Saturday, December 7, 2013

PRIVATE VS. UNCLE SCAM'S

                            
     Some scams have been around for years, like paying upfront for a job that doesn’t exist or for training sessions and work materials that never arrive.    There are phony lottery and sweepstake scams, fake retail stores on the internet which look like the real thing, and the ubiquitous “I’m stranded in Timbuktu without any funds. Wire me money!” There are calls from scammers claiming to  represent legitimate philanthropies, asking for money.  One such scam recently netted thieves more than $20 million. 
There are scams using internet re-sellers, such as E-Bay and Craig’s List, wherein a  “buyer” makes a purchase, deliberately overpays, and asks you to wire the difference.   Their check bounces, but your money transfer doesn’t.   





Have you heard about the scammers who copy the code numbers on store gift cards, call the 800 number or check online to see when the card is activated, and when it is, go on an on-line shopping spree.  By the time the legal card owners try to use them, they’ve been maxed out!   
Newspaper and magazine publishers scam you, too.  Say you subscribed to XYZ magazine, and at the end of its subscription life, they renew you without asking (Your credit card is on file.). On top of that, your renewal is oftentimes at a higher rate than the previous year’s. The way to prevent this from happening is to use virtual cards.
Dayna Morales, a gay New Jersey waitress, gets an “A” for originality.  She complained on Facebook that a couple she had served wrote on their credit slip: “I’m sorry, but I can’t tip you because I do not agree with your life style.”  Ms. Morales collected thousands of dollars from sympathetic Facebook friends -- until the maligned couple showed up at the local radio station with the controversial receipt in hand.  There was no note to Ms. Morales on their copy, but there was proof that they had left her a tip – a generous one at that!
There are dozens of ways you can be scammed into accepting malware on the internet: via e-cards and e-invites, holiday apps, screen savers, “fun and free” software, and by contacting friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter who have been hacked into.  Please don't think that scams are the exclusive domain of the private sector. Our government is a major scammer, though their scams – once uncovered – are called “scandals.”  For the last two years alone, we’ve been scamdled a lot (not a typo).      
In 2012 the General Services Administration (GSA), whose mission is to manage the Government’s resources with “the utmost care...allow for no waste,” spent $800,000 of the taxpayers’ money on a four-day Las Vegas retreat for themselves.   Did they make restitution?  If you think the answer is “yes,” I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
             
Then there was the National Security Agency’s (NSA) scam, which gave one man, Snowden, unlimited access to unlimited amounts of classified data, in violation of I.T’s golden rule.    That’s the same NSA that tracks five billion cell phones daily.  With all the snooping they do, you’d think they’d know enough to snoop on their own snoops, especially when everyone knows more accidents happen at home.   
Beginning in 2010, organizations petitioning the IRS for non-for-profit (501C) status and had the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their names were deliberately targeted – their paperwork stonewalled for years. Why?  To prevent them from functioning until after the 2012 presidential election. Were the victims compensated for IRS’ criminal behavior?  Yes – in fascsinista fashion.  Petitioners’ names and personal data were “accidentally” released into cyberspace, putting them at the mercy of private and public sectors identity thieves.    
Then there’s the ObamaCare scamdel.  Rather than “Buy American” and create jobs for unemployed Americans, ACA contracted CGI, a Canadian firm with a known poor track record in the development of healthcare websites to do the job.  It’s now $678 million later, and what have we got?   Guess ACA never heard of Amazon.com, which handles 800,000 users a day. 
More jobs for Americans were lost when the Defense Information Services Agency also contracted CGI to the tune of $871 million.  And add to that the $143 million deal between CGI and Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.  Who gets the kickback?     
How would you like to be scammed and bullied all at the same time? In May of this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought a suit against the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), a non-for-profit made up of 22,000 music teachers whose shared goal is the promotion of music study. So why is the FTC going after them?       
 
Because in MTNA’s code of ethics, written 137 years ago at its founding, it says that members cannot “actively recruit students from other teachers,” a common agreement in many professions.  The FTC discovered this odious phrase and screamed “Anti-competitive! Price-fixing!”  
The MTNA agreed to edit the offensive language from its code, but that wasn’t enough for the bored and bullying bureaucrats at the FTC.  They wanted more, much more.  The FTA mandated that MTNA must:
1.     send the FTC all their records going back twenty years.
2.     read aloud a statement at every national meeting stating that the anti-free trade clause had been expunged.
3.     ensure that its 500 mafia affiliates sign a compliance statement.
4.     create an anti-trust compliance program which would include annual training.
5.     appoint an anti-trust compliance officer to send regular reports to the FTC for the next twenty years.
The FTC treats the country’s music teachers like they’re part of a drug cartel.  Is there no one to stop them?     
Yes, sort of.  Back in the seventies a cadre of watchdogs – called Inspector Generals (IG) -- was created to oversee Federal agencies and offices to prevent mismanagement, government waste, and criminal behavior. There are currently six vacant (not permanent) I.G. positions, vacant from between two and five years): State, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  Those six agencies account for 58% of the Federal budget. . 
For many reasons, Acting I.Gs are frequently ineffective, ultimately functioning like sleeping dogs  -- with little bark and no bite – rather than watchdogs.  You have to wonder if the Benghazi massacre would have happened if a permanent State Department I.G. had been in place.   
But in my opinion, if you want to oversee the public sector, the best watchdogs come from an independent private sector.  A good example of such an organization is Judicial Watch  (www.JudicialWatch.org). As of December, 2013, Judicial Watch has processed and is pursuing more than 1,200 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and a record number of lawsuits (95) against various branches of the federal government.
The Bottom Whine: Scams abound in both the private and public sectors ...   


... but if I’m going to be scammed, I prefer it come from the private sector.  First of all, they use their own funds – rather than mine -- to bankroll their scams.  They also don’t bully the scamee; if they did, the scam would collapse.  Also, in the private sector you are “invited” to be scammed, and, finally, there’s a (small) possibility that private scammers will be caught and punished, while with Government, there’s never anyone who’s responsible.   Oh, yeah, sometimes they find a scapegoat or two, but the worst that ever happens to them is they get ten lashes with a wet noodle, moved to a new position, and keep their pensions.
Give me a private sector thief any time!
Whiningly yours, Carol


3 comments:

  1. You hit THAT nail right on the head, Carol!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for following, Deirdre. What's happening at your house lately?

      Carol

      Delete
  2. Wow! I did not know about scammers getting the gift card numbers and using them! I learn something new every day in this world of tricksters and thieves.

    ReplyDelete