Sunday, October 15, 2023

Nation-wide Scam Warning: The Phantom Hacker Scam

When the FBI warns the public about a scam, you know it's serious. And that's the Phantom Hacker scam. 

To make a long story short, the scam has 3 phases. 

1) A random call from a major company (this is fake, BTW), such as Amazon, or a company you deal with) trying to convince you that you've been hacked, and they will convince you to download a remote control software so they can takeover your computer later. After convincing you, they hand off to part 2, a "fraud department of your financial institution". 

2) A second fake contact calls you, claims to work for the fraud department of your bank, where they will help you *scan* for fake transactions, then tell you that your account is vulnerable, and they will "help" you move your money to some "safe place" operated by the Feds. 

3) A third fake contact calls you, falsely claiming to work for the Feds, assures you your money will be fine and returned to you after they trace the hacker. Except there never was a hacker, and your money disappears and never seen again. 

So what can you do? Do NOT believe random pop-ups or calls, no matter how urgent they appear to be. Most companies operate some sort of 24/7 helpline or chat channel online. 

Beware the phantom hacker scam. 

Monday, July 3, 2023

Documented Type II "Vigilante Karen" Sighting in San Francisco

A Type II "Vigilante Karen" was documented on Reddit harassing a father with his disabled child in San Francisco's Lands End, mistaking them as "old man dragging a drugged kid" over the July 4th weekend in 2023, and park police was summoned. 

I am not going to repeat the whole story, you can click through the link yourself, but here's the TL;DR version: 

Father, in his 40s, was with his disabled 7-year old son with severe intellectual disability at Lands End for some nature. 

They were just walking on a trail when a wild Karen appeared... 

This Karen in her 20s (no other description given) ran up to them and kept asking do they need any help which they clearly do not. However, Karen will not let them go, and even blocked their path. Karen kept insisting she only wanted to help them, even though she's scaring the kid. 

They turned back, and was soon confronted by park police. Apparently someone called in "elderly man dragging a drugged child". Police quickly determined nothing's wrong, gave the kid a sticker, and that's that. 

No word on what happened to the Karen when police arrived and cleared the father of any wrongdoing. 

EDIT: Please click through and read OTHER PERSPECTIVES on what is going on. Alleged witnesses and perhaps even Karen herself had came forward. 

Father speculates that the Karen probably called in the police before confronting them as a delaying tactic, and may have realized her mistake when looking at the child up close. 

Skeptic's Analysis: This is a classic case of Type II Vigilante Karen who summons law enforcements or tries to enforce some laws to "improve the society and right some wrongs" even though there was nothing wrong, merely her perception of such as an entitled Karen. 

Have you spotted any Karens lately? So far, I've identified 5 types:

Type I: "Serve me!" Karen, usually in a store, source of "I don't work here, lady" stories, mistaking some random person as a store employee and demanding service.

Type II: "Vigilante Karen", see above, mis-perceives the situation as unethical or criminal, summons law enforcement for the perceived crime or tries to enforce the law herself, but not physical

Type III: "Punisher Karen", Vigilante Karen that got physical

Type IV: "Robber Karen", indulgent mother who decided to rob others of items for her child. could be pet, toy, model, etc., could be in public or against other children.

Type V: "How Dare You Karen", negligent mother who decided her child's perfect and anyone who dare to correct her child would need to suffer her wrath, similar to Type IV but less physical, similar to Type II and Type III.

Please share reports of "Karens in the wild!" 


Sunday, June 11, 2023

Psychology of Karen V: The "How Dare You" Karen

Previously, we had discussed the four sub-types of Karens;

(NOTE: for consistency, I'll be using the term Karen, and "Ken" if the subject is male. Apologies to actual people named Karen and Ken)

Type I: "Serve me, peon!" Karen -- entitled Karen wanted people around her to serve her, no matter how inappropriate (i.e. "I don't work here, lady!" stories)

Type II: Vigilante Karen -- narcissistic Karen believes she's doing the world right by enforcing some "law" or "standard" in her head, even though it was uncalled for, i.e. "Karen calls the cops on my wobbly disabled father for alleged public intoxication" or "Karen tried to kidnap unaccompanied minor in an airport, chased her across multiple terminals". 

