Skeptic busts psychic’s “evil money” scam.

This is a dual purpose story. First, it’s about dumbasses who believe psychics are real and end up allowing themselves to be scammed out of their money. Secondly, it’s about how a little skepticism can make all the difference.

It takes place in ***Dave’s neck of the woods and it involves a Denver-area psychic named Nancy D. Marks:

Lafayette police say the investigation began after receiving complaints about possible fraudulent activity. The accusations involved the loss of large amounts of money that police say were given to Marks for “psychic readings” and other psychic services.

Marks was arrested on three charges including two counts of Theft Over $20,000 and one count of Criminal Impersonation. She was being held in the Boulder County Jail on $250,000 bond.

It seems Ms. Marks, which is a surprisingly apt name in some ways, was telling folks that their money was possessed by evil spirits which was the cause of their suffering. I bet you’ll be able to guess what her solution to that problem was. That’s right, they needed to give her their money so that she could make the money suffer instead of the idiots clients.

Amazingly enough, more than one person actually bought into this bullshit. One gave her $50,000 and another upwards of $240,000.

It all came to an end, however, when someone with just a bit of skepticism decided to visit the psychic on a lark. You’ll have to watch the news report to get the full details:

Kudos to Linda, who’s last name wasn’t given for some odd reason, for her skepticism and dedication to getting this fraud busted. I especially liked how she rolled her eyes when recounting how Marks told her she had a number of evil spirits around her that required a butt load of money to banish.

For the record I am not a psychic, but if you are stunningly credulous and are troubled by evil money spirits then I would be more than happy to accept your money and make it suffer so you don’t have to. I have come up with a number of ways I will punish the evil money spirits by forcing them to do good by buying food with it and paying my rent. Being that I am already evil the evil money spirits will have no power over me so my safety is insured. I will also further my evil by forcing evil spirits to do good things which is the ultimate in suffering for them which insures my evilness will be maintained.

See? It all makes sense. So long as you have the brains of a grapefruit.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Spiritual Molester Edition.

It’s not just the Christians who allow their faith to get in the way of common sense and critical thinking. Sometimes it’s the more nebulously defined crystal huggers.

Take for example the following case of a woman who invited what she believed to be a female spiritualist into her home to “cleanse” herself and her two young boys. Problem was the spiritualist wasn’t really a spiritualist or, for that matter, a woman:

Pic of Jose David Morales-Hernandez

Not really a "spritual cleanser." Hell, not really a woman though you'd think that much would be obvious.

‘Spiritual cleanser’ charged with nine sexual abuse crimes – Salt Lake Tribune.

Police have said Morales-Hernandez dressed as a woman and called himself “Nicole Morales.” He claimed on his business card to be “The Divine Master” and a Mayan priestess. He is homeless.

Before the ceremony, Morales-Hernandez had the woman and her two young boys strip down to their underwear, police have said.

The boys said he took them separately into their own rooms, turned off the lights, locked the door, massaged them and sexually abused them, police wrote.

Their mother said the boys acted “different” after each session, the charges state.

The mother called police after the 12-year-old told her about the abuse. The 13-year-old told police that Morales-Hernandez did “unpleasant, wrong, uncomfortable and weird” things to him, the charges state.

The article is very brief and doesn’t specifically mention what belief system the family ascribes to that would require the services of a “Divine Master Mayan Priestess.” You’ll note that the article mentions that the boys acted different after each session implying that it took more than one session before this woman caught on that her kids were being molested. The police are also looking for anyone else who may have been stupid enough to fall for this scam and let their kids be violated to come forward which suggests he may have been doing this sort of thing for awhile.

This isn’t the first time the crystal huggers have gotten burned by a phony spiritual cleansing scam, but usually they just lose a lot of money. I think this is the first time I’ve heard of someone using this particular scam to molest kids with. You really have to wonder just how far out there they have to be not to get suspicious the moment they hear the words “OK, now you guys need to strip down to your underwear and then come with me into the next room, one by one, alone, in the dark, and I will cleanse you of all your evil spirits!”

This is a new take on an old scam…

Got the following email earlier today:

From: “Mrs. Mellisa Lewis” <info@rcweb.net>
Date: Tue, 19 Jan 2010 14:00:52 -0200
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Hello,

My name is Mrs. Mellisa Lewis . I am 59 years old and I was diagnosed for cancer for about 2 years ago. I will be going in for an operation later today.I decided  to WILL/donate the sum of (Fourteen Millions Two Hundred Fifty Eight Thousand  United States Dollars) to you for the good work of the lord.

