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.

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.

Man literally betrayed by his own heart.

Modern technology is amazing, but every day we’re hearing about cases where someone’s electronic device ends up tying them to the crimes they’ve committed. Usually it’s cellphone location data or photos that busts someone for a crime, but in this case police arrested Ross Compton for arson because his story didn’t line up with data from his electronic heart monitor:

Middletown man’s electronic heart monitor leads to his arrest – WLWT5

Middletown police said Compton told them that he was able to pack his suitcases and throw them out his bedroom window after he broke out the glass with a walking stick.

According to court documents obtained by WLWT, a cardiologist told police that those actions were “highly improbable” because of Compton’s medical condition.

Police sought to prove that by collecting electronic data stored in Compton’s electronic heart device. They wanted to know Compton’s heart rate, pacer demand and cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire.

Police told WLWT on Friday that it was an excellent investigative tool, and the information that was retrieved didn’t match Compton’s story.

“It was one of the key pieces of evidence that allowed us to charge him,” Lt. Jimmy Cunningham said.

It’s believed this is the first time data from an electronic heart monitor has been used in this manner. Of course, it helps that the arson inspectors say the fire was started with gasoline at multiple points around the outside of the house and it was on the clothes Compton was wearing at the time, but this is the icing on the cake.

I’m always amused by the criminals who don’t think to leave their cellphones at home when undertaking a planned crime because that’s going to be the first thing the police are going to check. Turning it off is another option, but that looks suspicious if it’s only off during the time the crime takes place. Especially if it’s during the day when you’d have it turned on.

Having a heart monitor, however, is not something you could (or probably would want to) turn off. I suppose you could start the fire and then go through the motions of what you are going to claim to have done so that the data links up, but given that it’s physically demanding you’d be putting yourself at risk of heart failure while in the middle of a burning building which doesn’t seem too smart either. Probably want to change your clothes after handling the gas too.

I dunno, seems like the smart thing to do is not to do this in the first place.

Kid kicked out of high school and arrested for writing about shooting his neighbor’s pet dinosaur.

OK this is just getting stupid now:

High school student says he was arrested for killing dinosaur in class assignment – NBC12.com – Richmond, VA News

Alex Stone said he and his classmates were told in class to write a few sentences about themselves, and a “status” as if it was a Facebook page.

Stone said in his “status” he wrote a fictional story that involved the words “gun” and “take care of business.”

“I killed my neighbor’s pet dinosaur, and, then, in the next status I said I bought the gun to take care of the business,” Stone said.

Holy Sweet Flying Fuck!I wouldn’t make it through high school these days if this is the norm. As a freshman I once wrote a short story about an unnamed student who might have shot himself in the head in the boy’s bathroom (the ending is somewhat vague) one afternoon because I was bored. It wasn’t even part of an assignment, I just was struck with inspiration and wrote it. Showed it to a couple of friends and it got handed off to a teacher.

Do you know what that teacher did? She encouraged me to submit it along with a couple of other creative efforts I had done to the school district’s creative writing contest. I won a bronze medal for that bit and a gold one for a short reimagining of the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

In my version of the tale, Goldilocks stumbles upon the cabin of the Three U.S. Government workers where she tries all three computer terminals until she finds one that’s “just right” and ends up launching our nuclear payload at Russia setting off WWIII. The story ends with one of the government workers shooting her in the head just as the missiles scream out of their silos. The moral of the story was: “Just because a terminal is just right, doesn’t mean it’s just right. It could be terminal.”

Yeah, I thought that was clever at the ripe old age of 14.

Anyway, I can only imagine the trouble I’d be in if I were in high school and wrote something like that today. It’s bad enough he was suspended for a week, but did he really have to be arrested too?

According to police, when Stone was asked by school officials about the comment written on the assignment, he said it was a joke.

Summerville police officials say Stone was disruptive and was told that he was being detained for disturbing schools.

Stone was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. District officials say the student has been suspended.

You can be arrested for being disruptive at school? Holy shit! Had this been the practice back in the day I’d have a criminal record a mile long now. Probably be on death row for multiple counts of brutal character assassination* too!

*Get it? Character assassination? Because I killed off a couple of fictional characters? Ha ha! I kill myself!

OK, one more time: Do NOT point your laser pointers at aircraft.

 

Pic of Charlie Brown.

I’m right there with you on that one, Chuck.

Man admits he pointed green laser beam into airplane cockpit at PBIA – Sun Sentinel

Michael Ryan Fischer, 26, of Wellington, pleaded guilty to a federal charge and admitted that he intentionally aimed the beam of the laser pointer into an AirTran flight shortly before 11 p.m. on Dec. 30, 2012. He also pointed the laser into a sheriff’s office helicopter that was sent to investigate the incident, according to court records.

This jackhole is getting off easy as the prosecutor is recommending a punishment that doesn’t involve jail time. He could’ve been facing five years in a federal prison.