Type III: Punisher Karen -- narcissistic Karen believes her target needs to be punished for whatever transgressions in her head. Example: "Karen tries to rip out server's hair because Karen can't believe they are not extensions". 

Type IV: Robber Karen -- entitled parent who decided she must obtain whatever her child wanted by harassing the owner, or outright robbery, esp if the owner is a minor. This can range from a game console to musical instrument worth thousands, all for free or for a toy's price, of course. There's no logic in this other than she somehow had determined that her child is more "deserving" (i.e. entitled) to the item than you, and she's going to "correct" that injustice. So there are similarities to both type I and type II. Example: "Karen tries to steal model train set at show caused hundreds in damages."

Today, I like to propose a 5th sub-type of Karen: the "How Dare You Karen", aka the "anti-mom Karen"

The How Dare You Karen is an entitled and negligent parent, usually accompanied by one or more entitled kids. The kids, used to the negligent parenting of Karen, are wild and unmannered, run around and screams in public, with zero decorum, mess with stuff that's not theirs, because Karen believes in "free-ranging" her kids and not setting limits, believing that to be, well, good parenting. Her mommy instincts however, will emerge when anyone else dare to teach her kids decorum or help her kids when they got into trouble or hurt themselves. 

Example: "Kid hits head horsing around, CSM helps, Karen mom calls corporate to complain about CSM attitude" TL;DR version: Mom and 2 kids (5-8?) checking out at a store. Kids wander off, boy started messing with wheel chair, which has a swing basket. The basket got dislodged and bopped him on the head. Boy started crying, so manager walked over to check on him. Kid's okay, manager then told the kid "That's why we don't climb on things we aren't supposed to because you can get hurt doing that" just as mom walked up with the other kid. Mom took both kids out. Ten minutes later, corporate called. Apparently Karen mom complained to corporate that manager told her kid "served him right". 

This type of Karen feel that her kids are flawless, anyone dare to correct her kids had to go through her first. In other words, she's going to discipline everyone BUT her kids with her vigilante attitude, making her related to Type II and Type III. So she's the "anti-mom" or "No Mommy" Karen as well. "How Dare You Do My Job (as Mommy)"?! 

Do you agree with the classification / taxonomy? Do we need more subtypes? Comment below! 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Was Confirmation Bias The Cause For the Batmobile Debacle?

Confirmation bias is a serious problem that everybody suffers from, and it takes conscious effort to avoid it. Whether it played a part in the infamous "Batmobile Debacle", is a bit questionable. 

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, feel free to look up "Batmobile Debacle". But here's a summary of it, as simple as I can make it. 

Mark Racop is a Batman fan, and he has obtained official license to make replicas of the 1966 Batmobile that appeared in the classic Batman TV series. His shop, Fiberglass Freaks, is in Indiana. And his shop is making several vehicles at a time, and the process takes many MONTHS. 

Sam Anagnostou, a real estate agent who lives in Atherton, CA, wanted to buy one, in 2017. 

But the cars are "built to order", and costs $210,000. You pay a certain amount by certain milestones, much like you'd pay a contractor who is fixing up your house. 

So Sam paid $40K to start, then met several milestones. He was assigned production vehicle "29" which is a build-queue number, but it's not a vehicle. He paid $170,000 so far, with 40000 remaining. Next milestone was at "first primer" with $20000 due. 

So "first primer" stage was reached in December 2019, and Sam is nowhere to be found... over several MONTHS. So Sam got bumped to the bottom of the queue. Sam eventually got back to Racop in August 2020, inquiring about the progress, and was told progress suspended due to nonpayment. Sam wired Racop 40000 a few days later, completing all payments. 

In August 2021, Sam decided he was a victim of fraud, since he still had not received a car. So Sam reported "fraud" to his local Atherton Police. Atherton Police said this is a civil matter. 

So Sam filed a civil suit in San Mateo county court. The judge threw it out, ruled that this suit should be filed in Indiana. 

