Fraud and Big Business

On May 23, 2016, at approximately 1:00pm eastern time, my wife responded to a phone message indicating an issue with the IRS.  The person who handled her call insisted that she was subject to arrest if she didn’t clear up a tax evasion issues from her 2014 tax return.  He gave his name, badge number, dates that the IRS sent correspondence and threatened her with a public arrest and public humiliation if she didn’t follow directions to immediately clear up this balance.  Yet this whole conversation was a fraud.

 

He directed her to borrow a person’s car, and purchase prepaid Visa cards and sent them directly to your company’s locations to buy them and transfer them.  All the while he told her that if she ended the call she would be arrested.  She went to a CVS and bought as many as were allowed.  (There is apparently an awareness of potential criminal activity, but there must be acceptable losses allowed.)

 

When I finally tracked my wife down she had already acquired the cards and complied with every one of the person’s requests to stay out of jail.  I immediately knew that this was a scam and we went back to the post office to retrieve the cards that the fake IRS employee told her to mail to a bogus address. We called the police and they arrived at the post office.  They talked to the scammer online.  There is a record with the local Police Department.  We did retrieve the cards.

 

When we tried to follow the steps for cancelling these cards, we found that there was no way to get through to the prepaid companies.  All the phone numbers on the back of the cards were for automated computer responses and one of them even asked for our social security number…after just being scammed.  When we questioned a representative from OneVanilla a prepaid company, he said that the payee who received the funds was a known fraudulent business.  Further investigation found that this scam has been running for over 5 years.  The IRS even has the very name of the individual that was being used.

The use of the prepaid Visa card is part of the plan.  The perpetrator knew this and directed every step of the transaction.  He knew the location of the stores and knew where the cards were sold.  He knew how to instill fear and he attempted to wipe every trace of the transaction away by insisting that we mail the cards…to a phony IRS address.  This is known to pre-paid companies and no warning are made on the website, the cards, or at the point of sale. There is no way of accessing a human being and even as the crime was being committed we couldn’t stop it because we can’t get in touch with a human.  All totaled, 10 Visa cards totaling just under $5,000.00 were purchased and used to pay our phony delinquent tax bill to the scammer.  Of those 10, 6 were Green Dot cards and 4 were Vanilla.

 

Based on the information obtained so far, it is clear that Green Dot and One Vanilla were aware of this situation.  Additionally, Green Dot’s consumer access to their customer service is deplorable in light of this threat. Since there were no warnings about this scam that regularly utilizes Green Dot cards among others to launder their money, there is clearly a perceived liability on the part of the issuing bank.  I say perceived because it is my viewpoint and my perception matters here.

 

Since this happened almost 2 years ago and we had reported it to Green Dot and Vanilla and neither company has seen fit to respond to our case, we are pursuing a lawsuit.  These cards are sold in drug stores and dollar stores and they are displayed like candy and activated by clerks who know little more than the fact that they must be purchased in cash.  Since that time there has been a major break in one of the organizations responsible in India and there has been no restitution paid to the victims.  Still there is no warning to the consumer that they are being scammed if being called by the IRS and directed to these financial instruments because, apparently, it would cost the companies money.

 

According to Green Dot’s corporate site, they are doing quite well in returning corporate profits for those investors who don’t care for the dark side of their business or even dealing with consumers who are victimized by crooks who know their practices and know that they will continue to look the other way when presented with these crimes; yet they are as guilty as the person supplying a getaway car in a bank robbery. Financial fraud perpetrated on citizens through use of phone, mail and financial instruments is far more devious and dangerous and under reported.

 

It is for this reason that I have engaged an attorney to sue the companies that have participated in a fraud and done nothing to prevent it from happening again.  The criminals are still out there as my family members continue to get these calls.  I am suing because they are at the very least negligent if not complicit in the crimes being committed against Americans.  Clearly they have been silent on this issue because the percentage of frauds using their products represent a significant enough portion of their profits to make it part of their business plan.  Sad.

A Good Day

On March 1, I woke up to one of those WTF moments.  MLB, an organization that I have supported faith fully over the years with my devotion to the Phillies took $115 out of my PayPal account.  Since my PP account is linked to my Checking Account, this created a problem.  I immediately checked my PayPal account and the transaction said, “pre-authorized” subscription.  This irritated me.  I spent $10 for a subscription mid-season and I even questioned its worth at $10.  Little did I know that it came with the fine print to automatically renew at the “Cadillac” level.  I told PayPal that it was unauthorized.  Immediately they interpreted that my account was insecure and locked it.  I had to create a new password.  I cancelled the authorization to MLB and contacted MLB.  They agreed to the cancellation and offered me a refund…in 5 to 7 business days.  That’s business speak for 2 weeks.  I cried foul.  I sent them another email saying that they have triggered a cascading event of bills that won’t get paid because I am a retired person on a fixed income (yes, I played that card) and that I would most certainly seek out legal representation, call it an acceptable business practice and have a class action suit with my name attached before the week was out.  The money was back in my account within the hour.