It’s a felony to do this. You could blind the pilots and cause a crash and then you would be facing even more serious charges. You wouldn’t randomly shoot a gun into an aircraft cockpit (I hope) so why do you think there’s no harm in doing the same thing with a freakin’ laser?

The next time you think to yourself, “Gee, I wonder what would happen if I shined this laser into the cockpit of that passing aircraft?” Do everyone a favor and take that laser and shove it up your ass where it’s less likely to do any real harm to anyone. Better yet, if you don’t think you can resist the impulse of shining lasers at random passing vehicles then don’t even buy one. Surely there are better things you can spend your time and money on that don’t carry the risk of landing you in federal prison because you happen to be a dumbass.

If you think racism is dead in America…

… just watch what happens when the Simple Misfits run an experiment with two different people — one white and one black — attempting to break into a car.

Not only do the police show up within minutes of the black guy’s attempt, but at the end it looks like they have half a fucking squad there to handle him despite him being completely cooperative with the officer. Meanwhile the white guy spent half an hour doing the same thing and a passing cop didn’t even stop to question him about it.

A few years back ABC News did a similar experiment in a park where they staged a bike theft:

In that experiment some folks did question the white guy who admitted that he was stealing the bike and then didn’t bother to do anything else about it, but when the black guy showed up suddenly it was a showdown. Even more interesting is when they bring out an attractive blonde woman to steal the bike and people actually help her do it.

To be fair, there’s more than racism at work here. This is a perfect example of cognitive bias in action. Specifically in relation to racial stereotypes. Our culture has long reinforced the idea that white people are good and black people are bad and when confronted with situations such as these that bias tends to show up. The best way to avoid being biased is to be aware of our tendency to engage in it when and where we can. At its worst it ends up putting innocent people in jail and/or allows guilty parties to escape.

Found via Boing Boing.

Family of armed robber pissed suspect was shot by good samaritan.

Sometimes I’m amazed by the utter gall of my fellow humans. Take, for example, this news report about some idiot named Adric White who decided a dollar store would make a good target for an armed robbery down in Alabama and his resultant gunshot injury:

The Good Samaritan, who we are not identifying, told FOX10 News he was shopping at the Family Dollar on Stanton road when he noticed a masked gunman leading one of the employees to the front of the store.

“He had the gun to his head. He had him on his knees,” said the man. “I drew my gun on him and I said ‘Hey don’t move.’ At that point he swung around and before he had a chance to aim the gun at me I fired. I didn’t want to shoot him.”

This appears to be one of those rare cases where a Good Guy with a gun does manage to take down a Bad Guy with a gun possibly saving some lives in the process. I don’t buy into the idea that the solution to all gun crimes is more people with guns, but I acknowledge that occasionally it does work out well if someone nearby is armed and this definitely fits that bill.

The suspect survived the shooting and is under police custody at a local hospital. We already suspect he’s not too bright for thinking a dollar store was worth robbing . That suspicion is confirmed when we learn that he was out on bond after being charged in connection to another armed robbery at a local restaurant about a month earlier.  This guy is as dumb as a bag of rocks.

Apparently, stupidity is inherent to his gene pool:

A family member who did not want to be identified said White should have never been shot to begin with.

“If his (the customer) life was not in danger, if no one had a gun up to him, if no one pointed a gun at him – what gives him the right to think that it’s okay to just shoot someone?” said the relative. “You should have just left the store and went wherever you had to go in your car or whatever.”

I have two words for White’s anonymous family member: Fuck You.

8P72l5F

I’m a flat-out Liberal with a capital L, but even I think that if you or your loved ones are stupid enough to engage in an armed robbery and are threatening the lives and livelihoods of other people then you shouldn’t be surprised — let alone upset — if you get shot in the process.

I don’t carry a gun, but had I found myself in that situation where a gunman had a gun pointed at someone’s head and it was apparent the gunman wasn’t aware of my presence and I could see a way of coming up from behind and clocking him in the back of the head with whatever large, blunt object happened to be on hand you can be pretty sure I’d take the opportunity to give him a new opening in his skull. I wouldn’t try to kill him outright, but I’d make damn sure he wouldn’t be getting off the floor before the police arrived.

Your precious little snowflake lost any right to not be harmed the moment he threatened to harm someone else. If you’d rather he not be injured again then perhaps you should encourage him to find a more legitimate way to get his cash. There are certain occupational hazards that come with being an armed robber. Whining about him being shot just makes you look like a bigger idiot than he is.

Sometimes a little advanced planning can save you a lot of trouble.

The following news item is pretty typical of what you’ll see in any local paper these days. Someone gets into a high-speed chase with the cops because they’ve done something stupid:

Mandy Ramsey, 35, of Fort McCoy, was speeding south on County Road 318 in a Ford F-250 pickup truck when a patrol car chased after her to pull her over, according to a Marion County Sheriff’s Office report.

