YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FOOL TO BE PARTED FROM YOUR MONEY – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s February Expressions #4


A fool and his money are soon parted.


True. But you don’t have to be a fool. You just need an internet connection and a minute of carelessness. Or the wrong router or a cellphone with a tidy back door. Or a worm deep in your root directory. Anyone can get hacked including the most sophisticated users. You don’t need to be old or stupid.

Hackers are smart.

Or maybe you hire a contractor who doesn’t do the work and walks off with your money. How about inspection companies that don’t notice any of the problems in the house? Are they inept or paid off?

I could go on and on, but why bother? Especially when you get on in years, you become a target for every scammer and spammer on the Internet.

Your only other choice is to not go online, a totally impractical solution. So many things these days you can only do online. Our State government pretty much runs online. That’s how you get your driver’s license and your registration renewed, too. These days, if you don’t have a cell phone, you get punished for not using one.

I am not alone in not liking cell phones. No matter what anyone says, they are easily hackable including by people you bump into in the mall or grocery store. I have one, but it’s mostly turned off unless I need it. I’m not giving out the number. I have enough trouble with the regular phone and all those calls with no one at the other end.

Checking to see if we are home? Or just one of those automated services that dials a thousand number a minute. They don’t care if you are there or not. Out of all the calls they make, someone will be home. And one of them will give them private information they can misuse.

And they get smarter every day. Last time, they hacked my router. I got a new router. But I bet they have a hack for that, too. Meanwhile, I discovered I couldn’t update my router without a cell phone and even with a cell phone, I couldn’t figure out how it worked.

Do I feel a new router coming on?

HACKERS! WILD IN THE STREETS! – Marilyn Armstrong

We all know about fraud, but this is fraud of a different kind. It isn’t the Nigerian Prince with a zillion dollars he wants to send you if only you will give him all of your personal information. Not even one of the phony contractors who’ll do your driveway for short money “because he just happens to have a lot of concrete leftover in his truck.”

And, it isn’t one of the enormous crew of local and foreign hackers who just want to steal your money, credit cards, and maybe the deed to your house.

No, it’s a PAC. Inevitably, it’s a Trump PAC. Democrats will drown you in email. The GOP is more clever. They pretend to be some local organization until, at the end. they race through the truth. If you are a little hard of hearing or your phone crackles, you could miss it.

So — first you figure it’s your “Police Benevolent” group because the introduction is sort of like that, though that isn’t really what he said. But as he gets to the end of his “rap,” he mentions that he represents a PAC and your donation is not tax-deductible … and you realize you are being hacked by Trump’s functionaries!

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.

There are tons of fake places that say they need your money to cure cancer, help heart attack victims. All manner of pleadings for money. I remember getting one call from an organization — a pleasant-sounding young woman was on the phone — explaining that they collect money to help out women who have breast cancer. They actually give real money to cancer sufferers.

“Really,” I said. “So when shall I get my check?”

“What?”

“I’ve had cancer in both breasts so I must surely be on your list. Obviously, you are calling me to let me know how much you are sending and where to send it, right?”

She hung up.


The IRS Nonprofit Charities Database has a tool called “The Exempt Organizations Select Check Tool”. This tool allows you to enter the name of an organization and see if the organization is exempt or not. It is important to verify that an organization that claims to have a 501(c)(3) tax exemption is actually exempt.

Most of these calls are for some kind of cancer donations. A few are more obscure: collecting funds to stop climate change, help veterans. It’s always a good cause. No one with a conscience would fraudulently collect for these things, right?

Problem: these people have no conscience. They really don’t care about anything but the money.

The truth? Unless it is YOUR police department, it’s either a political PAC or fraud. If you live in a small town, there are just a few police and you will recognize their names, voices, or minimally, their mid-Massachusetts or wherever-you-come-from accent. They won’t sound like a Pakistani, Russian, or “who-knows-where-that-one-is-from” accent. Your local cops sound like locals.

Real charities also don’t call you at dinner time to ask for money either. There are websites that list legitimate organizations as well as how much of the money they collect gets to whatever cause they represent.

From the Federal Trade Commission, consumer protection advice includes:

I got a fraudulent call this evening from “Social Security” telling me that they are going to “turn off” my benefits. Robo-call, naturally. I was supposed to “press 1 to talk with one of their officers.” I hung up, found the Social Security site, and there was a statement that “If you have received any of the following calls (list of frauds currently in use), HANG UP. ”

There’s an advertisement on television — it’s all over the airwaves because it’s the end of the year and the givers are giving — for the American Cancer Society. They have these people saying how they called them and they got so much help from them. Like places to stay while they were being treated for their family and themselves, free rides to doctors, etc. But when I had cancer, I called them hoping they were able to offer any help. You know, things for people who actually had cancer. Garry had two 75 mile rides to an from the hospital every day. I couldn’t afford rehab. I definitely could have used a bit of assistance. They were very willing to take my money, but when I asked them what they could do to help me they said: “Nothing.”

No transport, no temporary housing, no financial help, or even advice. Nothing. Just because an organization is big and can afford television advertisements doesn’t mean they aren’t also dishonest. If you have money to offer to charities, make sure they don’t just raise money to keep their jobs because the bigger they are, the less money they probably donate to anyone.