Contact my lawyer with this email: Name: Mr Jay Mchenry
Email:(jmchenry@rcweb.net) (+44 792 435 0212)

Tell him that I have WILLED 14.258M to you by quoting my personal reference  number JJ/MMS/953/5015/GwrI/316us/uk. As soon as you contact him with this details quoted above, he should be able to recognize you and help in claiming this amount from my Bank.Be informed also that i have paid for the state tax on this money to be transferred to you.

Meanwhile you are advised to keep this mail and it contents confidential as i really want my wish accomplish at the end of the day.Please do pray to God for my recovery.

God Bless
Regards,
Mrs. Mellisa Lewis

First, one has to wonder why the recipients are undisclosed if this email was supposed to be directed to me. How many other people is she willing her money to? The second thing one notices is that this person clearly doesn’t know anything about me or she wouldn’t be hoping I’d use the money for “the good work of the Lord.” Then there’s the whole oddness of being instructed to claim this windfall before she’s actually undergone the, presumably destined to fail, operation. If she was clever enough to suss out my email then you’d think she’d just have the lawyer contact me after she’s dead. And while I must give these scam artists credit for a much more literate sounding letter than the usual bunch that show up in my inbox, there’s still some telling typos and odd phrasings that give away the game.

Well, other than the obvious cockup of suggesting I’d be doing the good work of the Lord.

Too Much Faith Will Make You Crazy: Raising The Dead edition.

Meet the folks from Extreme Prophetic. They’re a group of Christians led by a woman named Patricia King who has apparently been spreading her nonsense for some 25 years. The group appears to be an attempt to turn evangelizing into something cool and edgy – you know “extreme” – and they make some bold claims.

For example, they claim that they’ve managed to not just heal people through the power of faith, but have successfully raised the dead. Really. They have a video up by some fellow named Randy in which he discusses how he raise two dead people in Africa not too long ago. You can watch it here if you wish.

Don’t get too excited, though, they don’t have any actual footage of Randy raising the dead people. It’s just Randy talking about it, but you can take his word for it that they were really dead and he really did raise them because, well, you don’t think he’d lie about it do you?

They also have a YouTube Channel with a ton of videos of people talking about all manner of miracles they’ve personally experienced. Though, again, there’s a stunning lack of any actual footage of said miracles. There’s also a lot of prediction videos, which are always fun to watch after the years have passed.

Take this one on Divine Insights for 2008 by Julie Meyer of IHOP (International House of Prayer). In it she says she has a vision of George W. Bush signing a law declaring life begins at conception and banning all abortions just before he leaves office. She believed that was likely to happen because she dreamed about it and she believed that Bush was put in office by God specifically to make this legislation come to pass. But she also cautions this isn’t guaranteed so everyone needs to pray that it does happen. Also it seems the election wasn’t about change, but mercy and it wasn’t about the Presidential candidates, but the Vice Presidential candidates. She never comes right out and claims that McCain and Palin would win, but it’s clear she’s suggesting that’s what needs to happen and that Palin’s election would prove monumental in history.  That was from October of 2008. McCain/Palin didn’t win the election and Bush never banned abortion. I can only conclude they didn’t pray hard enough.

Patricia herself likes to dabble in predictions. She had no less than 11 videos of prophecy for 2009. She manages to pull a little John Edwards routine in the first video where she speaks to a specific, unnamed, person who’s watching and has been having trouble for awhile. She uses a lot of buzzwords and similes such as the Lord has “downloaded” prophecy into her and she’s going to “unfold or unpack” it for you. He also wants to “upgrade” his believers. Also God wants her to help raise up a Media Army to spread the word. Holy crap, but this woman can talk for hours without saying anything meaningful. All the while pausing to ask for donations.

I gave up after three videos. I was only watching to see if I could catch any solid predictions that we could examine to see how far off they were, but I was starting to fall asleep and her droning on and on. Most of it’s your standard True Believer&trade; nonsense, but there’s plenty of videos with the claims of major healing or raising people from the dead.

