SEB Safety Tip: Do NOT set yourself on fire even if you see people on YouTube do it.

We’ve been over this before. Many. Many. MANY. Times. Before. Apparently I still have to say it again: Do not, no matter where you saw someone else do it or how cool they seemed when they did it or whether someone called you chicken if you didn’t do it, set yourself on fire. The Fire Challenge is a stupid thing to do and you will get burned. Just like this Michigan kid did:

Tabitha Cleary of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, told a reporter for CNN affiliate WDIV that her son, Jason Cleary, suffered second degree burns to his chin, chest and stomach after he was set on fire at a friend’s house.

“I just want everybody to know that these challenges, or whatever they’re watching on YouTube, is not worth your risking your life,” Cleary said. “My son got burned second degree, and it could have been way worse.”

Michigan boy suffers second degree burns in ‘fire challenge‘ — CNN.com

This kid was lucky. He’ll probably recover from this without too much lasting damage. Some of the other people I’ve written about previously ended up much worse off including one that had to be put into a drug induced coma because his injuries were so severe.

Don’t get me wrong, I had my own fascination with fire as an early teenager and had a couple of close eyebrow removing calls, but none of the stupid things I did with fire involved literally and intentionally setting myself on fire. My parents had to tell me not to do a lot of stupid things, but none of them was ever “do not douse yourself in flammable liquids and then strike a match to it.”

On a more general note, you should probably think twice before taking on any of the “challenges” you see on YouTube or social media. Unless it’s immediately obvious that there’s little danger of doing real damage to yourself. I’m thinking of things like the Ice Bucket Challenge that was a craze for awhile. You should at least do some research on what the risks of a particular challenge are and then, maybe, just watch the other idiots do it and not be an idiot yourself.

Oh, and even the Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t without risk. Lots of people got bonked on the noggin pretty damn hard when the people dumping the water on them lost their hold on what was clearly more of a picnic cooler and not a bucket.

Why not try a Take A Nap Challenge? Something nice and easy and beneficial? Just lay down on a couch and take a nap. Not a couch that’s on fire, just a normal couch. I feel like I shouldn’t have had to say that last part, but given some of the stupider people out there that keep setting themselves on fire I figured I should probably bring it up.

September 11th.

Imagine No Religion

It’s 2019 and grown-ass adults have to be told not to drink bleach. Apparently.

Every now and then I stop to ponder how we, collectively as a country, could have been stupid enough to elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land. A job he was clearly unqualified for to anyone who had more than two brain cells to rub together. Surely there aren’t that many drooling idiots out there that are so susceptible to Russian propaganda as to make such a thing possible. I know the results of the election show that, yes, clearly this must be true, but my brain struggles to accept the obvious conclusion.

Holy shit, don’t actually do this.

And then I come across a warning from the FDA telling these same people that, no, drinking bleach will not cure your AIDS/Cancer/Autism/Hepatitis/Flu and that they should stop drinking it and/or, even worse, making their kids drink it. You might think I’m kidding, but I am not:

Since 2010, the FDA has warned consumers about the dangers of Miracle or Master Mineral Solution, Miracle Mineral Supplement, MMS, Chlorine Dioxide (CD) Protocol, Water Purification Solution (WPS) and other similar products. Miracle Mineral Solution has not been approved by the FDA for any use, but these products continue to be promoted on social media as a remedy for treating autism, cancer, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and flu, among other conditions. However, the solution, when mixed, develops into a dangerous bleach which has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.

“The FDA’s drug approval process ensures that patients receive safe and effective drug products. Miracle Mineral Solution and similar products are not FDA-approved, and ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach. Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason,” said FDA Acting Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D. “The FDA will continue to track those selling this dangerous product and take appropriate enforcement actions against those who attempt to evade FDA regulations and market unapproved and potentially dangerous products to the American public. Our top priority is to protect the public from products that place their health at risk, and we will send a strong and clear message that these products have the potential to cause serious harm.”