Frauds, hackers, and lying politicians. What a great country.

We have a big fat fraud running the country while the hackers are running wild in the streets. Do not mess with them. HANG UP. Don’t chat and don’t try to outwit them. You may be smart, but they have amazing tools with which to work.

HANG UP THE PHONE. Especially if it’s a cell phone!


Related Items:

HOW DO THEY DO IT? – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve been trying to pay off credit cards which got used to repair the house. It was a bad idea, but it seemed reasonable at the time. It wasn’t either reasonable or good as ideas go. Now, it’s payoff time.

So I got a notice today that Discover had gotten their big payment. I wanted to see if I had overpaid or had a small remaining balance. One way or the other, it would be less than $100.

I couldn’t remember my username. I didn’t know my password. After a long back and forth between me and Discover I eventually rediscovered my username and eventually, learned I didn’t have a password — I had a pin number. Which I also didn’t remember. More back and forth through email.

I won’t give them my mobile number. Sorry. Won’t do it. I don’t need to carry around anything else that can be easily hacked.

Eventually, I got it sorted out. Then, I thought I should check and see if any other of the bills had been paid, but I didn’t remember my username or passwords for any of them, either.

I spent the whole evening doing this and I’m exhausted.

How do hackers figure it out? I can’t figure it out and I created these usernames and passwords in the first place. If the creator of the username and password can’t get them straight, how do hackers figure it out?

It’s all too much for me.

HACKED AND HATING IT – Marilyn Armstrong

We Did It! — Maybe?        RDP Monday: PRINCE

I’m sorry. Didn’t use the “word of the day” because this needed to go out to everyone I could send it to. No matter how little you pay attention to what’s going on in your technical department, you should read this because it really does matter to you and all of us.


So, for the moment, Tyngpress.com is closed, but despite that everyone says “it was closed down,” they closed THEMSELVES down and were NOT forced to close. I got this note this morning from “Web.Informer.com”:


Hello,
Thanks for your message. Could you please send us a direct link to this info on website.informer.com? We will remove it asap.
Best Regards, 
Website.Informer Project Team

On Fri, 2 Aug at 11:28 PM , MARILYN ARMSTRONG <fivedawgz@gmail.com> wrote:

This is a full spammer website stealing other people’s material without authorization or permission. Does not create any of his/her own material but steals it, largely from WordPress but probably from others, too. Remove him. Dangerous.

79011:414394


 But the message on the actual website (Tygpress.com) was this:


Tygpress.com is temporarily out of service due to technical issues. will be back soon…

Tygpress.com was created with an intention to create a blog search site, but due to some techical issues, full contents of respective sites were being displayed instead of just excerpts as intended. We thank the complainants for bringing this issue to our notice and We are extremely sorry to the content owners.

This is a literal paste-down, so the misspellings are (for once) not mine.

This comment does NOT indicate they were closed down but are obviously getting hit by a lot of complaints. Duh.

And this site is one of the thousands, maybe millions of such sites. They are all over the world. We have no control over them. This particular one actually had a platform on another server, but many of them have their own servers and work for governments who not only do not care about “us,” but are intentionally out to get us.

Be careful what you post, especially if you have any intention of publishing it. Do NOT publish original artwork if it is something you intend to sell or simply is very dear to you.

These pieces of scum are everywhere and they are targeting every single one of us. I’ve been hacked. Fandango has been hacked. I’m sure many more of us have been hacked. Some of us got off lightly, others had to pay for it. I was also locked out of my own computer, but I spent two full days UNlocking.


PLEASE BACK UP YOUR MATERIAL AND DO IT REGULARLY, EVEN THOUGH IT IS BORING.
MORE IS BETTER.


When you clean off your computer, you clean off EVERYTHING THAT WAS ON IT. You are effectively wiping your hard drive which is fine if your material was backed up onto at least TWO SEPARATE EXTERNAL DRIVES and the rest of it lives on external drives belonging to companies like Amazon and Dell and other major cloud providers.

Google is useless. They won’t do anything and we won’t even discuss Facebook.

WordPress is equally useless. You can enter into their “blocked” functions anything you like, but it doesn’t accomplish anything. They have no effective security arrangements.

No matter WHAT they say, they are lying.

They have also made it (by the way), nearly impossible to get material from new folders in graphics (photographs, in essence).

All you get now is a list. You can’t see any of the images in the folder.

For those of us that are serious photographers and artists, that means you have to carefully name each item in every new folder– or any older folder you haven’t yet opened.

This is going to require endless hours of additional work for everyone who uses a lot of graphics content. I haven’t even bothered to complain to them, though I suppose I should. From previous experience, when they’ve decided to do something exceptionally stupid, pointless, and counter-productive, they never go back and make it work the way it used to. But this is worse than usual. This is AWFUL.

I’m getting close to giving up. It’s not that I don’t love you all, but I’m paying for the privilege of being virtually completely hackable. I’m running some of the world’s worst software and being talked down to like an infant by the baby morons running their “technical” division — our glorious “happiness engineers.”

All they want is more money when they can’t even deliver what we are already paying for.