But I’m willing to be convinced. If these people truly can raise the dead that would revolutionize not just theology, but medical science. I think they should contact the James Randi Educational Foundation and apply for the $1 million prize. Considering how much time is spent begging for donations it sounds like they could use the money and imagine the look on Randi’s face when a dead person suddenly sits up full of life. Hell, let’s make it easy on them and just see if they can manage to heal an amputee. If they can bring people back from the dead then restoring a lost limb should be easy-peasy. A little video documentation wouldn’t hurt.

Somehow I don’t think they’ll be taking on the Randi challenge anytime soon. You see, when I started this entry I was pretty sure these folks were a classic case of people made a little crazy by too much faith, but now that I’ve looked into them a bit I’m not entirely sure that’s the case for all of them. My skepticism is spurred by the fact that they offer acting classes. What the hell would they need acting classes for? Well, to make money apparently. A two-month class covering everything from acting to writing to voice-over work will set you back $2,800 (non-refundable) in tuition. Or you can take eight week classes covering each of the topics individually for $200 each.

So, yeah, some of them have clearly drunk a little too much of the Kool-Aid, but I think they’re leader is a bit more shrewd than she first appears. That’s just speculation on my part, though. She could be just as nuts as the rest of them.

Found over at Pharyngula.

Mike Hickmon of besthomemadenergy.com is a comment spamming asshole.

This is going to be very long so bear with me.

A little under two weeks ago I got the following email:

Subject: Link spam issues
From: Mike Hickmon

les

You probably do not realize it but your site has spam linked my site with hundreds of links causing my rankings to drop.

can you please remove all of the links from your site pointing to my site:  http://besthomemadeenergy.com

sincerely
Mike

He’s right, I didn’t realize it as I can’t recall ever linking to a URL that at first glance sounds like it’s at best full of dubious claims and at worst a scam. So I did a few searches on SEB’s entries and comments and there weren’t any links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com to be found. So I sent back a reply asking Mike to supply me with a specific entry to look at as I wasn’t finding anything at all. Here’s the reply I got back:

Les

Go to:  http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/search        and type in:  http://besthomemadeenergy.com

click on the inlinks button and this should come up:  http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/search?p=http%3A%2F%2Fbesthomemadeenergy.com&fr=sfp&bwm=i

as regards to how the links got put there i am not sure, but it is hurting my rankings

Thanks for the mega fast response!

Mike

So I tried that and there are, indeed, several links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com from SEB listed there. Entries included one about a Spiderman comic, one about the fourth season of Doctor Who, one about Microsoft’s web-based version of Messenger, one about the PS3, and one about a true believer murdering an atheist. All of which were clean of any links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com.

There are other links from SEB back to http://besthomemadeenergy.com listed in that Yahoo! Site Explorer search and you have to go through quite a few of them before you find one where the topic might somehow have anything to do with energy production. I was at a loss as to why so many unrelated entries would be showing up in the search, however, as all the links were clean. Then a possibility occurred to me and I sent the following reply:

Mike,

I’ve checked every link on every page that shows up in your Yahoo listing. There aren’t any links in any of the content I’ve produced or that my commenters have left that point directly to your site.

The only thing I can think of is you must be using Google AdSense for your advertising in which case ads for your site may have popped up on SEB from time to time. For example at least one of the ads that popped up while I was checking was for http://www.power4home.com/ for reasons I cannot begin to fathom as the topic of the entry it was on had nothing to do with energy.

You probably need to check things out with Google AdSense. They probably have some way for you to define URLs you don’t want your ads to show up on. The links aren’t from anything I’ve put on my site so I can’t help you.

Les

At this point I was satisfied that I had done all that I needed to do. Mike felt otherwise:

Les

That is weird, i have nothing to do with google AdSense.  Well Keep looking to it.

Mike

Keep looking into it? To what end I wondered. It wasn’t really my problem in the first place and I was merely being courteous checking into it. OK, I have to admit I was also satisfying my own curiosity, but the point still remains that I have very little reason to give a shit if I’ve checked my entries and found them to be clean.

So today I get the following email in my inbox from Mike:

Les

I found out how this started.  I hire a guy from India to do blog posting and on 9/9/09 he posted to the below page.  you must have erased it which is OK but somehow i got 250 links from your site.  i don’t want to beat a dead horse but if there is anything that you can do i would appreciate it.

https://www.stupidevilbastard.com/index/seb/comments/guy_who_invented_the_super_soaker_has_a_new_high_efficency_solar_power_cell/

Mike

Holy jumping Christ on a pogo stick! This fucker just admitted he’s a comment spammer! OK, technically he’s not doing the spamming himself, but he is paying someone else to do it which is just as bad in my book. Without people like him there’s nothing for the comment spammers to spam. The reason so many entries linked back to his site is probably due to Yahoo! crawling SEB before I got around to removing the spam and the comment showing up in the recent comments side bar on every page Yahoo! hit.

