Saturday, June 15, 2013

Scams

B, an old friend from high school, directs a non-profit recognizing women's leadership here in San Diego. A few weeks ago she discovered (quite by accident - she was showing an intern from abroad the difference between a Bing search and a Google search) that someone had set up a copycat site, using the same charity name, text and photos - and a "donate now!" button of its own. Sleuthing a little, B discovered that the copycat site was the work of one of her organization's past honorees, who had listed herself and a friend as board members and had been calling people soliciting donations, and also pays her rent from these fraudulently gained donations. I couldn't believe my ears. B is more philosophical. She's read a book claiming that one person in 25 is a sociopath - "has no conscience" - and they've had 300 honorees so far so it's not that surprising... besides, self-aggrandizing and fraudulent charities are, unfortunately, nothing new. They've hired an attorney and are working to get the copycat site's host to take it down - more easily said than done. (The fake site is still up; I just checked.)

I am still speechless. But in these few weeks at my parents' place in California I've been reminded that such unscrupulous scams are far from rare. Our town association has warned people against scammers calling and pretending to be police demanding confirmation of address and SSN for court proceedings, and then offering a cash out-of-court settlement. Someone's called us at least twice "to schedule the delivery of an emergency notification system" which we never ordered; when I asked, he said that someone had paid for it for us. There should be a special circle in hell for those who prey on the vulnerable like this.

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