NOTE: Adjacent to the “select” section from which you need to pull up a picture, there’s a small icon (I can’t copy it, my snap-catch function won’t work on that screen), but if you click on it, it offers you some choices about how to see images. Anyone who recently got a Microsoft “upgrade” will probably have this problem. Select one of the images!


 

FEELING PIQUED? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Pique

Pique is such a cute little word. It’s the right word, mind you, but it doesn’t really cover the territory.

I am in a life and death struggle with AT&T, which is interesting because I’ve closed my account with them. Apparently, for the privilege of not working with them, you have to pay for that, too. In their system, if you call them, you have to pay them for “an upgrade” even if you don’t upgrade. Even if you were talking about it, decided not to and hung up. They will still bill you between $70 and $90 (assuming you didn’t buy a phone … more if you actually bought anything at all) for having talked to them.

That’s a hefty bill when you’ve actually done nothing at all except discuss what plans are available. I have concluded — and not lightly or without serious thought — that anything they tell you via customer service is a lie. Either it’s an outright lie intended to just shut you up and get you off the phone, or it’s something they made up just to get you off the phone. I call that “making it up as you go along” but perhaps you can come up with a more colorful name.

To get “make it up as you go along” service, you need a manager. They will even send you “the deal” in writing and no one else will have heard of it. They will give you long and complicated case numbers, but no one will do anything about them. If you are working with my bank, they will tell you they’ve taken care of it and if you call back, you’ll discover no one did anything at all. They completely ignored you.

That’s the third part: completely ignoring you while pleasantly agreeing with everything you say.

Why is customer service like this? It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when customers were valued. For that matter, when workers were valued. Now, no one is valued unless they own the company or run a major piece of it.

The important thing to remember is:

Trying to find peace with customer service

They will tell you they understand your frustration. They do not comprehend the difference between “pique,” “frustration,” and “lethal rage.” They don’t realize that 9 or 10 pointless conversations with customer service don’t make you a bit frustrated. They make you angry enough to want to strangle whoever is on the other end of the line.

Pity you can’t reach through and grab them by the throat, isn’t it?

I’m feeling a little bit “piqued” at AT&T. Just a bit of pique. Nothing serious.

HOW PUBLIC? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Public

Having been hacked and fortunately gotten off relatively lightly, I’m wary about information being given away online. You can’t protect yourself entirely, especially as a blogger. No matter what you do, anyone with the will and interest can find out whatever they want about it … but within the limits of our abilities, I try to make sure I don’t leave the barn door open.

The lock might not be the best in town, but considering that the U.S. Government has been hacked and my bank has been hacked twice, as well as Adobe, Lands’ End, Equifax, Facebook … and who knows how many more have been taken down by hackers, I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything in my arsenal that would stop a determined hacker.

The requirements of writing mean that you are going to get at least a little bit personal. The question always remains, “HOW personal?” At what point does “personal” mean too much?

It doesn’t help that the stores, banks, and agencies we work with online appear to be easily hacked. In my case, material that got hacked on Facebook was sold or given (I suspect sold) to Cambridge Analytica who then sold my personal material to any hacker with the money to pay for their list. Of course, there was the recent international round of router hackers. I got a new router, but who knows if the new one has any more stopping power than the original? As far as protecting ourselves from people who hack people and steal their money for a living, we are relatively helpless.

All of this hacking stuff is some version of identity theft and short of not using any online stuff, which these days is nigh unto impossible, there’s no way we can prevent identity theft.

You do your best, but compared to the pros in the field, we don’t have a lot of power to protect ourselves. As soon as they invent a new “protection,” hackers figure out a way to tear it down.

So how public do we dare be? Most of us are already public, there’s not much to hide.

Whether you are a blogger or merely connect to accomplish normal business with banks and other organizations — like, say, the Motor Vehicles Department — we will always be a few steps behind the people who do it because that’s how they make a living.

I always wonder if the damage they do bothers them … or are they simply without any kind of conscience? I’m betting the latter.

In a more perfect world, we would have made sure everyone was well protected before we offered online service, but this is far from a perfect world. And apparently, getting less perfect minute-by-minute.

COMMOTION, CHAOS, HACKING, AND HOW MUCH DO I HATE FACEBOOK? Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Commotion


It started, though I didn’t know it, when Facebook released my personal data to Cambridge Analytica. Eventually, they sold the data to who-knows-who in the hacking world and two credit cards and a money-account got hacked.

I thought this had been sorted out. Police reports. Lots of emails. Far too many conversations on telephones with fraud investigators and a complete reinstallation of my operating system because, not content with stealing my money, they also destroyed my computer.

Lucky there were other computers in the house.

Yesterday, I got a note saying that Synchrony Bank decided I must have “given away my account information.” I couldn’t prove that the hackers were hackers. And, after all, they had my name, address and phone number (thank you, Facebook!), so it must be my fault.

But those transactions never occurred. They were canceled so the “recipients” never actually got anything, but according to their computer, these transactions — or at least one of them — did end up on the bank’s computer. Walmart, whose card it was and PayPal, the paymaster in this all agree there was no transaction, but Synchrony Bank, who owns the computer, is sure it did. I’ve talked to various Wal-Mart divisions (and there are many) and I have paperwork from PayPal (also Synchrony Bank), all of which agree the transactions didn’t happen, but Synchrony wants me to pay for a transaction that never happened and apparently, the release of my name and other personal information by sleazeball Zuckerstump doesn’t count.

