told him that if he wanted the check back he could contact the AGs office. He quit calling then.

Now, having said that, I did once get a letter that said I'd won a sweepstakes that was real. I won a 20G iPod in a sweepstakes I didn't know I'd entered. Apparently I'd entered by purchasing ice cream at the supermarket. See....I knew ice cream was good for you! I nearly threw that letter away.

Hi, Laurie! Glad you're warning everyone to be more aware of these things. William, I saw that news item too and it made me laugh and sigh. The bozo was 19. Surprised he didn't text the victim a thank you note as well. But they caught him.
As for scams and ID theft, I'm glad you warned people about the cellphone stuff, that's why I still keep a landline but even so many people who use landlines (like yourself) can forget and for the sake of convenience, use their cell. So let's be more aware. Sadly, one thing we can't control is what banks and other companies do when they are robbed. We have to also worry about what happens offsite when personal information is stolen by thieves and keep vigilante, using tools that then make our lives even more complicated.
Who hasn't had a sleepless night wondering what's going on that you have absolutely no control over? Stupid, though. Don't fall into that trap. We can never let fear rule because if it does, then the thieves have truly stolen more than money.
We all need to be more aware and stand up for our rights and our lives.

On that "rent" check that I got, out of curiosity, I told the bank girl about my experience and asked if I'd sent it through the drive-through, would she have cashed it? She said she would because she knew me and wouldn't have considered that I'd pass a bogus check. Shudder. At least I knew it was a fake.

Melissa Mia: "Sadly, one thing we can't control is what banks and other companies do..." Amen, sister. If they treat it as an occupational hazard and don't pursue charges, it'll keep happening.

The main reason I wanted to file a case was because I travel to do some of my legal work, and I could just see myself getting stopped by the highway patrol for some minor traffic infraction (no, not speeding, I don't speed) and arrested for fraud if these people used my identity. Well, no thanks. So I got a police offense number and the business card of the investigator that I carry with me in case something shows up later. Like I tell clients, getting arrested is extremely inconvenient. Stay out of the courthouse.

William Simon: "THANK GOD THEY'RE STUPID!" Seriously. My late father was a judge. He used to say, "The prisons are full of people who are not mute." And I say, "Sing like a canary! And let's get your side of the story in writing so the D.A. won't try to put words in your mouth..."

Betsy Hall: "I did once get a letter that said I won a sweepstakes that was real." You go girl! I recently got a phone call on the heels of this rent check debacle, where I had like an hour to get out to this random place to collect my prize, a new Mercedes, from the contest I'd entered. I asked what contest and they gave me a name. For starters, I never fill out those little slips of paper for giveaways with my personal information. Unfortunately, my mother, who refuses to heed my warnings, often enters me in "contests". Then I spend the rest of the time trying to get off peoples' lists and fielding phone calls. Regarding the Mercedes, I ended the call and did not fall for that. Sometimes, the tipoff is in the urgency with which they try to con you into doing something. Who knows what that was all about, but one thing for sure, I'm not that lucky to get a Mercedes handed to me.

Thanks to the TLC Tarts and Laurie! I'm glad you posted this info. today.
I just told a friend on a cellphone out doing errands to never buy anything via her cellphone and she said she won't. Let's keep passing helpful intel along! Happy Saturday, shoppers, but be careful!

Xena: "Sometimes I think the stores are in on the scams." Sometimes I think you're right about that. It happened here at a popular nationwide discount chain which we're ALL familiar with. Several clerks were putting a "money back" charge on customers' credit cards when they hadn't asked for money back. The clerks also weren't giving them the money, but unfortunately, only the observant customers caught it. Turns out the store manager was in on it, too, and getting kickbacks. Just saying.