I don’t know why this possibility didn’t occur to me beforehand, but I didn’t stop long enough to think about it. It was at this point that I took a look at http://besthomemadeenergy.com itself. It’s a small site consisting of links to other websites that are selling DIY energy creation kits such as solar panels and windmills with outrageous claims about how effective they are and how little they cost. Mike’s site includes “reviews” of each of the five sites he links to and, not surprisingly, they’re all rated five stars. Mike Hickmon is an affiliate parasite comment spammer.

It’s a simple concept: You find a bunch of websites that offer affiliate payments for every click you send them and then you set up your own website with said link backs and glowing reviews of the sites in question. Then you spam the living fuck out of every website you can in hopes your page rank goes up and generates enough click throughs to make you a millionaire for little real effort. It looks like Mike is making use of ClickBank which a lot of scam websites make use of for their affiliate programs. Not every affiliate program ClickBank handles is fraudulent, but it tends to be very popular with the people running hustles and they have enough people using them that I’m sure policing all the accounts has to be a nightmare.

Needless to say I was now pissed off and I sent back the following reply:

Mike,

So, in other words, you hired a spammer to spam a bunch of blogs and he picked one you don’t want to be associated with? I’ve got two words for you now: Tough Shit. You deserve what you get for hiring an unscrupulous asshole in the first place. Comment spam is something I am constantly cleaning up after and I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who makes use of it. Here’s a suggestion: Stop using spammers to advertise your site and you won’t have to worry about which ones your link shows up on.

Not only do I not give a shit that it’s hurting your page ranking, but now I’m highly motivated to look into what you’re selling and see if it’s a scam itself and then writing a nice big post about it with links back to your site just to make sure the page rank is nice and high. You want links to your site from blogs? I’ll give you some links. I am literally stunned at the unmitigated gall you’re exhibiting here.

Les

A Google search for http://besthomemadeenergy.com returns some 67,700 websites that link back to it. A good portion of which is because they contain comment spam left by Mike’s Indian spammer. They made sure to hit any site they could find dealing with topics such as green energy or home improvement or do it yourself, but they also hit any site that so much as mentions in passing anything to do with energy such as SEB.

Of course there is a chance that the sites Mike is pushing on his affiliate parasite page are legit so I took a look at one of them. He ranks Earth4Energy as the number 1 best site so let’s check it out. Right on the front page we get the following in big bold type:

How to make your own solar panels for less than $200

Did you know? The cost of solar panels can be slashed by making them at home? You have probably read about it or seen it on TV, but have you tried it yourself?

“I made my own solar panel. It was simple and saved me a lot of money!”

Right there you should have a shit load of red flags waving and it should only get worse the further you read down the page.  If you’ve been to similar websites before then the pitch is very familiar. Lots of noise made about the cost of “traditional” solar systems for your home being in the $28,000 to $30,000 range followed by claims that you can make your own solar panels for $200. Testimonials interspersed between from people who claim to have made upwards of 2 panels for $100! Amazing! Eventually you get to the pitch for the “instruction kit” they’ve put together which they claim to sell for $246 but which you can get through a (supposedly) limited time deal of only $49.97! HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!?

It’s bullshit is what it is and they’re pushing it hard. If you try to close your browser or navigate away from the page it pops up a window pleading with you to reconsider that you have to close before you can leave the site. If you’re skeptical, like me, the next thing you do is type in earth4energy scam into Google. The very first link is to this page: RIPOFF REPORT: Earth4Energy Scam – Earth4Energy Review – Revealing the truth about the Earth4Energy product. Sounds like a skeptical look at the Earth4Energy claims, right? Except that it’s not. They don’t even try to maintain a skeptical tone for more than a paragraph and it’s clear by the time you get done with the page that this site is probably constructed by the same folks who own the Earth4Energy website. You’ll find several similar supposedly skeptical reviews such as this one at Ezine@rticles. Speaking of which: Has anyone seen an entry at Ezine@rticles that wasn’t spam of some sort? It seems to be a favorite of spammers as I’ve removed literally hundreds of comment spams that link to that site. So much so that I have since blacklisted Ezine@rticles completely.

