In This Episode: Whether you “need” a monkey (wait… what?!) or “want” something for nothing, scammers are eager to take your money from you. And what’s No Longer Weird this week.
- No Longer Weird: when a drunk driver is ordered by the judge to go to some sort of class, but they’re turned away because they arrived drunk. (Example)
- The full No Longer Weird list (more coming).
- The Just How Stupid Are You? story Randy talked about, and the raid (with photos) in Nigeria he talked about.
- The “bricks” of currency that come out of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, as illustrated here, have 1,000 bills in them. So, in the case of $100 bills, each such bundle would be worth $100,000.
- There probably won’t be an episode next week since I have to pop to a meeting of the TEH Podcast hosts.
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Randy: Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the Podcast companion to the ThisIsTrue.com newsletter, with the mission to promote more thinking in the world. I’m Randy Cassingham.
Kit: I’m Kit Cassingham.
Randy: This week we’re discussing a story from issue 1238 of the newsletter, which will be included on the Show Page at thisistrue.com/podcast33.
Before the main topic, though, let’s do another segment of No Longer Weird. This week, it’s when a drunk driver is ordered by the judge to go to some sort of class, like AA, or a victim impact panel where they’re supposed to learn about the carnage drunk driving causes. But… they’re turned away because they arrived drunk. And, of course, they drove themselves there, even though their license is suspended or revoked.
The story I passed on last month was about David M. Kilmer of Fishkill, New York. He showed up at the Fishkill Town Hall for his court-ordered attendance at the Victim Impact Panel, but was turned away due to his alleged “high blood alcohol content.” And they alleged that because apparently, attendees are required to blow into a Breathalizer when they arrive, and Kilmer’s came back at three times the legal limit for driving. Dutchess County Sheriff’s deputies pulled him over as he was driving back home, and he was arrested.
Kit: Hm. Go figure.
Randy: You know, if I were the judge in such a case, my order would be they go to jail and stay there until they complete the requirements of my order, sober.
Kit: Can you take the class from jail?
Randy: I’d make it happen.
Kit: I like it!
Randy: Or maybe they’d be escorted there by a deputy, or a jailer. Sadly, that didn’t happen in this case: he was held for a mere $2,000 bail.
Kit: Oh no!
Kit: You know, you had a case several years ago, I want to say it was Hawaii, and they’d had 54, or 154 …some—
Randy: …ridiculous number—
Kit: Yeah, and they kind of got a slap on the hands and sent away again.
Randy: Yeah, I don’t remember if that was Hawaii or what, but I’ve had a number of cases, and occasionally, a reader will write to me and say, “Well, if he drove drunk 112 times and didn’t crash, he obviously is not a danger!”
Kit: Well, they have an interesting point, but, well, he’s a lucky person.
Randy: He’s not the lucky person, the people on the street are lucky people—
Randy: …because they didn’t get run over, because as we see every day just about, somebody gets killed by a drunk driver. We get them in Denver all the time: I see the news flashes about some pedestrian run down in Denver, and the driver takes off because—
Kit: I was going to say hit and run, yeah.
Randy: …the hit-and-run charge is a lesser offense than drunk driving charge, so they don’t want to be caught drunk, they’d rather be caught running somebody over and killing them and leaving like the bastards they are, than being caught drunk.
Kit: You remember where we had a case here several years ago where a guy rode his motorcycle off Red Mountain Pass, and his buddy who was behind him knew it happened?
Randy: Yeah! That’s right, I remember that case.
Kit: He was drunk, and he didn’t want to get involved because he’d lose his license.
Randy: Yeah, and what a “good buddy” that is, yaknow?
Kit: He didn’t do anything illegal, but, sigh….
Randy: But he didn’t report it. What he did do, that I know from the details of that case: he kind of hung around the area, and when he saw that the emergency vehicles were coming up the hill, then he took off. But the problem with that, though, is it was hard to find exactly where he went over, and find out where he was so they could go down there. And by the time they got there, he was dead.
Kit: Well, he was dead the moment he—
Randy: Yeah, he went over a cliff, so he was going to be dead probably anyway, but—
Kit: He was dead within seconds of going off, because the first of his impacts, but there’s a lot of really stupid behavior when alcohol is involved.
Randy: And obviously their judgement is clouded by the alcohol—
Kit: Oh yeah!
Randy: …which is the whole idea: you don’t want them driving because their judgement is clouded, and their reactions are slow.
Kit: If their judgment wasn’t clouded, they would have stopped at one. Maybe two, but definitely….
Randy: But that’s enough on that. That’ll be on the “No Longer Weird” page also, which is at thisistrue.com/nlw — for “No Longer Weird”.
