Posts tagged ‘Update Apparently’

Scam Alert -- US Telecom

We get literally (as they would say on the TV show Archer, literally literally and not figuratively literally) hundreds of paper bills to pay each month in our business.   We can barely keep up just with paying them all, much less vetting every one.  Which is what scam artist marketers count on when they craft fake bills they spam to businesses in hopes that some percentage, in their hustle and bustle, will pay the bills without knowing they are fraudulent.

These letters really, really tick me off.  They are sent by people who apparently cannot sell a product or service on its own merits and so must trick harried business people into accidentally sending them money.  I get these most frequently from companies that send me letters that look just like a government agency requiring yet another fee (the corporate minutes fraud).

So here is the most recent bill my accounts payable person questioned and put on my desk.   It is from a company called US Telecom, and despite the remission address on the letter it is apparently based in California.  You can click to enlarge the letter -- it is in very high resolution, which we will need to find the small print that they use to try to cover their butts.

Click to Enlarge US Telecom Scam Letter

 

Does this look like a regular bill to you for some service we have contracted for?  It did to me.  Note the "Due upon Receipt" at the top, the calculation below with previous balance and new balance and "pay this amount."  No reasonable person in this country would say it looks like anything but an invoice for service received.

But this is not a bill.  It is a solicitation for services.  If you send the money, then you are committed.  And by the way, per the terms below, once the agreement is in place, it cannot be terminated or amended (or likely refunded) without a signature from both parties, which means only if they approve it.  If they don't, congrats, you are stuck in this contract.  I have no idea if you actually paid, whether you would receive any services or not.  Since they priced this service without even knowing what assets I have that would be serviced (note no equipment or equipment location is listed in the bill, the first "tell" to me this was a fraud) I am not sure how they would ever provide any service.  (we were really saved by Quickbooks on this one, because my payables person flags any bill from a vendor not set up in our system).

They attempt to cover themselves, in the same way the corporate minutes scamsters do, with the small print in the last two lines at the bottom.   Can't read it?  LOL, I could not read it myself, even full size, without my glasses.  You can click through if you wish to see it on the high rez version.  But it says that it is not a bill, it is a solicitation, and that I am under no obligation to pay unless I accept the offer, which I do by paying.  But by the language, once paid, I have accepted the offer and cannot get out of it without a signature from an authorized officer of their company.  I bet that would be easy to get.

That last fine print may keep them out of jail or even let them sleep at night, but no legitimate business with a valuable product sells its services this way.

Update:  Apparently there is a legitimate US Telecom and they are understandably pissed.  They have set up a page on this billing fraud, and apparently the Attorneys General in a number of states are investigating.

Update #2:  Talk about waddling in late on a story!  These guys' registered corporate name is UST Development, run by a guy named David Bell.  Ken White of Popehat has been on these guys for years.  LOL, I even linked Ken's post a while back.  You sleazy folks out there can f*ck with me all you want but you do not want to mess with Ken White.

Update #3:  Good God, Ken did 14 posts on these guys.  Enjoy.

Things I Never Knew

This guy in Road Warrior and this guy in Commando are the same actor.  Never would have suspected until I saw the actor signing autographs at local Comic Con.  Certainly a formidable acting portfolio.

Commando is one of my favorite of its genre.  All the elements are there - classic Arnold walk-away lines, bad acting, infinitely large ammo magazines, worse-than-stormtrooper bad-guy shooting, more bad acting, and unrepentant machismo.

Update:  Apparently Rae Dawn Chong is still making movies.  Who knew?  But I am a bigger fan of the woman in Road Warrior

New Passport Application -- I Honestly Thought This Was A Joke

It should be a regular feature here -- government programs so silly they sound like a spoof.  Seriously, I thought this was some spoof birther proposal.  Via Radley Balko, from Consumer Traveller

The U.S. Department of State is proposing a new Biographical Questionnaire for some passport applicants: The proposed new  Form DS-5513 asks for all addresses since birth; lifetime employment history including employers’ and supervisors names, addresses, and telephone numbers; personal details of all siblings; mother’s address one year prior to your birth; any “religious ceremony” around the time of birth; and a variety of other information.  According to the proposed form, “failure to provide the information requested may result in … the denial of your U.S. passport application.”