You’d think these guys would actually talk to each other.

First, the released my data to Cambridge Analytica. That led to having my identity stolen and my computer hacked. How many new ways can they find to become worthless?

I’m at the end of my wits. This commotion has gone on intermittently since last May. I’m tired and frustrated beyond belief. Just about ready to swallow a handful of tranquilizers and sleep for the rest of my life.

Commotion? You want to know about commotion?

If we weren’t so poor, I’m pretty sure I could have my lawyer call their lawyer and it would be fixed in a split second. We don’t have a lawyer on tap … or the money to get one. So on and on it goes.

Commotion, yeah. Also chaos and a certain amount of misery.

SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED – Marilyn Armstrong

We are shaken, but not stirred

I read all the James Bond books before they made it into the movies. I loved the books and for me, the movies were more like parodies than anything to do with Ian Fleming’s writing. The whole martini thing about “Shaken, not stirred,” always struck me as weird.

Why would it make a difference? Not being a drinker of any kind, much less a martini drinker, I’m probably the wrong one to ask.

Nonetheless, we are personally shaken even if not fully stirred.

Garry at the Police station in Uxbridge

In the course of a month and a half, we’ve been the victim of an intended more than $7000 in credit card theft. Yesterday, I realized for the first time (I can be a little slow on the uptake) that this started at least three weeks before I realized anything was happening and continued after I was sure it was fixed.

I think it’s fixed now. I hope so because I have done absolutely everything I was supposed to do. We are lucky we didn’t lose any of our so-called money. The credit card companies are less lucky and have spanked us thoroughly on our credit ratings. Not that I can blame them. They’ve taken the entire hit leaving us shaken and fearful. Feeling incredibly vulnerable. But no poorer than we were before.

Main street in late June

I didn’t know how bad it was until I looked at my monthly credit report. Credit Karma is free. They track your credit, the amounts you’ve spent, suggest cheaper cards or loans … and they are really free. If you are not a member, I suggest you sign up. If I hadn’t looked at the report, I would not have known what was happening.

One card leaped off the screen at me, a card on which I knew I had used less than $1000 in credit and suddenly, a $5000 bill was staring at me. I called the company. Because the card had already been declared as damaged — involved in a fraud attempt — it was closed. I couldn’t actually get to any information online and had no idea about how much money had been taken. It looked like much more than I had thought.

Back to the post office to file the reports. Round two. Hopefully the final round.

The guy at the bank gave me a list — down to the penny — of all the hits. I felt sick. Until I saw that report, I had no idea something had been going on. There were no flare guns, no strange packages, nothing to alert me. It had been going on since the beginning of May, more than 3 weeks before I knew there was a problem. A week more before I realized the extent of the problem. The day before yesterday, I got it.

“This is considered identity theft, ” the bank manager said. This was confirmed by the guy at the police station because we had to go back with all this additional information. Previously, all I knew about attempted thefts. This was the real deal. The took the money and laughed all the way to the shops where they bought stuff.

Truck parts. Lots of truck parts. I didn’t know truck parts could cost so much money, but I suppose when you steal them for free, whatever you get for them on the market is “free money” for you. Not for me or the bank, but a hop, skip, plus a little jump, made some thief happy.

A quick trip to the grocery. Frozen pizza for dinner. I was in no mood for cooking.

I assume big parts of our own private military hackers are on top of this stuff. Even though nothing is reported in the press, I would imagine this doesn’t get a lot of press coverage. All it would do is warn the targets.

The brightest — and funniest — moment of the day is when Garry called me from the police station and when I looked at the phone, it said “Interview Room 3.” It was a very NCIS moment.

I have alerted the police, all three credit monitoring agencies, filed reports with everyone. Deleted embedded copies of my credit cards from anywhere I knew they existed. Each time I use a shop, I will have to replace the card numbers then and as soon as the transaction is complete, delete it.

No matter what anyone says, if they are keeping your credit card information, your data is NOT secure.

These days, I’m not sure what secure even means.

NOTORIOUS HACKERS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Notorious

The day after I got hacked, it hit the TV headlines. Every network news station had the information at the top of the hour: REBOOT YOUR ROUTER. Apparently, millions of home users had already been whacked in Europe. Now The Notorious Gang was here, hacking home routers and stealing credit card information.

It turns out they are the same Russian-funded group connected to Cambridge Analytica — Steve Bannon’s babies — and of course, you-know-who, the guy who occupies the White House. And it all started with Facebook. The social media site I only use as PR for my blog.

Speaking of notorious, these thieves have been known to rake in billions of dollars in a single day, probably mostly from people like me who really can’t afford it.

I didn’t even know that this particular card had been hacked and only found out when the card wouldn’t go through because it kept saying the address was wrong. I finally called the company and the address they had was nothing to do with mine.

I’d like to say I have no idea how they manage to hack our cards, but it isn’t that difficult. I’m no hacker, but I understand the rudiments — and that three-digit code on the back of your card? You realize that any routine number-running mini-application could track it down in about 2 seconds. Maybe less.

