A Scam Alert, Walking In A Winter Wonderland, And A Brand New Feature

With Valentine’s Day upcoming this weekend, I give to everyone the gift of a look back at some of what got my attention this past week:

**  Scam Alert ** This morning, I was online paying bills when I got a nasty surprise checking my phone bill from AT&T.  My bill is always pretty much the same each month, give or take a penny — I use the same services each month, with no long distance calling (that’s what the cell phone is for) or other variable charges affecting the total.  Today, however, I noticed immediately that my bill had jumped up by an even $20.  A little digging revealed that I was getting hit with a charge from a 3rd-party called Headwind Media — with my account getting charged a CMI Exclusive Monthly Fee of $20.  Who’s Headwind Media and what services was I getting for that $20?  I had never heard of them — and was 100% certain that I hadn’t signed up for anything — so I quickly made a call to AT&T. They were able to put a hold on the charge, pending further investigation that I had to do (since, according to them, this other company wouldn’t talk about the issue to anyone other than me, since I was the one who had “ordered” the service).

What are companies like Headwind Media looking for? An all-day one of these who's not paying attention to their bills.

As it turns out, Headwind Media is something called a “Social Celebrity Network” — what that means, your guess is as good as mine — and they claimed that I had ordered their service and committed to a contract online.  They also claimed that they had gotten personal information from me at that time to verify the order.  When I pressed them on what information they could have possibly had other than the public info which would be easily obtainable with even the slightest bit of digging (e-mail address and home phone, just for examples), they weren’t able to give me anything — in fact, the person I talked to actually tried to get me to tell him other personal information (which, if I had been gullible enough to give to him, they then presumably would have claimed they had already in order to hold me to this supposed contract).

It took a few minutes of my life that I’ll never get back, but I got the service canceled, a credit posted to my phone bill, and I now have a block on the company with AT&T so they can’t do it again.   I had a similar situation crop up with the company three or four months ago (I got a “order confirmation” from them in my inbox on that occasion, but I had stopped that occurrence before it ever hit my phone bill).

After searching online, I saw that this is apparently a popular scam, with stories of other people suffering similar aggravation pretty commonplace.  The advice, as always, is that a struggling economy leads to more and more instances of rip-off/scam artists practicing their tricks.  It’s always a wise idea to read through all of your bills closely, to scrutinize every charge, and to make sure that whatever you’re being charged for, it’s something you actually are receiving — and that it’s something that you actually authorized.  Stopping fraudulent charges beforehand is far less of a headache than trying to recoup the money after they’ve already gotten it.

— Snow is falling everywhere it seems.  Even those of us who’re living in the South aren’t immune to the white stuff — my wife saw snow flurries driving to work this morning, and there was snowfall in parts of Texas (including more than a foot in the Dallas area), Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and Alabama.

Meanwhile, many cities on the East Coast saw record-breaking amounts of snowfall themselves.  This is now the snowiest winter on record for the cities of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. — which was essentially shut down for the 4th day in a row.  People across the Eastern States have been faced with the loss of power and difficulty in traveling.  Thankfully, with the exception of some isolated occurrences, it never turned particularly deadly.

My own memories of blizzard conditions comes from living in the Chicago Metropolitan Area as a young boy, where I witnessed firsthand the great Chicago Blizzard of 1979.  The one thing I remember best from that year (besides the days I didn’t have to go to school) was that the response by the city to the storm was underwhelming, and the perception that the city government — particularly the mayor’s office — had been ill-prepared for such an event played a large part in the upset election of Jane Byrne as mayor over incumbent Michael Bilandic (who had taken over after the death of Richard Daley), making her the only female mayor in the city’s history.  With many local officials in the snow-affected areas feeling the heat (particularly Washington mayor Adrian Fenty), there’s a chance that history might repeat itself in the form of voter discontent in the future over storm response.

Beware: Idiots Ahead

— And finally, a new feature on the blog will be the Idiot Alert — where we’ll look at massive idiocy wherever it can be found.  Unlike the attempts to hand out Ro-Sham-Bo and Le Boo Coaching Awards on a semi-regular schedule, the Idiot Alerts will be given purely at random and when the situation arises.   With that in mind, anyone wanting to contribute a nominee is more than welcome — send your Idiot-worthy note to thelasthonestman@ymail.com and you may get a shout-out here.

Today’s Idiot Alert is for a guy masquerading as a sports journalist on some site called the Bleacher Report (which according to some, is no more than a site allowing random posts by pretty much anyone and often featuring the dedicated ramblings of biased homers).  Which might explain the suggestion by someone with the suspiciously-sounding name of Steve Montana — who claims that the gutsy call by New Orleans head coach Sean Payton to open up the 2nd half of the Super Bowl was little more than a “cheap and dirty” play and an example of poor sportsmanship.  In his piece, Montana goes on to claim others head-scratching gems — such as the fact that the Saints outplayed the Colts only “for the most part”, and that an NFL rule should be enacted banning a team from attempting an onside kick to start a half.

Other than the fact that Montana is likely the owner of a phone number with a 317 area code (Hey, Headwind Media — why don’t you sign him up for your great service?), I would have normally marveled at his complete ignorance of the NFL rules in general, as well as what constitutes “fair play”, as well as the ridiculous bias that could only come from someone who was a Colts fan — or at least a close relative of someone in the organization — if I hadn’t realized that he only intended to be funny and that he wasn’t serious.

So, he was trying to be funny, right?  Definitely sarcastic, no?  Uh …. err …  you mean, he’s wasn’t — he’s … he’s actually serious?

Fail.

Congratulations, Steve Montana — you’re responsible for our first-ever Idiot Alert!  For your own safety, in the future make sure to stay away from any sharp objects — as well as your computer keyboard!

— With that, I hope everyone enjoys the weekend and stays safe in you’re in part of the country that’s experiencing a winter wonderland.   I had hoped to have another piece up for yesterday, but time constraints (and having a plumber all day at the house) has forced me to push that back to Monday.  Join me then for a look back at the Greatest Upset In Boxing History.  What was it?  If you don’t already know, come back then to find out!

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