How relevant, Laurie! My younger brother (not so young these days) was married for a long time, hadn't really dated much before marriage. Divorced now, he has been dating in all the wrong places, it seems. As he told me about a recent girlfriend interested only in shopping with his money, I said 'drop her ass now!' and he said his friends had all given the same advice, but he wasn't quite ready to give up the relationship. Ahem. Not until he began getting over $3K in bogus bills--she took his credit card numbers and started booking luxury vacations for herself and an unidentified +1 (not my brother) in various other states. How did she get his card numbers? He had given them to her: she was helpfully booking a weekend getaway for them to share. Fascinating watching the progression of the case now . . . and, yes, the credit card companies just wrote it off, apparently, as the risk of doing business.

My middle son is the worst when it comes to money laundering...everytime time he comes over...usually when I'm gone...I find washed out dollar bills, and change in the bottom of the washing machine!
Chapo

Xena, I think you are right -- the businesses that accept false information without checking and then fail to pursue and prosecute are complicit in the I.D. fraud. The three credit bureaus, who compile the information without checking on the reality of the claims and then make it painfully difficult to make the corrections, are in it for the $$ to be gained by selling ID protection plans.
When I was dealing with my bad credit reports -- all for utilities that could have easily been checked at the time of service -- a Charter representative offered a neighbor free cable to be paid for with a fake credit card. She would have three months free cable, and he would earn a commission. When another neighbor called Charter to tell them this was happening, their response was, "What do you expect us to do about it?"
A friend's credit card was stolen from her purse at school. Using a list of the purchased items, she identified the thieves (who wore them to school -- yep, not Moriarity). The store refused to prosecute.

Laraine: "...she took his credit card numbers..." This exact thing happened to a friend of mine within the last month. Her date came home with her and never left until her credit cards bills started coming in. She didn't think he was a bad guy since (and this is a quote) "We went to high school together." Turns out he was married and his wife was in on the scam, too. So far, she's out $8,000 and one Ford truck that she sent him out to buy for her son who is a soldier who's about to deploy to Iraq. Not to mention that he was stashing stolen weapons at her house (under the bed). This I learned about last week when we had lunch.

Here in North Texas, we have gypsies (of Romanian descent who are undocumented, have no birth certificates and have been living in the area for years) and Irish travelers, the people who offer to put in a new driveway for you, take your money and leave you with an oil slick. But my friend's guy seems to be a new breed of character. Lots of aliases. Even stole his parents' credit cards, social security numbers (which, by the way people, you should guard with your life) and used them to commit fraud. And when my friend confronted the guy's mother, she said, "You should just move on with your life and not try to do anything to him. You got out cheap."

Hijack: A huge thank you to Pam H. who, with her vet tech knowledge and sound advice, probably added months to my Siamese cat Ling's life. Thanks for the food advice for a cat who was starving himself to death.
He is much better now.

Sorry, I can't type. The thank you goes to Peg H. not Pam. Sometimes my fingers go faster than my brain. Peg, you're wonderful.

I had a bogus charge on the Visa once, for computer parts from a company in England (shipped to an address there)First thing Visa wanted to do was argue with me about the charge! The bitch finally strained her fingers to bring up the transaction & it turned out to be made in my husbands name 'so you'd better check with him' I told her that would be hard to do, since he's been dead for 3 years!!!

Rita, that's awful that someone would resort to that kind of victimization. But if they'd take deceased babies' birth certificates and re-invent themselves, you can expect just about anything.

Storyteller Mary: "The businesses that accept false information without checking...are complicit in the I.D. fraud." Here, here! A toast to you. We are telepathically connected.

Let's hope Kathy isn't getting her pocket picked while stomping grapes at Ren Fair.

LOL, Kathy would kick their ass with her purple foot!!!

Aw, thanks Laurie. Glad I could help.

I have posted on my blog about scams that my MIL got caught up in and we were able to resolve. Beware of Bottomline Books and Painvanish.

I got nailed by a cardreader attached to a fuel pump (I think) two years ago.

