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Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

Many years ago, I was a manager for Geek Squad at Best Buy. Customers would try a wide variety of scams all the time.

If you remember, Best Buy used to always offer insurance plans on everything under the sun. They weren't necessarily terrible plans, probably just overpriced, like most insurance. One of the policies was that if you had to have your machine sent off for service more than 3 times, we'd just give you a new one.

Several customers tried to take advantage of this by purposely breaking their equipment. You'd see them come week after week with one issue after another. Most were sneaky enough about it that you couldn't catch them, but we did have one guy remove the heat sink on the processor, wipe off all the thermal paste, and then put it all back together. This will pretty much immediately make your processor overheat and get destroyed. However, it's also fairly obvious, and the repair shop caught this and voided his warranty.

We also helped verify some of the returns. A pretty common scam was to buy something like a video card or a hard drive, swap out the contents of the box with a cheaper or broken item, and then return it. We'd also see people buy whole computers and swap out components, like sticks of RAM and hard drives. In theory, the customer service folks were supposed to run items like that by the technicians for verification, but the customer service folks weren't really paid enough to care.

Another common thing was to see someone buy a big ticket item, return it the next day, and buy it a week later when it was 10% cheaper as an open box item.

When Best Buy got rid of basically all of the restocking fees, we started seeing people "rent" items all the time, e.g. buy a computer, use it for 29 days, return it, buy a new one the next day, repeat. We had a history on returns (tracked through your credit card, rewards card, and/or phone number), but there wasn't really any policy on when to refuse returns, so we'd just have to smile and let them keep on doing what they were doing.

One thing I learned while working in retail was that if you're polite, keep complaining, and always ask for a manager (or the manager's manager, and so on), it's pretty easy to get anything you want. If you keep escalating things, eventually you'll get high enough where it's not worth the manager's time to deal with your poo poo, so they'll just believe what you're saying and give you whatever want for free or heavily discounted or lots of free gift cards. If you start yelling and swearing, we can kick you out, but if you just keep asking for managers, typically folks will just roll over, and you can lie to their face and they won't really fact check anything your saying.

I had one customer tell me to my face that he was going to get a manager to give him a free computer even though he knew he shouldn't get one. I even told my manager about this, but once the store manager spent 15 minutes with the guy, he just caved because he didn't want to deal with it.

Imaduck fucked around with this message at 18:26 on Mar 15, 2016

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Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

I was riding the BART in San Francisco once and saw some guys doing a shell game. However, they were making it really easy, weren't charging their customers, and would award you a dollar if you picked the right shell. The only catch was, they wanted you to "show them some money" so that they knew you weren't homeless or something like that, because it'd be horrible to give money to someone who doesn't have any, or something.

I saw a few seemingly random people win their dollars. They came to me, I picked the right one, and then they asked me to show them my money. I said "no," they insisted, and I told them to get the gently caress out of there. They quickly hopped off the train at the next stop. (I'm not really intimidating, I think they just didn't want to attract too much attention)

I assume they were just trying to find out where your wallet was, so someone else could find an easy mark to pickpocket? Or maybe later in the scam, if they stayed around long enough, they'd ask you to bet on it? It did seem like they were legitimately giving out money, but they were just $1 bills so it wasn't like it was costing them much.

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

That Robox posted:

How common is it for MLM/Pyramid scams to team up? I keep seeing big colorful posters around, and ads posted on facebook about some "Women's Empowerment Summit" or something similar to that. And it's basically like 5 or 6 of these MLMs targeting women all under one roof. They've teamed up to rent a conference center or something.

And as usual, I'm just holding my tongue because every time I've tried to point out an obvious scam, I get dogpiled on and accused of being jealous and trying to ruin opportunities for people.
It's weird, you would think that being scammed by one MLM would make you less likely to jump in that boat again. However, my anecdotal evidence suggests that people tend to jump from one MLM scheme to the next. They just can't give up on the dream, and will rationalize anything to make it seem like a reality. "Sure, it didn't work last time, but this product is so much better!" I even know someone with an astrophysics PhD that has sold crap for multiple MLMs without turning a profit, and yet she keeps on doing it. You'd think getting burned would make you shy away, but it just makes you want to work extra hard to prove that you haven't been duped.

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

MayakovskyMarmite posted:

Everyone interested in this should watch the 1972 documentary Marjoe. It is a fascinating movie about a former child evangelist who drops out of the faith/scam. He then goes back with a camera crew to expose the grift. Has some insanely great gospel music along with superb under cover cinematography. It is also a great time capsule of 1972.

Watch this clip on youtube. At 1:40 he starts explaining the speaking of tongues. At 3:00 they start literally counting hundreds and hundreds of dollars in small bills. At 4:25 he explains how his family groomed him for the grift and the amazing amounts of money he made before it all came crashing down.

https://youtu.be/1-C3trU9ljw
In that same vein:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7BQKu0YP8Y#t=39s

And if you're interested in James Randi's career of debunking frauds, you should really check out the documentary on him:
http://anhonestliar.com/wp/

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

There's a good Planet Money on the whole Sovereign Citizen thing:
http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2016/02/19/467383708/episode-685-larry-vs-the-irs

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

If you don't live in a big city, you might not be that used to encountering strangers on a street, and probably don't know how to deflect them. Doubly so if you're in a country and don't know how common/uncommon it might be for strangers to talk to you.

