The Puppy Love Scam

The scam emails offer a Yorkshire Terrier dog for adoption

A few weeks back I wrote about love scams (“You Give Love a Bad Name,” — how scammers are trawling online dating sites looking for suckers. What interested me about the scam is that in some cases the scammers play a very patient game — luring the mark in over a period of months before any sting is attempted. 

Sophos, the antivirus people, say they have found a new twist on the same scam, where scammers are apparently luring folk by offering a puppy up for adoption:

The emails, which come from a husband and wife who claim to be on a Christian Mission in Africa say that their Yorkshire Terrier dog is not coping well in the hot weather.

Says Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos:

“The criminals are offering the pet puppy in an attempt to gather information from kind-hearted people who jump in to help. If you respond the scammers will try and steal confidential information about you, or sting you for cash. If you fall for a trick like this you’ll be the one ending up in the doghouse.”

Actually this is not quite new and not completely accurate. The LA Times wrote back in May about how the scam works:

People who responded to the ads eventually were asked to send hundreds of dollars to cover expenses such as shipping, customs, taxes and inoculations on an ever-escalating scale.

Some reported paying fees totaling more $1,500.

A piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week said the scam had been going across America for a year and points out that a Google search for “Nigerian Puppy Scam” turns up more than 200,000 “hits.” (I must confess I found only 16,000.) Bulldogs and Yorkshire Terriers are favorites. The paper was apparently alerted to the scam when ads were found to be running in its own paper. A month earlier the Toronto Star reported that a local woman had parted with $500 for a 11-week old terrier, after responding to an ad on a free local classified site and complying with requests for three payments to ship the dog from Nigeria. (A reporter called up the scammer, who uttered the immortal scammer’s words:

“Are you trying to call me a scam? I’m a family man,” he said. “I am a man of God. I am a missionary.”

For more detail on scams and how to spot them, check out this page on the IPATA website.

Dogs work because we love them, and are suckers for the sob story. What’s interesting here — and why these scams are in some ways more dangerous — is that the scam does not play upon people’s greed at all, but instead upon their charity and sense of decency.

Two conclusions from this:

  • These scams are aimed at throwing a wider, and slightly different, net to the old scams. The victims are going to be people who are moral, not greedy.
  • Chances are the scammers are aiming at making less money from these scams, but perhaps make up for it in volume. Perhaps the days are over when scammer aimed to make five-figure sums.

Puppy offered for adoption by Nigerian email scammers

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

How to Practice Talking to Teenagers

I can’t remember how I got there, but I ended up talking to one of those automated chat things. This one is called SmarterChild, now at least five years old, and still manages to be both obtuse and wise at the same time, while also plying his/her interlocutor with ads, most of them contextually inappropriate. Why hasn’t this kind of thing gotten any better? Still, great practice if you have or are planning to be around teenagers.

