It’s hard to feel sorry for them.

Libertarians and Randroids learning the harsh consequences of their own dogma will always be funny. It does make me wonder if there is a stratum of con artists targeting them, having factored in that people who are distrustful of the state and unlikely to go to the police make brilliant marks.

Libertarian 'Utopia' Styled After Ayn Rand Book Spectacularly Falls Apart Almost Immediately

Libertarian ‘Utopia’ Styled After Ayn Rand Book Spectacularly Falls Apart Almost Immediately

image via galtsgulchchile.com

A community made up of American ex-pats deep in the South American hills of Chile – far away from America’s annoying taxes, healthcare mandate, and legal abortions – was supposed to be a Libertarian paradise of rugged individualism, instead it cost many of the people who bought into it almost everything and now is buried under lawsuits – a reminder that everything…

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A Guy Who Looks Like Psy Is Scamming Rich European Kids for Free Drinks

Last year, a French-Korean guy named Denis Carre went to Barcelona Fashion Week and was mistaken for Psy almost everywhere he went. Yes, Denis was wearing the sunglasses from the “Gangnam Style” video, but that clip has been viewed more than 2 billion times—you’d have thought people would be able to differentiate the real Psy from a slightly tubby French-Korean man in a suit and black sunglasses. Could the cult of celebrity really make people this blind? And, perhaps, even a little bit racist? Or was it more that they just wanted to believe that they were looking at the most viewed face on YouTube?

Denis is a friend of mine, and I was accompanying him that year, taking photos of the whole thing. So I witnessed—among other surreal moments—club owners offering him bundles of cash to perform, and car dealership managers trying to hand him the keys to sports cars, just “because it would be cool to see him drive.”

A year later, we returned to one of this year’s Barcelona Fashion Week parties to find out if everyone would still be excited to see Denis in a suit.

According to the op-eds, our generation’s cultural attention span looks something like an endless loop of “smack-cam” Vines. So we figured people might have forgotten who Psy was, or why they ever gave a shit about him in the first place. To jog their memories, we had a bunch of stickers, T-shirts, and temporary tattoos made up that read: “DO ME GANGNAM STYLE.”

It turns out that this was probably a waste of money; people generally seem to remember global epidemics that dominate popular culture for an entire year.  

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Today is National Catfish Day. Celebrate with the Worst Catfish Scam EVER!

How I Scored Visits to the Nicest Hotels in the World…for Free

In 2010, a friend of mine started a travel magazine and asked if she could publish an article I had written about a Kashmiri tailor, during a month I spent living on a houseboat in Kashmir.

I had stayed on the tailor’s boat during the winter, and I was the only guest. George Harrison had stayed there 47 years earlier, when he was studying the sitar with Ravi Shankar. I typed the piece on the hotel owner’s typewriter. But my friend who ran the magazine, a grifter like me, couldn’t pay real money. She compensated me instead with “hotel trades.”

She explained how it worked: I would approach independently owned hotels with a copy of her media kit and a proposal. In exchange for a two-night stay, I would write a 500-word review. She advised me to avoid big corporate hotels, because press people there had to go through so many chains of command they would often dismiss the request outright. “You need a small place,” my friend said, “where somebody can make the decision right there.” She added, “Don’t bother with inexpensive places. It’s bizarre, but the more expensive they are, the more likely they are to agree.”

I grew up in a state of financial volatility. Until I was 18 and my grandmother died, my grandfather would visit me and my mom at our home in Houston, from his mansion in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and for a week, money would flow like water. One Christmas, he saved all the money wrappers from the cash he’d spent and proudly put them in a photo album: they totaled $10,000. But then he would leave, the money would dry up, and we’d go from feast to famine. Sometimes, our lights, water, or phone would go out. Sometimes we’d spend $80 on tomatoes. Or my mom would spend $8,000 on Chinese antiquities, but we’d run out of gas on the way home. It wasn’t that bad, it was just crazy.

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Don't Get Scammed

I’ve seen a recent trend on Tumblr is users asking for money. Most of the time it is for things like food, housing, medical needs, etc. This has become a bit problematic for me…while there are many a legitimate need out there, there are also many willing to take advantage of good intentions by using this method as a means to get money not for any actual need but rather for selfish gain. So, here’s a helpful list to avoid scams on Tumblr:

1. Never do transactions directly, including through PayPal. When you engage in a transaction like this, you leave out a non-biased third party which can intercede if it turns out to be a scam. If you believe a claim is legitimate, but they are asking for direct donations, you can direct them to one of the many free fundraising sites out there like GoFundMe or YouCaring 

2. Keep an eye on how the person spends their money. If a person claims they need money for food, but frequently post expensive or unneeded purchases, it may be a sign that they aren’t managing donations the way they were meant to, or that they don’t actually need those donations. Don’t assume as the items may have been gifts or pre-owned. 

3. Always question other options for getting money. If a person clearly owns several items that can be quickly and easily sold for money, ask why they haven’t considered that first. If that is their only source of entertainment, it can be understandable, but keep in mind this lesson: I have had situations on many occasions where I had no money and had rent due, or needed to buy food. I compensated by selling a DS, an XBox, several games, and at one point even a laptop. If the need is something very immediate like food, people should be willing to give something up to make ends meet. That’s an unfortunate reality of life. But not doing that doesn’t necessary indicate a lack of need. 

4. Don’t think questioning a person makes you a bad person. Sympathy is great, but blind sympathy can be dangerous. If a person is asking for money, then potential donators are owed information before they hand it over. If you’re attacked for asking questions or if your questions go completely ignored, it is likely there is some dishonesty going on. 

