My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Sunday, October 23


Now that our lives seem to be dominated by the internet and its connection to our countless devices, we’re being victimized by so many scams we can’t keep them all straight.
There’s “phishing,” which lures unsuspecting netters into going to the phisher’s fake link, entering their identification and password. That info gives the scammer access to one or more of our financial sites. So long, savings.

The Nigerian scam is so ridiculous it’s hard to believe anyone would fall for it, but as P. T. Barnum is thought to have said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” You receive an e-mail telling you that some Nigerian potentate wants to give you a huge chunk of money just because he’s heard what a nice guy you are. All you have to do to get it is pay the legal fees for transferring the money. So long, hard-earned bucks.

There are many other scams involving our internet connections, but you get the idea. Then there are the phone calls during which a person tells you, usually in very broken English, that you’re way behind in paying back taxes and that if you don’t pay it immediately you’ll be fined bigtime by the IRS or even arrested, and if you won’t pay, you’re told with volume up and a few choice words that the sheriff will soon be at your door to put you in cuffs and haul you away. The number of such calls must be astronomical. Ours is only one of nearly 200 million households and I’ve already gotten three such calls. These numbers suggest that this phone scam dials millions and millions of phones. There must be hundreds of huge rooms filled with thousands of broken English speakers all calling to scam us.

Another phone call that may or may not be a scam—someone, usually speaking in that ubiquitous Indian dialect, tells us he’s with Microsoft technical support, or maybe Windows or Norton or some other company specializing in computer security. He sees that my computer is in danger of crashing because I’ve been hacked or I’ve opened a website that inserted malware. He asks for permission to take over my computer to show me all these dire warnings of danger. When I don’t have a clue whether this danger is real or not, I ask him if he can fix it. “Well, certainly,” he says. “That is why I am here.” Then we get to what it will cost me for this fix. Up to this time, nothing has been said about the cost for this support. For him to fix it, I’ll have to sign up for one to three years of protection with his company, costing me from $200 to $300. Only once did I agree to this charge and then found I didn’t really need their protections since I already had all kinds of protection I got when I bought the computer and even more through AOL. Were the threats real or was I conned? Was I scammed or wasn’t I?

All these present-day scams made me think of what I consider the scam of the last century—Time Shares (both words capitalized). Twenty years ago my wife and I went to Sedona, Arizona, to listen to a sales pitch. We went because the resort selling time shares promised to give us two hundred dollars just for listening, no matter if we decided to buy or not to buy. Now, we realized only afterwards, we were already living in a wonderful retirement community, a resort with all kinds of amenities, so why would we need another one? Too soon old, too late smart. We went, we saw, and we were conquered. I’d never been subjected to such a high-powered sales pitch and I fell into their trap. My wife kept saying no, but I kept saying, well, maybe. It was such a gorgeous place and the suites were so beautiful and all the amenities like the pool and the weight room were so nice. And we could even trade our time share week for another anywhere else in the world. And, oh, how persuasive these fast-talkers were. We finally agreed to an alternate-year time share for only, for only (notice how I’m stuttering?) about $10,000. But just think of the resale value of this share of time we now possessed every other year. And think of all the places we might visit for a week on our time share trades. But after trading for a week at a lovely condo on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institute on Lake Chautauqua, New York, and going to Sedona for one night, we found that we didn’t really want to go through the hassle of our time share possession. There was the annual cost of joining a company that took care of the details involved in trading a week here for a week there; there was the annual maintenance fee that seemed to go up steeply every year. We discovered when we tried to sell it that there were very few buyers. We also found out that in order to sell it we had to pay a company a fee for handling the sale. I remember asking one such representative why they couldn’t simply take a percentage of the selling price. “Oh, no,” he said. “It has to be paid up-front.” So we paid and waited for news of a sale. Never got any news. Were never able to contact the company or its representative to see what was going on. Scammed. So long, timeshare selling fee.

We also discovered that one can’t even give away a time share, that the maintenance fees continue and if not paid, there would be hell to pay and possibly even a lien put on our house. And the maintenance fees would go on forever, and even if you gave it to your children, they would be responsible for those ever-increasing, never-ending annual fees. We finally stumbled onto a company that would take our time share off our hands and relieve us of this obligation to annual maintenance fees. And it would cost US only $2500. That’s right. It would cost US that much. It was a sort of reverse sale. But we agreed to it just to get rid of that elephant on our backs. This experience is the reason for my calling Time Shares the scam of the last century. Maybe it’s now still number one in the 21st century.

Why is it that we have to learn all of life’s lessons when we’re too old for them to help us, when we no longer need them? Why can’t we already know how to avoid all of life’s mistakes and scams? Why won’t our children ever listen to us when we tell them about what we’ve learned? Sondheim wrote a song for Into the Woods, “Children Will Listen.” Stephen, they don’t listen. They really don’t.
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