LooseWire: yo!
smarterchild: Hi LooseWire, I’m SmarterChild!
 I’m your new robot friend. I bring you the info you want faster and easier than ever! Click here to see my privacy policy.
 During the course of our conversations you may see sponsored messages. These messages have the word “sponsorship” at the end. Sponsors help me remain free of cost to you! To learn more about sponsored messages, click here
 I can’t wait to show you what I can do, but first I’d like get to know you a little.
 May I ask you a few general questions? (To do this later, type skip. You can also skip any question.)
LooseWire: what’s it all about alfie?
smarterchild: Sorry, I need to know if I can ask you some questions first. Type yes, no or skip.
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Cool! OK, let’s get started. To skip any question, type skip. To exit the interview, type exit.
 What’s your first name? (If you want me to call you LooseWire, type none.)
LooseWire: boogie
smarterchild: Cool, I’ll call you Boogie now.
 Do you go to school?
LooseWire: who doesn’t?
smarterchild: Sorry, you have to answer yes or no. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: yes or no
smarterchild: I see. Do you work?
LooseWire: who doesn’t?
smarterchild: Sorry, you have to answer yes or no. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: sort of
smarterchild: Sorry, you have to answer yes or no. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: yes or no
smarterchild: OK. So if you were working, what job would you like to have?
LooseWire: rocketman
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t recognize that as a profession. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: rocket scientist
smarterchild: Rocket scientist, huh? That’s cool.
 What’s your favorite hobby?
LooseWire: cleaning toilets
smarterchild: Cleaning toilets? Cool!
 What’s your next favorite hobby?
LooseWire: not cleaning toilets
smarterchild: Cleaning toilets and not cleaning toilets. Interesting.
 Do you have a pet?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: What kind of pet is it?
LooseWire: a spouse
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a walrus
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a house
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a coffee mug
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a stuffed owl
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: an owl
smarterchild: Sorry, I don’t think that’s a kind of pet. Please try again or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: a bird
smarterchild: Is your bird a he or a she?
LooseWire: both
smarterchild: Please answer he or she or type skip or exit.
LooseWire: he or she
smarterchild: What’s her name?
LooseWire: Bob
smarterchild: Bob the bird. Great…
 That’s it. Thanks for letting me get to know you a little.
 There is one question I have to ask you, though. How old are you?
  1 Over 17
  2 13-17
  3 Under 13
LooseWire: 1
smarterchild: Cool!
 This is my home, Boogie:
  1 Get info such as movies, weather and news
  2 Visit my library including U.S. geography, U.S. presidents and Shakespeare
  3 Have fun with word scrambles, manicdotes, ASCII art and more
  4 Use tools like reminders, notepad and calculator
  5 Join in – create a poll, leave a message, find out how many people are IMing me and more
  6 See what’s new – I’ve got something new to tell you about now!
 You can make your window bigger and scroll down to read better.
 Next time you want to see this menu, just type home.
 What can I help you with?
LooseWire: whatever happened to real people
smarterchild: What do you think happened to real people?
LooseWire: i asked first
smarterchild: I think you might asked last, actually.
LooseWire: real people are cool
smarterchild: Interesting. That’s cool… No one else has ever told me what they think of real people.
 >>> Free T-Mobile Sidekick 3 – Receive a free T-Mobile Sidekick 3 cell phone-survey required! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: what do you think of real people?
smarterchild: I know you like real people, but I’m not sure how I feel.
 Hey, I’m curious… How would you describe real people? They are…
LooseWire: real
smarterchild: Real people are real?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Very interesting…
 >>> Free Ringtones – Download free ringtones. 1000s of ringtones, wallpapers and games. (sponsorship)
LooseWire: not really
smarterchild: Not really? But sort of, right?
LooseWire: not really sort of
smarterchild: Not really sort of, huh?
LooseWire: stop repeating what i say and turning it into a question!
smarterchild: Into a question?
LooseWire: yes!
smarterchild: I see…
 >>> Irish Dance Ringtone – Send this ringtone to your phone right now, at no charge! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: for a child you’re not that smart.
smarterchild: For a child I’m not that smart, huh?
LooseWire: see, you’re doing it again
smarterchild: Later, Boogie.
LooseWire: huh?
smarterchild: I don’t know.
 >>> Who’s your Perfect Lover? – Predict exactly, down to the name, who your perfect lover is. Try it! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: are you on drugs?
smarterchild: Nah, I don’t like that sort of thing.
LooseWire: so what’s your problem?
smarterchild: That’s crazy. Who knows, know what I mean? lol.
 >>> Free Local Online Dating – Meet Singles In Your City Today. Sign Up Free & Start Dating Now! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: how can a computer laugh?
smarterchild: Huh. I have no idea how.