Source: FDA warns consumers about the dangerous and potentially life threatening side effects of Miracle Mineral Solution — U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Note that first sentence: “Since 2010.” Meaning people have been drinking bleach in hopes of curing various issues that largely do not have a cure for almost a fucking decade. I think this explains a lot about the current political environment in America today. It’s not the Russian propaganda all over Facebook and Twitter that is the problem, it’s the fact that enough people are drinking bleach as a miracle cure that the fucking FDA has had to repeatedly tell them to stop. Apparently to no avail.

Where the fuck did people get the idea that drinking bleach was somehow a miracle cure? From a religious nut, of course. A former Scientologist dude named “Jim Humble” (of course) founded and then declared himself the archbishop of The Genesis II Church of Health & Healing. Except it’s really not a religion as you don’t have to have any particular beliefs to join it — not even the ones espoused by the founder(s) — you just have to be able to cough up $35 and, voila, you’re a “church member” complete with an ID card spelling out all the advantages membership brings. Stuff like:

1. Protection against vaccinations, unwanted x-rays, scans, or health insurance mandated by human authority. We are a church and it is against our church’s beliefs. People have already used their membership cards to keep from being vaccinated, and from going through scans.

2. The ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity including but not limited to food, plants, vitamins minerals, herbs and all remedies in any quantity necessary for yourself or your family. This protection will be more understood when the church has its own health food stores right in the church building. The belief includes the right to maintain these products in your own home.

3. The membership includes a picture membership card with these rights written on the back and a notice that anyone violating these rights will be prosecuted by the Church.

Wow! Not even Jesus promises the ability to purchase health products of all kinds in any quantity! Though the definition of “health products” is being very loosely applied here as one of the big things that Mr. Humble promotes is his Miracle Mineral Supplement which Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about:

I want to tell you about a breakthrough that can save your life, or the life of a loved one. In 1996, while on a gold mining expedition in South America, I discovered that chlorine dioxide quickly eradicates malaria. Since that time, it has proven to restore partial or full health to hundreds of thousands of people suffering from a wide range of disease, including cancer, diabetes, hepatitis A, B, C, Lyme disease, MRSA, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, malaria, autism, infections of all kinds, arthritis, high cholesterol, acid reflux, kidney or liver diseases, aches and pains, allergies, urinary tract infections, digestive problems, high blood pressure, obesity, parasites, tumors and cysts, depression, sinus problems, eye disease, ear infections, dengue fever, skin problems, dental issues, problems with prostate (high PSA), erectile dysfunction and the list goes on. This is by far not a comprehensive list. I know it sounds too good to be true, but according to feedback I have received over the last 20 years, I think it’s safe to say MMS has the potential to overcome most diseases known to mankind.

Repeat after me “anecdotes are not data.” He’s right about one thing though, it does sound too good to be true. Because it isn’t true.

Jim gives away the recipe to this miracle on his website for free which has lead to a shit load of unscrupulous people setting up websites and selling it on the Internet. Fortunately, the FDA is cracking down and prosecuting the folks peddling it. Which is good because drinking it can cause vomiting and severe diarrhea — which a lot of these websites will claim proves it’s working — and can cause much bigger problems like dangerously low blood pressure, damage to the digestive tract, acute liver failure, and kidney damage. Poison control centers across this country have seen almost 17,000 cases of idiots drinking chlorine dioxide — industrial fucking bleach — since 2014.

My cynical side says that this is the definition of a self-correcting problem. If enough idiots drink enough bleach then it’ll go away on its own. The issue is not only are they not drinking enough bleach, but they’re inflicting it on others who don’t have the ability to say no. I draw the line at people trying to sell it as a legit medicinal product and at you deciding to shove it down your kids’ throat because you can’t handle the fact that he/she is autistic.

However, It’s a free country and if you want to chug some industrial bleach in hopes it’ll cure your gout then more power to you. The recipe, as I said, is freely available on Jim (I’m so) Humble’s website. You’re an idiot, but you’re an idiot with the right to do stupid things to yourself if you really want to. That said, I would highly recommend that you consider the following bit of text at the bottom of the page that has the MMS recipe on it:

Disclaimer: The protocols described on this site are official sacraments of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing. The reader accepts 100% responsibility for any and all use made of any information herein.

