Swindles & Scams Jan 30 2014
TOO BIG TO GIVE A DAMN
Everything being said by people who hate Bank of America was proved true by our recent experience.


At Pulp Intl. we have an entire category labeled “swindles and scams,” and we think this qualifies. It all started when a cash card we rely upon stopped working a few days before Christmas. Terrible timing, of course. Gifts to buy, revelry to enjoy. But the screen of the cash machine read in glowing green letters: Transaction not possible. An immediate call to Bank of America revealed that they had cancelled the card. Why? Because a new one had been sent. But that made no sense—nothing had arrived in the mail. We asked, baffled, “So you cancelled the card without permission, even though it hasn’t expired and a new one hasn’t been activated?”

The associate, who called himself Elton, said, “The old card is expired.”

“No, it’s cancelled. You cancelled it. But it isn’t expired. It was supposed to run until December 31.”

“No, the card is only active until December 2013. That means it can be cancelled anytime during the month.”

“I have the card right here. It says it’s active until the last day of December.”

“No, it doesn’t say that.”

“Yes, it does.”

“It does not.” (See below)

 
Now, we had to wonder, do they not know what their own cards say? But of course they know. It’s just that Elton’s default move when told the bank had made a mistake was to lie, just like his superiors lie to investors, and the top executives lie to the entire world. When in doubt, just lie. But to make matters worse, he crossed the line from merely lying to blaming the customer. That’s the strategy they tried with the mortgage crisis, so perhaps it’s in the corporate bylaws somewhere. Maybe BofA should simply change its call center greeting to, “Thank you for calling Bank of America. We can’t help you, and it’s your fault.”
 
During the nine calls made to Bank of America, we were told variously that the social security number we gave them was not on file thus we had no account there; a new cash card had been sent; a new cash card had not been sent; and that two cash cards were already open on the account. In a truly bizarre turn, during one encounter we answered the three security questions we’d selected for account verification, but Elton (again) decided that, though we had fulfilled our security requirements, that wasn’t enough and he asked us a fourth question we got wrong. He demanded to know at which branch we’d opened the account, which was something we couldn’t remember after having lived in three countries and five cities since then. So then what was the point of the pre-selected security questions? Apparently nothing—the bank can simply quiz callers until they get something wrong. Their ace-in-the-hole is probably to ask the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.
 
But maybe Bank of America is simply too busy to actually help customers. After all, in 2013 alone it lost a $2.43 billion lawsuit for hiding income, a $39 million gender bias lawsuit, had to pay a $404 million settlement related to mortgage fraud, a $165 million settlement over defrauding unions, and that isn’t even a full list. Based onavailable evidence Bank of America is an extraordinarily corrupt institution that absolutely sucks all the way down to the little slot in its cash machines. The eventual resolution of our particular fiasco was this: a new card arrived after two weeks (no faster unless we wanted to pay out of pocket for express mail). Now that it’s here, we’re going to empty the account and Bank of America will be out of our lives forever.

There is one positive to all this: having been treated as if we don’t exist by the bank, we at least have the option of telling tens of thousands of Pulp Intl. visitors what happened. Does it matter in the end? Doubtful. Does the bank care? Certainly not. But at least we can add another anecdote to the growing tome of horror stories about Bank of America. And sharing our story here feels better than merely passing bad word of mouth to a few buddies at the bar. So thanks for listening. Now we can get back to your regularly scheduled pulp with all that off our minds.

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Swindles & Scams May 5 2013
TO STEAL A MOCKINGBIRD
Famed author claims she lost a piece of timeless American classic to scam artist.


One of the most reclusive writers in the world has been forced to step into the public eye because of what she claims was a carefully orchestrated swindle. Harper Lee, author of the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, filed suit in a Manhattan court against a man she says stole rights to her book. Lee’s lawsuit details how Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of her longtime agent Eugene Winick, tricked Lee into transferring the copyright on her 1960 masterpiece. In 2002 Eugene Winick was ill and Pinkus began folding some of his father-in-law’s clients into his own literary agency. In 2007 Pinkus took advantage of Lee’s failing eyesight and hearing to transfer Lee’s rights to himself, assuming irrevocable interest in the income derived from To Kill A Mockingbird, and offering no payment to the author. Lee signed the crucial papers when she was recuperating from a stroke. In 2012 she took legal action and regained the copyright, but Pinkus still derives income from sales of the book though he is no longer Lee’s agent. The lawsuit says Lee has no memory of agreeing to anything, and frankly, any neutral observer would find it hard to disbelieve her.

