Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Successfully Scammed the Scammer

I nearly got scammed trying to get tickets to the Michigan/Michigan State game off Craigslist earlier this week.

Someone was offering $600 for four tickets on the 50 yard line. When I inquired about the tickets, the scammer, using the fake name Dan Brenner, told me he could set up a transaction through ebay using Western Union - where the funds would only be released to him once I received the tickets. He sent a real looking ebay transaction with my user name/address and his user name and address in the UK. He wanted me to send the transaction number (MTCN) and a photocopy of the receipt.

I stopped at a currency exchange and after asking some questions discovered that Western Union functions like a Swiss Bank account in that all you need is a MTCN number to get your cash and there's no way to hold a payment until a transaction is verified. It's a very popular internet scam apparently.

I did some research and found that the London address that this scammer sent me (I felt like a moron trying to buy football tickets from someone in the UK) was an international call center and I found evidence of him using the same address to prey on an LSU fan.

After doing a little more research, I found out that he wanted me to send a copy of the receipt because people often send scammers fake MTCN numbers to mess with them. Thankfully, I found this gem, which provided the template for a fake Western Union receipt.

My friends, it was on! I created a fake email address for Angelina Graziano and responded to the ad:

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 1:18 PM
Subject: Michigan/MSU football tickets!
hey there! hope im not too late. r u still selling the tix??? i would totally like to buy them.


dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 1:19 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
The tickets are still available.If you are interested to buy them reply me with your full name, address and your eBay id so we can start the transaction.


Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:46 PM
To: dan Brenner
OMG! so excited!

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:51 PM
To: dan Brenner
sorry 4got to add my info!

Angela Graziano
ebayid: Angelove89

10382 Line Dr,
Sterling Heights, MI 48310

Thx!!!!!!!!! XOXO =)!!!

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 2:56 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Did you received the invoice from eBay how to purchase the tickets from me?

Please read the invoice. You will send the money to an eBay agent. Not to me. eBay will send the funds to me ONLY AFTER you will send them the confirmation that you have the tickets in hand and they are real.

I will wait your reply

Thank You

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM
To: dan Brenner
i didnt know u were in london! Bonjour!!! lol! i was there last summer and saw pierce brozlin (sp?) on the london eye and got so excited i left ipod on the ride. one of your policemen with the funny hats had to help me find it!!!

im on my way to western union now! Thx!!!

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 3:15 PM
To: dan Brenner
OMG! my roomate says that bonjour is 4 france. you must think im so dumb. sorry...

off to eastern union!!!

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 3:28 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Did you sent the payment?

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:31 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
still there?

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:33 PM
To: dan Brenner
hey u! i sent the payment!
sorry my scanner is so bad.

the number is: 3804117256

thank u so much! my ex-boyfriend will be so surprized!!!!

dan Brenner
Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:34 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Did you sent the payment for next day or money in minutes?

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:42 PM
To: dan Brenner
money in minutes. why, is everything okay? my ex-boyfriend is so excited!!!!

XOXO. thank u!!!

ps do u have a picture of the tickets? lol. just cant wait to see them!

dan Brenner Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:45 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
Tomorrow morning i will email you the scanned paper from UPS...Please email me once you will receive them.ok?
I am at work right now

Angelina Graziano Tue, Oct 5, 2010 at 4:47 PM
To: dan Brenner
k, enjoy the rest of ur day. u made mine!!!!

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 9:41 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
Please call at western union and see what is the problem. the eBay agent can't pick up the money..i don't know why

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:26 AM
To: dan Brenner
OMG! please don't send the tix to someone else. i sent you the wrong number. so sorry! you must think im so dumb. :( a wrote a 1 instead of a 4! so sorry!!! :(

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:27 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
no problem Angelina..The tickets will arrive tomorrow.
It's ok?

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:29 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
what is the correct mtcn?

