Take This Quiz

In the spirit of the pop-up quizzes that Facebook puts out on a regular basis, the Backstabbers Guild Of Australia is set to introduce a series of fun games that everyone can participate in. Are you ready? Got your thinking cap on?*

Here goes:

  1. What is your favourite food?
  2. What is your favourite colour?
  3. What is the log-in code to your bank account?
  4. How much money do you have?
  5. What is your security password ?
  6. When do you go on holiday?
  7. Where is the spare key for your house?

There. That wasn’t hard was it? And did you have fun?

We’ll be in touch…

*  On yer arse…

 

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.

 

The Pea And Shell Game Vs Three-Card Monte

Which to choose when you want to fleece the rubes – it can be a vital business decision.

The simple pea and shell game ( variation for industrial towns – pea and thimble ) is fast, cheap, and always effective for an operator who can palm effectively. It is the sort of thing that can be easily mounted on a bar table and doesn’t need a portable stand. The betting can be as simple as needed for the intelligence of the crowd, and like many bilks, it is perfectly suited to a con and shill team as well as a single operator.

It does fall down a little in states where they regularly carry sidearms. A pistol can make operation awkward – the wise worker carefully gauges the time to pocket the shells and fade  – five minutes more has been a fatal temptation for many a Texas grifter.

The Three Card Monte table seems more suited to the city alley than to the county fair. Urban rubes always fancy they know cards better than their country cousins – and perhaps the taint of sin doesn’t enter into it as much for the towns. You need a folding table that will come up to waist height for a good monte and wise operators know that occasionally you’ll have to abandon a setup – so don’t buy an expensive table.

On the other hand, buy the best cards you can find and monitor them for wear. Replace them at regular intervals or when any form of scuffing starts to show. There is nothing worse than a palm shift being stopped by a card that sticks – people have been detected and knifed because of it. Moral: buy good cards.

Of course neither of these two cons should ever be attempted by someone who is not perfect in the art. There is nothing at all, save a jail term or a slug, to be gained by trying to train on the job. If you wish to enter the pea or monte industry, set aside enough time and money to train yourself properly and practise in every spare moment. After all Heifetz or Paderewski did not play scales to their audiences on the stage of Carnegie Hall.

The Sordid Joy Of Charity

When is charity not charity? When it is extorted in consequence of threats. Then it becomes demanding money with menaces. A police matter…

In this unsavoury category I include nearly all professional fund-raising ventures that bombard the householder demanding money for unspecified people with sufferings that can only be assuaged through the accountant. They are but one stage cleaner than the ragged beggar that bails you up in the street or the thuggish hoodie who tries it on in the shopping centre car park.

Occasionally the organised charities will try it on with co-religion, national identity, or consanguinity. They will play the guilt harp as loud as the strings will stretch. They will try to inveigle you to fund-raising dinners that scour your pockets and then spotlight you to make sure you give out plenty.

Some will send you valueless goods – trinkets, stamps, stickers, or cards – that purport to benefit their poor makers  – and dare you to reject them. Or they will expose a  more ambitious range of quasi-ethnic junk in shops upon the premise that there is some sort of fair trade going on. Consider whether you need the tribal mask or the Australian dollars it takes to buy it. You can buy bread and vegetables with the dollars but try taking that mask to Woolies at grocery time.

But is it all bleak? Is it all hell with heels? Perhaps not.

The Sally Ann – Salvation Army to non-Australians – has had some dodgy money practices and some dodgy administrative policies in the past, but they still save bums from the street and still help poor families. The normal Salvationist is not dipping the till. They are still worth crossing the street to put money in the tin. And remember to tip your hat.

Bait

Bait is there for a reason.

It is to lure you to bite. Whether you are a fish looking at a tempting worm with a line attached, or a yokel looking at the sheriff’s 14-year-old daughter in a miniskirt, the bait is being presented to lead you to destruction. But these are easy examples – here’s more sophisticated ones.

a. Free Stuff One – ” The 45th click on this website will win a holiday or a caravan or a blender. ” In reality, the click will be collated and sold to advertisers who want to know what your email address is and how to get through it to your bank account.

You click, you lose.

b. Free Stuff two  – If you vote for the Star Spangled Green Social People’s Love And Fairness Party they might get a seat in Parliament. They’ll try to get your vote by promising you free stuff. And then they'[ll try to stay in that seat long enough to qualify for the Parliamentary pension scheme while collecting contributions from the faithful. All the while brating at you to give more.

You vote, you lose.

c. Outrage – you are presented with some dreadful images and tales of outrageous behaviour and are invited to react in a similar fashion. If the post succeeds you identify yourself to the watchers and they watch more closely. And they send ever more outrageous images to either lure you or drive you. Ultimately they look for money from you.

You react – you lose.

The best thing you can do with any of these fishing situations is do nothing at all. Time will reveal whether or not they have ever had any validity – in most cases the bait will shrivel up and disappear. Presumably jerked away by the person or organisation that dangled it, to be replaced by the next thing calculated to sucker you in.

The bait tin is full of worms…

The NBN Scam

Here in Australia we are just a phone call away from India. And in the case of our house that phone call is at 4:05 every afternoon.

The amazing part is that it is a different caller each time – apart from the silent ones or the hissers – and there is a slightly different pitch thrown with every one.

Today’s was the ” NBN “-  supposedly our developing national Broadband Network. It’s an ongoing fustercluck from both the federal government and a private quasi-corporation who pretend it is going to replace wires with optical cables and then up the speed of our internet connections. If it promised to connect us to unicorns and Judge Crater I would give it some serious credence, but as it is…

Now the Indian scammers have picked up on it and are ringing with either threats or promises to get us to allow malware to be installed in our computers. Today’s question revolved around technical work that was going on and what download speed we had. I suspect it was a complex shell game to allow some sort of ” test ” that would install a spyware program looking for passwords.

When the confused girl asked what speed we were experiencing I told her that we generally got about 350 MPH but this fell to 320 with drop tanks. Full throttle and water injection could up it to 385 but if you ran the computer too long at this setting the exhaust manifold would burn away. I was dead serious about this.

I’m not sure I cleared up her confusion.

The Day Of Fools

April 1st.

My day. My birthday. April 1st, 1948. And laugh if you will, when I give the signal, but it has always been a pretty good day for me – fool or not.

As a small child the day was always a celebration that had no connection to anyone outside my family and friends. You’re centered in that as a kid. It was only in the latter part of grade school that the significance of the occasion as a national prank day came to my attention.

Of course, in the natural way that school children have, it was seized upon as an excuse to torment me. And I was a little ashamed of the connection – until one person said that they were jealous of me because I would be able to do anything I wanted to others on April 1st morning and get away with it. It was the dawning of, if not wisdom, at least a new career.

Most April Fool jokes are practical to some extent, but short of damage to property, there’s not much of a practical nature that one little kid can do. But if they are inventive, coats can be switched around in cloak rooms, water coolers can be blocked with wadded paper, and similar low-grade japes. If they talk fast and in a complex manner they can infuriate the slower minds without being actually culpable. But they must stop at noon so as not to overstep the immunity.

This year I simply told the staff members at work that their employment contracts were being rescinded in favour of the system of physical slavery. They were advised to practice the phrases ” Yowsah ” and ” Sho Nuff “. When, by accident, the Star Track man delivered three bales of cotton, I left them to it.