As the title suggest; we're living in a wacky world.
Wouldn't life be grand if it was anything like the atmosphere of RPGs? In RPGs, anyone will talk to you. People constantly give stuff away for free, and crooks and murderers are made overly apparent. Sure, there's the added bonus of monsters, demons, super powerful overlords and the such; but for the most part, you knew who or what they were and how to avoid them.
Now, here comes reality. Not everyone will just talk to you. You can't just walk into anyone's house and start a conversation with them while they're cooking dinner for their kids. People rarely give things away for free, and crooks and murderers aren't overly apparent. As a matter of fact, it's the exact opposite.
Take this website for example. I have to follow a set of rules to prevent my site from getting hijacked. PHP wasn't built with security in mind, so the following rules were created:
1) NEVER trust anything from the outside. If a user is inputing their name into a field that will be saved on the site, assume a hacker is trying to use it to gain entry into the system, or deface the website or something.
2) NEVER allow your website to reveal ANYTHING detailed about your server or site. Putting the version of Apache you're using is fine. Even putting what type of server you're on is OK. Allowing your site to display errors about MySQL is BAD. Allowing your server to display ANY error that you haven't intended to the user is bad. It's especially bad when it's a production server: a server that provides some sort of service. AKA Every website you've been in contact with. I've been guilty of this recently and luckily I caught on before it was too late.
3) DISABLE GLOBAL VARIABLES!! Never use this ever! It allows anybody to add something like "&admin=true" to the end of the URL and magically makes it a variable that can be seen in the website. The danger in that is if you had a variable called "$user" which held information about your username, a person could easily put "&user=whoever" at the end of your url. If the user "whoever" happens to be an admin, then that user has admin rights to your site!!
There are several other PHP rules, but those 3 are the most important. Its sad that one would have to follow these rules because of the evils of society.
Now, I've never been scammed in my life. However, many people close to me have (and multiple times). The human race, by nature, is very trusting. You have several scam artists who take advantage of that. So, because of that, you gotta be on high alert at all times.
Several years ago, when I was 16 or so, my mother got involved with someone from the Ivory Coast in Africa (yes, we all know about these scams now, but this was when they first became widespread). Some lady claimed that she was the heir to some huge diamond repository and that she wanted my mother to cash checks and send the money back to her while keeping 10% of it. She mentioned something about a civil war and her assets being in danger. My mother asked me about it. I was 16 years old at the time and I couldn't care less. However, as time went by, I started asking myself, "Why would they need you to send American money to them if their assets there are under fire? Why would the change in currency matter?" and "Why would they choose you of all people?" Needless to say, I became suspicious. In the end, my mother lost contact with them and nothing fraudulent happened.
Now, fast forward about 2 years. My mother gets contacted by some other people: Nigeria being the birthplace of this story. Remembering what happened with the Ivory Coast story, I quickly became weary of it. These people wanted my mother to cash money orders and send a big portion of the money back to them. Soon, she began getting money orders for large sums of money. My sister saw this and decided to join in. They tried to get me to do it and I said, "Sounds like a scam to me." They give me the information about this guy and whatnot. He even had a website. He was masquerading as a legit international business of some sort. The thing that set alarms off in my head was the email address. It was just a simple yahoo email. That's when I asked myself, "Why use a yahoo email when you own a website, let alone your own business?" I whois'ed the website and found that the website was hosted by some British company that linked to some guy in Arizona. "Huh?!" I asked myself. "If this guy is the CEO of an international company stationed in Africa, then why have a British hosting company hosting a website for some guy in Arizona?" On top of that, the guy wanted them to scan their picture IDs and email it to him. Why?! There were so many questions left unanswered. On top of that, the number on his website forwarded to a "make your own fax" number. After finding this out, I warned them not to do it. They did it anyway. In the end, the money orders ended up being fraudulent and the banks they cashed them in, froze their accounts and demanded they pay back the money they cashed.
About perhaps a year or two ago, a couple moved just above our apartment. They claimed they were from NY. I don't have a problem releasing their names. They were Maurice Knight and Shavon Ebens. The husband claimed he was a fireman in NY and needed to travel to go to and from work. However, he claimed he was off for 6 months for some odd reason. I didn't care. He claimed they made roughly 100,000 a year. At first I thought that was pretty high for a fireman, but I couldn't find the salaries of a fireman in NYC at that time. After awhile we became friends and nothing appeared to be odd about him. Then he began talking about his father and how he oversaw auctions for cars in NYC. He claimed his father was a policeman. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I didn't have the money anyway, so I couldn't offer what he was asking for to deliver the cars from the auction to where I lived. He asked my gf if she knew anybody that would be interested. She said she'd ask around. Still, at this point, nothing apparent appeared. So far, none of our friends were believing it. But even so, that didn't set off alarms in my head yet. I soon suggest my sister check it out. However, because I didn't fully trust it, I told her to only give him half and give him the other half when she actually sees the car. I also suggested she get something in writing so she doesn't get completely screwed. Even so, I wasn't thinking much about it.
Then one day, something odd happened. I've already introduced Maurice to my older brother and my best friend. None of them saw anything awkward about him. However, I noticed he started buying my gf expensive stuff. "Why only buy my gf stuff and not both of us as a couple? Why isn't your gf that you're trying to wed not upset by this?" I spoke to him and voiced that I didn't appreciate what he was doing. That appeared to have been the end of that.
A few weeks later, I introduced him to the Wii. He seemed to be very into it and gave us $500 bucks to go find one. Unfortunately, it wasn't so easy at the time. So, I returned the money and apologized. Then he did something that made me suspicious. He started getting upset and ranting how he could pay a crackhead in NYC to get a Wii and they'd do it. I was asking myself. "Why would a fireman even suggest doing something like that?" It wasn't long after I heard of him mentioning other questionable things that made be question is character. He was very racist and always felt The Man was trying to keep him in check. His view on life was pretty awkward for the type of person he wasn't trying to get us to think he was.