Since this is a website, not a court, we’ll just say what other stories about this haven’t yet—Samuel Pinkus thought Harper Lee was going to die and stole her book. With Lee dead, and very little likelihood such a private individual would have discussed the matter with anyone, there would have been nobody to dispute his ownership of a revered, Pulitzer Prize-winning gold mine. When she recovered and realized what had happened, Pinkus scrambled to give the copyright back but had arranged to keep raking money off the top in perpetuity—his backup plan. Pinkus, naturally, has had no comment on the lawsuit, and presumably won’t until the Manhattan court has to decide whether his scam will stand. In this age of trillion dollar bank swindles, naked buy-offs of elected officials, and rampant court corruption, we don’t have high hopes for Ms. Lee. In fact, we suspect that in the aforementioned circles Samuel Pinkus is being hailed as a genius.

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Mondo Bizarro | Swindles & Scams Apr 8 2013
JOY LOCH CLUB
Nessie enthusiasts and debunkers solve nothing at science symposium except perhaps who can hold their liquor.


Upcoming on Sunday is the eightieth anniversary of the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness monster, which occurred April 14, 1933 when a couple claimed to have seen what they described as an enormous animal in the loch. In honor of the occasion, yesterday at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in Scotland, Nessie scholars held a symposium debating the creature’s existence. The photo above, shot by Robert Wilson on April 19, 1934, remains arguably the most famous Nessie image, and for years was touted as proof something large lived in the loch, until 1984 when the British Journal of Photography published an analysis by Stewart Campbell concluding that the object in the water measured three feet—not nearly long enough to be the famed Nessie. Years later, a big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell, just below, was fingered as the brain behind an elaborate hoax resulting in the photo. But true believers have disputed the account.

Subsequent sightings and photos have all been inconclusive, which means of course that nothing was decided at the Edinburgh symposium. Those who believe in the creature have no hard evidence to prove their position, and those who disbelieve can’t prove it doesn’t exist. The latter isn’t a surprise, as it’s logically impossible to prove anything doesn’t exist, whether monsters and deities, Kang and Kodos of Rigel IV, or the chair you're sitting on right now. Doubtless those involved in the symposium knew that, which means the event was probably just a good excuse to shoot the shit for an afternoon then adjourn to the raucous Edinburgh bars. From there it’s just a few pints until someone drops his pants and screeches, “Watch out! The monster is out of the loch!” So be forewarned—the next Nessie photo you see will probably be someone’s pale cock, and if photo analysis proves it’s three feet long that’ll be one proud scientist.

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Swindles & Scams Nov 22 2012
ATTACK OF THE SCAMBOTS
Routine site maintenance uncovers two different types of scams.


If you live in the U.S, today you’re probably celebrating Thanksgiving, maybe watching some football. But people where we live don’t know from Thanksgiving, so with nothing else to do today we decided to go back through some of the old posts on the website to make sure all the external links were still working. Interestingly, we noticed that the first two dead links cycled around for a few moments, then sent us to functioning pages that had nothing to do with the original articles. For instance, a link in our post on Lee Harvey Oswald’s coffin sent us to the front page of The Huffington Post. Is having dead links on your website now the equivalent of leaving your sunglasses in a restaurant? They’re okay to steal because they’ve been temporarily forgotten? Well, not in our universe. In the next couple of days we’re going to ferret out all the dead links on Pulp Intl. and redirect them to relevant content. We’d be surprised if there are even half a dozen, but we’ll fix them

Second thing we noticed—this happened earlier this week—is that on a couple of auction sites there are sellers offering Pulp Intl. scans as photographs. How do we know they’re ours? Well, we’d love to say it’s because nobody else has these pieces of art, but clearly, someone else could have acquired them too. No, we know because we retouched the scans and the alterations are still there. When Pulp Intl. content is reposted on a blogspot or tumblr, that’s more people sharing rarely seen art, which is a good thing, plus it helps our traffic. But when someone takes images from a website and sells them as original photos, that’s low. The Christina Lindberg image above is one of the ones we found, and it came from our post here (we won’t link to the auction because that’ll just turn into another dead link in a few days). So the lesson is caveat emptor, people. Now enjoy that turkey.

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Mondo Bizarro | Swindles & Scams Aug 10 2012
NORWEGIAN WOOD
Man claims to have spotted sea monster in Norway.