Sam then contacted the county sheriff directly, San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolano. Who apparently told his "auto theft task force" commander, Michael Leishman, to look into it. Note that Sam did not go through the regular channels, i.e. call the main number. He went DIRECTLY to the sheriff. Is this inappropriate? We don't know. 

Leishman, after studying the files given to him by Sam's investigator, somehow came to the conclusion the vehicle was "finished", and the vehicle was then sold to someone else, despite the 40000 final payment. He had somehow become aware of a payment by "Danny Glasser" who also paid for a Batmobile at the time and believed Sam's car was "delivered" to Glasser. All of this was done WITHOUT contacting Mark Racop or Fiberglass Freaks to understand the actual situation. 

Leishman then coordinated with the Deputy District Attorney Marie McLaughlin to obtain the necessary paperwork, then spent the next six MONTHS getting warrants for email and financials he believed to be relevant to the case. 

In July 2022, McLaughlin filed felony complaint in San Mateo alleging "obtaining money by false pretenses" and "diversion of construction funds", and warrants are issued, which authorized Leishman to go to Indiana, arrest Racop, freeze his business, recover the vehicle, and extradite him to California to face charges. 

A few days later, Leishman, a sergeant, and 2 deputies boarded a flight for Indiana and coordinated with local law for a local warrant. They arrived at Fiberglass Freaks on July 24th. Mark Racop was NOT interviewed, and the lieutenant (at the time) Leishman will not allow Racop to speak with his own attorney. Racop was nervously trying to explain the situation. Leishman was searching for a "nearly completed car" and after searching the entire workshop concluded there was no such completed car. Despite this revelation, Racop was hauled down to the local police department ANYWAY. Only when Racop disclosed that he has a heart condition did Leishman relent and decided NOT to extradite him immediately, but told him he better go to California when the California court summons him. They returned to California the next day, and Leishman went on vacation a day later. 

The case then blew up when the media gotten hold of it, mostly because it involved "the Batmobile!" When district attorney learned of the case, and conducted more investigation, they decided to drop the charges, unfreeze the bank account, and hired an independent investigator, an ex-judge, to look into the matter. The report has just been made public. The investigator let all parties knew about the investigation and participation is voluntary. Sam did NOT respond to inquiry, and MacLaughlin declined to participate. 

Sorry for the long spiel, but it takes a bit of setup to explain the situation. 

So why confirmation bias? I don't claim to be a mind reader, but I believe Leishman suffered a bit of confirmation bias. I recommend you read the investigator's summary of the interview she did with Leishman, starting on page 20. A couple points to note:

* ..."Leishman is the Commander of the Vehicle Theft and Recovery Task Force." 

* "...Leishman believed the fraud occurred when (Sam) wired $40000 to Racop and the car built for (Sam) was sold to someone else."

* "... He (Leishman) thought he was pursuing a righteous case of fraud. "

It appears that Leishman suffered from confirmation bias. To explain it, I have to use a cliche:

"To a hammer, everything looked like a nail."

To an auto theft and recovery expert, a business dispute looked like auto fraud. 

It doesn't help that he was relying on a very one-sided narrative... the alleged victim's narrative. It was clear that everything he did was looking for evidence to support the narrative, rather than gather all the evidence and see where it leads. 

The fact that Leishman refused to talk directly with either Racop or Glasser before the trip to Indiana on the reasoning of "don't warn them" was further evidence of confirmation bias. He's thinking about police procedures. He's gathering evidence for the prosecution, NOT investigating (whether there is enough to prosecute). 

I believe that is what happened, given the evidence available. I am well aware that I could be falling into the same trap: I want it to be confirmation bias, so I am looking for signs of confirmation bias. 

Which is why I am now asking you, the readers. 

Do you think this is confirmation bias? Did he simply ASSUME there's fraud, because he was TOLD there's fraud? And once he decided it's fraud, he didn't bother looking into anything else? Let me know in the comments. 

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Scam Analysis: The Fake Job Offer

A reader of /r/scam posted this "job offer" and asked if it was a scam. 

There are a couple red flags. 

