Posted by: patenttranslator | July 10, 2011

Scam Artists Take the Time to Learn About Our Business These Days

Puzzle said, “What is leads to what will be, and all will be well if we do what is right.”

Lamar nodded. “If you say so.”

“She did,” Riddle told him. “She said so. And she’s right. Never fear the future. Whatever happens, the future is the only way back.”

From “Breathless” by Dean Koontz

Once a week, around 11 AM, my phone rings and it’s a recorded message from a woman who calls herself Nancy or Jennifer or something like that and who is just dying to tell me about funds from the government that I am entitled to for my business. I am not sure exactly how this scam works, but the scammers clearly know that I am running a business.

A few times a week I receive an e-mail ostensibly from a woman who is usually in Hong Kong and who has a Western first name and a Japanese or Chinese last name. The last one was named Beverly Kawashima. Because most of my customers are patent law firms, “Beverly Kawashima” thinks that I am a lawyer, in particular a divorce lawyer, a really, really stupid divorce lawyer who will take up her case and help her obtain the 500 hundred thousand dollars that her imaginary ex husband still owes to this imaginary Beverley Kawashima, who is probably a guy working out of an Internet café in Nigeria.

Two days ago some woman called me and this time it was not a recorded message, it was an actual living person asking for me by my name who informed me about some sort of a conference dealing with IP (intellectual property) issues to be held in October somewhere here in US. I forgot the name of the woman, and even the name of the city where the conference was supposed to take place and the exact date because she was speaking really quickly in American English without a foreign accent and I was trying hard to figure out what kind of scam was it this time. The call ID displayed her number as 000000000, but sometime the call ID feature may not work due to technical problems. It could happen.

This woman said that her company was looking for speakers for an IP conference to give a presentation to leading attorneys dealing with translations of foreign patents who are in particular interested in translation of Japanese and German patents. “That is your expertise, is it not?” said the woman who was not a recording, in what sounded like educated American English. At that point I thought that some sort of conference is probably taking place somewhere, I think she said in Arizona, but I am not really sure, it was all so quick and I was frantically looking for clues to what kind of scam was it this time.

So I interrupted the woman and asked her whether I would have to pay the expenses myself or how would this thing work. She said, to my utter amazement, that her company would pay the expenses, but that there was an amount that I would need to invest first for the privilege of being able to talk about my “expertise” (she used this word several times during a conversation that lasted about 2 minutes) at this conference. The amount that I would have to spend was 15K. That’s how she put it. Not 15 thousand dollars, but 15K.

Even if she chose a smaller number, such as 2 thousand dollars for instance, and if there was a real phone number displayed on my call ID instead of a series of zeros, I knew that the whole thing was a scam and that I was a mark the moment she used the word “K” instead of the word “thousand”, because this is how scam artists think and talk. I told her that I was not interested and hung up on her.

I don’t know how exactly this scam works but one can probably figure it out from what she did tell me. There probably is an IP conference to be held in Arizona in October, because this is something that can be easily verified. But since the woman said that her company would pay the expenses, I would never even go there. She would probably lower the initial amount of “15K” to something that a mark would be willing to pay. She would probably say that they were doing it because everybody at this conference really wanted to hear about “my expertise”.

There is no need for me to talk to “leading councils” who work on “IP issues” at some conference, as per e-mails from scammers in my mail box. And lawyers who do work with translations of foreign patents are really not interested in hearing about “my expertise”. They probably spend less than 2 minutes reading on my website about my services. They basically just want to know how much I charge and how soon can I get it done.

But it is kind of amazing to me how many different kinds of scams are there assaulting people like me these days from all sides: they crawl like cockroaches out of my fax, I have to delete them many times a day from my e-mails. I am kind of used to that. But I did not realize that the scammers now learn what they can about individuals they are about to rob blind and then call them up in person on the phone.

I think that these scams are a sign of the times we live in. And even if we do what is right as the wise animals in Dean Koontz’s novel suggested in the preamble to my post, I doubt that all will be well any time soon.


  1. It is tiring, isn’t it? That’s one of the reasons that I try to keep some distance from many communication media these days. They are simply too polluted with trash and scams. My e-mail client lets the garbage through and sends my clients to the Junk folder. Go figure.

    With the exception of a Zurich agency owner who once tried to scam me over the phone under an assumed name, most of the phone scams here in Germany are related to some lottery or telephone or power service. Or some idiot calls up to conduct a “survey”, which is a thinly veiled attempt to draw you in to some sort of high-pressure door to door sales later. One of these was actually rather fun, as it gave me a chance to meet an ex GSG-9 operative who decided that getting shot at and stabbed wasn’t enough of a thrill, he wanted to risk being licked to death by my dog while trying to sell me a porch canopy.

    But I like the chutzpah of asking someone to pay 15K for the opportunity to share his “expertise”. I wonder what she was smoking.


  2. I watched a program on German TV a few months ago about lottery scam operations in Germany. The reporter was able to go with a hidden camera inside the office and explain to viewers how these things are organized. It was very interesting.

    They are quite sophisticated, it’s hard to prove that these things are really scams.

    I wonder why these lottery scams are so prevalent in Germany and Austria in particular. The only lottery scams that I receive in my e-mail are from Europe or Asia, never from US.


  3. Impressive indeed. The amount of trouble these people go to, and then they’re able to look into the mirror at the end of the day? “15k”… The most incredible thing about it all is that some people must buy the scams, right, or they wouldn’t be wasting their time?


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