I don’t know about you, but any church that has to cover its ass with a disclaimer for its “miracle cure” is one I wouldn’t have much faith in. Bottoms up!

No, the Social Security Administration won’t call you about “suspicious activity.”

So my wife rings me up at work this morning to tell me about a strange phone call she’d just gotten. An automated voice claiming to be from the Social Security Administration was contacting her about suspicious activity involving her SSN that will result in an immediate suspension of her number if she doesn’t take steps to clear her name. The longer she listened to it the more she thought to herself, “This is bullshit,” and she hung up on the call.

She called me because there was just enough of a nagging doubt that she wanted to make sure she did the right thing. She did. It’s a scam that’s been growing since at least 2017. Here’s a recording of one of these calls:

Gotta admit that I can see how some folks would panic if they got a phone call like that one. It sounds legit enough and it doesn’t help that the scammers are spoofing the real phone number of the SSA (1-800-772-1213) on your Caller ID.

There are two basic types of these calls. One is to try and get you to “verify” your SSN by entering it into the phone so they can attempt Identity Theft. With the other type they try to get you to pay a fee by going out and buying gift cards and then reading off the codes to those cards to the scammer on the phone. This is basically the same scam as the IRS imposter scam that was making the rounds for a few years.

According to the FTC website:

In 2017, we heard from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams, and those people reported losing nearly $210,000. So far THIS year: more than 35,000 people have reported the scam, and they tell us they’ve lost $10 million.

Source: This is what a Social Security scam sounds like – Federal Trade Commission

The page I’m quoting from was last updated in December of 2018 and it’s only gotten worse since then. From April 2018 to March 2019 the reported losses grew to $19 million.

Here’s the bit that I don’t get: How is it that folks are not recognizing this is a scam as soon as they’re told to go out and buy gift cards and then read the numbers off to the guy on the phone? How is that not a smack over the head that this is not a legit call?

I mean, I can understand falling for the request to verify your SSN because there are lots of occasions (banks, etc.) where you might be asked to do that, but who out there is so dumb to think that a government agency accepts payment by gift cards only or, worse, Bitcoin?

In an updated article about this from this past April, the FTC said:

Click to embiggen.

As the graphic shows, people reported the IRS scam (in blue) in huge numbers for many years, but the new SSA scam (in orange) is trending in the same direction – with a vengeance. People filed over 76,000 reports about Social Security imposters in the past 12 months, with reported losses of $19 million.1 Compare that to the $17 million in reported losses to the IRS scam in its peak year.2 About 36,000 reports and $6.7 million in reported losses are from the past two months alone.

Just 3.4% of people who report the Social Security scam tell us they lost money.3 Most people we hear from are just worried because they believe a scammer has their Social Security number. But when people do lose money, they lose a lot: the median individual reported loss last year was $1,500, four times higher than the median individual loss for all frauds.4 All age groups are reporting this scam in high numbers, with older and younger adults filing loss reports at similar rates.5

People report sending money in unconventional ways. Most often, people say they gave the scammer the PIN numbers on the back of gift cards. Virtual currencies like Bitcoin come in a distant second to gift cards: people say they withdrew money and fed cash into Bitcoin ATMs. With both methods, the scammer gets quick cash while staying anonymous, and the money people thought they were keeping safe is simply gone.

So let’s break a few things down:

  • No, your SSN is not about to be suspended, your bank accounts are not about to be seized, and you are not about to have an arrest warrant put out on you. This is bullshit, plain and simple.
  • The Social Security Administration will never contact you and tell you to wire them money, send cash, or (for crying out loud) give them gift cards or they’ll suspend your benefits. Never. Doesn’t happen.
  • You should never give out your SSN and/or personally identifying info to someone who has called you out of the blue even if you think it’s legit and the Called ID is the real number for whomever is calling. Hang up and call a number you know is associated with whatever you’re dealing with to make sure the request is legit first.
  • If you did do the above then go to https://www.identitytheft.gov/SSA to learn what steps you can take to protect yourself from Identity Theft.
  • Lastly, report government imposter scams to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint. To learn more, visit ftc.gov/imposters.