* While an employer can definitely run a credit report on a candidate, it is generally paid for by the employer. Asking a candidate to pass a credit report THEN come back to the employer is extremely fishy, esp. when there's not even a candidate number, employer profile, or such. 

* The grammar is actually quite bad with several capitalization errors, typos, and just very awkward phrasing. Why would I not "think you are fit for the job" if I applied, and you wrote "we think you are qualified"? 

* "Once your report is verified"? Was the candidate supposed to send a screenshot of the report to the employer? How can that be verified? 

* What the heck is "send me a shot"? Screenshot (of what?)?  Shout?  

What was not shown was the actual email link to where I suspect an affiliate link code was included but not shown. 

What will very likely happen is the person who got the credit report will simply never hear back from the job again, and/or likely to be blocked or spam-filed. Because the job ad is fake. The entire purpose is to get the person to sign up for clickfreescore, which is actually a credit monitoring service with a subscription cost, with a 7-day free trial. 

A quick search online with "clickfreescore affiliate link" showed that the website is legitimate, and does have an affiliate program, but the terms also specified that participants MAY NOT perform "job board marketing", and definitely "not run offers on sites that offer fake products or services". 

So please report this fake job to both ClickFreeScore (support@_____) and where you found the ad. Include the LINK (where there should be a link code, so they get credit for misleading you) and the URL of the ad. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

How to Spot Propaganda Statistics -- COVID Edition

NOTE: This post is also available at as it explains how antivaxxers misuse statistics for propaganda purposes. 

Recently, experts warned that pregnant women are being deliberately targeted with COVID vaccine misinformation. Some claimed that COVID vaccines can affect fertility, while another claimed vaccines cause stillbirths. One even cited a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine titled "Preliminary Findings of mRNA Covid-19 Vaccine Safety in Pregnant Persons" to claim the vaccine is unsafe for pregnant persons. But the study actually shows the opposite of it. So how do you spot such misinformation? By always looking for the context. If a statistic is presented WITHOUT context, you cannot trust it. 

Feel free to read the abstract of the summary above, but I'll include a relevant highlight from the Pubmed link above:

... 13.9% resulted in a pregnancy loss...

While the 13.9% pregnancy loss sounds alarming in itself, you cannot say whether the vaccine is bad or good without knowing the context of such a number. What you should be asking here is "so what is the normal pregnancy loss, i.e. pregnancy loss rate without COVID vaccine?" Or to use a statistics term, what is the base rate or background rate, so we can have a proper comparison? 

Turns out, the answer is not that simple, because, in the US, there are actually TWO terms for pregnancy loss: miscarriage (for fetus before 20 weeks), and stillbirth (fetus at 20 weeks or older), and separate statistics are kept. 

For miscarriage, the answer is between 10-20%, according to the Mayo Clinic, but that's reported cases. The actual rate is higher due to unrecognized pregnancies. As high as 33% according to some estimates. 

"About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage."

Once past 20 weeks, the fetal death rate falls off significantly, down to 1 in 100 to 160 pregnancies, according to CDC. 

As the study used the term "pregnancy loss", which encompasses BOTH stillbirth and miscarriage, and 10-20% vastly overshadows the 1/160 rate, 10-20% is the right number to use as a base rate. 

Thus, the 13.9% number is actually somewhat BELOW the known rate, if we take the median, which is about 15%. And the difference is so small it is probably within statistical error margins. 

Thus, there is no known risk to pregnancy by the mRNA COVID vaccine, since the rate of vaccinated pregnancy loss is almost indistinguishable from the unvaccinated pregnancy loss rate. 

But you wouldn't know that if you ONLY heard the 13.9% figure. It sounds scary. And that's what the people who presented those statistics WANT you to feel: FEAR through propaganda, manipulating your thoughts through misinformation and disinformation. 


A similar thing happened with the earlier CDC vaccine reaction tracking that there seems to be a few cases of myocarditis among people who got vaccinated, that they temporarily halted the use of one COVID vaccine for a few weeks, out of an abundance of caution, while the study was re-checked and more data was gathered. Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscles. CDC later put the odds of such at about 4.8 per million.  