Luckily, the card company has tight policies on observation of activity. They reasoned I would not be buying Eurail passes in Italy on the same evening I was buying fuel in California. Things were inconvenient and more for several weeks, but could have been much worse.

To add to the irony – we were fueling the car on our way to The Mystery Bookstore in LA for a signing.

Great commentary Laurie! I am glad you are addressing this issue as I know many people who have been victims of identity theft and other scams.

One experience I had involved paying for my dinner at a restaurant in another state using my credit card. The waiter returned the card with the ticket which I signed. Imagine my surprise three days later when three charges which I had not authorized to stores I did not know existed were on my card! The credit card company traced the transactions to that same restaurant. Needless to say, the charges were disputed and the credit card company acted upon the information with the restaurant.

Keep up the good work.

Debra

Tom: "To add to the irony..." Hysterical funny. Laughing with you, not at you.

Debra: "The credit card company traced the transactions..." Good for them. And good for you. Not sure if this transaction involved the carbon copies they used to bring you with your invoice, or not. Those carbons, if not destroyed, were just like having your card. At least your credit card company decided to take action. Mine said the equivalent of "Oh, well...it happens," and did nothing. In that instant, it didn't hurt me because they absorbed the loss, but you have to think about these things in the long run. Why is your interest rate higher? Perhaps it's because of stuff like this.

I gave my 90 yo mother my ss# so that she could add me as a signature on her bank account. She then used me, unknowingly, as a co-signer for a bank loan and a credit card. She was going to pay me back when she won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. I didn't know about them until I tried to get a AmEx card and they came up on my credit report about 4 months after she had died. Oh, this has been fun.

How timely! Just one week ago, I discovered someone had gotten my ATM debit card number and was opening accounts with online retailers. Luckily, I caught it before any merchandise was shipped, but I spent hours and hours notifying authorities, agencies...Ugh!

The dating site scam, as far as I remember, had something to do with a man who she met on the site, exchanged emails (and maybe phone calls?) with, and established a warm connection over a couple weeks. He said he was traveling for work, and would be home soon, and they'd get together. Then he said he had some sort of trouble (lost wallet?)in the country he was in (somewhere in Africa?) and needed money to get home. A third person would call to give her information on how ans where to send it. They kept bugging her about it, until she told her daughter (my co-worker), and the daughter told her to stop any association with him immediately. Also, I think there was something about him getting her password for the dating site, and finding out information about her that way.

As I said, I'm sketchy on the details, lol.

Thanks for all this interesting advice. It pays to keep your eyes open and not trust to many people.

Laura (in PA): "...and established a warm connection over a couple weeks." I don't know about you, but I'd exhause every possible scenario before prevailing on my closest friends or family to bail me out of trouble, but I'm constantly stunned at the nerve of people who ask someone they barely know (and who knows nothing about their character) for money. That should've been the tipoff...as in did she ask herself, "Isn't there a family member or someone with a vested interest in him, who can bail him out? Why me?" Thank goodness her gut told her to confide in someone. On some level, she must've known.

Patrica Haddock: "...I discovered someone had gotten my ATM debit card number..." Honey, you're one of the lucky ones. Even that guy who advertises his social security number on the side of a truck got burned. I've found you must be very careful at the gasoline pumps, too, to make sure that you clear the pump before leaving. Otherwise, you become the gasoline benefactor for the world, starting with the employees at the convenience store.

Oh, Hollygee, there are no words...

Laurie, interesting you mention the 'gypsies' in NoTex . . . in 2003 or so my sweet and frail mom was taken in by some Romany for $7,000 (the amount they ascertained, after questioning, that she had in her account). The bank claimed no responsibility whatsoever, so Mom's resources evaporated in that episode. The police were shockingly casual about it, and nothing was ever done. I've always been opposed to painting all of the Romany with one prejudicial 'gypsy' label, but I confess to having somewhat less generosity towards them following this.