The State Department estimated that the average respondent would be able to compile all this information in just 45 minutes, which is obviously absurd given the amount of research that is likely to be required to even attempt to complete the form.

It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories.  So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.

In fact, this text misses some of the real doozies.  Here is a jpg of the 2nd page of the application (click to enlarge)

Dates and locations of your mother's pre-natal doctor visits?  My mom would laugh her ass off if I called her asking for these.  And how can  the government get away with asking for details of religious ceremonies connected to one's birth?

I swear the combination of the religious ceremony stuff and the residence of one's mother before, during, and after birth is so parallel to birther arguments about Obama I thought this was a spoof.

Update: Apparently this form is for people who have lost their birth certificate.  If a person cannot track down his or her birth certificate and can't find his or her birth hospital to get a replacement, I find it hard to believe any of this stuff is answerable either.  To me, this factoid makes the whole Obama/birther irony even funnier.

LOLing

I have to agree with Glen Reynolds that this is an awesome quote, from  a member of the teacher's union in Denver:

That’s your problem. You’re an entrepreneur, so you don’t work. You don’t know what work is until you get into an educational area.

Yep, some day I will have to stop loafing around and take on a brutal assistant principal job somewhere.  All I have to worry about is that every dollar I own (and more) is invested in my business and could disappear at any time if I make a mistake.  Thank God I don't have to sit around all day worrying whether the doctor that hands out no-questions-asked disability rulings will still be practicing when I am 45 and ready to retire.

I call this the "Dallas / Dynasty" perception of business, that businessmen just grab a phone call or two, go to a power lunch, and then head home to the mansion.

Update: Apparently this is a common misconception about entrepeneurs

The average number of working hours per week of a successful starting entrepreneur is seventy. This catches the typical American dreamer by surprise.

The teacher day:

Nor do teachers spend all of their time at school in the classroom. In fact, teachers spend fewer hours actually instructing students than many recognize. Stanford's Terry Moe worked with data straight from the nation's largest teacher union's own data - and found that the average teacher in a department setting (that is, where students have different teachers for different subjects) was in the classroom for fewer than 3.9 hours out of the 7.3 hours at school each day.

With several hours set aside at school for course-planning and grading, it strains plausibility that on average teachers must spend more hours working at home than do other professionals.

Not to mention, of course, summer vacation, Christmas break, spring break, fall break.... Oh, and the fact that they have lifetime job security because in public schools they can't be fired for even the most egregious incompetance

Massachusetts Goes Over the Line

Just after the Giffords shooting, Travis Corcoran, who I link from time to time for his biting commentary, posted something along the lines of "one down, 534 to go."  I didn't like the comment, but it was not wildly different from his quasi-revolutionary rhetoric he often uses when describing the fraud and outright criminality of public officials.  In the context of his body of work, I did not find it either surprising or particularly troubling, and certainly did not take it as a call to action or overt threat.  I merely thought it in poor taste.

The comment went viral, and many others trashed him on blogs and in his comments -- these folks found the comment to be much worse than just poor taste.  Their response was exactly what one does in a free society in reaction to speech we don't like -- we use speech in response.  Travis strikes me as a big boy who was able to handle the consequences of his speech.  Unlike many more cowardly sites, Travis did not re-edit the post to whitewash it or secretly eliminate it.

However, some folks were apparently not happy with just responding with speech.  Typical of modern discourse, certain folks wanted to win their argument by bringing the coercive power of the state in on their side.  Apparently, Massachusetts gun laws allow for revocation of firearms permits under certain vague circumstances (which are conveniently flexible for the state).  Travis had agents of the state (or local?) government show up at his door and confiscate his firearms.  Now, presumably there is a legal ruckus going on (TJIC is not one to take such things passively) and his site is down (presumably under advice of attorneys).