I still have to look it up, but thieves — NOTORIOUS hackers — don’t bother. They just push a key. A program runs. They find the number and are charging thousands of dollars to your accounts a minute later.

I’ve gotten everything back, though I have a lot of closed accounts at the moment. My credit score took a hit too. Fraud apparently makes credit companies wary of extending credit. Who can blame them?

What a pity they didn’t announce the notorious router hacking crew until the day AFTER they hacked me. What a pity that Facebook gave out my personal information to hackers, no doubt for a fee.

How notorious does something need to be before we notice it’s happening to us? Apparently pretty damned notorious!

FRAUD – IT JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE

FRAUD – IT NEVER STOPS


So this time, here is a list of posts about fraud. Fraud done to us, to parents. Fraud by people you thought you knew. It’s everywhere. What are they thinking when they steal a few thousand dollars from people who are barely scraping by? Do they care? Do they feel a twinge of bad karma?

I don’t think. That’s the conclusion I’ve reached:

ELDER FRAUD: THE LONG CON PLAYED ON MY MOM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

SCAMMED AGAIN — LEARNING THE HARD WAY

THE SOCIOPATHIC BUILDER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

GENEROSITY. MY FIRST MISTAKE.

There’s a lot more. Scams by banks and credit cards. Scams by politicians, bosses, and co-workers. Everyone seems to be trying to get “what they deserve” out of the system because they are all sure that the rest of us can afford to give them our money … however little we happen to have. Elder scam, medical scams, surgical scams. Scams that land people homeless and without a penny to live on.

That’s the world we are living in … and with the way things are going, it’s just going to get worse.

NOT ANOTHER DIME – MARILYN ARMSTRONG WITH BEN TAYLOR

I am a Democrat. A liberal, but Democrat is close enough.

I currently get about 20 emails a day asking me to contribute to someone’s campaign or just to the party coffers for some good cause or other. I support many of these causes, but I’ll never give a penny to any political party. Why? Am I a fervent advocate of campaign corruption reform? Do I harbor an idealistic — and irrational — belief that change will come to the system? Yes and no, but that’s not why I won’t give any money to anything political.

72-Lost-Dutchman-newer-GAR-Superstition-011316_186

Not my donkey, but a nice donkey

In 2012, I donated three dollars to Obama.

As a thank you, I got spammed. Every Democrat running for office no matter where they lived, sent me endless emails every week. It kept getting worse. A new cause, a few hundred more emails. Every email predicted the immediate end of the world should I fail to dip into my wallet right now! It reached an insane crescendo. One day, I spent an entire day, morning to evening, unsubscribing to what seemed to be every politician and cause looking for money. The incoming mail dropped to an almost bearable level.

It seemed that each time I signed a petition or went online to read a political post, I was automatically — without notification or permission — subscribed to the site and its multiple mailing lists. I was a piece of data being mined.

That’s wrong. It’s spam. It’s offensive.

Uncle sam political cartoon 1899

The Democratic Party — all political parties, their candidates and causes (I found myself on the Conservative Republican mailing list because I read an article and they signed me up, too) — are on my “not one red cent” list. Because a $3 dollar donation got me spammed. By the way, if you are naïve enough to provide your phone number to any political group, expect never-ending intrusive phone calls on your home or cell phone asking for donations.

If they want my opinion, they can pay for it.

The political funding system needs reformation. Equally in need of reform is the way all political groups feel free to use your personal information for their own purposes. They will subscribe you to their mailing  and calling lists because you tried to read their literature. Which, in theory, is what they want you to do. Participating in politics — trying to be a good citizen — will get you bombarded with propaganda until you declare a plague on all their houses.

By: politicalavenue-com

It’s not okay. Really, it’s not. It’s intrusive and sneaky. It is a massive abuse of my right to privacy. I did not agree to let everyone in the world use my personal data for their own agenda. Visiting a web site does not imply permission to invade my privacy. I do not know how other people handle this sort of thing, but it means that I will never donate a penny to anyone running for office — or support of any of their causes. Ever.

A friend of mine wrote the following letter and sent me a copy. He thought I might make want to use it. Sure enough. Nice to know it isn’t just me!


Author: BEN TAYLOR 

We elect you — our representatives — to… uh… represent us. You are paid healthy salaries. You enjoy the best health care in the country and even draw a salary after retirement, even though you’ve been voted out of office. What a great job you’ve got! But that’s not enough. You continuously ask us for more money — from those of us who have little more to give than an opinion.

So, what do you think about maybe doing the job you were elected to do? Without us having to cough up additional contributions — for which there seem to be endless requests?

What gives corporations the right to make big donations and project opinions that may not be shared by its employees? Employees who, for fear loss of job, are hesitant to express an opposite opinion to the handful of upper management?

Wouldn’t that donation money be better spent by passing it on to the employee salaries, not to mention the huge bonuses given to executives who really don’t need it since their already enormous salaries ought to cover any living expenses they would incur?

So, the rich guys need tax breaks? I don’t think so! 

We as average citizens don’t ask you to contribute to our lives by donating money to our household budget funds or maybe helping us pay off our mortgages or car loans. All we ask is that we are allowed to take care of ourselves with dignity. That you prevent the rich, who can already pay for anything they possibly could use or want out-of-pocket from taking away the little we depend on to scrape out an existence.