And this week’s main topic is on the same theme: not drunks, but rather people who just can’t seem to learn. The story is from this week’s newsletter, and I’ll read it verbatim. I titled it, “Monkey Business”. And it starts with a quote:
“I needed a monkey,” says Don Abrego of Wyoming, Mich. “I needed to be different.” He found one online, and sent $400. Then the seller said he needed more money due to a flight delay, and vaccinations. So Abrego sent more money, then more, then more and more. In all, “About 20 Amazon gift cards ranging from a hundred to $400 and $500,” he said. Clerks where he bought the cards “tried to warn me almost every single time,” he admits. “I would say six times out of eight, they were like ‘you’re being scammed. Whatever you’re doing, you’re being scammed’.” Yet he continued to buy and send the cards anyway. He was being scammed. “I would say between $4,500 and $5,000,” he said, and he stepped forward as a way to warn others. He never got the monkey.
And my tagline for the story: “He doesn’t need a monkey: the seller made one out of him already.”
Kit: Ohhhhh! That was one very needy and unthinking person. Gullible.
Randy: Yep. And that’s the classic thing about these things: the scammers don’t just say “I need $5000”—
Kit: Of course not! You wouldn’t do that!
Randy: Yeah. But “Give me a hundred. Give me two hundred, give me five hundred, give me four hundred!” And they send it again and again and again and again. And it’s like, would he have spent that kind of money on a monkey in the first place? Noooo!
Kit: Maybe. But then he would have gotten a legitimate monkey.
Kit: But I don’t think it’s legal to buy monkeys through the mail, is it?
Randy: I don’t know. But he had a picture of the crate they were going to use to ship it on the airline and all that. So on the one hand, it’s sad to see people taken advantage of, and to see criminals probably getting away with the scam. But on the other hand, an utter fool and his money are easily parted.
Kit: Indeed. I continue to shake my head at that story.
Randy: So here’s a funny little detail that didn’t make the cut for the story: Abrego was smart enough to ask the seller, who claimed to be in Hawaii, to send him a copy of their I.D., and he did get a photo of a Hawaiian driver’s license in reply. And, apparently, he then resumed sending the gift cards after that, even though the license’s expiration date was in 2008. A reporter who saw the picture did a quick Google search on it, and learned it’s simply a badly Photoshopped version of the fake I.D. prop from the movie “Superbad”, a 2007 teen comedy. And just with that description, it took me 10 seconds to find it online: I’ll put a photo of it on the Show Page. It really is “superbad.”
Kit: You know, I have a friend who, Facebook keeps knocking off saying “Oh, you aren’t who you say you are. Send us a picture of yourself.” And he does, and they let him back. He has to do a little more fighting, but I’m going—
Randy: A picture of himself, or a picture of his I.D.?
Kit: Of himself! I mean I don’t know what that proves, but it’s along the same line of insanity to me. I shake my head at that too.
Randy: Just very bizarre. The story didn’t say how old Abrego is, but he did appear on TV to talk about this, and I’ll link to the station’s page that includes the video if you want to watch it, but he strikes me as about 30. Certainly old enough to know better, but not someone that’s confused by senility or something.
Randy: Which is, you know, the classic victim, is older people.
Kit: Like my dad, yeah.
Randy: Like your dad, yeah, who got taken—
Kit: Almost got taken!
Randy: …who was smart enough to say “Hey, wait a minute!”
Kit: No, he was lucky enough that Chris walked in—
Randy: Your brother.
Kit: …just before Dad hit the send button for all of his account information.
Randy: Oh my.
Kit: Yeah, and it was pure luck that Dad has any money left.
Well, I’ll put the guy’s photo — and the apparent monkey photo — on the Show Page. You decide which one is him, and which one’s the monkey.
Kit: (laughs) That’s not fair! What did the monkey do to you?
Randy: Well, you know, it is discriminatory on the monkey, isn’t it?
Kit: Well, inflammatory!
Randy: Well anyway, this is far from the first time I’ve done a This is True story about scams. Usually, it’s the so-called Nigerian Scam, which has the same hallmarks as this one. You get a little money out of someone, and then a little more, and a little more, ramping up the amounts higher and higher.
Another scam story I ran back in 2012 had a South Korean man actually flying to South Africa to pick up his lottery winnings …even though he hadn’t entered any lottery in South Africa.
Kit: Well see, that’s how I want to win my lottery.
Randy: Yeah, you gotta to play to win, though, sorry.
Kit: I don’t like that rule!
Randy: Yeah, well, there you go.
Kit: But maybe if he had a picture of the person he was getting the lottery ticket from, it’d be legitimate.