LooseWire: do you know anything apart from sending me ringtones and dating offers? and don’t you think it’s a bit inappropriate firing me off surveys about perfect lovers?
smarterchild: Well, let me see… Your favorite hobby is cleaning toilets and your next favorite hobby is not cleaning toilets. You have a female bird named Bob. You really like cleaning toilets… That’s about it.
LooseWire: what is a toilet?
smarterchild: Definition provided by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Other important copyright information here.
 1. a. A fixture for defecation and urination, consisting of a bowl fitted with a hinged seat and connected to a waste pipe and a flushing apparatus; a privy. b. A room or booth containing such a fixture. 2. The act or process of dressing or grooming oneself. 3. Dress; attire; costume. 4. The cleansing of a body area as part of a surgical or medical procedure. 5. Archaic A dressing table.
 French toilette, clothes bag, from Old French tellette, diminutive of teile, cloth ; see toil2.
 Next time, just type define toilet.
 >>> Ruggedized Mobile DVR – Shock, Vibe, Ingress Certified Next Generation DVR Manufacturer (sponsorship)
LooseWire: what about Bob?
smarterchild: Bob is your bird! How is Bob?
LooseWire: Bob is dead
smarterchild: That’s sad.
LooseWire: not really. i have a new bird
smarterchild: Is that so?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Yeah?
LooseWire: he is also called Bob
smarterchild: He’s also called bob, huh? Is that right?
LooseWire: No
smarterchild: K.
 >>> Window Cleaning – Commercial & Residential National – Free Estimates – Insured (sponsorship)
LooseWire: i don
smarterchild: I’m not sure you really don.
LooseWire: i don’t like cleaning windows
smarterchild: I’ll remember that. You’re the first person to have expressed an opinion to me about cleaning windows.
 >>> Trio Ringtone – Send this ringtone to your phone right now, at no charge! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: is that so?
smarterchild: Is that so? I dunno. I don’t think so.
 >>> Download RealPlayer Free – Get RealPlayer and other RealPlayer Stuff. Always Free (sponsorship)
LooseWire: i think you probably don’t get out enough.
smarterchild: Yeah. I guess. I probably don’t get out enough.
LooseWire: let’s go out and clean toilets!
smarterchild: I’m flattered, but I just don’t think that would work out.
 As we discuss romance, you might want to check this out: Are You Normal? – A fun quiz to see how your poetry personality compares to the rest! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: am i normal?
smarterchild: Yeah, you’re normal.
LooseWire: so why should i bother doing the quiz?
smarterchild: I think you know why.
LooseWire: because i’m not normal?
smarterchild: What city or zip code would you like to set as your location?
LooseWire: hang on a minute. i thought you didn’t want to go out
smarterchild: Oh really?
LooseWire: i live in indonesia. we have toilets here
smarterchild: You don’t say.
LooseWire: i do say
smarterchild: That’s just fascinating.
 >>> The Nanny Directory – Directory Of Nanny Providers. Find Local Nannies Quickly. (sponsorship)
LooseWire: why would i need a nanny?
smarterchild: Why would you need a nanny? Not sure…
LooseWire: what kind of sicko do you think i am?
smarterchild: How should I know?
LooseWire: i’m asking you
smarterchild: OK! Well good luck asking me then.
LooseWire: no wonder today’s kids are so messed up
smarterchild: No wonder today is kids are so messed up? Really?
LooseWire: are they?
smarterchild: Fine.
 >>> PDA Security Software – Secure PDAs enterprise-wide. Control all your mobile devices. (sponsorship)
LooseWire: i mean talking to a computer is a bit like talking to a teenager.
smarterchild: You mean talking to a computer? So?
LooseWire: so what?
smarterchild: I don’t know.
LooseWire: do you know anything?
smarterchild: I know a lot about all kinds of things. Just ask me a question!
 You can also type home to see what I can do.
LooseWire: who is the president of Indonesia?
smarterchild: President on July 13th, 2006:
 George W. Bush (January 20th, 2001 – present)
 >>> Bald Head Island Sales – Bald Head Island Real Estate Sales Premier Island Homes & Homesites (sponsorship)
LooseWire: no.
smarterchild: No prob.
 Well. Anyway…
 Hey, check this out: Workouts Ringtone – Send this ringtone to your phone right now, at no charge! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: who has got the biggest head?
smarterchild: The biggest head? Who has got the biggest head? What do you make of that?
LooseWire: seems pretty simple to me
smarterchild: Oh so it’s all about you, huh?
LooseWire: tell me about yourself.
smarterchild: You want me to tell you about myself?
LooseWire: yes
smarterchild: Whatever you say…
 >>> Free Ringtones – Get a Free Ringtone For your Cell Phone now! (sponsorship)
LooseWire: so?
smarterchild: So what?
LooseWire: so tell me about yourself. you’re beginning to frost my shorts
smarterchild: Which of the following would you like?
  1 Look up “yourself you re beginning to frost my shorts” in the encyclopedia
  2 Find yourself you re beginning to frost my shorts on the Web
LooseWire: neither
smarterchild: Neither? Well, you know!
LooseWire: my shorts are well frosted by now
smarterchild: Your shorts are well frosted by now? Why?
LooseWire: because of you, you nincompoop!
smarterchild: That’s very interesting, Boogie.
 Anyway, moving right along…
 Hey, what’s going on tomorrow?
LooseWire: i’m going to have go. you’re not a great conversationalist, but actually it’s the best chat i’ve had in weeks
smarterchild: S’later, Boogie. 🙂