Just think of what kind of country we’ll have if we are all poor. Is this what is meant by “making America great again?” Impoverishing
everyone who isn’t already rich? Ignoring science while destroying the planet for the advantage of the few who might profit? Employing social media to carry on petty quibbling, racial, religious and other ethnic injustices while great, and potentially greater, disasters occur all around us?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!!
​ ​
NO! NOT ANOTHER DIME!


They — both parties, all parties, all the pols — have done it to themselves.  Before pointing fingers at “the system,” they need to admit that they are the system. They are the abusers.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I know there is no way I’m giving anything to anybody. Ever. Not even when I wish I could. Because I know if I give a couple of bucks to one person, every single politician will have their hand out and bomb me with letters of upcoming catastrophes. This has got to stop somewhere.

How about now?

ELDER FRAUD: THE LONG CON PLAYED ON MY MOM – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My mother had a secretary/bookkeeper for the last 23 years of her life, from 1979-2002. Her name was Anne. Anne did everything Mom needed done regarding her finances. She paid Mom’s bills and balanced her checkbook, kept track of Mom’s investments, worked with the accountant on her taxes, handled all insurance matters, did her filing, etc. Anne also did anything else Mom wanted her to do. She returned endless catalogue purchases for Mom (this was before the internet), made and changed appointments for her, helped her find caterers, plumbers, exterminators, whatever. She would also run errands like going to a department store to buy Mom’s makeup. She became indispensable to Mom.

Over the years, Anne became more of a family member than an employee. In fact, Anne would tell people that she was my sister, which I found creepy. She shared everything that was going on in her life with Mom and turned to Mom for advice. Anne always told Mom that after losing her own mother, Mom was like a surrogate to her. Mom shared a lot of her life with Anne as well and they became incredibly close.

Anne in 1993 at my son’s Bar Mitzvah

Mom showed her gratitude and love for Anne by helping her out financially. She paid for Anne’s kids to go to summer camp for several years. She helped Anne make a down payment on a house. She ‘loaned’ Anne money when things were tight.

In the mid 1990’s, Mom’s accountant noticed that Mom was beginning to spend more money than she made. He told her she had to cut her expenses down. That meant selling the beautiful and beloved apartment she had shared with my dad and lived in for close to forty years. She moved into a smaller and cheaper apartment but it didn’t help enough. She was still spending too much.

My mother swore she was being as economical as possible. But Anne insisted that Mom was spending more than she realized. So the accountant asked to see Mom’s books and records. Anne convinced Mom that this was an unnecessary expense. This went on for several years until I put my foot down in 2001 and Mom agreed to give her accountant all the documents he had been requesting.

What he found was truly incredible. Anne had been using my mother’s checkbook as if it were her own. Literally. Anne learned how to forge Mom’s signature and paid a large portion of her own bills from my mother’s checkbook. Her forgeries were so good, we had to hire a handwriting expert to prove that they were actually forgeries.

Anne wrote checks on Mom’s account to pay for most of her monthly expenses. She made mortgage payments and her son’s college loan payments from Mom’s checkbook. She paid her electric bills and other household bills as well as all her credit card bills. Some of those credit card bills paid for first class tickets to Paris and a week at a top Paris hotel for Anne and her husband! Anne told her husband that this whole trip was another ‘gift’ from my mother.

Anne also forged endorsements of checks over to herself and even wrote checks for cash out to herself! It was all right there in Mom’s checkbook! In 2001 alone, Anne stole over $100,000!

Mom confronted Anne. Anne swore she had only done it that one year. And then the accountant went through the records for the prior year, 2000. He found exactly the same pattern. We contacted a lawyer. The lawyer contacted the District Attorney.

We only had records going back seven years. But we found that Anne had been writing $75,000-$100,000 worth of checks to herself for all seven years. In looking through old files, I found several more checks, forged by Anne, paying Anne’s bills. These checks were from 12 years earlier. We realized that Anne had probably been doing this for the better part of twenty years. She got bolder and bolder as the years went by and she continued to get away with it.

We sued Anne and tried to get some money back. We assumed that she had stashed at least some of it away. We hired a private investigator and he found absolutely nothing. We could never find any trace of any of Mom’s money. Anne must have spent it all. We suspect it was on online gambling.

Anne was forced to sell her house and paid us back $100,000 from the proceeds. But we estimate that the total amount taken over twenty odd years was over $1,000,000.

The District Attorney in New York decided to bring criminal charges against Anne. The D.A. said that this was one of the worst and longest running cases of elder fraud she had ever seen. She had contact with Anne in court and in interrogations. She said that Anne was a classic sociopath because she showed no remorse or guilt for anything she had done.

My Mom was dying of cancer when the charges against Anne were brought. She couldn’t go into New York City to give a deposition. So the D.A. came to our house in Connecticut with a videographer to document Mom’s testimony before she died. It was enough to convict Anne. Anne went to prison for six years followed by two years of probation.