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:44 AM
To: dan Brenner
what's an mtcn? is that my sociatal security number?


dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:47 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
Angelina...the mtcn from western union

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:54 AM
To: dan Brenner
im confused. my roomate has a better scanner - should i send you a better copy of the recept?

thank u for being so patent with me. sorry i am so dumb.

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:57 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
Yes...send me a better copy

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 10:59 AM
To: dan Brenner

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:08 AM
To: Angelina Graziano
:)))) nice..i like monkeys:)))

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 11:36 AM
To: dan Brenner
i figured he could keep u company while i scan the recept. lol

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:28 PM
To: dan Brenner
sorry it took so long - i have the scan you ready or should i send you another monkey pic. lol!!!!

dan Brenner Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:28 PM
To: Angelina Graziano
send the scanned paper

Angelina Graziano Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 12:40 PM
To: dan Brenner

While I suspect you will continue to troll the internet, taking money from innocent people with this tired Western Union scam - I hope that posting this conversation to every internet forum I can get a hold of will not only alert people to your crap, but encourage them to mess with you and waste your time in new and creative ways.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Broken shoelace, split pants, nothing ever changes for Debacle

As I made my way to services, the heel of one of my shoes kept slipping
off. Moving to the edge of the sidewalk, I started kneeling down to
retie it.

I froze in place as soon as I heard the unmistakable sound of fabric

A woman walking in my direction snorted and covered her mouth. There was
a young couple behind her pushing a toddler in a stroller. The horrified
mother quickened her pace and veered her child as far away from me as

This was not just a rip. Rips don't cause women to rush their children
to safety. My pants looked like tectonic plates that had last fit
together millions of years ago. There was a massive fissure just below
the fly that ran the length of the crotch. The world no longer had to
speculate -- as anyone in the vicinity could tell you -- our hero wore

I had to get home! But how? I couldn't casually walk down the street
with the front of my tightie-whities exposed to the world -- that was
borderline indecent exposure!

People kept snickering to themselves as they walked by and I made it
worse by standing there in a frozen half squat.

After using my healthy wrist to fold the exposed area shut, I stood up.
Of course, holding a hand over the crotch of my pants drew more
attention to my predicament, but at least my undies were no longer visible.

A guy with short greased up hair, giant grey sunglasses and orange
tanning-salon-skin took one look at me and shouted, "Look at his pants!"

My whole side of the street broke into hysterics. The commotion was so
loud that a small group gathered across the road. Thankfully, their view
was screened by the cars parked along the street.

Too bad I didn't have a plastic cup. Then I could pretend I was a street
performer and not some idiot who didn't recognize that his pants were in
danger of splitting when he put them on. At least this hadn't happened
in the synagogue...

As I held what was left of my khakis together and headed back towards
home, I no longer had enough fabric to work with in order to take a full
stride. Leaning side to side, I had to prolong my public humiliation
with agonizingly tiny steps. I have no doubt that Kiddo-style hickeys
were out in force. After all this time, why hadn't I learned how to
recognize when my pants were too tight!?!

I took a deep breath.

What was I so upset about? I knew better than to take myself too
seriously. Still, why was it that these sorts of incidents only seemed
to happen to me?

Regardless, retelling this incident to Jen was guaranteed to make her
forget how weary she was from her miserable ride home. Let's face it,
there were few funnier, harmless calamities than someone with split
pants. Still, good thing she was generally tolerant of this sort of

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Death Star Strikes Back

On Friday, I left the office a little early in order to get a run in. A
quick three-miler was a guaranteed cure for my anxiety about services.
As a bonus, I hit the blissful Zen-like state of a runner's high just
before I got home. That'd probably be all I'd need to get me through the

Optimus called me at the last minute. He was stuck at work and couldn't
make it. Despite my Zen-like state, I considered bailing. It wasn't like
I had any other good friends who would be in attendance. If The Death
Star pulled---

Our hero was being paranoid.

Arriving at services a little late, I took a seat by myself towards the
back. At six foot tall, with super long hair held back in a ponytail,
Aldy2323 was hard to miss.