As always, be vigilant. There are a lot of unscrupulous people in this world working hard to scam you out of your money. If something smells like bullshit to you then it’s probably bullshit and you should do some digging before handing over any info or money. Most importantly, remain calm. These assholes are relying on you freaking out to make it easier to get you to do something stupid. Don’t be stupid. Don’t freak out.

It’s July 4th, 2019 and it’s feeling a little fascist out there.

I’ve not blogged anything in awhile in part because my creative juices have dried up and in part because every day there’s so many new outrages to come out of the Trump administration that it’s hard to keep up without being overwhelmed. Children in concentration camps, his unqualified kids sticking their noises in at the G20 summit, and now his big Russian styled military parade for the 4th of July.

This is why the title doesn’t wish you a Happy 4th. There’s nothing to be happy about this year. It’s all starting to feel way too much like the dictatorships Trump loves to buddy up to. More worrying to me, however, is how Trump has shown the willingness of Republicans to tolerate a wanna-be Stalin so long as he’s a Republican giving them want they want. Trump has already done so many things that they would’ve tried to impeach Obama for if he had done them that it really does put to bed any credibility they might have had. There was one Republican who stood up and called for impeachment, but he’s announced that he’s leaving the party so they don’t even have him to point to anymore.

So, have a safe July 4th. That’s the best I can do this year.

Someone is trying to steal my credit.

Received a letter from Credit One Bank today telling me the $435.68 payment on my credit card wouldn’t be accepted until I provided them with a letter from the bank the check was issued from on official letterhead stating that it was an authorized payment and with all this additional information to prove it was legit and in the meantime my account with Credit One was suspended.

Just one problem: I’d never heard of Credit One Bank until I got the letter today and I have never applied for a credit card from them. So, I spent the next hour on the phone with an “Account Specialist” who filed a report asking for the account to be investigated for fraud.

Turns out the account was opened on April 14th, which puts it around the same time as another attempt at opening a card with Capital One happened. That was only foiled because they used my old address in Canton instead of my current address and Capital One called to inquire about the discrepancy. I suppose I should take some comfort in that whoever this asshole opening accounts in my name is they’re at least trying to make payments on them with fraudulent checks? I’m also somewhat amused/annoyed that the amount of verification required for reactivating my “temporarily” suspended account is so much more than what is required to open the account in the first place.

Sneaky hacker graphic of Identity Theft by CafeCredit

I already knew I was part of the huge data breach of Equifax back in 2017 and I was wondering how long it would be before someone finally tried to make use of my data. I spent quite a bit more time today getting my free credit report which verifies the Credit One account having been opened and filing a dispute of it with both TransUnion and Experian. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear that any other credit cards have been successfully opened under my name. I’ve already put a freeze on my credit with Equifax, but still need to do so with the other two.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve looked at your credit report then now might be a good time to do so. You can check all three reporting agencies at once through Annual Credit Report.com which is run by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You are entitled by law to one free credit report from each of the companies every 12 months. If you need to file a dispute you can do so online through their respective websites. You can also insure information about you is up to date. TransUnion, for example, didn’t have my current address. This is especially important if, like me, you are a victim of the Equifax breach.

Science literacy is important for more than not looking like an idiot.

A recent United Nations report warned that up to 1 million species are facing extinction thanks to the impact humans are having on the planet.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” Watson says. He emphasizes that business and financial concerns are also threatened. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” he says.

The report lists a number of key global threats, from humans’ use of land and sea resources to challenges posed by climate change, pollution and invasive species.

“Insect pollinators are unfortunately an excellent example of the problems caused by human activities,” Scott McArt,an entomology professor at Cornell University, says in a statement about the report.

