So at the risk of having hordes of locusts sent down on me by Geoff’s mom, I’m going to share this story with you that she sent over to me the other for a couple of reasons. The essence of this story is that someone we know was almost scammed, and the way they did it is a bit uncanny for my liking, and at the risk that someone could try it on someone else I love, lets talk about it for a second.
The issue is that in today’s day and age, information is prevelant. It’s out there. Being a techno giz kid, as I am, I have pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about me posted somewhere on the internet. My thought around this is that I have my identity protected, my credit cards are all equipped with fraud protection, meaning if my info was stolen I could get my money back, etc. I feel like I’m covered. My oversight in all this may be illustrated in the story that follows. And honestly, with things like Facebook, Twitter, and blogging, gathering details like where I am, what I do for a living, who my friends are (just cruise pictures and find out who I’m with) even my birthday is relatively easy to get a hold of (the piece of information that thwarted this would be scammer). What I’m saying is that we’re all very open with our information, and in that light we need to be more cautious in how we live our lives.
I remember mom and dad, when we were little, setup a secret pass phrase (something like Camchucket or very near to it) that they would tell us in case someone ever came saying ‘yer mom and dad wanted me to come get you’ ie kidnapping rapists. Boom, just like that, we were covered. Someone asks you to go with them, ask them for the pass coeds. If they don’t give it, run. It’s funny that now that we’re older and more mature, we don’t bother with the simple things.
Moral of the story, take some time and protect yourself. Grandparents, nieces, nephews, etc, send them an email (link to this, don’t forward it for fear of the locusts) and give them a game plan you might use. If anything, take some time to think about what could happen, and spend a few minutes to prevent the worst of it.
Now, the harrowing tale -
Just wanted to alert you to something that happened to Geoff’s grandparents yesterday, apparently by someone who was either very lucky or has picked up enough info about the two of you to try a scam. This is an awful story but has a happy ending, just barely.
Yesterday, someone named “Geoff/Jeff” (who knows the spelling) called my dad. He told Dad this was his grandson Jeff calling from Toronto. He told grandpa he had flown over from the UK to visit his friend in Toronto, they had been in a car accident, and he needed $2800 immediately. I don’t remember why — to get the car out of hock, to pay his friend’s hospital bills, not sure, but it was something plausible enough that my dad believed it. “Jeff” told Grandpa he could repay the money as soon as Jeff got back to London. He told Grandpa he needed him to wire the money to him via Western Union. He told him the account to send it to, and that he would call him back to get the pick-up number. (I remember this procedure from when I had to wire money to Geoff in Ukraine.)
So, did my high IQ, savvy, well-educated but elderly parents think to call me to verify this story???? To see if I knew if Geoff was in Toronto? To ask why he hadn’t called his Mom first? Nooooooooooooo, I am alarmed to say. Instead they went to the bank, withdrew $2000, went to Western Union and wired it to “Jeff.” (ARGH!!!) When “Jeff” called back to get the pick up number for the money, for some reason Grandpa decided to ask him what his birthday was. “Jeff” didn’t know. “Jeff” said he was in a hurry, couldn’t tell Grandpa his birthday, and for Grandpa to just give him the pick up number. Grandpa said surely Jeff must know his birthday….but Jeff didn’t, so Grandpa hung up. My parents decided something fishy was going on, went to Western Union, got their money back, got the bank to cancel the check, etc. etc. So they barely missed being scammed by whoever this was.
Sometime later, a man called my parents, saying he was from the Sacramento Police Department and that they had arrested someone trying to impersonate their grandson Jeff Evans. I’m not quite sure how this part went, but my grandparents think it was someone trying to get them to believe the scammer had been arrested so they wouldn’t report it to the police. Only my Grandpa, now suspicious, said his grandson’s last name wasn’t Evans. The supposed Police Department guy didn’t know the real Geoff’s real last name. When my dad started questioning the guy, he hung up.
My parents immediately went to the local Police Department and reported this whole thing. The police department wasn’t the least bit interested because my parents hadn’t actually lost any money. They said they only investigate when a crime has occurred. (Kind of depressing the police had no interest, eh?)