I needed to stop identifying Aldy2323 by her Tribe Date username. How
embarrassing would it be if I went up to her and said, How do you do,

Alderaan. Her name was Alderaan.

My intuition had been spot on -- The Death Star had a boy with her. I
didn't recognize him, but the name Grand Moff Tarken seemed
appropriate. As soon as I saw them, I kicked off a rousing mental
rendition of the final movement of Mr. Beethoven's ninth symphony and
relaxed into the service.

After services as everyone exited the sanctuary, I walked past Alderaan
and said, "Hello."

She nodded and her cheeks flushed. "Hi."

Excellent, that was all I was looking for.

As I milled around, chatting with some of the other regulars, The Death
Star greeted me with a warm smile. Why had I been so paranoid? We were
adults going about our business on the most peaceful night of the week.

The synagogue was hosting a free dinner with a speaker. I took my time
kibitzing and was one of the last people to get into the food line. By
the time I got my plate together, almost all of the tables were full. My
one-time ping-pong nemesis, Harry Osborne, was sitting next to three
vacant seats. It wasn't until I put my coat over the chair next to him
that I realized that I was directly across from Alderaan. **

"Hey, Debacle. Any idea what's in the rolls?" asked Harry as I sat down.

I took a bite. "Pork rinds topped with shrimp and... hmm... Munster cheese."

Alderaan chuckled. She smiled at me and looked like she was about to say

Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I looked up.

"Would you be comfortable if I sat next to you?" asked The Death Star,
loud enough for everyone to hear.

All conversation at our table ceased.

What the hell was she doing? So much for the extra endorphins from that
runner's high.

If I kept my cool, I could probably avoid making a scene. Laughing, I
said, "Sure, go for it."

"You're sure you're comfortable with this?" asked The Death Star.

Harry raised an eyebrow at me. I didn't acknowledge him.

Was The Death Star trying to embarrass me out of the synagogue?

"You're golden," I said.

After her bizarre line of questioning about my comfort level, it had to
be obvious to everyone at our table that we used to go out. If I failed
to get this situation under control in a hurry, there was no way I'd
ever get to take Alderaan out on the town.

The Death Star waved her boy over and then whispered in my ear, "You're
sure you're okay with this?" While it was nice that she hadn't asked
loud enough for everyone to hear, by appearing to tell me a secret,
she'd made this situation even weirder.

I gave her a thumbs up. What else could I do? It's not like I could
respond, Not anymore! Go sit somewhere else. This is a Death Star free

I braved a look over at Alderaan. She was staring at me, mouth wide open.

Tarken took the final seat.

It was possible that I could still salvage the night by injecting normal
conversation into the table. Turning towards Harry, I desperately tried
to think of something to say. Before I could get a word in, The Death
Star asked, "So how are your cats?"

The Death Star is clear to fire. The Death Star is clear to fire.

"You have cats?" asked Harry.**

People were always taken aback when they found out that I owned cats. It
was probably because the only persona weirder than the crazy cat lady is
the crazy cat dude. As a result, it wasn't something that I
broadcasted. The Death Star knew this. She was out for blood tonight --
in a synagogue, no less.

I gave my usual song and dance about how I grew up with cats, but I
liked dogs too. Given I lived alone, worked full time and occasionally
went away on weekends, cats were ideal pets because they could fend for
themselves. All the while, I was too nervous to brave a look over to the
28-year-old Alderaan to see how she was holding up.

The Zen-state was long gone, but I was still maintaining my poise. At
least I thought I was. For all I knew, my neck had broken out into the
splotches that'd earned me the nickname, Hickey Boy.

"So, how do you two know each other?" asked Tarken.

A small sigh escaped before I could regain my composure. This was
Michael Scott from The Office awkward.

The Death Star looked over at me like she expected me to answer. Why had
she brought her new boy over here without explaining that I was her
ex-boyfriend? I met her gaze and waited...