The scamming emails seem to come in constantly. Fortunately, they generally go into my spam folder and I never even see them. Here’s one of the most recent ones:
I was searching through a local business directory when I found your profile. I am Soliciting On-Behalf of my private client who is interested in having a serious business investment in your country. If you have a valid business, investment or project he can invest get back to me for more details, Your swift response is highly needed.
That is so obviously phony that I didn’t need to be warned about it. But in fact it came with this warning attached, in a bright red box:
This message seems dangerous
Similar messages were used to steal people’s personal information. Avoid clicking links, downloading attachments, or replying with personal information.
Another one in my spam folder, that came with the same red-boxed warning, was all in French, a language I do not speak, although I could understand the first sentence: “Je suis Mme Nicole Benoite Marois et je souffre d’un cancer de l’ovaire.” When I clicked on the helpful English translation, I learned that she had only a few days to live, and wanted to give me 4.5 million dollars, of which I should keep half and give half to orphanages in my country. What a sweet woman! Surprisingly, I was not tempted to respond to her.
On the other hand, here’s one that got past my spam filter, and seemed more believable: “Confirm your unsubscribe request from our dating mailing list.” Luckily I didn’t fall for it, because I know I have never been on any dating mailing lists. But I do unsubscribe from lots of lists all the time, so if they had picked a more plausible topic for the mailing list instead of “dating,” I might have fallen for it.
Of course the most upsetting scam was the email sent to many (if not all) Retrospect members this past July, which had the Retrospect logo at the top and appeared to have been sent by the Retrospect team.
i saw your profile and became interested in you, my name is Marian i am working with united nation, i will like to have a friend like you,
i have something to share with you, please email me through [a hotmail address] for more information about me, i will check my mail to know if you have contacted me because i am working at the moment”
Those are not my quotation marks, they were in the original email. Why someone would put quotation marks around an entire email is a mystery to me, but no more so than the lower-case i or the misspelling of United Nations. The morning that email came in, before I even got to it, I saw several emails from Retrospecters on the East Coast who had read the message before I woke up, and were writing to tell me about it. Our team acted quickly to get rid of this Marian, who was NOT our Marian, and to disable the private messaging function that had been used to send out these messages. We also sent out a midweek email to everyone, with the subject line Breaking News from Retrospect 😳 and a big red SORRY at the top.
As if all these annoying emails weren’t enough, there are scam telephone calls too. The most common one that I get is from someone with an Indian accent saying he is calling from Windows and wants to help with my computer problem. It’s the Indian accent that’s a dead giveaway, I’m sorry if that’s racist, but anyone with an Indian accent who is working for a legit computer company had better lose the accent in a hurry if he wants to be taken seriously. The first few times I got these calls, I would start discussing it with the guy (and it’s always a guy), saying I don’t remember asking for help with a problem and what did he think the problem was. These conversations never got anywhere. Finally I just started saying all our computers are Macs, we don’t have Windows, and hanging up on him. This is totally not true, I hate Macs and all our computers do have Windows, but I’m hopeful that it means at least one person will cross my number off his sucker list.
Here’s another one. Just yesterday my husband got a phone call, which I happened to hear because it was on speakerphone in the car. I wrote down the message verbatim for this story. It was a recording, which said: “This is to inform you that your social security number has been suspended and an arrest warrant has been issued in your name.” My husband disconnected the call before I could hear what they wanted him to do. Press this number or that number and give us your bank account information? How were they going to profit from this scam? I don’t know, maybe they’ll call back and I can find out. It’s patently absurd, because (a) we know the Social Security Administration never calls anyone, and (b) what does it even mean to “suspend” a social security number? It’s impossible. Yet I imagine that to hear someone say that an arrest warrant has been issued in your name could be pretty scary. My husband and I are both lawyers, and he used to be a public defender, so we laugh at the notion of arrest warrants. Sure, try to serve us with that warrant and we’ll see how far you get! But I’m sure many people freak out.
Way back in the pre-internet days, I did totally fall for a scam. It was the Mark Eden Bust Developer. It was advertised in magazines and newspapers, showing pictures of buxom women who claimed that they increased their bust size several inches using this gizmo. There was never a picture of the device, only of these scantily clad, voluptuous women. For only $9.95 you could look like that too. This was around 1975, while I was in law school, and I had come to the sad conclusion that my breasts were not going to grow anymore by themselves, even though both of my sisters were much better endowed than I was. So I ordered it, and it came in the mail, and I used it for several weeks but nothing happened. They did offer a money-back guarantee, but I never went to the trouble of wrapping it up and sending it back to them, since it seemed like too much trouble, and I was skeptical about whether they would actually refund my money anyway. Looking online now, I find that the product was withdrawn from the market in 1983, after the owners were indicted for mail fraud. Mail fraud! Because they were lying about this product and shipping it through the mail! I was happy to discover that Nora Ephron fell for it too, which she admitted in an essay in her book Crazy Salad. That makes me feel a little less foolish, to be in such good company!
You will not be surprised to find out that people are selling these Mark Edens on eBay now, for more than they cost originally, generally with the adjective “vintage,” and always with the adjective “fabulous.” Maybe the latter is ironic – fabulous meaning it was only a fable.