You can add Norway to the list of countries with a mysterious sea serpent. Or not. Last week Andreas Solvik and two friends were in a small boat on Lake Hornindalsvatnet in the southwestern part of country when they saw a disturbance on the water. Solvik snapped the photo you see above. We’ve taken a good look it and we gotta say, what we think Solvik saw was a disturbance in his bank account and he cooked up a hoax to make a few kroner on the side. Lake Hornindalsvatnet actually does have a legend about a kjempeorm, or monster, associated with it, and because it’s the deepest lake in Europe, there’s a feeling among some locals that a monster might be able to survive uncaptured, but only among laymen. When a local scientist was asked for his take, he theorized that because the area has an extensive logging industry, what Solvik photographed and what people have seen for many years are probably either logs, or masses of sawdust that sat on the lakeshore for a while collecting algae before finally floating into deeper water. That's an interesting theory, but we don’t think Andreas Solvik photographed something that turned out to be wood. We think he Photoshopped something that he hoped would turn into money. Check below and see what you think.

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Sex Files | Swindles & Scams Aug 8 2011
DEEP INSIDE MARILYN
A Marilyn Monroe porno film? Argentinian memorabilia collector says yes.

Yesterday, an Argentinian memorabilia dealer named Mikel Barsa attempted to auction what he says is an 8mm porn reel starring Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe. According to Barsa, who represents anonymous sellers that priced the film at $480,000 but got nothing when no bidders emerged, Monroe was broke at the time and had no choice but to parlay sex for money. This would have been presumably 1946 or 1947, when Monroe was indeed known to be broke and had indeed posed nude. However spokespeople for Monroe’s estate have come forward and pronounced the porno a fraud. But they would say that, wouldn't they? So we got hold of a low-rez copy of the flick in order to assess it ourselves. In it the alleged Monroe strips, plays with a dildo, and engages in a little 69 with a male partner before moving on to the main event. Afterward the pair have a smoke and a laugh. It doesn’t take a photographic expert to see that the woman involved doesn't resemble Monroe very closely. The hairline is wrong, the facial proportions are way out in left field, the breasts are not the ones that so thrilled Playboy readers when she appeared as the magazine's first centerfold, and there’s what looks like a hysterectomy scar we’re pretty sure Monroe didn’t have. We’ve posted some screen captures below so you can see for yourself how obvious this scam is. But don’t be too hard on Mr. Barsa and his associates. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—in a culture that values money above all things, you can’t be surprised what people will do to get it. 

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Swindles & Scams Aug 26 2010
CROCODILE HUNTERS
Star of Crocodile Dundee movies runs afoul of Aussie tax authorities.

Australian film star Paul Hogan, who charmed the cinema world twenty-four years ago playing Mick “Crocodile” Dundee, was in his native Australia for his mother’s funeral this week when he received another piece of bad news. Australian tax authorities had issued an order preventing the grieving star from leaving the country until he settles a bill for outstanding taxes. According to their records—and as we all know, the tax office’s records are the only ones that matter—Hogan owes on a whopping $38 million. Seems he relocated to Los Angeles shortly after his film franchise took off and never bothered to pay taxes in his native country. Authorities say he squirreled his cash away in offshore bank accounts. The exact amount they are demanding hasn’t been disclosed, but it’s safe to say this is going to be the biggest croc Hogan ever wrestled. 

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Swindles & Scams | Sportswire Aug 20 2010
SCORING MACHINE
Federal prosecutors say defrauding clients out of two million bucks was a slam dunk for Jay Vincent.
Yesterday, former professional basketball player Jay Vincent, who played for the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and other teams during a nine year NBA career, was indicted on a variety of counts relating to an alleged scheme to defraud 20,000 job seekers. Vincent’s Foreclosure Bank Inspection, Co. offered people work nationwide inspecting homes that had been returned to bank ownership. His company took care of the necessary training for the job, but there was a catch—applicants had to pass a background check. These checks (which are constitutionally dubious, in our view, since they result in applicants being refused jobs for transgressions like having a poor credit score) cost upwards of eighty dollars, but once Vincent’s desperate applicants paid the fee, prosecutors say his company simply pocketed the money.

