Modifying A Hoax – A Modest Proposal

The Facebook Hoax No. 135 has just surfaced again. You know, the one that tells you that you need to copy and paste something that looks like a legal document to prevent Facebook doing something. In this case it has been rigged to make you afraid that all your postings from the past -including pictures – will become the property of Facebook and that they can sell them off with no mercy.

Don’t be sad if you fell for it…people do fall for these sorts of thing. They come so close to our fears of either missing out or being targeted for lawsuit that we instinctively panic. The hoax – and hoax it is – then circulates further when the frightened individual cuts, pastes, posts, or does whatever other ritual the thing suggests. It is a good thing that the hoaxes do not involve hot soldering irons and ears or the emergency rooms would be full in a day.

Mind you, Weller would probably approve…and that’s where the BGA steps in. Note: the BGA frequently steps in it.

What we propose is that the maker of any product enter into a contract with us. ( pentacle, candles, dagger, etc. ) to promote their product. Whatever it is we analyse it and devise a way to tie it into the primitive portion of the reader’s brain. Then we craft a suitable meme or notice and start it out with our team of influenzers*. They insert it into their Facebook pages and direct it to the most gullible of their friends. From there it is transmitted for free  throughout the world, frightening people into buying and using the selected product.

It is not so much an advertising campaign as a form of social media terror. People will go faster if driven than lured and the faster they will go to the store with their wallet open, the better for the client. And remember that the BGA is ethical in this – we do not take a cut of the profits. Our fees are substantial, but one-time. In this we hold a higher moral position than the mafia.

*  So named because we spread internet hoaxes like a debilitating virus. You’re soaking in one now.

” I Obey A Higher Law…”

When anyone starts telling you this it’s a signal to keep saying ” Nice Doggie” while feeling behind you for a rock.

The ” Higher Law ” is something they have thought up to circumvent the lower ones – the ones used by the police and magistrates. The ones that start out with written state and federal statutes. Occasionally they will try to attach this to some phrase that you have heard; Magna Carta, a constitution, or some pronouncement by a cult out of California, Montreal or Switzerland.

The ” Higher Laws ” or HL’s for short, will be adjusted to whatever they want to get away with but there will be some features in common:

a. They will be based upon the authority of someone who has a vaguely biblical name – or a markedly Asian one. They will have started the cult and are reaping the benefits of the sale of the books ( $ 39.50 each ) and sacred blessed holy vibrational eco-friendly piece of paper or plastic bangle.

b. The cult will be making a motza and the cult leader will have a numbered account in Zurich.

c. As well as money… sex, food, and self hypnotism will be involved. Of all these, the money is the most important  – it is what the HL’s are meant to generate. Make no mistake – even if the HL’s promise that all will be wealthy, the flow of money is always bound for the Alps.

e. The HL’s, cult, and leader will last for only so long – then either explode into factional fighting or implode into murder. The Swiss bankers will carefully monitor the account and respond to whoever can quote the number. There will be a fee for that, stated clearly on the outside of the bank.

Pick Your Viking Birth Month Potato…

And find out who you are compatible with. The choices we provide are:

a. Ricky Scaggs

b. Sean Connery

c. Kim Jong Un

d. Jane Fonda

Does it seem that Facebook Asylum has been taken over by the inmates? Are you sure of the universe when questions of this nature are asked of you? Fear not – it is a simple process of dragging targeting information out of you, one piece at a time. It may seem a long-winded process, but as it is essentially a cost-free activity, every speck of personal gold that can be panned out is a gain.

They now know your month of birth. Soon an enquiry will pose questions that find the year that you were born. And eventually another contest will elicit the day of the month. And there we have one of the basic ID questions for you…un-safe in the hands of whoever wants to sell it on or use it to impersonate you.

They’ll need a lot more than that, but they can get it with surveys, quizzes, contests, and such. And if you are bored enough and fool enough to supply it you will have no-one to blame but yourself when someone signs you up for a new credit card and extracts $ 98.00 from that card. You’ll have the debt collector and the bad credit name and they’ll have $ 98.00.

Make like John Banner/ Sergeant Schultz.

Know nothing.


