Endgame

Today I tied up a credit card scammer on the phone for more than an hour. I got further with him that I’ve ever gotten with a scammer.

I get 3-4 phonecalls every day from Indian scammers looking to help me reduce my credit card interest rate to “0% for the life of the card.” Usually I hang up on them, but for the times when I’m bored and feel like playing with them, I made a text file with fake (but consistent) card and identity info in it. First I give them a fake MasterCard, and when that doesn’t come back as valid I give them a fake Visa, and then a fake Visa debit card, and then I’ll tempt them with the promise of a Discover that I won’t give them until they answer all my questions (and, of course, I have so very many questions). I’m always unerringly polite and eager to get their help, so I give them whatever (fake) information they’d like. If I have plenty of free time, I’ll add a story about “my MasterCard had unapproved charges on it so I had them send me a new card, and I got this one on Monday, and it works because I bought coffee at Starbucks this morning, but my Visa I called in about last week and they haven’t called me back yet so I don’t know if this card is canceled or if they’re sending me a new one so maybe you can help me with that” – and that sometimes explains to their satisfaction why the cards are coming up as invalid. Every now and then I’ll also get conversational with them, asking them how their day’s been, telling them what the weather is like here, that sort of thing. They usually get impatient with that. Eventually the scammer realizes he’s not getting anywhere, and so these calls usually end with me getting hung up on, usually after the scammer has told me to stick my card up my ass.

Today, though, I got connected to someone (“James”) who’s apparently new to the game. I gave him the MasterCard and the Visa, and when both came up as invalid, I gave him my story about unapproved charges and I snowed him with lots of smalltalk whenever he wasn’t fast enough to come back at me with a request for more personal information. And eventually he got confused and decided that my info was valid.

So then he transferred me to his “project manager” (“Barry Alan”) who re-verified all the fake info with me – and then explained their program. This was the first time I’d ever reached this level!

I currently have a total (fake) balance of $8500 over two (fake) credit cards at (fake) 13.99% and 15.99% interest. He told me that I can choose either of two options:

  1. Put the balance onto a new card, plus $1200 in service fees ($9700 total), and on this I would have zero percent interest forever. As long as I kept making a minimum payment each month, that would go entirely towards the principal. (At one point he mentioned something about the service fees being charged at 12.99%, but I couldn’t get him to explain that.)
  2. Balance transfer of my existing dept to a card with an interest rate below 5% (“might be as low as 0%”).

This sounded too good to be true, and I told him so. He gave me a story about his company, CMS (Card Management Services) Corporation, being in business to help people with money.

Then he asked me for my social security number. I balked, asking him if it was safe to provide that. He insisted that it was perfectly safe because “this is a recorded line,” and because “if I was a scammer I could hang up on you right now and use your credit cards to purchase things, but because I am not a scammer, I have not hung up the line with you.” In the time it took him to explain all that, I found a social security number generator to provide a valid number that fit the birthdate I had given to him.

Then came the interesting part. We were discussing my (fake) Wells Fargo Visa, and he told me he was transferring me to someone to request my credit card statements, and I said okay, and there was a pause … then I found myself speaking with Cindy from Wells Fargo customer service. The real thing. She was confused, I was confused, I kept asking if Barry Alan was still on the line … then there was a click, and I was suddenly talking with Barry again, who apparently had been listening in – ready to take over the call as soon as I had confirmed my identity with Wells Fargo. “You are supposed to ask for your credit card statements!” he demanded. I apologized, there was another pause, and now I was speaking with Seth from Wells Fargo. “A gentleman who is helping me get zero percent on all my credit cards told me to ask you for my credit card statements!” I told him. He was confused and asked for my account number. I complained, “Barry already has that! He should have given that to you! I have given my information to three people already!” Poor Seth was an innocent casualty, but there was no way I could tip him off to what was going on without tipping off Barry.

Click. Barry was back, and he was mad, accusing me of wasting his time and trying to scam him. I got (fake) mad right back, telling him that I always have to wait on the phone for an hour and a half when I call my credit card company.

And then, yes, he hung up on me.

I feel like this is a win because I finally got them to tell me what their “offer” is. I can see why people think it’s a good offer, but I don’t entirely believe Mr. Barry Alan.

Postmodern Jukebox

On Friday evening, Jill and I went to see Postmodern Jukebox perform at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. (Her Christmas gift to me!)