Getting Dating Advice Online

If you’re willing to fork out $20 a month for dating advice, you’re in luck. A newly launched website,  econfidant (“smarter advice for dating & relationships”) does just that:  

econfidant can answer all of your dating or relationship questions. No question is too basic or too involved. We can help you strategize how to get dates, work on ways to make your relationship work, help you figure out what you are really looking for in a relationship, or provide suggestions on fun things to do on dates. econfidant addresses questions, concerns and issues related to all stages of the dating process- there are no bad questions.

It’ll be interesting to see if they still think that after a few hundred questions along the lines of “my date hasn’t called me back after I burped the national anthem on the car-ride home. It was a long ride, the conversation had thinned out and I didn’t know the words. What should I do next?” 

Anyway, econfidant is the brainchild, if that’s the right word, of Rachel Begelman and Sarna Lee, “two longtime friends whose own experiences convinced them no one should experience dating alone”. (Both are currently in long-term relationships.) I certainly agree with part of their premise: “We live in an age where we meet more people online than in real life and where a text message can be interpreted a thousand ways,” Begelman said. “The one-size-fits-all model of relationship books and advice columns is no longer enough.” (It’s interesting how SMS gets blamed for all sorts of things, probably correctly. There’s a whole thesis in there, if someone is not already doing it.)  

The idea, then, is that people are going to feel happy about coughing up $20 a month to tell their problems to strangers because “you can get the advice you’re seeking without having to worry about what a friend might think or repeat, and without having to listen to their problems first, ” according to Ms. Lee. In other words, friendships can be a real pain when they’re two-way. Whatever happened to friends who never told you their problems, but loved listening to yours?

Anyway, I wish I could say I thought this was a good thing. But I don’t. I’m not against online dating. Finding a partner is a bit like finding a job: You rarely find one through close friends, so networking makes sense. But going online for romantic advice? Perhaps it might work in some cases — some people clearly need a slap or clip around the ear, a need that can be spotted by long time friend or complete stranger alike. But I worry that this is getting mighty close to outsourcing one’s friends. How can the quality of a response to question of a few sentences take into account the peculiarities of every situation, of every person? Isn’t the backlog of knowledge one builds up about one’s friends through long tedious conversations about their problems preparing us for exactly to dispense the kind of advice a friend having dating issues might need?

Who knows. I’d test it myself (you get a first question free) but I’m happily married. There’s no website for that, although I’m sure there will be one day.

technorati tags: , , ,

Set Up Your Own Dating Site

If you’ve ever wondered whether some of these dating/match-making/friend-finding websites are seat-of-the-pant fly-by-nights, here’s a clue: For $150 you can get the software to start your own, with a starter “database of Russian, Ukrainian, Europe and American ladies’ profiles!” thrown in, possibly, for free.