Picking Up The Breadcrumbs

Picking up breadcrumbs is an innocent enough thing unless you are trailing Hansel and Gretel – then it becomes harmful. A Grimm event…

Jokes aside, picking up snippets of information is a very useful way for an author or spy to gain useful information. The spy can piece together the movements of an army or the operation of a new secret weapon – the author can gather enough material to write a biography of someone at a distance. You may toss up for yourself which is the more dangerous practice.

Everyone drops breadcrumbs – bits of information about themselves that they either announce or write down. In our information age we are constantly filling in forms or supplying details to the nosy. Just this week I sent all my banking details to Berserkistan when they phoned me up. I’m sure it’s all legit – what could possibly go wrong? I mean, it’s not as if I told them the real numbers.

Coming back to the idea of the biography – think of the books you have stolen from the library. Some are marked “authorised biography” – some are marked ” unauthorised biography” or ” independent biography “. These divisions are arbitrary – all the books have been written by an author and the only difference is the quality of the lies. The unauthorised and independent ones have juicier stuff  – and strangely enough are likely to be closer to the truth. More people can remember more things and all the author needs to do is be a diligent collator and curator – eventually the truth will appear between the connected dots.

And then there is the autobiography…like auto-eroticism, it can be a lot of fun but you have to be careful or the pages stick together…

The Foolish Place Name

Every country on Earth has some location – a city, town, or geographic feature – that attracts ridicule. Not for its nature – for its name. The residents may become permanently embittered by this…they are laughed to scorn by foreigners through no fault of their own. Often it is only the sound of their beloved home in the language of the alien that produces the cheap laugh.

I’ve lived in Alberta and heard sneers at the the town of Medicine Hat. And at Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan. Walla Walla in Washington state has gotten a giggle out of Australians who then bristle and stoutly defend Wagga Wagga in New South Wales.

Condom in France and Hell in Norway…same thing. And then there is that foolish name of the Welsh railway station that is so long and unpronounceable that it has become a tourist destination. A selfie-pit, if you will.

Time to call a halt to this. In a millennial age that takes offence at everything and demands a homogenous and uniform state of unbridled  variety, there must be a change on Earth. No more foolish place names.

Henceforth, each location, hamlet, town, or city will be renamed. The simplest way to do this will be assign each former name an numerical equivalent. Numbers are universally known and can never be exhausted. It will be simple to rename Prague to 6754, Marrakech to 8932, Manangatang to 10567 and so forth. States , provinces, territories, and countries will also get numbered so you’ll have no trouble visiting 560-45-7 on your summer vacation. Helluva nice town and the local delicacy – fried tripe – is not to be missed.

Bon appetit.

Making A Living From The Dead – Part One – Cash And Carry

No, it’s not about embalming or other mortuary subjects – it’s about how to get your eating money by being a purveyor of history. A commodity that you did not make and cannot buy.

Every industry, trade, or occupation needs raw materials to begin with. Farmers need seed, land, sun, and water. Shopkeepers need stock. Coal miners need coal and desperation. Once the various parties secure their kit, they can start to make use of it…eventually turning out food, profits, or contributions to political parties.* The trick to making a success of the thing is to get the starting stuff cheap, economise on the making or handling, and sell the finished product dear. If you can find a market that simply must have what you produce no matter what, you can pinch the margins and raise the prices and do very well indeed.

There is no cheaper raw material than history. It may have cost the people who made it very dearly indeed, but by the time we get it, there is generally no more to pay – particularly if the old stock is well past the date. Time is not the enemy of the history salesman – it is the wonderful unpaid finishing process that coats the dull and disastrous with a golden layer of ” Respect “. If it is recent, the history clerk can flog it as nostalgia and if it is 200 years old it can be sold as heritage. The point of it all is that it can be sold.

The buyers of history are numerous; people who want to push a current political barrow and need some baggage to put in it – the idle rich who need amusement – and the idle poor who need amusement until the next dole cheque arrives – the student who needs something to get their next certificate. They’ll all pay for history, though in many cases they’ll tell you that they forgot their wallet and that they’ll settle up with you next time.

One of the secrets of successful history selling is to give credit where it is due, but never to  customers. Cash now and they can have the receipt next time…

*   I could use a million, Clive. Just sayin’…

” This Is Telstra…”

Or Optus, or the Australian Taxation Office, or the Federal Police. And the Indian person on the other end of the scratchy phone line is named Mary Smith.