As it turns out this is a technique for selling questionable products called Internet Saturation Marketing. The basic idea is that in addition to the site you’re selling your craptastic products on, you go out and register a whole bunch of other sites that you then use to make your craptastic product site look legit. In particular you want to snap up any variations on your sites’ name with the words “sucks” or “scam” added onto it to ensure any of your unsatisfied customers don’t get them first. Then you install a blog or a generic website that claims to be skeptical of your craptastic products and is surprised to find they really do work. Then you sign up with the ClickBank people so you can have an affiliate program that will help to spread your garbage even further. Even with all that effort it doesn’t take too long before you can find a few sites that are actually critical of Earth4Energy, but it really shouldn’t take much more than a read through of the site to determine this for yourself.

But all of that is getting away from my good buddy, Mike Hickmon. It seems trying to push DIY energy scams isn’t enough for old Mikey as I learned from his Twitter page. Mike’s been a very busy affiliate parasite with websites devoted to cats, fish, dogs, and pets in general all of which use a variation on “The X Whisperer” to cash in on the popularity of that particular phrase. You’ll just love the disclaimer he has for his pet sites. Here’s the disclaimer for his The Pet Whisperer site:

Pet-Whisperer.com provides articles and information for educational and entertainment purposes only.

Furthermore, by using this site, you agree that Pet-Whisperer.com cannot be held responsible – directly or indirectly, in full or in part – for any damages or losses that may be suffered as a result of taking action on the information published on Pet-Whisperer.com

You assume any and all risks associated with any actions taken as a result of reading Pet-Whisperer.com

Due Diligence

Pet-Whisperer.com provides “reviews” and “recommendations”, as well as outgoing hyperlinks for a variety of People and record finder products & solutions, including a direct link to the company’s website.

Every effort has been made to accurately represent the third-party solutions, products and websites referenced on Pet-Whisperer.com, and ongoing efforts will be made on a consistent basis to ensure that the accuracy of this information remains current and up-to-date.

However, Pet-Whisperer.com is ultimately not in control of any third-party company or website, and cannot necessarily guarantee that a given review, recommendation or opinion of a third party website or product is going to be accurate at any given time due to a number of factors, including – but not limited to – the third-party’s website hosting conditions, changes in ownership or staff, changes of the company’s policies or activities, and other unforeseeable factors.

Therefore, by using this site in any capacity, you agree that it is your sole responsibility to do your own due diligence in order to protect yourself prior to using any third-party (non- Pet-Whisperer.com) product, service or advice.

Pet-Whisperer.com is not responsible for any damages or losses that may potentially result by accessing/using a website URL published on Pet-Whisperer.com. You must do your own due-diligence when visiting another company’s website or using another company’s product.

In other words: “I know the products I’m helping other people to sell in hopes of garnering a few pennies in affiliate fees are probably bullshit that are most-likely harmless, but on the off-chance you kill your pet with any of them I put this disclaimer here so you can’t sue me. Yes I am ironically telling you that you should seek out information on whether the products I’m pushing are any good while at the same time putting out misinformation claiming that they are good and then covering my ass just in case they aren’t any good. Funny old world, ain’t it?” The disclaimer also lies in suggesting that it provides, and I quote, “a direct link to the company’s website.” Mike doesn’t provide a direct link as all his links go through the aforementioned ClickBank service. He can’t directly link to the company’s websites because he wouldn’t garner any affiliate fees that way.

Based on his Twitter page Mike Hickmon has dozens of affiliate parasite websites set up for all manner of craptastic products. I know they’re all his because he shows up in all the domain registrations I checked:

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: PET-WHISPERER.COM
Created on: 05-Jan-09
Expires on: 05-Jan-10
Last Updated on: 05-Jan-09

Administrative Contact:
Hickmon, Michael goebusiness@gmail.com
12019 herman dr
riverside, California 92505
United States
(951) 687-2129

I’m half tempted to give Mike a call and tell him how I feel about his business undertaking and comment spamming ways directly, but I think this rather amazingly lengthy blog rant is more than enough. I’ve made a point of linking to his http://besthomemadeenergy.com site repeatedly to ensure that Yahoo! and Google know that I’m linking to it. I think others should know about Mike Hickmon’s businesses and how they push questionable products. He’s not exactly a scammer himself, but he’s helping the scammers and cluttering up websites with spam in doing so. There’s certainly nothing illegal about what Mike is doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s legit.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’m pretty pissed off about this and I’ve spent probably way more time and energy looking into it and then ranting about it than I should have. However, if it stops one person from falling for the bullshit being pushed by assholes like Mike Hickmon then it’ll be worth it.