Last night, I was playing Starbucks Bingo.  The space I was filling was the coffee with friends space.  Now, it is important to know that there was a specific definition for “Coffee with Friends”.

  

The game said to purchase 3 handcrafted beverages in one purchase charged to a single Starbucks Card.  My daughter had a Caramel Macchiato, my 2 “Handcrafted Teas”.  Now, I know that the teas cost a whole lot less and if I were the company, I would have tried to make that clear.  This is probably not the idea they had when specifying the drinks.  Then why call the teas “handcrafted?” The handcrafted nature of the teas must be the reason that they can charge $2.30 for dropping a teabag in hot water.

Hence, a complaint  raised via Starbucks website.  An email was returned to me within 2 hours saying that they were sorry.  They gave me 5 free stars (loyalty stuff), and encouraged me to finish the contest.  This infuriated me.  I responded that they couldn’t guarantee that this wouldn’t happen again and that they are responsible for misrepresenting this contest to the entire “loyal population”.  I accused them of making this deception a standard business practice and told them that I was going to expose it to the world and particularly their loyal users, who give Starbucks interest free loans everyday, might object to this.  I told them that they needed to credit the entire sale.  I had the entire amount back within the hour.

Now you might think that this is no major victory…but think about it.  They tried to appease me with stars.  Stars have no value and no cost to them as a company.  Furthermore, 5 stars can’t do anything by themselves.  I am also a single person in a group that should not be identified as a target for a fraudulent business practice.  Also, I know that things that happen electronically can be countered with a couple of keystrokes and the nonsense that you have to wait for your money is a pile of crap.

I am going to take this as a lesson that it is time to start fighting more battles for right.  In both these instances I have argued my case passionately and logically.  I have also said that I would contact my attorney to begin a class action suit in my name.  The best part is, I didn’t have to actually go through with contacting my attorney.  My argument, my logical argument stands.  It was wonderful.

This marks a change in my approach to recovering a whole lot of money that was wrongfully taken from me.  I am going to pick up the ball and run with it.  There are much bigger fish to fry.

The Parable of the Sower…and the “Bad Seed”

So I bought some wild flower seed from Home Depot last year.  I just wanted some flowers for my front yard.  I kept looking out my basement window to see weeds.  It was depressing.  When I passed the bag of Wild Flower Seeds, I thought…this would be much better.  I went home, pulled the weeds up, and raked the area a little to loosen the soil and planted the seed.  Then, I put some water on it.  Day after day when I passed the area, I anxiously waited for the sprouting of little flower plants.  I knew just where I had put the seed.  I watched the little brown specks just sit there.  Meanwhile, around the edges appeared the same old plants that I had pulled out.  Weeds had returned.

Now the bag said that it contained flower seeds.  There was a picture of what the resulting flowers would look like.  All indications were that this was good seed…but then again…how do I really know?  The truth is that I don’t.  This could be very bad seed.  This could be the kind of seed that wouldn’t grow in any condition.  I truly don’t know.

I am a practicing Christian.  I offer up a Bible reference because it speaks to me and maybe some others.  In the Parable of the Sower, we are given an absolute that “the Sower had good seed”.  He set out into the world and scattered his seed everywhere.  He didn’t discriminate.  He spread his “good seed” everywhere.  In this scenario we get the description of the failures of the seed.  Some fell on dry ground where it withered for lack of water.  Some fell in among the weeds and were choked out.  Some fell along rocks and along the footpath where they were trampled.  Then again…some fell on good soil.

Recently a person posted a question about school shootings and other mass shootings for that matter.  I commented and one of the contributing factors to the current crisis was something that he was involved in and “never shot up a school”.  Many more chimed in and soon we had a “free for all” of opinions with some people resorting to insults but mostly people offered up evidence of themselves not being a shooter and engaging in these activities that were indicated by me.  People have a tendency to protect what they hold dear and for some it is violent video games and guns.  It is very true that the combination of the two aren’t a predictor of mass killings.  It is also true that 40 years ago, they didn’t exist.  (You should have seen what was considered a state of the art graphics card in the original PC).  As a matter of fact, we had pong…and it was just as addictive.

Today we have a vastly different set of circumstances.  We don’t have the FCC restricting what we can watch.  We clamor for the right to see and do anything that we want in the name of personal liberty.  We can read, write and publish anything that we want.  It can be for the building up of the person and society or it could tear it down.  There are no barriers.  Anyone can access anything and cultivate any thought and create just the right soil for seed to grow…good or bad.  It takes just the right combination of things to grow a plant or create a monster.  Remember, sometimes the packaging makes it very difficult to determine what type of seed you have.