Laraine: "...mom was taken in by some Romany..." There are 3 distinct gypsy families: one in Fort Worth, one in Dallas and one in Houston. They took American surnames but they speak Romany and English, they're not documented because they aren't born in hospitals and they don't go to public schools because they don't officially exist. These 3 factions dislike each other and they harass each other until they periodically come to the attention of the police.

In 2002, my first book, CONSTABLE'S RUN, came out. The back story was all about the Fort Worth gypsies. I'd had a run-in with the Prince of the Gypsies while in law school when I worked for the probation department. The entire family was being investigated by the IRS, but according to the gypsy I was supervising, the IRS agent investigating them (female) was murdered. Fast forward to the day I did a surprise home visit to his house. They didn't want to let me inside, but he faced jail if he didn't. So once I got in, I discovered that this 1950s-looking tract home (from the exterior) was furnished like a palace on the inside. They even had a jade staircase. And a telephone with 20 lines ringing off the hook. Let's just say we had words...next thing I knew, I got called to HQ wherein I was met by a very attractive lady and an old man. The old man said "Walter" put a contract hit out on me and that he heard it the day before at "Gypsy Feast" (what we know as Easter). The lady wanted to know what was inside the house. She said she was from the IRS and had been investigating them for five years. I said, "No, that lady was murdered."

I'll never forget this part. It still sends chills up my spine. She looked me dead in the eye and said with complete clarity, "That was me. He put a hit out on me and I was beaten, raped and left for dead in a ditch." The IRS gave her a new identity and transferred her to another city where she continued to work on the gypsy case. This is a true story.

One day when I was on my way home from work, a guy fell in behind me in traffic. The IRS girl said this was how it started. The gypsies paid day-laborers to do their dirty work. Long story short, with the benefit of my police pursuit training, I lost him. I went home, got three guns and put them in my car (I was already carrying one when this happened) and proceeded out to my daughter's school. As I pulled onto one of the major streets, the guy drove past me. I fell in behind him and the prey became the predator. This dawned on me about the time I decided this role reversal would get me a seat at the grand jury. The car was stolen and the hit was still on. The only way I got this gypsy off my back is because the judge told him and the entire family of gypsies sitting in the courtroom, that if one hair on my head was harmed, he would spend the rest of his life in prison. Not kidding.

So I know exactly who you're talking about and what their names are. Thank God your mother didn't lose more than her $7,000. She could've been killed.

Fortunately, without school, gypsies don't read.

And speaking of scams, there are plenty of them out there specific to writers. Good places to start for information on who you might be dealing with include: Preditors & Editors at http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ and Writer Beware, which is located here: http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/.

Authors should be aware that there is one rule to guide them: Money flows TOWARD the writer.

Good to see you, Laurie!

Cheers,
Russell

Thanks for the links, Russell. These are all good things to know.

As a police officer I always tell people to never leave your purses/wallets in your car. Even when in your place of work you should lock up these items. I have worked car burglaries where the suspects have used the credit/debit cards multiple times before the owner finds their property gone. My mom has had her wallet taken from her office at a local college. What a hassle! Let's not mention the thefts from teachers at school when some kid walks through saying he is looking for his sibling or just dropped them off at their classroom but is checking for unsecure purses. Protect yourself and secure those purses/wallets.

Terri would know. She sees this stuff everyday. So why is it that our mothers don't listen when we tell them this stuff? Like the lawyer played by Danny DeVito in "War of the Roses" told the prospective client at the beginning of the movie, "When someone who charges $450 an hour tells you something for free, you should listen to the advice." And you got this for free.

Oh, who am I kidding? My own daughter told her recovering sorority sisters to watch her purse in a bar while she went to the ladies room. Guess I don't have to tell you the rest. We're waiting for her to appear on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List...

Thanks, Laurie! I'm in Omaha, and will be keeping my purse close to me at the airport tomorrow as I fly home.

And I won't be doing any online dating between now and then either.

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