5. When in serious doubt, seek proof. A person late on rent will get a notice from their landlord. A person trying to pay medical expenses will have bills. 

6. If you can’t decide, then save your money. Scam artists are very good at trying to reel you in with a sob story but the fact of the matter is, you can’t believe everything you hear. If something seems like a scam to you in any way, then turn the other way. If you still wish you can give, find an established charity and donate to them (there you have the ability to research and understand those companies since most are required to be completely transparent). 

And remember the general rules of any online financial transaction - don’t give someone your credit card information or social security number directly, don’t give out personal information, see if a person is tracking and transparent about their donations and how they’re spending them, and remember that giving directly to a person is NOT tax deductible but counts as a gift - only donations directly to a non-profit organization are tax deductible. If a person claims your donation to them is tax deductible, it is likely a scam. 

This post isn’t to indicate all Tumblr fundraisers are scams but many are, and many others may not be scams but are clearly not well run and may be unsafe to pour money into. Proceed with caution because while you might be saying “But I have good intentions” the money you give to scammers is money that could’ve gone to people who legitimately need help. 

- Mod Dawes Sr. 

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The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits —- The Mary Toft Hoax

In 1726 a bit of odd news swept Britain, apparently in Surrey a woman named Mary Toft was giving birth to rabbits.  According to Toft, one day when working in a field she was startled by a rabbit.  Since then she had been continuously giving birth to still born rabbits and rabbit parts.  News of such an anomaly became sensational, attracting the attention of some of the most popular and learned physicians of the day.  

Under observation by a number of physicians for several weeks, it was noted that Mary Toft gave birth to nine whole baby rabbits (all of which were dead at birth) as well as various assorted bunny parts.  Over time Toft’s case became even more sensational as she gave birth to parts of other animals such as cats and eels.  Incredibly, a number of physicians examined her, all of whom declared the phenomenon to be genuine and natural.  Many traveled hundreds of miles from other countries, and were considered to be the most learned and educated men in all of Europe.

In December of 1726, Thomas Onslow, the Earl of Onslow investigated the matter and discovered that Toft’s husband, Joshua Toft, had been purchasing rabbits for the past several months.  On December 3rd he caught Joshua in the act of smuggling the rabbits into Mary’s room.  Mary Toft was threatened with a painful exploratory surgery to uncover the truth of the matter, at which point she confessed to the hoax.

As it turns out, over the past several months Toft had been appearing to give birth to rabbits by inserting small rabbits and rabbit parts into her nether regions up where the sun don’t shine.  While weird and disgusting, the hoax created a continent wide scandal that rocked the medical community.  People all over Britain and Europe were shocked that supposedly the best physicians and scientists in the world could be so foolishly misled.  Those who had been duped by the hoax saw their reputation and careers instantly ruined, among them the noted physician Dr. Nathaniel St. Adre, personal surgeon to King George I.  

As for Mary Toft, the rabbit birthing woman was charged with fraud, but acquitted upon intervention of the medical community, who didn’t want the trial to continue leading to further embarrassment.  Toft was later arrested and imprisoned for receiving stolen goods.  She died in 1763.

1 On April 1, Malcolm L. Shabazz was arrested at a bar in South Bend, Indiana, where he was visiting friends. “America is eating me alive,” he told his imam.
2 He returned to his hometown in the Hudson Valley and flew to Los Angeles to meet his friend Miguel Suarez.
3 Miguel, a 30-year-old undocumented immigrant and labor organizer, was deported from Oakland on April 18. Malcolm met him in Tijuana, hoping a trip south would inspire him to live up to his legacy as Malcolm X’s grandson.
4 Miguel and Malcolm took a two-day bus ride to Mexico City. They dreamed up a plan to unite black and brown people in Mexico and beyond.
5 On May 8, their plans—and Malcolm’s tumultuous life—were cut short after a bar scam they fell for went horribly wrong near the Plaza Garibaldi.

—Investigating the unsolved murder of Malcolm X’s grandson

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How To Avoid Psychic Scams.

My heart really goes out to those people who have been scammed in the past by someone posing as a psychic or tarot reader. There are so many ethical and professional psychics and tarot readers out there who do a fantastic job at providing a genuine and authentic service. It is awful to think that people are being lured into unethical services when there are much more positive experiences to be had. 

How We Got the Skammerz Ishu Cover – We Spent Months Scamming a Scammer into Doing Our Work for Us

Scam-baiting is a form of internet vigilantism in which the vigilante poses as a potential victim to expose a scammer. It’s essentially grassroots social engineering conducted as civic duty or even amusement, a cross-cultural double bluff in which participants on separate continents try to outdo each other in an online tug-of-war for one’s time and resources—and the other’s private banking information.

The baiter begins by “biting the hook”— answering an email from the scammer. The “victim” feigns receptivity to the financial lure, engaging the scammer in a drawn-out chain of emails. The most important element of baiting is to waste as much of the scammer’s time as possible—when a scammer is preoccupied, it prevents him from conning genuine victims.

The cover of the issue you’re looking at is a trophy from the most elaborate bait I’ve ever been involved in. Three scammers, spread across Libya and the United Arab Emirates, set the con. They posed as a widow named Nourhan Abdul Aziz, a doctor named Dr. Ahmadiyya Ibrahim, and a banker going by Ephraim Adamoah. From Nourhan’s initial contact with my associ- ate, Condo Rice, to Ephraim’s actually donning an Obama mask and shooting our cover for us, 7,000 words were exchanged over nearly four months of emails. During that time, Condo and I negotiated our way through a labyrinthine net- work of fake websites, bogus documents, and broken English, and ended up with the weirdest photograph I’ve seen in a long time.

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