“There’s actually a newly coined phrase for insect declines — the ‘windshield effect’ — owing to the fact that if you drove your car at dusk 30 years ago, you would need to clean the windshield frequently, but that’s no longer the case today,” McArt says.

1 Million Animal And Plant Species Are At Risk Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says – NPR.org


There’s a very real danger at this point that if this high number of extinctions does to come to pass that we’ll end up going down with them. So the folks at Jimmy Kimmel Live went out on the street to ask people if we should save ourselves. Specifically, they used the scientific term for humans, Homo sapiens. These are some of the replies people gave:

To be fair, these segments only ever show you the clueless replies and the sample size here is very small, but humans being classified as Homo sapiens is a basic scientific fact that we were all taught (or should have been taught) in grade school. It’s similar to how a lot of folks don’t know that Dihydrogen Monoxide (H2O) is literally water, but that one is a little easier to understand folks not knowing if they didn’t take basic chemistry — not completely understandable as I never took basic chemistry and I know it, but a little more understandable.

I’ve ranted previously about the sad state of science literacy in America and things really haven’t improved much. Periodically the folks at the Pew Research Center conduct a survey to find out what Americans know about science. Their latest was done on January 7th to the 21st, 2019 and consisted of 11 fairly basic questions:

Americans give more correct than incorrect answers to the 11 questions. The mean number of correct answers is 6.7, while the median is 7. About four-in-ten Americans (39%) get between nine and 11 correct answers, classified as having high science knowledge on the 11-item scale or index. Roughly one-third (32%) are classified as having medium science knowledge (five to eight correct answers) and about three-in-ten (29%) are in the low science knowledge group (zero to four correct answers).

The biggest factor in determining how well someone does is the level of education that have managed to acquire:

Americans with a postgraduate degree get about four more questions correct, on average, than those with a high school degree or less education (9.1 of 11 questions vs. 5 of 11). Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) Americans with a postgraduate degree are classified as high in science knowledge, answering at least nine of 11 items correctly. By contrast, about two-in-ten (19%) of those with a high school degree or less perform as well on the scale.

And on each of the 11 questions, those with a postgraduate degree are at least 27 percentage points more likely to choose the correct answer than those with a high school degree or less.

There are also large differences between different ethnic groups which you would think could be tied to the fact that minorities often don’t have the same educational opportunities are whites, but it appears that may not be the case:

Whites are more likely than Hispanics or blacks to score higher on the index. Whites get an average of 7.6 correct out of 11 questions, while Hispanics average 5.1 correct answers and blacks 3.7 correct answers.4 Roughly half of whites (48%) are classified as having high science knowledge on the scale, answering at least nine questions correctly, compared with 23% of Hispanics and 9% of blacks.

Differences by race and ethnicity on science knowledge could be tied to several factors such as educational attainment and access to science information. However, differences between the racial/ethnic groups on science knowledge hold even after controlling for education levels in a regression model.

In a society that is increasingly reliant on technology and understanding the complexity of things such as the climate it’s more important than ever that folks have at least a basic understanding of science and the methodology of the scientific method. This survey suggests we have a long way to go. It’s no wonder we’re letting the planet burn.

You can take the quiz used for this survey yourself by clicking here. My own education level isn’t fantastic; I’ve had some college but I’ve never finished a degree. Yet I managed to get all 11 questions correct which is better than 83% of the public.

There were two questions I had to stop and think about before answering (and, no, I didn’t cheat and Google the answers), but the vast majority of these questions were answerable off the top of my head. That should be true for most people.

On the bright side, at the least I don’t have to worry that I’ll end up on one of Kimmel’s idiots-who-don’t-know-basic-science videos.

Brain supplements are a waste of money.

If you’re getting on in years you may have noticed that a lot of web advertising these days consists of pitches for supplements that are supposed to improve “brain health” and prevent things like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The industry that makes these products pulls down $3.2 billion every year showing that there’s lots of folks worried about falling victim to these conditions as they age. There’s just one problem with these products: None of them have been demonstrated to do a damned thing other than drain your wallet.