If she said she was ringing from Icelandtel or the Icelandic Taxation Department  or the Icelandic Police her name would probably be be Mary Svensdottir. The phone line and the accent would be the same.

The Subcontinental Round is starting again. 4 so far this afternoon. You lucky bastards at work are missing out – come be retired and talk to Bombay.

My wife says that her late mother used to get the Indian scam calls all the time and was nervous and frightened by them – she was in her 90’s and had little computer experience. Fortunately we are an IT family and could soothe her but there must be thousands of elderly folk who are badgered  – and some who fall prey to them.

It set me wondering what my own parents would have been like had they lived into our scam age. My mother was raised in New Mexico and Texas and had little time for subcontinentals at the best of times. She also passed her  life in construction camps and mining towns and was not afraid to discuss things on an extremely basic level when required.

My father  – long gone – would have had a ball with them. I think he would have pulled up a chair, reached for the popcorn and an big orange drink, and then attempted to drive the scam artist mad. He was bad enough with Mormons at the door and my mother had to shoo them away before he got fairly started. No bad words from him, but he did have a habit of making people tie themselves up when they started to sell doctrine or junk bonds. He just put his finger in there every now and then to make sure the knots were good and tight…

I find the best way to respond is with friendly politeness and a grasp of the topic that is 270º away from what is on the script. Today I debated the advisability of changing the .50 cal machine guns for a 37mm autocannon. I was worried where the shells would be ejected to. The Indian woman assured me that Telstra would make it work perfectly.

I’m skeptical. Those empty cartridge cases are quite bulky. And hot.


Nutwork Marketing

We’ve all had the experience of seeing someone begin to participate in network marketing. Whether they were selling soap products, essential oils, bulk groceries, or 3.5″ mortar bombs, we appeared on their prospects list because we were friends or relations. In most cases it then became a race to see which folded fastest – the network marketing scheme or the friendship. In special cases the relationship to the in-laws could also be scrapped.

Was this necessary? did it have to be? Could it have been avoided? Would you like to try these essential oil soaps that come in 48-case lots? No?

I think it is time to step away from this model of seizing upon our friends and relations as sitting ducks for the benefit of shadowy pyramid schemes ( and that is really all they ever are in the end, after the denials and flapdoodle have evaporated…) and reverse the pitch. It is time that we annoyed the get-rich-quick confidence tricksters by turning our friends and rellies onto them.

Here’s basically how it works:

  1. You make up a list of your relatives and fiends ( I meant friends…) – from close family on out to second cousins. Do not neglect the odder ones – the creepy uncle who makes you uneasy at Christmas – the aunt who screeches – the sister who says she is a vegan but smells like sausage. Marshall all your resources and make the paper list a long, thin one.
  2. Get accurate email and postal addresses for each of them. Telephone numbers as well, and particularly mobile phone numbers. Put this on a separate long, thin paper list.
  3.  Place the two lists side by side with the appropriate information for each person beside their name.
  4. Now slip the right-hand list down one division. each person now has false details next to them. False, but not terribly far from the truth.  Photo copy this document and label it ” List A “.
  5. Now free up the right -hand list and slip it up one division. Photo copy this as ” List B “.

You are now armed with two lists of nearly-right information that differ in two directions.

At this point you select the group marketing scheme, pyramid, social network, or whatever they are calling themselves and settle into a good long session of sending them List A  as prospects for inclusion in their next round of scamming. You’ll be supplying addresses and round-the-clock contact information that will certainly connect, but to the wrong person. However, the person who is subject to this bombardment of  California sales hype and new York bullshit at that address or telephone number will stand a very good chance of knowing the person who the scammer thinks they are addressing. They will recognise the name of their cousin or friend or workmate.

And they will be madder than hell – ringing up the supposed dobber and giving them the serve of their life. However, in the meantime, this second contact will have been receiving the same commercial bombardment in yet a third name.

At this point – about two weeks after the initial plant, you take List B and send it to the scammers via another salesperson. Don’t be worried about finding one – the schemes have multiple teams that will target an area before the heat is on. This salesperson will do the entire exercise again, but with a different set of nearly-right contacts. Everyone gets pestered again but supposedly by a different relative or friend.

