I remember those early cable TV days.

Came across this meme on Facebook today and it made me a little ranty. It’s one of the big reasons I ended up cutting the cord years ago and switching to streaming only. It’s largely accurate except for Bravo.

Image may contain: text that says 'TV CHANNELS: THEN & NOW WHAT IT SHOWED THEN MTV Music videos WHAT IT SHOWS NOW TLC Trash reality shows that feature young, attractive people Medical shows and documentaries ANIMAL PLANET Trash reality shows that feature oddballs and grossouts Wildlife documentaries A&E Trash reality shows that feature doggies and kitties Historical biographies HISTORY Trash reality shows that feature murders and ghosts History documentaries BRAVO Trash reality shows that feature pawn shops Makeovers and weddings DISCOVERY Trash reality shows that feature gold diggers Nature programming WEATHER Weather Trash reality shows that feature gold-diggers Weather @MATTSURELEE'

I was a teenager in the 1980s when Cable TV started showing up everywhere. I can recall clearly hearing the news that it was coming to my hometown of Pontiac, MI and how excited everyone was for it. I can also remember the launch of several of these channels.

MTV was a channel I spent a lot of time on and is the major reason I can recognize musical groups from that era when I see pictures of them. Hours were spent watching videos and when we moved out to Orion Township in 1984, which didn’t have cable TV yet, my mother felt so bad that she bought a couple of MTV compilation VHS tapes to make up for it. I think I still have them around here someplace.

Some folks know that TLC stood for The Learning Channel and started off with a lot of educational programming and documentaries, but what a lot of them don’t know is that it’s one of the oldest cable channels. Founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as the Appalachian Community Service Network its focus was on education through TV and was distributed for free by NASA satellite. It was privatized in 1980 and became The Learning Channel and its main competitor was The Discovery Channel, which aired similar content. TLC was considered the better channel for shows about nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, and home improvement. So, of course, the folks behind The Discovery Channel ended up eventually buying them out and then slowly moved the content to the trash that it is today for the sake of ratings. Then in 2006 to 2008 they tried to shift their focus back to actual educational programming even using “The Learning Channel” in some promotions. That didn’t last long at all.

Of all the channels above, TLC is the one I’m most upset about because it in the early days I really enjoyed it. The HISTORY Channel falls into the same category. I struggled with history in school, but I enjoyed the hell out of the programming on The HISTORY Channel back when it actually had shows about history on it. Arts & Entertainment (A&E, natch) was also really good in the early days even if I didn’t watch it all that much because I have no artistic sensibility. BRAVO I didn’t watch much of because I recall it had a lot of operas and “serious theater” on it which didn’t have enough explosions to keep my ADHD addled attention. Not sure why the meme lists BRAVO as makeovers and weddings as that’s the crap it turned into before it went full reality TV programming.

The Discovery Channel was another early favorite because I was big into science stuff and so were they. My favorite program was out of Australia called “BEYOND 2000” which was all about the cool shit we’d be using in the future. I first heard about Dental Implants on that show and now they’re actually a thing here in the future. At the end of my time as a cable TV subscriber the only shows I could stand to watch on the channel was The MythBusters and occasionally How It’s Made.

The joke of the meme is the WEATHER channel, which covered the weather back then and still largely does so today, but it hasn’t escaped from the reality TV trend entirely. With shows like Fat Guys in the Woods and So You Think You Would Survive, they’ve got their toes in the water. Hell, not even the major cable news networks have managed to avoid the trend.

The promise of cable TV back in the day was that it had enough room for networks devoted to knowledge to exist alongside the standard TV fare and for a while it lived up to that promise. Alas, ratings mean money and when the first reality TV show showed you could get massive ratings for extraordinarily little expenditure the fate of these channels was sealed. Why show an informative documentary on how paper clips are made when you can air a show about the hardships of a family of little people and make four times the cash from it?

The same sort of thing happened to parts of the Internet. I first ventured onto the net before the World Wide Web was a thing, so it was a text-based experience. USENET News Groups were the main draw back then functioning much like web-based message forums of today or the Bulletin Board Systems we ran before the Internet was widely available. There were groups devoted to all sorts of topics and they put you in contact with knowledgeable people around the world. Alt.Sex was an amazing forum for getting information from experts about that topic right up until around 1996 when the boom in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) happened and suddenly the Internet became a lot more crowded. Groups like Alt.Sex went from being a place with useful info to nothing but porn ads almost overnight.

It’s almost like any form of educational thing gets ruined the minute you give it to the masses. Early cable TV was highly informative as was the early Internet. Once it reached the mass public both kinda soured. There are still areas of both that hold worthwhile content, but content aimed at the lowest common denominator reigns king and you must step around a lot of dog shit to get to it. It’s a shame. I miss those early days, but that’s probably me being a grumpy old man looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

Hey you kids! Get the fuck offa my lawn!

The lewdest city name in Michigan.

