Posted by: patenttranslator | September 9, 2013

What Triggered the Avalanche of Scams and Lies in Our World?

“Yes, it may sound irresponsible of me, but ‘I have no idea’ is the gist of this story. You throw a stone into a deep pond. Splash. The sound is big, and it reverberates throughout the surrounding area. What comes out of the pond after that? All we can do is stare at the pond, holding our breath.”

Haruki Murakami, “1Q84″.

Some of my posts are like the Zombies that I keep resurrecting on this blog – I thought they were dead a long time ago, but they simply refuse to die. When I look at the statistics, I see that people keep reading them. One of these posts that refuse to die is If You Believe That You Can Learn a Language in 10 Days You Deserve To Be Ripped Off.

I am assuming that many of the people who came across this post were considering purchasing a CD for 10 dollars to try the “Pimsleur method” for learning a language, and then changed their mind upon reading what I wrote when they realized that the whole thing is a scam. I am glad if I helped to save them hundreds of dollars and a lot of aggravation. This post probably refuses to die because it is a warning also for new potential victims.

The number of scams is growing daily at a healthy rate in the modern world. I think that there were fewer of them around only a few years ago. Well designed scams can be very profitable because thanks to the Internet, such scams can be now launched against huge multitudes of “marks”. We are all marks now, as a huge percentage of the e-mails that we keep receiving every day are scams.

The rest is mostly advertising, which basically means low-level scams. For some reason, 80% of advertising that ends up in my mailbox is in Portuguese, French, or Chinese (in that order). Every day I receive at least a couple of ads in Portuguese for a “vibrador” called Mr. Rabbit. I really have no use for this particular product.

My fax has been also turned over the years from a job delivery device into a dedicated communication device for delivery of scams. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to kill my fax. I probably use it only once or twice a year, but the fax is always on although the only thing it spits out are scams, about twice a week. Offers of incredibly inexpensive vacation packages in places like Mexico, business loans, inexpensive health insurance plans – every single fax is about another scam. There is a number you can call to stop those faxes, but although I called the number three times, they keep coming.

Several agencies in places like Egypt e-mail me every week offers of translation work at incredibly low rates – several thousand words in Japanese or German that they want me to translate for thirty dollars. This too is a scam perpetrated on a cheap customer … who will get his money’s worth. But the jobs attached to these e-mails are real, things like contracts and manuals, so the fact that these agencies exist must mean that they are able to make money in this manner. So this scam must be working, at least on some level.

You can’t trust anything in the current version of our world where something must have gone terribly wrong. At some point something happened to the world that we used to know, and a shift to a different version of the world occurred for some inexplicable reason.

In Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, the shift happened when (or because) a 29 year-old gentle killer of nasty men who do not deserve to live named Aomame got off a taxi hopelessly stuck on a Tokyo highway and climbed down a ladder from an elevated highway to a parallel world.

But what was the event that triggered the avalanche of scams and lies in the world that we live in now, I wonder?

Is there a way to reverse it? Or have we always lived in an empire of scams and bait and switch lies and the only thing that changes is the form of these scams surrounding us everywhere we look?


  1. I would reply no and yes, respectively, to your closing questions.

    Sorry about the Portuguese ads – I hope they come from Brazil and not Portugal. One of the few good things about a slightly backward country is that usually it is spared at least some of the evils of progress…


  2. Yes, the ads are from Brazil. I get a lot of junk e-mail from Turkey, for instance, but nothing from Portugal so far.

    So if I understand you correctly, we basically need to adjust and submit to the (new?) reality because all resistance is futile.


  3. Good to know we keep some of our junk to ourselves.

    No, I think resistance is necessary but its results are very limited. Proportional to the dimensions of what one is fighting against. Therefore it is very important to know how big the ‘evil’ is and to be prepared for some frustration. So that we keep on resisting even when the results are not as good as we would like to.

    It’s not possible to reverse it because it has always been there, in different ways. But people have also resisted against it, also in different ways. That’s what keeps us going – knowing that somehow it can be done against all odds.


  4. @Graça

    You said it so eloquently I have nothing add.


  5. The best defence against scams is to ensure that you do not look like (an easy) ‘mark’. It’s not fool-proof, particularly in the case of scatter-gun approaches over the internet, but I suspect that lawyers get fewer scam e-mails than translators do. Identifying the scams and spreading the word is another method of ‘appearing to be a risky mark’.
    The internet, like a large city, has enormous advantages, but it also provides anonymity, the ‘quality work environment’ for criminals.


  6. ” I suspect that lawyers get fewer scam e-mails than translators do”

    Actually, they are probably targeted at least as much if not more than translators.

    I receive constantly e-mails from “Japanese ladies” who want me to represent them in divorce proceedings, for example, because my website offers services for patent law firms.

    Scammers in countries like Nigeria don’t understand what are the services offered on my website and they think that I am a lawyer. Also, because they don’t understand Japanese names, they usually mix up first and last name in Japanese. But some lawyers must be falling for these scams because why else would they bother with their e-mails?

    Otherwise I agree with the rest of what you wrote.


  7. Scams – any – only exist because people believe in ‘free lunches’ and want to get things easy or free.
    It’s just marketing, stupid! 😉

    Once, my father was offered a ring by someone on the street, for a ridiculously low price. He said he was not interested but that a friend might be.
    When he pointed to a policeman on the corner, the scammer disappeared.


  8. Once I bought a nice fleece lined jeans jacket at a McDonalds in Hollywood.

    Two young guys were trying to sell it to people sitting at the tables. When they came to me and asked for 10 bucks for the jacket, I said 5 bucks.

    I am not sure why I did it, probably just for the heck of it. I was young and stupid (this was in 1984).

    They gave me the jacket and when I gave them 5 dollars, they went straight to the counter to order a breakfast for 5 dollars.

    Only then did I realize that they probably just stole the jacket from a car somewhere because they were hungry.

    As far as I know, this is the only stolen item that I ever bought.

    Never did it again.


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