It was wonderful to see them perform live – so much energy, so much fun! There was no program distributed, so I kept track of the songs they performed. To make sure I had the right songs (hey, I’m not up on Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift) I looked them up on YouTube, where PMJ has posted videos. And as long as I had the videos in front of me, I figured I’d link ’em here so you can get a taste of PMJ’s versions of them. (These videos aren’t exactly the same as the songs we saw them do on Friday; there are different performers and different interpretations.)

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A Name

My last name is derived from my ancestors’ “Kundig” which, in German, apparently means “knowledgeable, expert, well-informed.” (http://dictionary.reverso.net/german-english/Kundig) And I once paid one of those heraldry places that’ll look up your name in a database and print out its history in a Franktur font on a piece of paper that looks like parchment; with this authority, it declares that my last name is derived from “Gend” which is a short form of old Germanic names such as “Gandalf” which itself was derived from Old Norse “gandy” meaning magic.

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Goofy’s Mystery Tour 25th Anniversary

On Thursday night I was a volunteer character at Goofy’s Mystery Tour.

It’s a yearly competition at Disney’s Hollywood Studios after park hours. Three hundred teams (four players each) spend an hour answering 80 really hard multiple-choice Disney trivia questions, then they’re set loose in the park with a puzzle (math, logic, rebus, wordplay, &c.) on a sheet of paper. Solve the puzzle, find the right group of characters to verify it (Scientists, Skiiers, Dapper Dans, Disco Dancers, &c.), and they’ll get the next puzzle and a clue for the final puzzle. 15 puzzles, 2 hours, and if they can gather enough clues they might be able to solve the final puzzle.

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2018-01

Jill and I celebrated New Year’s Eve at home for the first time in years.

We usually go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios early (around 10 AM) and camp out at a picnic table in front of Min & Bill’s (to the left of the end of Hollywood Boulevard) all day. Back before DHS became one big construction zone, they used to have DJ Elliot alternating with Mulch Sweat & Shears all evening, culminating with MS&S performing a live show synchronized with the fireworks at midnight. It was a great experience. But this year the midnight show at DHS was the usual Star Wars fireworks show that we’ve already seen several times. Magic Kingdom is insane on NYE (you’ve got to try it at least once in your life, but you don’t need to do it any more than that), Animal Kingdom closes before midnight, and Epcot doesn’t have any particularly comfortable places to sit for fourteen hours.

Jill made us lunch reservations for Via Napoli at Epcot, so we went there … and almost wished we hadn’t; driving distance was about 10 miles, but the roads were packed and traffic was at a standstill so it took us nearly two hours to get there. At one point we were stopped in traffic beside a parking lot tram which was being brought in from another park. But we went and dined and got New Year’s hats (paper this year) and got home safe.

At midnight we Skype-chatted with Eve while we had the Dick Clark celebration on TV and the Magic Kingdom fireworks on Jill’s laptop. We then heard our neighbors out front so we joined them for a little while in an impromptu street party with lots of sparklers.

I’ve had the past week off work because I was maxed out on vacation and I hadn’t used any of my floating holidays. I feel accomplished – I tackled lots of things on my to-do list. Fixed, upgraded, restocked, and otherwise tended to anything that needed attention around the house. So I feel a little bit centered, balanced, as we go into twenty eighteen.

Cheese

Jill and I have become cheese-curious!

Growing up, I had only ever known slices of American and sharp cheddar, mozzarella that comes on pizza, and Parmesan sprinkled from a can of Kraft. But then one night at the Yachtsman Steakhouse, Jill and I decided to order an artisanal cheese sampler. Our eyes, and our palates, were opened. Especially, this was the first time I ever tried blue cheese; the veins of blue mold in it had always put me off, but I closed my eyes and – wow. Where has this flavor been all my life?

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Protest

Today I attended a counter-protest at Planned Parenthood. I’m glad I was there to be a part of the group supporting the clinic, but for a few reasons I was somewhat disappointed by the experience.

I decided to go when Jill told me about it. She’s fed up with the direction that our government is headed; never before has she felt motivated to take a stand, but she felt that now is the time to do something. So when she heard that Nessa feels the same way and was going to support the local Planned Parenthood during an anti-abortion protest, she immediately volunteered, and as soon as I heard that, I volunteered too.

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