You will have achieved three very good things:

a. You will have annoyed your entire circle of acquaintance for a month without having to spend money on petrol or buy them meals.

b. You will have wasted the time of the scam merchants for a month. Often this is long enough for them to clap their carpet bag closed and get on the steamboat.

c. You will have sensitised your circle of acquaintance to the dangers of this sort of personal affront. They will not fall foul of it in the future. You will never be pestered to buy diet supplements, soap, or time-share holidays in Queensland.


Lying For Money – Part Two

First thing, let us get correct use of the English language out of the way. Specifically, ” lying ” and ” laying “. The former is what politicians do and the latter what hens and whores do. Choose your profession before you put up your sign.

Lying can lead us to all sorts of trouble when we are detected in it by others, or when we do it so successfully that we start to believe it ourselves. Either occurrence leads to loss of our dignity – and the appearance of dignity is what allows us to manipulate others. Dignity and sincerity are essential to successful crime.

How to start lying for money? Well, start small. You won’t make much in tips or favours by being a bellhop or waitperson in Australia -we are not really a tipping society. But you can go to a racecourse and tip or recommend horses all day with no fear of being abused. If a horse wins you sidle up to the successful punter and remind them that your advice was invaluable. If they lose you don’t bother to sidle. Occasionally you beetle out the gate, but then hanging round too long at a party is never good manners.

Or become an usher at your local church and assist in passing the plate around for contributions. Plates are notorious for tipping and spilling money into pants pockets. Practice angelic looks in the mirror until you get them right.

Can you lie with a straight face to a government employee? If you are a government employee can you lie with a straight face to a client of an agency? GO’s and NGO’s are looking for you right now. A bland smile and a grey sleeveless sweater are advantageous at the job interview – they like talking to one of their own.

The Spam Queue

This column attracts spam. As do all the others I write. So, I would imagine, would a note left in a bottle for the milkman – given the ever-reaching greed of internet pests.

Fortunately there is a program that drives away most of this traffic, putting it into a bin for me to empty periodically. I have learned to give the contents only the most cursory glance before flushing it. Once, within a space of a decade, there may be a genuine message leaking into the cesspool. More often the seepage is the other way. I am prepared to lose one real comment amongst the dross.

Like the Indian scam phone callers, I am at a loss to think that anyone could ever be interested enough in these fraudulent pests to ever respond to them…and I imagine that it would only spark a greater onslaught. Yet, the fact remains that they keep coming. This suggests some profit from it for the criminals and therefore some engagement by the unwary. If there is a trail of anything, it will be a trail of money and stupidity.

It is tempting to go on the hike as well. If others can pick an occasional drachma from the pockets of the unwary, surely I can put my hand in there too. I have been able to persuade people to all sorts of folly in the past, and I hope my skills are still with me. It’s just thinking how to do it…

Will they fall for sending me money directly? That’s been tried by everyone from Nigeria to Nunawading, and unless you have  dewy-eyed kittens marching on Parliament House, you are unlikely to access the right level of gullibility. I can be dewy-eyed but kitten suits are hot and itchy.

I could threaten. If they are frightened of the Immigration Department there is a chance that they’ll pay to avoid deportation. If the Taxation Department is their nightmare I can put on my best Jobsworth manner and impose fines left, right, and center. But I have no need of iTunes cards or anything else that might be duped out of them. It’d have to be cash or nothing, and that leaves the operational problem of collecting it. I don’t mind the victims being dumb, but I don’t want to join them.

Perhaps cajoling would work. I could try to shame them for eating meat, or vegetables, or sugar, or really anything…with the absolute certainty that they will feel guilty about something. It’s just finding out that secret shame and whacking it with a mallet.

I wish I was better at begging in rags. I’ve got the rags, all right, courtesy of a lifetime of never cleaning the wardrobe out, but the thought of panhandling in shopping centres leaves me cold. I don’t like the places all that much when I’ve got money, so doing the urban poor act would be even worse.  I suppose I could send out invitations for people to visit me here at home and I could do it in the lounge room, but somehow it doesn’t sound all that promising.