Browsing through Facebook this morning as I am often wont to do, I came across this meme that left me so outraged that I had to blog about it. The shoddiness of the research is mind blowing and I could not allow this injustice to stand.

Half-assed research will not be tolerated.

Dick is the best they could come up with? I mean, come on, Dick is a literal ghost town. A former lumber settlement that had a postal stop and a railway station and not much of anything else. The post office closed in 1906 and the place has been dead ever since.

What about Climax, Michigan? Now that’s a lewd name. I remember that I was driving along I-96 from Lansing to Detroit to pick up my paycheck — it’s a long story I won’t go into now — and I passed a sign that said, “CLIMAX 1¼ MILES” and all I could think was that at 70 MPH that just wasn’t enough time.

Nope, I wasn’t kidding.

At least Climax is still kicking with a population of around 783 (est.) as of last year. Then there’s Butman, MI, population 1,967. That’s a classic right there.

Yes, there are T-shirts.

Ironwood, pop. 4,936, sounds fairly lewd.

In addition to being able to last for hours, Ironwood has a giant statue of a Native American for some reason.

Here’s a few more for your consideration: Frankenlust, pop 3,514, sounds like a Mary Shelly porn novel.

Beaver Township, pop. 2,801, BEAVER FREAKIN’ TOWNSHIP! NEED I SAY MORE?

Mount Haley, pop. 1,650, not exactly lewd until you think about it.

Clam Union, pop. 893, CLAM UNION? WHY NOT JUST NAME IT SCISSORS AND BE DONE WITH IT??

None of them, however, can top Felch, Michigan. Population 734. Dick simply cannot compete with Felch for title of most lewd city name in Michigan. You may need to use Google to find out why Felch is such a lewd name, but you may regret doing so. Proceed at your own discretion.

When you consider this picture is the most common one on Google for Felch, MI. You can kind of understand why they might be felching each other. Not much else to do there.

Perhaps the meme maker skipped this obvious choice because they had already included Felchville for the state of Massachusetts, but I still say this is a far better choice than Dick. Dick is so pedestrian and overused that I don’t think it even qualifies as lewd anymore.

Bonus lewd non-city name: One of my favorite highway signs in Michigan is the exit from I-75 to Troy, MI, one of the suburbs of Detroit. I know I’ve mentioned this before on SEB, but this is so perfect that it cannot have been by accident. This had to be planned.

Exit 69 to Big Beaver Rd. Nice!

COVIDIOTS in Australia smash their TVs to send a message to Mainstream Media.

As if to prove that America doesn’t have a lock on Right-Wingers destroying their own property to “own the Libs”, Australia’s own COVIDIOTS have stepped up to “send a message” to the Mainstream Media that they’re not going to take their fake news any longer.

TAKE THAT! EXPENSIVE ELECTRONICS I PAID GOOD MONEY FOR AND WHICH COULD BE USED FOR OTHER THINGS THAT AREN’T MAINSTREAM MEDIA!

You got it all in this one: The people who smash computer monitors or smartphones instead of their TV because they don’t know the difference, the shotgun to the screen followed by a spear, the kitchen meat tenderizer, a pick axe, various hammers and sledges and so on. I do like how several of them took the time to explain that the TV they were smashing was, indeed, a “tell-a-vision” so we knew that they were smashing a TV because, you know, we might not be smart enough to know what it is just by looking at it. I also found it interesting how many of them sounded like they were reading — badly — from a prepared script and at least one dude showed that he was.

As with past protests by the Right where they destroy expensive stuff such as Nike shoes (over their deal with Colin Kaepernick) and Keurigs (after they pulled ads from Sean Hannity’s FOX show), I fully endorse this and hope they continue. In fact, I hope it spreads (like a virus!) to the COVIDIOTS here in America as maybe it’ll get them away from FOX News for a bit.

This latest bit of Conservative stupidity didn’t go unnoticed on Twitter:

So take heart American Conservatives! You’re not alone in your journey of destroying stuff you paid good money for to own the Libs!

What’s that? No, we’re totally not laughing at you. We know you’re very serious and we would never giggle at you. We all feel horribly “owned” by your actions. Go ahead, do it some more!

I am in Facebook Jail. Again.

Memes are a dangerous business. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a major shit post on Facebook of memes I’ve come across every few days or so knowing that most of the folks who follow/friend me over there won’t see half of them at first unless they go straight to my profile (which there’s at least a couple folks I’m sure do just that). This way you’ll see “new” stuff from me for a few days to come as I don’t necessarily hangout on FB every day. Plus, I find them to be amusing enough to share.

I have discovered, however, that there is one category of meme that will land you in Facebook Jail — unable to post new content, comment, or even Like other people’s posts and comments — if you dare to post it to your wall. What is this forbidden content? Anything that mocks Nazi Germany. For example, stuff like this:

The knee-highs are a nice touch.