Anyway, I am amazed my parents almost fell for this, and so grateful they did not. But then I was thinking about it, and wondered if I might not have fallen for the same thing, at least part-way through. Whoever did this was either was very lucky (randomly called elderly people till they found one who did have a grandson named Jeff, or else getting Grandpa to give out the name, or who knows what, and then guessing Geoff was living in the UK and had a friend in Toronto [something my parents didn't know, but I would have]), or else this person somehow picked up enough knowledge to know Geoff is in the UK, is currently traveling, and has a friend in Toronto. If this person had called me and said he was Geoff in Toronto visiting his friend, I’m sure I would have volunteered Al’s name, kind of a fill in the blank thing. I would have questioned him, and in my confusion, likely provided enough info for him to continue with the story. I am confident I would have stopped short of wiring the money, but it’s all very creepy anyway. I have no idea how what happened took place, but just wanted to alert both of you, since the odds seem likely someone pieced together enough info about you to come up with a plausible scam. Yikes. I don’t know if there are any precautions you need to take at this point, but I did want you to know.
I don’t think either of you would do this, but for goodness sake, don’t turn this into one of those chain emails sent around the world to alarm people about stories that happened to their friends. You can tell people about it verbally, but don’t forward the email or I will send plagues of locusts to haunt you.
Glad it turned out okay, but you get the idea? Be smart, take precautions, know what info people can see about you and act accordingly.
Posted 7 years, 6 months ago at 4:12 pm. 2 comments
I have been interested in writing about this topic for several years, because this is something that I am torn over. I have vested interests on both sides of the fence and thus, putting my thoughts onto paper holds a lot of value for me. What the garbage am I talking about, some of you may ask? Let me explain.
There are two arguments that have been going around for the last 10 years or so. The issue is represented by two sides (obviously) with the one side arguing that the internet is too crazy and it can’t be used until there is an internet ‘FCC’ to regulate it and make it safe. The other argument is that the internet is only the tool that it is because there is no governing body, and it is splendid putty that can be manipulated to fit anyone’s need or desire. Obviously there will need to be one winner in the end, but there are more nuances to be examined on both sides. So please bear with me as I delve a bit deeper into either side’s argument, then leave me some feedback / predictions.
First, the argument for leaving the internet as is.
The internet is great. The thing that makes it great is that it is a proverbial wild west, a final frontier that is more accessible than space. Why should we need a wild west in the tech realm? Well it fosters free thinking, it breeds innovation and it is the ultimate sandbox wherein one can play, create, and live. It is inherently global by nature and as such has stayed mostly ungoverned by necessity up to this point. Certainly there are generally accepted practices that are adhered to by most and enforced in a vigilante fashion by a few, but even that is part of the allure; that you can be a good guy in a realm of little or no expectations. So the good side of this is that it is a siren call to people who want to create, who want to innovate in an absolutely open space and run no risk of someone telling them that something can’t be a certain way, or that they need to change in order to fit in with a subset of social stigmas. It is whatever we want it to be.
When I was a kid and the thought of an internet was brand new [BBS boards and shotgun modems] me and my best friend went exploring. The concept that people would share ideas for the greater good was made real to me. Opensource software and projects whose lifeblood required community contribution became the mainstay. Newsnet groups and forums began popping up of people who were self interested but still there for the community knowing that there was a greater good at stake (perhaps sentiments of Tocqueville’s “self interested rightly understood” were evident here). These were people who knew that building a community would service them better down the road. Thus the internet was born. I was right there through it all, and as a geek, I loved every minute of it. This isn’t to say everything was and is cheery, with the development of the infrastructure, it would be naïve to think that it would only be used for noble purposes. But overall, the internet as is has become a great resource that works well for most.
The second argument is one that is absolutely valid despite some saying it is almost solution less.
The argument is that the internet is a crucial part of society today and much of who we are and the business we interact HAS to move through the channels of the internet, and that being the case requires that the wild west of the internet not stay wild forever, but be tamed for the greater good of the people. I can encapsulate the idea with the analogy of the Pony Express. Business had to be conducted between frontier towns so a service was established, but this threatened those who already possessed the land and they would not let the service be conducted unimpeded. The argument is made that akin to the Pony Express, there are business channels, scholastic channels, government channels, and family channels that are being trail blazed through the established internet. They see it as taming a wild horse so it can actually work and be worth something. The problem is that much like the wild west, there is no governing body with which to negotiate, so progress is a muddy conversation.