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

If you keep your health claims nonspecific, you can say pretty much whatever you want. This is why so many herbal products will claim to "boost your immune system" or "improve brain functionality." These statements are so vague and medically meaningless that they can't really be evaluated, so they get past the FDA / FTC.

That being said, companies often go too far. Airborne got fined for $23M for claiming megadoses of vitamin C treat and cure the common cold, in spite of that being a long-debunked myth. Of course, Airborne is still in business, and now they just advertise they provide "immune support," and hope you'll ignore the disclaimer printed on every box of their product

Airborne posted:

* THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THESE PRODUCTS ARE NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE OR PREVENT DISEASE.
But hey, if they make their statements vague enough and you draw the wrong conclusions, how is that their problem? Right?

Also, the production of herbal / dietary supplements in the US is largely unregulated, and most supplements you buy in stores don't actually contain the product on the label, and the dosages are pretty much never accurate.

Imaduck fucked around with this message at 16:27 on Jun 29, 2016

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

peanut posted:

On topic: Disneyland and/or all children's entertainment is are the biggest scam ever amirite?!
ftfy

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

BiggerBoat posted:

I'm just wondering how they DO it and it's utterly terrifying to me.

I guess they target porn sites because a person is less likely to complain when they were looking at midget/foot fetish/scat/incest videos than "I was balancing my checkbook and then THIS happened" but, still. Just being able to lock your browser like that...
I mean, most malware still comes in from one of two points of entry:

1. Really out of date operating systems and browsers
2. Opening an executable file from some random third-party

If you're browsing the internet on an up-to-date machine and you're not downloading random programs all / warez all the time, you should be fine. If you have Windows Defender installed and up-to-date (it's free and comes with Windows), you're in great shape.

Sometimes you'll hit something in your browser that will pop up and can't be closed easily or whatever, but most modern browsers have figured out how to shut these down. Worst case, you can just restart your computer. It's really hard to permanently wreck your poo poo if they can't execute arbitrary code (e.g. applications) on your machine.

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

The second story on this Planet Money episode talks about one of these scareware scams, and even has a recording of someone as they're being scammed. The scammers do a good job of playing into people's fears and misunderstandings, and it's so cheap to run a scam that even if it only works 1 out of 50 times, they're still making bank.

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

.... she might have just wanted someone to buy her some chicken.

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

Josef K. Sourdust posted:

Thanks for those replies. So what is the economic incentive to pay for posters? I know most of the sovcit stuff is scam/paranoia/libertarian/magical thinking so what's the payoff for putting up enigmatic posters?

Quote-Unquote posted:

You're trying to rationalise the actions of completely insane people dude.

The funniest part of those stupid LEGAL NAME FRAUD billboards is that they don't even have a web address or any sort of way to find out more about it. Even googling the words on it just takes you to various news outlets pointing out that it's a load of stupid nonsense.

It's a little more complicated than that. There are definitely people trying to profit from the sovcit stuff by selling informational materials, as described in the article from the Canadian judge someone linked earlier. Some people are naive and desperate and get duped. Others have always been anti-government, and this jives with their worldview as a way to stick it to the man. And yeah, some folks are just mentally ill.

There's a great Planet Money Podcast on it that has elements of all of these things.

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

MLM has the business model backwards; if you're a salesperson for a simple product, you should get paid a salary or hourly wage like you would with any other sales job. Instead, they ask you to front the costs for the product, and take all the risk if it doesn't sell.

What's worse is that the products are typically just highly marked-up versions of products you can get at normal retailers for cheaper.

What really makes them horrible is that pretty much no seller actually turns a profit with MLMs.

quote:

The nonprofit Consumer Awareness Institute analyzed available data published by the MLM companies themselves. Of the companies surveyed, they reported the least successful was Amway/Quixtar where 99.99% of distributors lose money, and the most successful was Herbalife, where 99.42% of distributors lose money.

quote:

In a Wisconsin lawsuit, the tax returns of the top 200 of 20,000 network marketing participants were examined by the Attorney General. The average income of this top 1% was -$900.
from https://skeptoid.com/episodes/4176.

MLMs are borderline legal in the US, and often cross the line to illegal with misleading advertising, price fixing, and pyramid scheme practices. The Wiki article actually has some good info about this. They're also often tied to pseudoscientific and otherwise fraudulent products.

Imaduck fucked around with this message at 05:20 on Sep 20, 2016

Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

Thanatosian posted:

I'm sure these conferences don't care about accepting bullshit, because plenty of people are probably happy to pay them for the resume padding, because academia is full of bullshit hurdles like that.
Anyone in academia knows what the relevant journals and conferences are in their field, so publishing in some wonky journal or going to a bogus conference would be a definite red flag.

My guess is that most of the people that publish in these things are crackpots or people that are very detached from academia that want to break in but don't know enough to know better.

Imaduck fucked around with this message at 17:48 on Oct 26, 2016

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Imaduck
Apr 16, 2007

the magnetorotational instability turns me on

I actually had a pretty inexpensive vacation on a week-long Carnival cruise awhile back. Yeah, there are fees and non-inclusive things to be aware of, but as long as you know what you're getting into up front, you can still have a pretty cheap vacation.

But yeah, you should know what you're getting into if you ever win one as a prize. You usually have to pay the taxes on the value of the prize, and they typically value the prize at something much, much bigger than what you'd actually pay for a ticket. Plus you have to pay all the other fees and whatnot. It's not going to be a free vacation.

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