It's all very well being a noble defender of the downtrodden, a fearless crusader against evil and a vigorous vanquisher of injustice -- but sometimes the bleeding downtrodden make you want to give up and leave them to get vanquished themselves.
Take the following email, sent to our office manager by the building facilities people. "Warning!" it said. "The Barclays cash machine in Tower Hill tube station has been tampered with. It was an obvious cover put over one side of the machine with a very rough silver paint job and really easy to spot."
Damn. I missed it. I'd been wanting to see one of these skimmers for a while. They're quite sophisticated -- the scammers take the insides of a tiny digital camera, add a card reader, record the magnetic data from the card and then transmit back pictures of the pin being entered. Still, I'm sure I'll get the chance.
However, the email continues:
"Despite me standing there and telling people they still wanted to put their card in."
You can only go so far in trying to help. "This cash machine is bugged -- it will duplicate your card and your entire savings will be transferred to Caracas to pay for plastic surgery on family pets!" "Yeah, yeah, but I need fifty quid for tonight."
I've seen this before. A fake mobile phone company Web site offered loads of great deals that were -- frankly -- too good to be true. Some investigation revealed that it was a well-designed yet obvious fake. This knowledge was distributed on a discussion board read by a few hundred knowledgeable -- you'd think -- punters. The following conversation ensued. "We've checked it out. The company name's a front, the Web site is registered to a random address in California, the contact numbers don’t work and the prices are lower than Nokia can make the phones for."
"Yeah, yeah, but it's such a good price - I might put in an order, just in case it's legit."
I tell you, it won't take much more of this before I set up a site marked "FRAUD-R-US! Please enter your credit card number, and see what happens next!" But then I always promised myself I'd never become a publisher…
(The Caracas reference to plastic surgery for pets? Apparently so: the latest fad is to hire surgeons and lend them to an elderly relative so their pets can be modified to look like their owners. Who knew?)