Tag Archives: trolling

Civility Lost: The Rise of the Trolls

“Don’t feed the trolls.”

It’s a modern-day-truism. It is as important to navigating the digital frontier of the Web as knowing how to parallel park is to obtaining your driver’s license. (Modern update to the road test rite of passage: the examiner scolded my oldest son when she thought he was looking at the backup camera in the minivan during the parallel parking phase.)

In this Internet Age we have the ability to connect with people on a scale never before imagined. But with great power comes great responsibility, Uncle Ben tells us. (“Don’t be a dick – stop the bad guy!” probably would have also been one worth mentioning to Peter.) And, sadly, it seems that we have failed to rise to the occasion. “Online safety” is another modern addition to the list of topics that parents have to address. Cyberbullying. Cyberstalking. Catfishing. Words that exist – and concepts that we have to wrestle with – in our digital age. The Internet has put information and connections at our fingertips. But for every solution it offers, another new worry seems to spring from this Internet Pandora’s Box.

Well, I danced with the Devil a couple of weeks ago. I fed a troll. Continue reading

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A Scammer By Any Other Name

A couple of years ago, on the Monday following a July 4th weekend, my brother Chris’s partner had his Facebook account hacked. When my wife logged onto her Facebook that morning, the fake “Beau” pounced and related a heart-wrenching tale of suspense, danger and intrigue. This was an also international thriller as the excitement had apparently unfolded in London!

The fact that my brother and his partner had been out on a boat on Lake Erie just two days prior certainly seemed to present some logistical challenges for “Beau”. A Sunday jaunt to Great Britain is also the kind of event that would come up in casual conversation with my brother. As we’d not heard anything about the trip across the pond, it seemed suspicious to me.

At first I prompted Aubry to offer the then-suspicious “Beau” the opportunity to verify his identity via some personal information. Within a few moments, my wife had me take over the chat on her computer (and her Facebook account). Apparently internet scam artists must truly be cagey masterminds as he quickly asked, “What are you trying to do, verify me?”

My next follow-up question about the particular car that “Beau” drives was quickly met with Facebook’s response that Aubry’s account did not have permission to chat with “Beau”. After being a part of our family for a few years, “Beau” had now rejected his sister-in-law.

Switching gears, I began to think of how this could become a funny story. I logged onto my Facebook account and within a few seconds he was ready to chat with me.

I had some ambitious ideas for where I wanted the chat to go but, this being my first attempt at scam-baiting, I clearly need some practice!

My editorial notes are displayed [in brackets].

Beau        hi

Todd        hey

Beau        How you?

Todd        great- you?

Beau        Not good

Todd        how was was your holiday?

[Maybe this chat would go in a different direction?]

Beau        Not good Not good

Todd        oh no! what happened?

Beau        Not good I need your help

Todd        of course- what happened?

Beau        Am stuck in London…….was mugged at a gun point last night

All cash credit card and cell phone was stolen off me

Todd       omg

Beau        It was so scary just happy i still have my life and passport…

Todd        have you called Chris?

Beau        Here with me

I need your help

Todd        sure- what can I do?

Beau        I need you to loan me some cash….as the next available flight leaves in some few hours from now…..

I will def refund it back to you as soon as i get back home PROMISE

[You can always trust a promise if it’s written in CAPS, right?]

Todd        sure- how?

Beau        You can have it sent to my name through western union

All you will need is my name and location

Todd        ok- what do I give them

Beau        Are you on the website?

Todd        is that all I have to do?

oh- I can do it online?

Beau        Are you on the website?

Yes

Todd        I’m there now

Beau        Yes

http://www.westernunion.com

Todd        already there

Beau        ok

What step are you now?

?

Todd        so how do you id yourself to them? why don’t I just buy your ticket for you?

what airline is the flight on?

I’m calling my travel agent right now

[Note: I have no travel agent. Do people really ‘have’ travel agents nowadays?]

Beau        I need the money to settle my bills as my return flight leaves in some few hours from now

Thru the help of the embassy

Todd        ok- the agent needs to now which airline your flying

she can have the ticket all set in 5 min- this is great!

what time was that flight you mentioned? I think we can make it

Beau        I already have a return ticket back home

I just need to settle some outstanding bills here before leaving

Todd        oh- the agent is telling me that she has to charge me b/c she bought the manifest placeholder- oh no!

it is going to cost me a $250 fee to cancel the customs paperwork

[Now I just wanted to see how long I could keep this going.]

Beau        Are you on the website???

Todd     what do I do? the customs document has already been filed by the travel agent

could you maybe repay the customs fee as well as the $980? I hate to ask but you know how tough it has been since the tractor accident

[Tractor accidents can be expensive.]

Beau        ok

I will refund everything back…

Todd        I’ll wire the money but I had the travel agent reserve the customs manifest and now she has to charge me for it. I’m so sorry to ask b/c of the trouble you are in but since I’m in the physical therapy for my detached liver $ has been tough

[Also expensive- a detached liver…]

Beau        ok

Can you get on the website now?

Please be fast….as am freaked out here

Todd        but I’m kind of worried about this manifest fee

Beau        I will settle everything when i get back….

So how much will everything be now….plus the $980

Todd        are you sure you will be able to pay it back? I’m sorry to ask but since I traded the cow for those hybrid seeds it’s been tough.

[How can I work a giant into the conversation?]

well- $980 plus the $250 customs fee. is that too much?

so $1030

[Just wondering if Mr. Scammer is a Math whiz…]

Beau        ok

Todd        wait- maybe I don’t need you to repay it in cash.

Beau        i will def refund everything to you as soon as i get back home..

PROMISE

[More sincerity!]

Todd        I have always admired your singing voice- maybe you could sing a Frank Sinatra song on my answering machine- that would be cool- your Sinatra impression is the best

Beau        Am in a local library

Todd        people would think that Frank Sinatra really liked me enough to record a personalized greeting

Facebook: You don’t have permission to chat with this person.

would you maybe write me one of your classic Haikus?

[…and unfriended by fake Beau!]

 

p.s. If, like me, you like to know how things resolve, all worked out. We had contacted my brother via phone while I was chatting with scam-Beau. Chris put the word out on his Facebook wall alerting all of their friends to the attempted scammer. Real-Beau was able to shut down the Facebook account that morning and, after verifying his identity, regained control of it a couple of days later. Although scam-Beau had serially begged and unfriended all of the friends that appeared online that morning, as far as I know, no one actually sent any money.

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Filed under Funny- ha ha