This strikes me as way over the line.  The implied threat does not meet any of the well-worn court judicial tests for speech that can be actionable as a threat.  I don't know enough law, and have not really studied the statute in question, to know whether this particular gun licensing law is able to establish a broader definition of threat (I am not sure it even has been tested in court).

But I am certain about one thing, because the statement I am about to make applies to just about every government law with vague terminology that leaves enormous room for selective interpretation and enforcement:  There is probably no way the state of Massachusetts or the city of Arlington can argue that this effective restriction on speech is being enforced in a viewpoint neutral way.  I bet I could find a whole boatload of radical leftish academics with firearms who have made far more specific threats and never have, and would never have, such restrictions enforced against them.

Update: Apparently there are threats of other legal actions.  I have just no time to blog right now, but Radley Balko has what seems to be a fair take and a lot more information.

EPA Silliness

Over the last several years, we have been replacing many of the full-sized pickups we use in our campground business with mini-trucks from Japan.  They are cheaper to insure, cheaper to buy, easy to repair, and get about 60 miles to the gallon.  We typically buy them used in container-loads of six or seven, and we used to get them for less than $10,000 a container -- now they cost almost this much individually.

This year the prices have sky-rocketed, and they have been hard to find.  I finally discovered the reason.  It seems the EPA has halted their importation.  These are trucks that are from an emissions regime (in Japan) harsher than ours and that have three times the gas mileage of the trucks they are replacing.  But apparently the EPA doesn't have rules for them and doesn't know how to categorize them, and anything a bureaucrat doesn't have rules for must be illegal, right?  So now we are forced to go back to full-size pickup truck purchases until the EPA can catch up with the market.

Update: Apparently the EPA is going to review these trucks model by model.  This is so stupid.  They need some kind of class waiver.

Minimum Wage Humor

This is pretty good, and not just because it is drawn by my Princeton '84 classmate Henry Payne.  HT:  Cafe Hayek.   Update: Apparently, these cartoon links are not permanent, and new cartoons replace the link, making it meaningless, so I have deleted it.

Zywicki on Miers

I know nothing about Bush Supreme Court nominee Harriett Miers other than she adds yet another possible way for people to misspell my last name.  Todd Zwycki at Volokh has this take, and it doesn't sound too good:

These appointments thus seem to confirm a common criticism of this
President--that he is uninterested in ideas and interested only in
power. While they may both turn out to be perfectly fine Justices, both
Roberts and Miers appear to be both uninspired and uninspiring in terms
of providing intellectual leadership on the Court. The Administration
seems to be narrowly obsessed with winning minor tactical victories
(here, an easy confirmation of a stealth candidate) while consistently
failing to follow-through with meaningful long-term strategic victories
(an opportunity to change the legal culture).

In the end, of course, the lack of a strategic vision means that
even the tactical victories tend to be reversed (for instance,
temporary tax cuts will likely fall victim to the inability to control
spending). As Reagan understood, you have to first have the long-term
strategic vision in mind so that you know when to make tactical
compromises. Ideas are the long-run motivating force of history.
Tactics without strategy, by contrast, leaves you rudderless.

Beyond his evaluation of Miers, I really like his assessment of Bush, which strikes me as dead-on.  I still think Janice Rogers Brown was the choice.

Update:  Apparently, she was on the Dallas City Council when I lived there in the early 90's, but I sure don't remember having heard of her.  And how serious a candidate can anyone be for the Supreme Court if they were on a freaking city council a decade ago -- can you see any of your city council members on the Supreme Court in 10 years?  And by the way, what are the odds that Bush's personal friend and lawyer will do anything to reign in the new powers to suspend habeas corpus that the administration has granted itself.