“Psychic” cleanses $140,000 from several families.

In our continuing series on the question of “what’s the harm in letting people hold onto stupid beliefs” we bring you the following news item. It seems several families in Lakewood, WA have fallen for the old your-money-is-infected-with-evil-spirits-but-I-can-clean-it-for-you scam to the tune of $140,000:

The victims told Lakewood police they met Señora Monica at the nearby swap meet or heard her advertisements on a Spanish-speaking radio station, Hoffman said. She advertised that she could help with “all your problems.”

On her business card, Señora Monica listed her services as: Reads cards, reads palms, performs cleansings, interprets dreams, reunites loved ones, sexual deficiencies, cures nervous disorders, employment problems, alcoholism and drug addiction. “Don’t suffer anymore. If you can’t have children, call me,” the card reads. “Performs spells, counterspells and love spells.”

Some victims had Taro card readings with Señora Monica and decided to have her cleanse their money. Some of the sessions occurred with the victims at the store on South Tacoma Way.

The victims had set up a final meeting Sunday night during which they would receive their cleansed money and would pay a gratuity – whatever they felt was appropriate – to Señora Monica, Hoffman said.

“Señora Monica never showed up,” Hoffman said.

Big fucking surprise. I could’ve told you that was bound to happen and I don’t claim to be a psychic. Once again I am torn on this issue. On the one hand stealing is wrong so I sympathize with the people who lost their money, but on the other hand these people must have Cheez Whiz for brains to be that fucking credulous and as such arguably deserve the fleecing they were given.

Repeat after me: No one is psychic. Anyone who claims to be able to tell you your future based on Tarot cards or tea leaves or chicken entrails is lying to you. If they try to tell you they can clean your money of evil spirits that are ruining your life you should punch them in the mouth and run away with your hand firmly on your wallet. If you give them your money you will not get it back.

And if you still insist on handing it over because you’re afraid it might have evil spirits then send it to me instead and I promise you I’ll spend it on stuff I could really use, like a new couch, thus protecting you from the evil it contains by spending it on stuff I want.

Electric company to charge solar panel users for not using company’s power. (#Blogathon)

Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of companies are pulling fees out of their collective asses these days? It’s mostly the airlines, but there are other companies doing it like the folks at Xcel Energy in Colorado who have decided that they are going to charge the homeowners who have solar cells on their houses a fee for being connected to the power grid:

Tom Henley, an Xcel Energy spokesman, initially told 7NEWS that implementing the fee would level the playing field for electricity users who are currently subsidizing connectivity fees for solar users, who sometimes use no electricity in a given month and therefore, pay no electrical fees.

“We just don’t think it’s fair that customers that don’t have solar panels on their homes should subsidize these solar panel customers any further,” said Henley.

But when pressed, Henley admitted that currently, no Xcel electric customers pay extra to fund solar connectivity fees. In reality, Xcel absorbs those fees. The money from the proposed fee would not go into the pockets of electric customers, but would go back to Xcel.

Henley said the fee is a preventative measure to ensure that, down the road, solar customers do not get free rides.

“What we’re looking to do is stop that, avoid that occurrence from happening,” he said.

No, no. What you’re doing is attempting to get something for nothing. And your customers know it:

Mike Jacoby, who installed solar panels on the roof of his home two years ago, bristled at the notion that he is not doing his part.

Jacoby said the installation cuts his monthly electrical fee by anywhere from 33 to 50 percent a month. In return, his home acts as a power plant, generating energy for Xcel that can power some of the homes on his block.

“Mine are generating enough to feed five or six houses around me electricity, so there’s no free ride,” said Jacoby.

“That’s less energy that Xcel Energy has to produce. That’s less coal that they have to burn,” agreed Dan Ferguson, a solar consultant with Vibrant Solar.

Yeah, someone’s upset they’re not making money off the solar power users. Fortunately it looks like the solar power folks are going to fight the fee and I hope they win. This is a bullshit fee for bullshit reasons.

