Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hey! I'm in demand .....

There are a lot of scams on the Internet designed to part you and your money.  They're all quite clever but it seems the scammers (is that a correct title?) don't have the highest IQs because once they find a scam setup that works, they continue using it well past its sell-by-date to the point where some people now play the scammers at their own game by taking the bait and sending false details and using delaying tactics to thwart them.
A common one I get in my e-mail inbox is one telling me my bank account has been frozen as a precaution due to unusual activity and that I will need to log in and reactivate it.  The fact that I don't belong to that bank is the giveaway for me.  A more sinister one that did make me pause was a similar message about my PayPal account.  Being suspicious, I sent off an e-mail to PayPal and they confirmed it was a scam and even asked me to send the e-mail on to them.

I was in China a few years ago, on my own, for a month.  Nothing odd happened, for the most part, except being photographed at least once a day by Chinese people who probably found a short, bald, bearded, round-eyed person too much a novelty to pass up.  I found them very friendly and inquisitive.  I visited 5 cities during my visit and it wasn't until I got to Shanghai and Beijing that the seedier side made its presence felt.

I was visiting a public area in which there was also a museum I wanted to visit.  I was approached by a couple (boy and girl) in their early twenties which was not uncommon.  The girl asked me where I was from and showed a lot of interest in getting to know more about Ireland, translating for her boyfriend as  we talked.  She also asked me where I had been in China and wanted to know what I thought of China.  Then she asked me if I had ever been to a tea party.  I replied that I hadn't and she said they, and a few others, were going to a traditional Chinese tea party and invited me to come along.
I don't know if I spotted something in her body language or whether it was that I tend to resist being pushed in a particular direction by a stranger but I made my excuses and that action brought about a change in attitude I definitely noticed and didn't like.

When I got back to the hotel I looked up scams in China on Google and found that tourists had been caught by the "tea party scam".  Apparently they lure you into a genuine tea party, run up a bill and then plead they have no money.  When you try to leave; a couple of burly (their word, not mine) staff will stop you and demand you pay.  The bill would usually come to about €20-€30 so there was no major harm done except to your dignity.  Armed with this information I went back to the area in the following days and was approached by two groups who I let go through their setup and then suggested I photograph them for my scrapbook and saw them turn extremely shy and disappear.

Another scam involved a young man (usually) who would engage you in conversation and then mention that he was an art sudent.  As a matter of fact he had his artwork in an exhibition right now and you could visit it for nothing.  Interested?  No, I wasn't.  I smelled a rat and decided to check that out as well.  Yep, you are at the 'exhibition' but are pressured into buying.  Not sure how they did that because the scam report didn't go into that detail and I didn't go to any of the exhibitions.

So, today I smiled when I got this in my e-mail inbox:

From: Andy Harrison <>Subject: BOOKING REQUESTDate: Sun, 7 Nov 2010 08:26:43 +0000

I want to make a reservation onbehalf of my Chinese friends because they can't speak or write good English....They will be coming into your country for their first Pre-Season vacation visit.
They are just two (2) couples
*Mr & Mrs Po Chui Yang (41 and 36yrs)
*Mr & Mrs Fuhua Shirong(44 and 38yrs)
They want you to prepare a 5 days tour package and accommodation for them, They are from Hong Kong and are willing to accept and pay for your offer.
*Arrival Date : 10th January, 2011.
*Departure Date : 16th January, 2011.
*Number Of Days : 5
*Number Of Guests : 4
Confirm availability and get back to me with your rates and total cost of your services, So that i can send you my Credit Card for immediate deposit. Waiting for your reply.

Andy Harrison..
My guess is that this is a new variation on the cheque with excess amount scam.  There will be an exchange of e-mails making all the arrangements and then they send you a cheque; except it will be for more than the amount agreed.  They will apologise and ask if you could send them the balance.  If you do, you'll find that your money is taken and their cheque bounces.

I am so tempted to play ......  Ni hao.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ask the Experts .....

Last night (Nov-02) I had the dubious honour of being on a panel of experts in the Dublin Camera Club.

Before I continue with what went on let me tell you a story .....
I used to be an Engineer.  One day in our Engineering Department, our esteemed leader (The Captain) came out of his window office in the corner and asked "Who knows about the Infralyzer 400?  Who's the expert? I have a Service Engineer in Italy who needs help."
There was silence.  We looked at him and at each other.  Nothing.
"Has anyone got any details on the system?" he asked desperately.
"I have a brochure somewhere on my desk" said Bill.
"Bring it with you into my office and talk to this guy."
"But I'm not an expert" protested Bill.
"You've got a brochure.  You know more than the other guys!"

Now I don't regard myself as an expert in photography.  I am constantly made aware of my shortcomings in artistic ability and knowledge but, apparently, I have more knowledge than some people even if that is only knowing where prints for competitions are kept.

So last night was interesting.  The first question was, to my mind, quite a technical question asking why it was that Nikon and Canon dominated the market with their DSLRs which are quite bulky and heavy in comparison with the 'four thirds' format which are much lighter and still produce great results.

The range of questions after that varied from printing and printers (both machines and businesses) to studio setups to finding out what competitions were going on outside the club.  It was a good night.  There was a lot of interaction between the 'experts' and the club members and between the club members themselves.  Personally, I would like to see more of these in the future albeit with a little more structure and formality.  Some answers were long and tended to go off on reminiscences and tangents rather than be moderated.  There were also some secondary discusssions that went on as though nobody else was present!

I was told in advance of some of the questions I would be asked but strangely wasn't asked most of them!  More room for improvement.

I wonder if any other clubs do this ......