Now, there is very little that we can do about free speech and free exchange of ideas.  While this is also very scary sometimes, if we eliminate it entirely we truly let the bad guys win.  The video games which I still fail to appreciate in any form are here to stay as long as there is a market for them.  It is true that by percentage the vast majority of players don’t do harm to anyone by playing them…even hard core players.  This is a component of the “soil” that can help the bad seed grow.  So if these two issues aren’t going to change then we as a country have to be ready to throw some rocks into the fertile soil that creates the monster.

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 people mostly school children under the age of 10.   He used an automatic weapon.  The very same day in China a knife wielding man attacked 22 school children the same age as Sandy Hook and one adult and no one died.  In both cases…bad seed.  The difference was access to the automatic weapon.

The monster exists in a fallen world.  As a Christian, I believe this to be true.  I don’t believe that it means that we are to throw up our hands and say “oh well”.  The task ahead is a daunting one but we need to pursue it now more than ever because the soil is ready and the seed is out there.  Let’s look at the very first phrase in the 2nd amendment that states “a well regulated militia, being necessary to a free state,” and start by regulating…real regulating.

The question is can we do this and keep those gun enthusiasts who like to shoot happy and free to shoot?  I believe we can.  People who love shooting should be able to shoot…targets (which sadly are always shaped like people).  Having a weapon of war, one that should be restricted to the battlefield is not having a “well regulated militia” if that weapon is among a civilian population and kept in the home because of the access given to family members who possess neither the maturity or the responsibility needed to manage them, we will continue to have these “bad seed” incidents and countless more people will die needlessly.

Respectfully submitted.  Feel free to comment here.

Valentines Day

This is what it is all about.  It is about the experiences in our lives that brought us together and continue to bring us closer.  I will forever be grateful that I met this beautiful lady and that she consented to be my wife and that her family welcomed me with open arms.

Belief and Opportunity

So, it is a return to blogging. I know that it has been a while. I also know that I am better when I put things into words.

I have been working with a Network Marketing Company for year. I have done very little. Most of the time I follow what is going on, but I do very little. Oh, from time to time I get somewhat involved. The truth of the the matter is that I don’t believe. The question is “what don’t I believe?” I know the company is great. I know the product is good…everybody already uses it. Then, what don’t I believe in. It has to be me.

I have noticed that most people who do really well in this company are teachers. I have made my living as a teacher. Why then would I doubt my ability now? The truth is that I shouldn’t. It has been proven over and over again that my passion is what moves people. Today, I took a big step. Tomorrow, I will take another.

Lawyers are people too

Ah…people.  They are that form of life on this planet that are capable of so much.  It could be beautiful, artistic, empathetic, self sacrificing and every good quality that you can think of…but, people have and equally darker side.  It could be evil, devious, narcissistic, ugly and every form of evil that you can think of as well.

There are far more subtle and specifically human characteristics that are part of this human condition.  Laziness and carelessness come to mind.  I know.  I am a human and I have found myself in this condition.  When I am guilty of this, it means that I am not living up to my potential…and this is sad.  I do want to improve in this area.  I have every intention to get right to it.

The sad thing is that when I found the need for an attorney years ago, I thought that meant I bought perfection.  I never did consider the title of my blog post today.  It would appear that the time that has lapsed during the time of our relationship had a real effect.  Life, it appears, moved on while my legal problems stagnated.  In typical human life fashion the delay led to several more related legal issues…and they all have to do with money.

From my perspective, this can easily be attributed to laziness.  I know that he’s not working on my case as it should have been disposed of years ago.  The problem is that I neglected to remember that I am part of that team.  I am not able to understand legalese so when the friendly process server showed up at my door, I took the piles of paper and delivered them to my attorney and was confident that it would be handled.  Over the past few days, I have found that not to be the case.

Apparently, an overzealous attorney on the opposite side of the table took an action that “should not have been taken” and now my entire family is financially paralyzed.  Additionally, my daughter has had her entire life savings taken from her in an indiscriminate money grab.  Since I have my own attorney, I can’t talk to her, and by her I mean this faceless individual representing “the other side”.   I have to believe what my attorney is telling me and as of late that is very difficult.

So, from this date on, I am on the same level.  I know that their weaknesses are my weaknesses and their flaws are my flaws.  Out of love and dedication to my family, I am emboldened.  It is time to pick up the baton and direct this ensemble and create a harmonious resolution.  I hope you’re ready.  Rehearsals begin right now.