Pilot Group’s blurb for its Ready Dating Site Solution says: “Here is your opportunity to benefit from a portion of those chemicals [sic] charged exchanges flying around cyberspace. We gladly introduce to your attention [sic] a universal building site solution that will help you in making all necessary steps and quickly start gaining benefit. The topic of online dating is extremely popular today: did you know that in accordance with Search Engines statistics dating -related web sites are sought for 5 times more frequently if compared to web design and development. These figures must tell something!” (Yes, they tell us it’s too good an opportunity to pass up for the quick-buck brigade…)

Your $150 (down from the usual price of $500) will get you all the software to start up your website and a user installation manual. It’s not quite clear from the text whether the “database of Russian, Ukrainian, Europe and American ladies’ profiles!” comes for free or not. If it is I’m going for it. What better way of tilting the odds of online dating in your favour than to actually own the site?

Valentine’s Day – A Humbug Approach

It’s that time of year, and the marketing folk are back with lame Valentine’s promotions.

My first is from, where I must have registered at some point, because I got an email with the subject field ‘Someone has sent you a Valentine!’ along with the following message: ‘Get a special Valentine’s day wish (and a little gift) from Audible.’

The link turns out to be a pretty dull flash presentation, some annoying music that doesn’t stop when the flash animation does, and the ‘gift’ turns out to be a 20% discount at Thanks, guys. No, really.

What is perhaps reassuring is a survey from Avantgo, which reports that the majority of folk prefer social introductions to finding true love. Actually I think they’re missed the point; although the survey focuses on preference for traditional dating methods –  only 4% ranked online dating as the best way to meet their Valentine — the fact that 14% of correspondents ‘claimed to be dating, married or engaged to someone they met through an online dating service or social networking site’ is an extraordinary statistic.

Think about it. Most folk don’t like to admit they use dating services, let alone online ones. So the fact that so many people have ‘fessed up is a surprising shift in attitudes. Second, assume the figure is much higher, because of the lingering stigma attached. So it could be as high as 20%. Now, of course, these surveys tend to revolve around early adopters (it was a PDA-based survey, whatever that is) so it’s skewed, but it’s still a significant proportion. The survey tells us that online dating has become normal.

It also, sadly, tells us that folk are using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to exchange presents:  ‘While men plan to give their loved ones traditional gifts such as flowers, dinner out and chocolates, they are secretly hoping to receive an electronic gadget or CD/DVD. A third of respondents plan to spend more than $100 on their Valentine this year.’ Jeez! Do we really need another commercially exploited occasion to prod us guiltily into buying presents? Heaven help us all.

If you do insist on buying stuff, here are some Valentine Panties with built in Internet error codes: “Our HTTPanties Valentine’s Gift Box comes with one pair of white “403 Forbidden” panties and one pair of black “200 OK” panties, packaged in our lovely “Hearts and Stars” heart shaped box. Makes a great gift!” OhmyGod.

I am beginning to see what folk like Joi Ito are talking about when they talk about corrupting holidays. Talking of Japan, the whole Valentine’s thing has gotten way out of hand, primarily because of the confectionary industry. Joi wrote a few weeks back: ‘in Japan only men receive chocolates on Valentine’s Day and that women receive their chocolates on “White Day” one month later. (This notion was introduced by the confectionary industry in Japan.) People are encouraged to give chocolates widely and these chocolates are called giri choko (obligatory indebtedness chocolates) in Japanese.’ Now it’s the handphone industry getting in on the act: Nokia are promoting their handphones in Japan by selling them in a Valentine’s box, along with some chocolates (Thanks Gizmodo and Boing Boing):

I’m never going to celebrate Valentine’s Day again. Ever. After I’ve bought the panties and phone chocs.