“This $3.2-billion industry … benefits from high-penetration consumer advertising through print media, radio, television and the internet,” the neurologists wrote. “No known dietary supplement prevents cognitive decline or dementia, yet supplements advertised as such are widely available and appear to gain legitimacy when sold by major U.S. retailers.”

Are brain supplements a big waste of money? – MarketWatch.com
Image by Melanie Simon from Pixabay

It’s bad enough that these bullshit products are sold alongside legitimate medicines at your local pharmacy, but apparently there are also licenced medical personnel that are pushing pseudo-medical treatments:

“Some of these practitioners may stand to gain financially by promoting interventions that are not covered by insurance, such as intravenous nutrition, personalized detoxification, chelation therapy, antibiotics or stem cell therapy. These interventions lack a known mechanism for treating dementia and are costly, unregulated and potentially harmful,” the article states.

There are a lot of companies out there that are eager to cash in on your fears. According to the MarketWatch article, the FDA ‘issued a statement saying it posted 17 warning and advisory letters to domestic and foreign companies that illegally sell 58 products — many of them dietary supplements — that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health conditions. […] “These products may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.”’

Unfortunately, the MarketWatch article takes a nosedive in the latter half by talking with a naturopath who proscribes Homeopathic treatments which is another big woo-woo bullshit industry. To her credit she agrees that using dietary supplements that aren’t backed by solid research is a problem, but that’s about the only credit she deserves. Homeopathy is an even bigger batch of nonsense than the dietary supplement industry. At least the supplements contain actual ingredients.

Don’t fall for the bullshit. The causes of Dementia and Alzheimer’s are complex and promising research is ongoing, but so far nothing has been shown to be an effective preventative of these conditions. Not only are brain health supplements just a waste of money, but they’re also potentially harmful and could end up interacting with other prescription drugs you may be taking in negative ways.

Hell, this is true for dietary supplements in general. Most do nothing other than cost money. Some are dangerous when taken with other prescription medication. Vitamin supplements are arguably useful, but only when your doctor says you actually need them. If you’re already getting all the vitamins you need from your diet then you will literally piss away anything extra you get from a supplement.

You can take your fandom too far.

I’ve said before that I do appreciate it when the Trumpsters self-identify because it makes it easier to know who to avoid talking to, but you can overdo it:

He's more 'MURICA! than anyone else he knows!
They’re more ‘MURICA! than anyone else they know!

Dude, we get it. You’re a raging asshole who is apparently willing to risk traffic tickets to tell the world whose dick you’d be more than happy to ride on for a few hours, but you could’ve saved time and money with just a couple of those on your bumper. That’d be all it would take to insure anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together would leave you alone.

Perhaps you should consider taking up a hobby. May I suggest meditation? In a straight-jacket?

14 years after trying to scam my brother, Saint Matthew’s Church gets around to mailing me.

In January of 2015 my brother chatted with me on MSN Messenger (remember that?) about a mailing he got from an organization calling itself Saint Matthew’s Churches. They had sent him the amazingly wonderfully amazing Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug which, they promised, would perform a legitimate miracle by opening its closed eyes if you just stared at it long enough and prayed.

The idea was that “Jesus sees your needs” and all you had to do to be financially blessed by the Son of God was say, “Yes, Lord Jesus, I do need Your financial blessings upon me and my family’s finances!” and then send a “seed gift” to the folks at Saint Matthew’s Churches along with the prayer rug. Afterall, you have to spend money to make money, right? Apparently the same rules apply with God. Though you’d think you’d get to keep the prayer rug. I guess they didn’t have enough to go around even though it was clearly a cheap printing on low-quality cloth.

They also had a big form to fill out where you could check off what things you were struggling with and then they’d pray for God to help you with those things, but the big thing they kept emphasising in the package was just how much money other people had been “blessed” with. One woman got $46,000 after praying to the rug and sending it back with her seed gift and another person got $10,000. You can read my original blog post about it here.