Fitness Find

So I was thinking about fitness today.  I have been disappointed because of my lack of progress in this area.  It is perhaps because I don’t do it regularly.  Then I began to think about the word and applying it to every area of my life.  Of course, the first thing that I thought of was financial fitness.  Now I have studied the Law of Attraction but I don’t think that it works this way.

After my long bike ride, I stopped at Starbucks to get an ice coffee and relax before finishing the ride home.  As always, I found a table with two chairs so that I could put my foot up.  As I moved the chair, I saw a nickel staring up at me, heads up.  It looked kind of old and I thought about leaving it alone, but my grandmother who used to collect coins taught me 2 things.  One was that heads up is good luck and the other is  that the older the coin the more likely it may be worth something.

I grabbed it and it said 1942 which I instantly recognized as a wartime nickel.  I flipped it over and it had the letter P above the Monticello.  This means that this coin contains silver.  I went online and found that it is worth 95 cents in its current condition.  That’s almost 20 times its face value.  This got me thinking…how many  other things do we take at face value without exploring a little deeper?

I think that I will explore and see what I can find.  Perhaps my own value has been only “face value”.  A little consistent effort on my part and maybe, just maybe the fitness find of the day will be financial fitness and maybe a whole lot more.

The Second Amendment and Weapons of War

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, like many others, has been abridged to a title so often that most people are completely unaware of what it says and as such the ambiguity of its meaning.  The words that were ratified underwent scrutiny so as to keep from absolutes being attributed to their utterance and their characterization to be adopted to a cause for which the words and laws were never intended.

At the time of the Revolution and the period just beyond, the fragile American Democracy had large lands and sea port access from foreign powers intent on depriving us of the free nation for which the forefathers fought so hard.  Additionally, although the Continental Congress created the American Army in 1775, the slowness of communication and the size of the growing nation meant that in order to defend the “home front” we would have to employ the use of Militia, or non professional soldiers called upon in times of need and at that time there were many times of need particularly since the war wasn’t won until far after the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Additionally, the weapons of war and the weapons used for hunting and defending the homestead were the same.  They were muskets with single shot capability.  While the British certainly had access to artillery, the home was not so equipped.  There seemed to be a definite difference between these weapons.  The right to keep and bear arms, meaning to have them in your homes and carry them around was necessary to perform the function of the Militia.

Today, the term Militia is used quite differently.  We have a secure nation, organized armed forces and have seen the peaceful transition of power over and over again.  We don’t need a Militia force to maintain a free nation.  In 1791, we did.

Today, we have weapons being carried by individuals who would object to being called up into a militia in defense of our country that can kill hundreds of people in a matter of minutes.  Why?  I believe one reason.  Commerce.  That’s right…the almighty dollar.

Private companies that should be manufacturing weapons of war for war are actively engaged in fanning the flames of the misinterpretation of this “right” to line their own pockets.  The more that people, ordinary citizens, have access to weapons of war, the greater the degree of lawlessness and the greater the degree that we will see the increase of these attacks.

The solution?  Immediately make it illegal to own or bear arms classified as a weapon of war.  That should include every weapon capable of automatic firing. This would not include weapons with revolutionary war capabilities for when the “right” was given…but no bombs, grenades, tanks, oh wait…they are already illegal.  Duh!

Existing guns in the hands of the public should be bought back by the government or allowed to remain owned by the individual but managed by a licensed firing range at government cost for a period of 1 year.  After a year, the owner is responsible for the payment of the safe and secure storage at the firing range.  The gun will only be fired at the range.

Before you get your panties or briefs or boxers in a twist…I know that this won’t be easy.  The argument that the individual is allowed to protect their house by virtue of this amendment, I have already explained that.  Oh, and you can continue to use your hunting rifle and handgun provided it is not automated in any way.

Oh and ignore that bullshit about the fact that when you give up your guns you give up your freedom.  That is propaganda spun by foreign powers who want to see us implode on our own.  Ignore fake news like that…and while I’m at it…legitimate news should stop legitimizing these shootings by using words like “worst shooting” in their headlines and then running reports about it all day.

That’s my opinion.  That’s my platform.  If you don’t think that there are current politicians (ehem leaders?) who would be willing to do this…then nominate me.  I’ll get it going.

Adversary

It is possible that retirement shouldn’t be about relaxing.  I am coming to believe this.  I am sitting here now under an umbrella gazing at palm trees and a rock mountain backdrop and it should be perfect.  I used to dream of this on those occasional perfect days at school, but now, I don’t know.  I am lacking motivation to do the things that I said that I wanted to do and I am bewildered.

Paradise Achieved

I have heard that some of the motivation comes from having an adversary.  That sounds counter-intuitive but it may very well be true.  Deadlines are important.  The problem with self imposed deadlines is that they are never really respected.  It’s almost like the only thing I live for now is meals.  Hmm…I’d love to write more…but I am hungry.  TTFN.