How much cash do they claim was made on this scam? Two million dollars. That’s a 2 with six zeros after it. If true, this is sad on two levels: first, that a former NBA player who probably had a thousand other opportunities went this route; and second, that jobseekers who were being crushed by a recession had no choice but to feed on the corpses of people who had already been crushed before them. Vincent has had no comment thus far, but his attorney has described the former basketballer as a “legitimate businessman engaged in legal activities”, which we think is like claiming to be a “legitimate cigarette marketing executive”, or a “legitimate geologist for a mining company that blows the tops off pristine Appalachian hills and dumps them in valleys, destroying wildlife and contaminating groundwater”. In other words, “legal” isn’t a synonym for moral—at least not in our book. But unfortunately, we didn’t write the book everyone else is playing by—Wall Street did. And it seems as if Vincent may have memorized it chapter and verse.     

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Swindles & Scams May 26 2010
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE
Ex-mayor of Cancún tagged on drug charges.
Yesterday in Mexico, the former mayor of the resort city of Cancún was arrested for allegedly laundering millions of dollars of drug money through a group of secret bank accounts. Police detained Gregorio Sanchez Martinez—who is in the midst of a campaign for governor of the state of Quintana Roo—at Cancún International Airport after he had arrived on a flight from Mexico City. The Federal Attorney General’s Office has formally accused him of selling information and protection to two drug gangs—the Zetas, and the Beltran Leyva Cartel—both of which control drug distribution in Quintana Roo.
 
However, Sanchez says he is being victimized by blackmailers. On his website he claimed he had been threatened, and that one of the messages he received stated: “Resign from the race, or we are going to put you in jail or kill you.” At least one high-profile politician has come out in defense of Sanchez, agreeing that he was likely set up, and an article posted on the site this morning attempted to drum up citizen support, and promised that Sanchez would fight the good fight in opposing the charges and still needs votes come July, when the election is scheduled.

Sanchez’s arrest is yet another embarrassment for Mexico, however, it’s also a blow for the U.S., which pretends—publicly at least—that the American demand for drugs is not the true driver of Mexico’s cartel troubles. Often, Mexican politicians will point out this dark symbiosis, but in this instance officials south of the border have so far been circumspect. Current Quintana Roo governor Felix Gonzalez Cantu said only that, “This takes us all by surprise—it is unprecedented.”     

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Swindles & Scams Feb 25 2010
BAD NEWS
Committee finds that News of the World hacked on an industrial scale.

In Britain, a growing scandal has ensnared Rupert Murdoch, head of News International, and Andy Coulson, who was editor of the News International paper News of the World before becoming communications director for Conservative Party leader David Cameron. In short, News of the World hacked into voicemail accounts and computerized police records, and also extracted confidential information from banking computers. Murdoch claims to have known nothing about it, but yesterday a committee of MPs concluded an investigation into the matter by accusing News International execs of engaging in “obfuscation” and suffering from “collective amnesia.”

While Murdoch has taken some heat for the mess, the investigation into the hacking has increasingly turned toward Andy Coulson, who, while editor of News of the World, employed four private investigators to dig up dirt on public figures. Nineteen victims of the hacking have been identified, but records show that ninety-one were targeted. To make matters worse, Scotland Yard resisted investigating the matter, has refused to comply with Freedom of Information requests concerning the investigation, and failed to notify those whose cellphone pin codes were found in possession of one of News of the World’s PIs. This means that public figures who suspect being targeted by News of the World have been forced to launch their own investigations to discover whether they were victims.

If all this seems to point toward a culture of criminality within News of the World, also consider that the paper recently paid a £792,000 settlement to a reporter who experienced harassment at the hands of Coulson, and last year paid out another large settlement to Professional Footballers Association head Gordon Taylor for illegally intercepting his phone records. Back then News International and Rupert Murdoch issued statements assuring the public that the reporter responsible for the phone tampering, Clive Goodman, was an “aberration” within the company. Now, half a year later, a bipartisan committee of MPs has described the hacking as having taken place “on an industrial scale.”

Perhaps most interesting is the fact that, while Murdoch claims to have no knowledge of these matters, his newspapers, which he touts as exemplars of balanced reporting, hid the story in their Thursday editions. While The Guardian and other papers devoted multiple pages to what is one of the biggest scandals of the year and quoted directly from the official report, Murdoch’s Sun buried 135 words on the matter between an ad and a weather map of Ireland, his Times printed a mere 230 words, and his Daily Telegraph was able to manage only 325.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 23
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder, Carmen Jones, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Stalag 17, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
April 22
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
April 21
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.

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