Clearly this is a meme that mocks Hitler, but within five minutes of sharing it to my wall Facebook popped up a notice that my post had been removed because THIS POST GOES AGAINST OUR COMMUNITY STANDARDS! As punishment I wouldn’t be able to share anything for twenty-four whole hours. Apparently, mocking Hitler in shorts is something Facebook just can’t abide. Facebook’s notification at least made it clear that this decision was made by the algorithm they have in place that scans all content uploaded for objectionable content and they gave me the option to Dispute This Decision which would prompt a human to take a look at it and possibly reverse the strike. I clicked Dispute and was helpfully informed that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were short staffed, and it was possible no one would ever get around to looking at my complaint.

Fine, whatever. I let it go and moved on with my life. That was a few weeks ago. Then, yesterday, I shared this meme which I thought was funny:

The one I shared didn’t have the additional text at the bottom.

I suppose I could see how this one might be construed to be supportive of Nazism, but that’s really stretching it. (See what I did there?) Again, within five minutes Facebook popped up their message about removing the post because how dare I mock Nazis and just for that, young man, you won’t be able to post, like, comment, etcetera. Ah, but since I didn’t learn my lesson last time, THIS time it would be for three whole days! At first, I thought it was just another 24-hour ban. I didn’t find out it was for three days until I absentmindedly tried to like something using the app on my phone and that’s when I found out it was for 3 days.

Which brings up a side point of how differently an experience Facebook is between the web interface and the smartphone app. I do most of my meme shit posting using the web interface as it’s a lot easier to do mass postings with. In fact, most of the time I’m on FB it’s through the web application on my desktop/laptop. I use the app only when I’m away from my other machines (bathroom reading, etc.). One of the reasons why is because when I share news items, I can easily include the original entries’ post instead of having to write something up myself and the smartphone app does not have this option. It’s interesting that the smartphone app does a better job of telling you how long you’re in FB jail than the web interface.

Anyway, I’ve again disputed this ruling and maybe someone will look at it this time since it’s a longer ban, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m not sure if there’s a limit to how many times you can end up in FB jail before they just outright delete your account, but I may find out sooner or later at the rate I’m going. From what I’ve read, FB jail can last up to 21 days so I would guess that the automated bans just keep getting longer and longer.

It is possible to trigger a post removal without a ban too. As I found out when I shared this after Trump suggested people could be injected with disinfectants to “clean” them of COVID-19:

Now in grape flavor!

Instantly that triggered a popup that said, “This post goes against our Community Standards on misinformation that can cause physical harm.” and the post was removed, but I wasn’t put in FB jail. Which is interesting because you’ve probably seen this same image all over comments on Facebook.

Apparently, it’s OK to use the image in a comment, but if you try to share it as a post on your wall it’s gonna get yanked. Which seems like a double standard to me especially when FB had absolutely no problem with me sharing this:

Meanwhile, memes I thought for sure were going to get me banned for being too sexualized or offensive like this one:

Image may contain: possible text that says 'Foreplay in 2020'

Or this one:

Image may contain: 2 people, possible text that says 'Nothing says family fun better than spongebob jerking off on your kids kids in the pool..'

This:

Or even this:

This:

Surely this will do it:

All appear to be in compliance with Facebook’s Community Standards and are still viewable on my wall. I shit post a lot and this is only a small sampling of the memes of questionable good taste I’ve found too funny not to share. None of the stuff I thought would get me in trouble has been an issue and two memes I thought for sure wouldn’t be a problem absolutely were.

The only conclusion I can reasonably draw from this experience is that Facebook really loves Nazis and considers them a protected class. You mock them at your own peril. Naked angels demanding to have their ass eaten is A-OK, but don’t you ridicule a Nazi. I suppose that’s fair given what happened when Adolf was told he was a shitty painter. Don’t want that sort of thing happening again, eh?

Oh, and if you’re thinking of trying to share this entry on Facebook on my behalf then know this is what you’ll see if you do:

Coffee tribulations.

We have three different blends of coffee in the break room here at work. I am fine with drinking two of the three (dark roast is blech). So you’d think, given that I’m fine with two-thirds of the offerings, that more often than not I’d be able to waltz in and grab a cup without needing to start a new pot. You would be wrong. For the second day in a row I walk in to find that only the dark roast is made and the other two carafes are bone dry.

A photo of a cup of coffee.
A cup of coffee. Pic by Julius Schorzman.

If I were the superstitious type I’d consider this a bad portent for the year to come, but instead I just think I have shitty coworkers who NEVER MAKE A POT OF COFFEE AFTER TAKING THE LAST DAMN CUP.

I realize that with Donald Trump starting a war with Iran in the headlines that this is probably the epitome of First World Problems, but I am so fatigued by the Trump administration at this point that I find it hard to muster enough outrage to say much about it. Instead, I am complaining about having to make coffee at work because that’s about all the irritation I can manage this morning. Probably doesn’t help that I’m running on about four hours sleep (interrupted in the middle) so I could really use several cups of coffee this morning.

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.