So that’s the problem. You have the ‘keep the country country’ folks who realize the value that is had in having a sphere of ungoverned opportunity, and use it to their advantage. It is anonymous, it is full of potential, it is whatever you want it to be. This is contrasted by the ‘prune the tree, you’ll get more fruit’ folks who are pushing to a governing body to say what should go where. Is one way the right way, or is there a compromise that can be reached?
Typical of good political fear monging, the arguments for a ‘safer’ net use great emotional tag lines like “protect your kids from porn” or “stop the illegal activity that is rampant” of course no one wants their kids looking at a bunch of porn nor do they want illegal slums in their backyard, but that’s not the best summary. There is more being sacrificed than some 10 year olds ability to pull up a porn site (though honestly, this thought is what motivates me), this would potentially alter the development of a culture and generation that was born into the internet, so don’t make this decision lightly.
On the other side though, internet filters are hardly effective in keeping ‘bad’ stuff out. If I am running a business, and give employees my equipment to use, and it is in turn spent viewing horseporn, there is something at stake. I am largely responsible for what my equipment does, and if it’s serving offensive material or stolen goods to others, I am not able to escape all responsibility. Not to mention that if my bandwidth and server cycles are spent serving someone’s non work related desires and interests, that is money I am losing as a company. Then take the family lens out and realize that you can’t shield your kids from everything in life, but by the same token, you don’t bring drugs into the home and set it on top of the fridge and expect the kids not get into trouble. Don’t open a tunnel wide to the seedy underbelly of society and expect them to only search for daisies and new coloring books. This is a genuine dilemma.
So if we did want a governing body, who governs it? Our attempts at truly international committees have been far from stellar thus far, so representation will almost certainly be sacrificed in such a pursuit. Should we then trust a certain government with the discretion, perhaps the US, and what is to stop them from censoring mindlessly and killing the nature of the internet? Once a regulating body is established, we’re kissing the internet as we know it goodbye. Even if they’re good for the first several years, some congressman will get incited at the idea that you could talk treasonous things on such a public forum and regulation will be passed and things will curb downhill (see public television or radio and the FCC)
One idea is an organization called CP80 (cp80.org) that wants the internet to function in a channel type fashion over several ports. For kids content, connect to port 55, for business stuffs connect to port 91, etc. With the idea that there could be an adult channel and a ‘everything else channel’ where things could go on as is, but just like a channel, the user could block them entirely at the ISP level (translation, it could potentially be stopped before it even got to the home or business). The downside here is that a governing body would have to be introduced. Honestly, the only way I could see this working would be to give up on changing what we’ve got, and open up a distinct channel that is regulated and begin porting stuff over to it. It would be decades of work to get something comparable to the internet replicated, but let’s be honest, it’s not a perfect solution.
Other ideas include similar approaches tied up into filters, but the problem here is filters are defensive tools, they react to what happened, so you’re always a few weeks behind the curve, which means you’re never entirely in the clear, and thus never more than about 75% effective.
So the thought is what is more valuable. A regulated internet that has developers and architects who oversee its growth, thinking that in some strategic pruning, more fruit will be produced, or is it that a river will choose its own course, and by taking advantage of what it has become, we will get more production out of it.
I don’t have an answer for you, partly because I am not unbiased, I find myself choosing according to my own self interests. I have predictions, but no answers. My prediction is I see the internet being tamed by governing body, and in all honesty and it saddens me a little bit. I see it as inevitable, someone will be put in charge, and it is the nature of the ungoverned to find some form of government to rule them eventually. Is this the right solution, perhaps, but I don’t know and I find myself being put in increasingly influential conversations, and would like to give better answers than what I have. So I’m asking, what do you see as the solution, or even what do you predict will happen?
Posted 7 years, 6 months ago at 2:56 pm. 5 comments
after spending hours trying to get a rounded corners snippet of code to work with a wordpress template I’d made, I was about to claw my bloodshot eyes from their poor sockets. Seriously, from graphic positioning to nifty.js nothing was looking right or working within the theme.
Then I found this guy
3 lines of code later, I was set. May his children grow to be fat and healthy and he always have food on his table. Bless you sir.
Posted 7 years, 6 months ago at 4:08 pm. 2 comments