Mom died about eight months after the initial discovery of Anne’s embezzlement. She knew Anne was going to jail. But that did little to alleviate the pain she felt from this monumental betrayal. It was very hard for Mom to wrap her head around the fact that she had been ‘taken’, ‘conned’ and ‘used’ for over twenty years, by someone she had loved and trusted implicitly.

I can’t tell you how violated Mom felt. I felt it too. It’s similar to what I felt after I was held up at gunpoint on a side street of New York City. It is also humiliating to be so badly duped and defrauded. You have lots of mixed emotions in situations like this. You kick yourself for not figuring it out sooner. You look for signs you may have missed along the way. You wonder if you should ever trust anyone again.

Anne and Mom in 2001

Mom also felt catastrophically stupid for being so careless about her own finances. She so totally trusted Anne that she NEVER LOOKED AT HER CHECKBOOK! Everything would have been discovered if Mom had just looked through her own checkbook once during those twenty years.

It’s sad that my mom spent her last months obsessing about this tragedy. It’s sad that it happened at all. The saddest thing of all is that Anne is out free now, probably doing the same thing to someone else. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

THE SOCIOPATHIC BUILDER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In 1987, my ex husband and I, along with our two children, spent weekends and summers in a one bedroom cottage on my mother’s property in Easton, CT. My grandparents had lived in the cottage when I was growing up. It was fine for them but at this point, both kids were sleeping in the living room. It was time to get a bigger house. So we decided to build one on a piece of adjoining property that Mom gave me.

We hired an architect and spent nine months designing a beautiful but budget friendly house. Unfortunately, our architect was calculating costs based on the prior year’s cost per foot. And costs were apparently rising at a ridiculous rate. When we put the house out to bids from contractors, the bids were twice what we had budgeted. We couldn’t afford to build our dream house anymore!

Only one bid came in low enough that we could just barely stretch to afford it. It came from a general contractor we knew personally. Mac was a well-liked, well-respected member of our tennis club. He had even been president of the club. We knew his friends and family. We asked him why he could put in such a low bid. He said he was just starting in the contracting business and wanted to use our house as a marketing show piece. He’d do it for cost and not expect a profit.

Mac working on the house foundation

We drafted an air tight contract (my ex was a lawyer). We broke ground. We wrote checks. The house was framed out but not enclosed. Winter was coming. We had put in all the money we were contractually obligated to put in. It was up to Mac to put in his share. On paper.

Mac told us he didn’t have the money to finish the house. If we wanted to protect the structure from the coming winter, we would have to pay for everything going forward, above and beyond the contract.

We were between a rock and a hard place. We’d lose our significant investment and our house if we cut our losses and walked away. We were frantic. We ended up selling three of my thirteen acres of land to help finance the now much more expensive house. We also borrowed money from my parents and went deeper into debt. We finished the house but it took forever. I kept paying all the bills I received but contractors either didn’t show up or came but did a shoddy job. We couldn’t understand what was going on.

Me and my kids as house framed out

Until one contractor came to me, toward the end of the process. He complained that Mac had not paid him until he threatened to sue. When he did get a check for $2500, it bounced. Mac had told him that the reason he was stiffing the contractors on their bills was that WE were not paying our bills to Mac. I was shocked. I showed the contractor my canceled checks to Mac, covering everything.

I hired a lawyer. He said that this was the worst case of construction fraud he’d seen in 15 years of practice. Apparently, Mac had just taken most of our money for himself. He was doing the same thing to another family at the same time. When contractors demanded payment, he would use some of my money or the other family’s money to pay them off and get them off his back. He was robbing Peter to pay Paul and visa versa. He was paying the contractors just enough money to get the jobs done – eventually. It took a year and a half to build our house.

My son on the building site

We fired Mac and finished the house without him. His partner told us that he would never work with Mac again. He also told us that the estimate Mac gave us was based on no calculations and no facts. Mac just came up with a number he thought we’d accept.

We couldn’t sue Mac because our lawyer couldn’t find any of our money. Mac was broke. There was no money to recover. No one could figure out what he had done with all the money he took from us, that didn’t go into our house. It came to over $200,000! His wife swore he didn’t spend it on his own house or family.

Years later, his wife discovered that Mac had conned her as well. He was supposed to be contributing his income to the college funds of his three kids. There was no college account. He was also supposed to be filing and paying the family’s tax returns. He not only didn’t pay taxes, for years he never even filed returns. The IRS came after his wife, who worked, and garnished her salary. That’s when she left Mac, taking her three kids with her.

Mac was obviously a sociopath. He screwed a lot of people. The building of my house turned out to be one of the major stress periods and financial drains of my life. I love my house and am still living in it 28 years later. But it is in spite of all the angst we suffered during the building process.

I recently renewed my friendship with Mac’s ex wife. We commiserate together over being taken to the cleaners by Mac. We still have no idea where all the money went. We think it might have gone into a land deal that went south. Mac always had some new money-making scheme in the works. But we’ll never know. They say that building a house is throwing money into a black hole. Well, in our case, it really was a black hole.

MONEY IS MORE PERSONAL THAN SEX

How many times have you heard someone say “It’s just money,” as if money is no more than a way to pay for “stuff” and has no other value to us. We all know it isn’t “just money.” It’s much more than that.

For all the horrible details of the latest disaster, please see SCAMMED AGAIN.