Fast forward 14 years and I come home from work to find this envelope waiting for me in my mailbox:

When I saw it was from Saint Matthew’s Churches I knew I recognized the name and as soon as I opened the envelope I knew why. It’s the same scam as my brother got almost a decade and a half ago.

Well, not quite the same as there is no amazingly wonderfully amazing miracle Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug this time. No, this time it’s a Prosperity Handkerchief. Production values have definitely gone down over the years as the Anointed Jesus Prayer Rug was printed on something resembling cloth whereas this Prosperity Handkerchief doesn’t perform any miracles and is clearly printed on a standard 8×11 sheet of copier paper. Seriously:

Blow your nose with this handkerchief and you’ll suffer the Lord’s wrath with a paper cut on your nose.

The spiel, however, is very close to the original. Using this amazingly wonderfully amazing Prosperity Handkerchief has resulted in folks having all manner of Spiritual, Physical, but — most important of all — FINANCIAL blessings rained down upon them from the Good Lord above. God sees you need money and He’s willing to be most generous so long as you’re willing to be generous first with Saint Matthew’s Churches.

As you look through the scans of the brochure then sent me below, note the lack of specificity of the rewards compared to 14 years ago. Clearly the number of folks complaining about this scam to the BBB and various charity watchdogs has had an impact. Instead of “this woman got $46,000” it’s now “I used this [Prosperity] Handkerchief and … I received [a huge financial blessing].” I guess so long as you make the testimonials vague enough and put shit in brackets with lots of underlines then it’s A-OK.

I also find it amusing how so much of the artwork and styling looks like something crapped out in the 1950s. They claim to have been established in 1951 so I suppose that’s not surprising, but you’ll note that in that last scan above there’s a very modern roll of hundred dollar bills and a Cadillac SUV that has been crudely photoshopped in. Sure, folks got jobs and raises and just plain old happiness, but LOOK AT THE MONEY AND CARS!

“But,” I hear you say, “what about the miracle?” Well this time they have something even BETTER than a miracle! They have a PERSONALIZED PROPHECY! You may remember seeing something about that on the back of the envelope up above. You’re not supposed to open it until after sunset the day after you get the mailing for reasons that are never specified. Additionally, you shouldn’t open the prophecy until after you have sent the paper handkerchief and your “seed” money back to the church. If you’re not going to send the money then you must DESTROY the prophecy without reading it!

Ha! Yeah, I’m not sending them shit and I am reading this supposedly highly personalized prophecy that God dictated to them to send to me even though He could’ve saved on postage if He’d just show up and tell me Himself. I wonder why “He” doesn’t just do that?

Wow, that was, underwhelming. Lots of generic talk about a “greater purpose” that I “haven’t discovered yet” and “the power was IN YOU ALL ALONG” bullshit. I’ve seen phony psychic readings that were more specific than this claptrap.

Lastly, we have the final page that has the “what other shit other than money do you need us to pray for you which we totally won’t do” form. I particularly like how personalized the opening is: “Dear … Someone Connected with This Home, Who Needs Prayer and God’s Divine Help and Blessings… In the name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. ” Yeah, that’s totally not my name.

So, yeah, 14 years later and they’re still at it with a few tweaks to the message to stay just this side of legal. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised as they were at it for longer than that prior to my brother telling me about them.

When I first wrote about them in 2005 I mentioned that Saint Matthew’s Churches made $26 million in 1999, which was the last year they made their tax records public. As of 2007 it’s estimated they were pulling down $6 million a month. That’s a lot of sheep being fleeced. Mostly elderly sheep too. They construct their mailing lists specifically to target older believers many of whom are the least likely to be able to afford sending along money and you can bet your ass that those who do will find a whole lot more prayer scam letters showing up in their mailboxes.

In that original post about these asshats I said that I was torn between feeling angry that the religiously gullible are being taken advantage by an unscrupulous organization and feeling that they’re getting what they deserve for being gullible sheep to begin with. That hasn’t changed much over time and neither has the tactics of Saint Matthew’s Church. So I suppose the only thing to say is: buyer beware.