After seeing the patrol car in pursuit, the woman turned onto Northeast 220 Street and then continued down Northeast 10th Avenue, running a stop sign and eventually hitting an oak tree.

The only question is: What is the stupid thing they’ve done that left them feeling they had no recourse other than to flee from the police? Had a dead body in the bed of the truck? Open bottles of booze in the seat next to them? Carrying huge amounts of crack cocaine or crystal meth?

In this case it was nothing so mundane…

The deputy lost Ramsey during the chase in the area, but soon found the car parked behind a mobile home with its passenger side mirror broken with an oak tree leaf in it, according to reports.

Deputies made contact with the vehicle’s owner, Ramsey’s boyfriend, who said he hadn’t driven the car in over two hours. Ramsey then admitted to deputies that she didn’t stop because she was driving topless and wanted to surprise her boyfriend.

You have to admit, that’s one helluva surprise. Honey, I got into a police chase and wrecked your truck all so you could see my tits! Surprise!

The thing I find most amusing about this is that just a little bit of forethought could have prevented the problem. Start with not speeding on the drive over to his house so the cops won’t decide to pull you over. Too much of a lead foot? Then perhaps you should consider take a shirt with you on the off-chance the cops do catch you speeding.

Hell, for that matter, how long does it take someone to yank off their shirt in the car after they’ve arrived safe and sound at the house? Leave the bra at home and toss on some oversized T-shirt you can slip out of in 2 seconds flat and you’re all set. This isn’t rocket science folks.

I can appreciate surprise tits as much as the next guy, but I can appreciate not having to bail someone out of jail after they wrecked my vehicle a heck of a lot more.

Pastor busted for recording video of female parishioners using church bathrooms.

Pervert Pastor pissed at being pinched.

55-year-old Robert Lyzenga is a naughty Pastor.  Seems he felt God needed some help keeping on eye on the female members of the Sunrise Christian Reform Church so he took it upon himself to install “air fresheners” on the stall doors of the women’s restroom.

No one thought much of it until one of them fell off while a lady was taking care of business. When she picked it up she noticed that there was some form of camera in the spot where the nicely smelling insert normally goes:

Cops: Pastor Hid Cameras In Church Bathroom | The Smoking Gun.

A review of memory cards removed from the purported air fresheners showed that they contained footage of two adult women and a female juvenile “using the restroom.” A church worker told cops the air fresheners first appeared in the stalls in February, raising the possibility that many other women were videotaped (and the footage was downloaded from the hidden cameras).

Lyzenga was busted after footage from one of the cameras showing someone putting it together in an office area was matched up with things in his own office such as the Superman mouse pad on his desk. The married father of three was fired immediately after his arrest and is awaiting trial.

I’m less surprised that the good Pastor has gone astray than I am with the means he took in doing so. I’ve never understood how someone could find watching anyone use the bathroom to be sexy.

Dumbass counterfeiter wants to be on “Hardcore Pawn” so badly he gets himself busted.

Pic of Charlie Brown.

I'm right there with you on that one, Chuck.

Some folks will do anything for their brief moment in the spotlight. Take for example Detroit area counterfeiter Kenny “Boom” Smith who is a big fan of the reality show Hardcore Pawn which is filmed in Detroit at American Jewelry and Loan. He wanted to be on the show soooo badly that he offered to sell Les Gold, the owner and star, his counterfeit making machine and a bunch of counterfeit money:

So Gold didn’t bat an eyelash when Smith showed up and wanted to sell him his counterfeit money and machine. He wanted to be on the show. Smith told Gold he would bring his counterfeiting equipment to the store. A short time later the Secret Service showed up at American Jewelry and Loan. They had been tracing Smith’s activities since he had been passing his fake bills.

Gold filled them in on what Smith had told him and the agents found out Smith’s counterfeiting claims had been captured on camera for the show.

So now, Smith has been busted by the Secret Service and charged in federal court. This isn’t his first counterfeiting case either. He has done a stint in prison for the same thing and if convicted he is going back again.

As Gold says, “All because he wanted his five minutes of fame on TV.”

via Counterfeiter caught selling to famous Detroit pawn shop of ‘Hardcore Pawn’ | News – Home.

Obviously Mr. Smith isn’t the brightest bulb, but his quest for TV infamy still prompts a couple of questions. What, exactly, did he expect the pawn shop to do with the phony money? Sell it as a novelty? REAL FAKE MONEY! FOOL YOUR FRIENDS! GET YOUR ENEMIES ARRESTED!  Did he not understand that he was being filmed admitting to a crime? He signed the waiver allowing them to use the footage on the show and it’s not like they use hidden cameras. Did he just think it wouldn’t be admissible in court?

If nothing else I suppose he deserves credit for putting his own stupid add back into a jail cell. That’s one less source of fake money doing business in Detroit.