A long time ago — back in 1972 — I had a friend who was earning almost nothing. Everything cost much less back then, but poverty is poverty, whatever the decade. I remember him saying “Self-respect begins at $150 a week.” Self-respect costs much more in 2017. As for us, what we have is what we get from social security plus a minuscule pension. There won’t be more. Never. No raises. Ever. We are poor and we will get poorer.

I have learned to cope with poverty. I count pennies. I buy the least expensive thing I can that might accomplish my purpose — which, I might add, is exactly how I wound up in this current mess. I try not to think what our income will look like in another ten years. It barely covers life now. I shudder to imagine what life will be like in 2027.

Maybe I won’t be here. Right now, that doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

Home again

So, in addition to my anger at being scammed, there is shame and pain. The embarrassment of realizing that — again — I am a moron. To say I feel like a fool doesn’t begin to cover it. To put this in perspective, most people will happily give you full details of their sex life before they will tell you how much money is in their paycheck.


Sex is personal. Money is more personal.

Money is intimate. It gives us status in society. It sets our “cultural” level. Money is rank. Money gives us power to make choices. It lets us make mistakes, but shake them off. If I had “real” money, I could shake this off and move on. I’d be wiser than before and more careful, but it would be just a bump in the road without being a tragedy.

When you have enough money, you really can say “it’s just money.” Instead, I’m left with a hole where money used to be … and a door I will still have to replace. There’s no way around it. No amount of wriggling is going to change the story.

The next time something financially egregious happens to someone you know, before you pat them on the shoulder and say “Hey, its ONLY money,” remember there’s a lot more going on. Ego, self-respect, social acceptance, power, pride, and self-worth. We are all tied to money in highly personal ways. It’s why people who are literally going broke and declaring bankruptcy will often disappear from your life. Without telling you what happened. They are too ashamed to talk about it. They would rather leave town and hide than admit they lost their money.

It’s not just money. Ever.

SCAMMED AGAIN — LEARNING THE HARD WAY

It turns out that by the time I stopped the check, they had already — in less than an hour — hit the bank and taken out cash. So I’m out the full $950.

For a couple living on social security, this is not quite a calamity. Bad enough, though.

Assuming I have the energy to sue the guy, it will be a very long time until I see anything like money. I get exhausted thinking about it. Would crying help? Because that’s what I feel like doing.

They apparently had cashed the check before I was able to stop it. They didn’t deposit the check into an account because that would have given me time to dispute it. I fully understand why they wanted to make sure I could not dispute the check. If I were a con artist and thief, I’d want everything in cash, too.

Shawn Perry is a thief, a fraud, and a con artist. His company is called “Clear Vision Construction” and his phone number is (714) 314-7950. I strongly recommend you avoid him. And all his workers.

I’m not sure how much of this will get done because I’m so tired, but at least I want to be sure that everyone knows this person is not anyone with whom you should have dealings. The work was not done nor was any attempt made. If the job was impossible, you don’t take the job. Effectively, he stole the money. If he could not do the work, he could have turned it down. Taking the money, then NOT doing the work is fraud, with no “ifs” or “buts” about it.

You do not keep money for work you aren’t planning to do. That is illegal. It’s fraud. It’s a con.

He did not buy the supplies for which I was charged, did not perform the work to which he agreed. He came, “made a deal,” cheated two mature home owners out of nearly a thousand dollars and he was laughing his ass off as he went to the bank with his “found” money. “Found” as in “I found it in your wallet and took it.” That’s really found.

On Monday June 21, I arranged for Shawn Perry (Clear Vision Construction) to fix our front door. He wasn’t doing the work himself, but sent two guys to do it. The quality of the work is possibly the worst I’ve ever seen. I don’t believe (or at least, I don’t want to believe) that he has actually seen this atrocity personally, but he says “his guys sent him pictures and it looks okay to him.”

Here is a set of photographs. There were taken just a few hours  after the work was “finished” and complete. I called him several times to ask him to at least come look at it, then (hopefully) do the right thing. He would not take my call. I left a message which said: “I’ve given you every chance to do right by me, but you have refused to even take a look at the job.”

If he had even so much as come and looked at the work, I would have counted that as a “plus” in his long minus column, but as far as he was concerned, he had cash — and more than enough.

 This is the guy and his crew: Clear Vision Construction, Owner: Shawn Perry.  Phone: (714) 314-7950

This work is not merely unprofessional. It isn’t even amateur. It is horrendous. His workmen did the work. It’s his crew, so it is his responsibility. It’s a pity he refused to make an attempt come back and do it properly. A shame. Don’t hire this guy. For that matter, be damned careful about who you hire and how the “contract” is written. For contracts under $1000 a written contract is not required, but don’t let that stop you. Proving “he said” is impossible. “Words” are empty. I’ve had work done in my home many times over the years. I have NEVER seen anything this atrocious.

You can write the paper and sign the paper. But in the end, the other party has to live up to his part of the deal. I’m sure there’s a clever way to say this, but I’m not into “clever me” mode at the moment. Maybe tomorrow.

I think I won’t be writing anything funny today. I’m sure I’ll find this funny, but not quite yet. Mostly, I just want to cry. And worse … I still need to get a new door.