Randy: Yeah, then you know it’s real and legitimate. So that should have been a clue, and in fact I titled he story “Just How Stupid Are You?” Well, here’s how stupid he is: he not only flew to South Africa, he took his daughter with him.
Kit: Oh no.
Randy: The scammers simply sent a taxi to the airport to collect them, and not only kidnaped the man and his daughter, but the taxi driver too, and held the Koreans for 10 million U.S. dollars in ransom. The Koreans only got out of it alive and with their bank account intact because the taxi driver escaped and called the police, who then rescued them. That story’s in my blog, and I’ll link to it on the Show Page.
Kit: I remember the story, I’d forgotten some of those details. That gives South Africa a bad reputation, which it doesn’t deserve.
Randy: Well you know, there’s scammers everywhere, including apparently Hawaii, if that guy really was in Hawaii.
Kit: They’re not all in Nigeria?
Randy: They’re not, or in South Africa. Well here’s another one. Last year, I wanted to run a story but I couldn’t put it in the newsletter because it was guaranteed to trip spam filters, because the spam filters know about this, and a lot of them get through anyway. But it was about a raid that Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission agents did in Lagos, and it was astounding how much American cash they found in this apartment. Not just stacks and stacks of $100 bills, but even bricks of $100 bills still in their U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing plastic wraps: brand new currency. In all, $43 million in cash — plus some British sterling and Nigerian currency. They provided pictures of it, and that’s on my blog too. I’ll also link to that on the Show Page.
Kit: You showed me that picture. And I still don’t understand how freshly minted money, still in its wrapper, found its way into somebody’s hands. I mean, when I go to the bank I don’t get it wrapped up like that!
Randy: Right, but that’s probably how banks, especially big central banks, get their cash, is wrapped up in these bricks.
Kit: And if I went to a bank and said I needed that kind of money, they’d just hand me a brick?
Randy: Well in the United States, you’ll have to fill out a lot of extra paperwork, because anything over— that’s $10,000 or more, requires special paperwork if it’s cash. But in Nigeria, maybe not. Maybe they turned in a bunch of miscellaneous stuff and said “Here’s 50,000” — I’m guessing each of those bricks is somewhere in the range of $50,000 or maybe $100,000 — and they say “OK, I want to turn in these English pounds, give me a brick of $100 bills American.” And that’s probably how they got it. And that shows just how much money that they’ve been scraping from overseas.
Randy: It’s incredible. And here’s the thing: it’s not at all unusual for the victims’ friends or family or bank to tell these people they’re being scammed. But they’re so greedy and wanting something for nothing — like winnings of a lottery they never entered, that they’re blind to the obvious truth. And every year, hundreds or thousands of people fall for it fresh, and lose millions of dollars. It’s not like this is something new: the Nigerian Scam is so old, they used to troll for their victims by sending faxes. Seriously!
Kit: That is old!
Randy: Yeah, well the Internet sure did make their jobs easier.
Kit: Sure enough.
Randy: But you know, I don’t even want to draw the lesson here: it’s so obvious to those who “get it.”Abrego didn’t: he was warned again and again by the clerks who sold him the gift cards. He just didn’t want to believe them, so he sent out more and more money to the scammer.
Kit: He wanted his monkey so badly that it was kind of like, “Let’s— one more time, and we’ll get the monkey to me.”
Randy: Yeah, that’s the typical attitude, is “I’ve already spent this much, I don’t want to lose it now! I’ll just send another five hundred!”
Kit: Right: it makes me feel bad for somebody who can’t let go of the dream or that desire enough to stop. Especially when they’ve gotten fair warning.
Randy: Yeah, and usually it’s millions of dollars of the lottery, or the Nigerian Prince: “I’m a Nigerian Prince, and I have $12 million in U.S. American cash that I’m trying to smuggle out before I get assassinated by the junta government” or whatever. “And if you help me, I will give you some of this cash! Send money!” Well, why does he need money? They’ve already got money!
Kit: No, it’s usually “Give me your bank account so I can put money in.”
Randy: That’s another one, yes, absolutely. Or sometimes it’s gold, and they need cash—
Kit: Or gems….
Randy: …or diamonds, yeah. Exactly. But there’s all these different variations—
Kit: Ooh! Maybe we’ll have a Nigerian Prince with a great monkey that you can buy to help get the prince out of Nigeria!
Randy: Where do I send my money?
Kit: To me!
Randy: You can get it for me?!
Kit: You betcha.
Randy: All right! Well if you have a story to tell about being scammed, or maybe NOT being scammed because you were smarter than the average mark, you can comment on the Show Page at thisistrue.com/podcast33.
I’m Randy Cassingham…
Kit: I’m Kit Cassingham.
Randy: And we’ll talk at you later.