One day, out of the kindness of my heart, I found a Wii and bought it. I figured I'd sell it to him as a wedding gift. He, of course, wanted it for free. I told him I couldn't give it to him for free as the money I used to buy it came out of our rent money. Since finding a Wii at that time was super rare, I figured I'd buy it to save him the trouble. So, what he tried to do was pay to get my car "fixed". My car had an issue and that was the wheels were out of alignment and the tires needed to be changed and rotated. He paid for the tires to be changed and rotated, but not for the alignment. He figured since he did that, I'd go ahead and give him the Wii. Of course, he did it without my permission. He did it secretly with my gf's blessing of course. I refused to do it. I told him that I didn't ask for my car to be worked on and that he wasted his time doing that. At the time, I only wanted 300 bucks for the Wii (since that's how much I paid for it). He refused. I then got a look at the receipt and saw he only paid $130 dollars for the tire change and rotation. My Wii was more than twice that amount. I saw the game he was trying to play and it pissed me off.
A few days later I learned that my sister paid Maurice for the auctioned cars. However, instead of only paying half, she paid the full amount. I called her and told her I only wanted her to pay half and not the whole thing, but she told me her bf decided on his own to pay the other half. So, I couldn't argue with that.
Later, Maurice's actions began to change. He seemed rushed. He wanted to hurry up and marry Shavon and wanted my cousin, my gf and I to be in his wedding. Personally, I hate weddings (and funerals). I like receptions though! In any case, Maurice had to leave to NYC to resolve some conflict he had. I went upstairs to call upon Shavon so her and my gf could do wedding planning and what not. However, when she answered the door, she was hiding behind it with just her head peering out. Let me not forget to mention that it took her an extremely long time to answer the door. At first, I didn't think anything of it, but once I went back to my house and sat down I asked, "Was she naked?" After awhile, I was sent back upstairs by my gf and Shavon seemed to be ready to go. She called out to Maurice's brother who stayed with them at the time. Thats when it hit me. "Why would she be naked around Maurice's brother?!" At that point, I knew something weird was going on.
Time passed and it was time for the wedding. Days leading up to the wedding exhibited more odd behavior from Maurice. I decided I wasn't going to attend the wedding. They were upset, but I didn't care. After the wedding, I noticed my gf became pretty trusting of them. At that point, I was very very suspicious. There are just too many instances of odd behavior that I just couldn't ignore. I cautioned her that trusting them as much as she does could lead to problems. However, she didn't believe me.
Weeks later, I came across this: NY Times. Come to find out, he WAS a con artist. A week afterward, he was arrested. Several months after that, Shavon just "disappeared". In the end, I was alright since I didn't lose anything. However, my sister did. Even after I told her to go to the police while Shavon was still around, she didn't. Eventually, my sister was out of the money she gave them.
Something very similar happened to my gf recently. She wanted to buy a car from some guy on Craigslist. Now, I never trusted Craigslist. So, I never go there. However, my gf did. She found a car in which she figured would be a good buy. Eventually, she was speaking to the guy and he wanted her the send the money through Money Gram. She asked me about it and I said, "Money Gram? I don't know if I would do that. It would be better to send the money through Paypal so at least some of it is insured." She claimed the guy didn't have a paypal account. I explained that sending money without some sort of insurance is risky. It would be much easier if Money Gram had some sort of escrow service that would allow her to hold the money until she felt it was right to release it. She claimed that they were using Ebay's Motor Protection. I scratched my head and said, "You found the car on Craigslist. What would Ebay have anything to do with it?" She claimed that Ebay had a service that would allow one to use its Motor Protection service. I still didn't trust it. At that point, I said, "That doesn't make any sense. Why would Ebay have something like that if the car isn't being sold through Ebay?" At this point, an argument began. I knew, by listening to her, that it didn't make any sense and felt that it could've been a scam. So, I figured if it was, it would be a good lesson for her to learn. So, I said, "Alright. Fine. Do what you want." and she did just that. Come to find out, it was a scam and she's out of $6,000 bucks. I know that, in essence, this hurts the both of us. However, I made sure to reserve a bit of our refund in my account just encase.
When it comes to buying cars online, I know the rules. I warned her of many things during her transaction that I found funny. I preached to her the rules of buying a car online:
1) Make sure that you're able to physically SEE the car. A person can promise anything to you, but until you actually see it, then it could very well not exist at all.
2) Don't buy a car on Ebay. I know my gf didn't do this, but there are a lot of scams, even on Ebay, for this very thing. Paypal may have a safety net, but it can only insure up to $1000 dollars. Plus, you'll be bidding on a car in which the value may be very well below what you're paying for.
3) Take your time buying a car. Never rush. Rushing leads to making poor decisions and getting caught up in scams.
4) Go to a reputable seller or website. If it looks funny, then 9 times out of 10, it IS funny. Do your research and make sure you're not going for a ride.
5) NEVER EVER Wire money. My gf learned this the hard way. Money Gram and Western Union are both easy ways to get instant money without being traced. Don't get caught up in that trap. Also, don't trust other escrow services. Use what is well known! Credit Cards have safety nets and they are much more secure than Money Gram and Western Union. Paypal is also much more secure. Don't just use anything to transfer money. Otherwise, you'll be out of $6,000 dollars.
Yet more rules to avoid being hurt. It's definitely a wacky world we live in. It's nothing like the RPG world in which a strategy guide can warn you of in-game scams.