Watch out for the Scratch Card Scam.

I’ve not seen this one before, but I’ve heard of it. Scammers set up a booth in a local mall that purports to be selling chances at winning fabulous prizes while raising money for a charity, but what they’re really selling are tickets to the poor house. Check it:

As always it’s pays to be aware of the scams you might come across.

Via Geeks are Sexy.

How ATM skimming is done.

There’s been a lot of articles over on The Consumerist about ATM skimming, how it’s done, and how you can protect yourself. Today they linked to a clip from a UK show called The Real Hustle that lays out exactly how the scam is done. I’m not sure if the increase in the number of articles about ATM skimming is due to it happening more often or because folks are just more aware of it, but I thought it’d be useful to post that YouTube clip here for folks that don’t follow my shared Google Reader notes:

In short, pay attention to the ATMs you use. If you suspect it may be tampered with alert the bank and/or the police and don’t use it. At the very minimum you’ll want to shield the input of your PIN number when doing the transaction.

As I watched this clip all I could think of was why don’t we have a show like this here in the States?

The Contempt of Court judgment Kevin Trudeau Doesn’t Want You to Know About!

Who is Kevin Trudeau? He’s the “alternative medicine” slimeball who sells books full of miracle cures that the Powers That Be supposedly hope you’ll never find out about. With titles like Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About this asshole has made millions off the gullibility of desperate people with cancer and other serious illnesses. The FTC finally broke down and successfully sued his ass back in 1998 for making false and misleading claims in his infomercials getting him barred from making such claims again and a $500,000 fine. In 2003 the FTC charged him with violating the 1998 order by making claims that a product called “Coral Calcium Supreme” would cure cancer and got an injunction barring him from making said claims, which he promptly ignored resulting in a contempt of court finding which fined him another $2 million and banned him from appearing in infomercials. If you’ve spent any recent time flipping channels in the wee hours of the morning, however, then you’re probably aware that he ignored that ruling as well. 

Which brings us to his latest run-in with the courts:

A federal judge has ordered infomercial marketer Kevin Trudeau to pay more than $37 million for violating a 2004 stipulated order by misrepresenting the content of his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”

In August 2008, Judge Robert W. Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois had ordered Trudeau to pay more than $5 million and banned him, for three years, from producing or publishing infomercials for products in which he has an interest. The ruling confirmed an earlier contempt finding, the second such finding against Trudeau in the past four years.

Urged by both the FTC and Trudeau to reconsider aspects of its August order, on November 4 Judge Gettleman amended the judgment to $37,616,161, the amount consumers paid in response to the deceptive infomercials. The judge also revised the three-year ban to prohibit Trudeau from “disseminating or assisting others in disseminating” any infomercial for any informational publication in which he has an interest. On December 11, the court denied Trudeau’s request to reconsider or stay this ruling.

You’d think by now Trudeau would have gotten the message and taken the money he’s already earned and run, but he’s apparently not that smart. Probably doesn’t help that he has past convictions for larceny and credit card fraud, but it does show he has enough brains to move from outright theft to a form of fraud that apparently carries much less risk of going to actual prison (he spent 2 years in prison for the credit card fraud).

Think this one will slow him down any? I doubt it. The folks who put out the craptastic “Airborne” just modified their packaging to make any beneficial claims as vague as possible after their settlement with the government and the CEO of the company that produced the equally useless “Enzyte” dick embigginer product went to prison and yet their infomercials are still on the air with the company doing better than ever. In fact at the time that the CEO of Berkeley – parent company to Enzyte – was put on trial the company had regular customers in the tens of thousands who apparently thought the pill was doing something for them.

The simple fact of the matter is that you can sell just about anything as a cure for, well, just about anything so long as you make your claims as vague as possible while doing so. The CEO of Enzyte didn’t go to prison because his product doesn’t work, a fact he pretty much admitted to in court, but because the company was automatically signing people up for ongoing purchases under the guise of a “free trial” and then refusing to cancel their orders or fulfill the promised money back guarantee. Now that he’s out of the way the company has turned all credit card processing over to an outside company and is honoring any money back refunds it receives and has had no further problems with the government since. The product still doesn’t do a damned thing, but there are enough people out there who think it does that they’re making plenty of money off of it.

Given all of that, and the fact that Trudeau doesn’t seem to give a shit what the courts tell him to do, I suspect we’ll be seeing him again very soon indeed.