As expected, anti-vaxxers started touting this as "COVID vaccines are unsafe". They even got a study that supposedly proves that myocarditis increased after COVID vaccines were added. But again, should you check the studies, what is the base rate, and what are the alternatives? 

Turns out, Reuters had published a full fact-check article on this. The study that was touted by the anti-vaxxers made a huge error. The original study was done by The University of Ottawa Heart Institute. It stated that odds are 1 in 1000 of developing a heart problem after COVID vaccination. It was put on preview on September 16th, before it was peer-reviewed. Turns out, they used the wrong figure in "doses administered". They used a figure of 32379 over the study period of 2 months. It should be about 25X larger at 845930. Instead of 1/1000, the figure is more like 3.78/100000. The paper was withdrawn from preview on September 24th, and the Heart Institute itself had issued an apology. 

So the evidence is not there. There are also TWO MORE factors to consider... 

a) What is the base rate of myocarditis? i.e. what is the possibility of catching it without the vaccine?  

According to Wikipedia, it's about 22 per 100K people per year. And 20% will die in the first year. 

However, this is the overall rate. The rate is much lower for younger people, about 5 per 100K people. 

b) What is the possibility of COVID-induced myocarditis, if you caught COVID instead of vaccinating, but recovered? 

Existing myocarditis data from 2019 (pre-COVID) was compared to 2020 data (during COVID) and the signs are having had COVID suggests you are "15.7 times more likely" to have a myocarditis event. 


Another study involving records of 2 million patients from 40 different hospitals specifically looked for incidents in individuals who had received the COVID vaccine. Guess how many cases they found? Twenty, out of Two Million. 1 per 100000. That's lower than the background rate / base rate. It is of no factor. 

But now you have mothers screaming on Twitter that "my teenager caught myocarditis from the vaccine". 

Except, again, there's no proof from temporal association, i.e. correlation is not causation. It's an anecdote, not data. 

CDC has the data, and it's sharing in the full report from June 2021:

The results now show more children are getting infected and dying because the vaccine isn't available for them until VERY recently, and the unvaccinated are clogging up the hospital beds so people who need normal hospitalization can't get in, and either transfer to a different state... or die. 


When the antivaxxers tell you "do your own research", what they actually mean is "please read our propaganda (where we scare you into supporting us and distrust the doctors)" 

What you should do instead, is REALLY do your research... by spotting other people's propaganda for what it is... intention to manipulate you. 

And yes, I am trying to manipulate you... into REALLY thinking for yourself, not just looking up stuff to confirm your own beliefs. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

WTF: Vaccine Hesitancy in COVID times

In January 2021, total deaths due to COVID in the US have passed 400000... that's LESS THAN A YEAR after the FIRST confirmed case (January 21st, 2020, in Seattle). Today, April 2021, it's already past 550000. 

Keep in mind that the US death toll is the world's HIGHEST, even worse than China, where it was first discovered and turned the city of Wuhan into an almost ghost city. 

Just to keep the numbers in perspective... 400000 about the same as the TOTAL US MILITARY CASUALTIES IN the entire World War II! (400103 COVID deaths as of Jan 19, 2021, vs 405000 total casualties as quoted from Dept of Veteran Affairs)

The numbers are sobering as the country reached 200000 deaths in September, 300000 deaths in December, and 400000 deaths in January... 

As of this writing (April 3rd, 2021), the total US COVID deaths is at 554000 (thanks, Google, click to get up to date count)

So how can ANYONE who values their life still be vaccine-hesitant? 

And if they don't value their own lives, can they prevent their almost-adult children from getting vaccinated? 

Turns out the answer is quite a bit more complex, with legal, moral, and medical aspects to consider. 

Please note that it is not my attempt to document the anti-vax movement, but rather, show how anti-vaxxers are known to cherry-pick random bits of study results because it's all they see to fit their own frame of mind, instead of looking at things with the proper scientific mindset. 

But let's start with the legal bits. 

Can Antivax Parents Legally Prohibit Their Children from getting COVID vaccine? 

This cannot be answered at the moment because none of the COVID vaccines are approved for children. Pfizer vaccine is approved for age 16 and over. J&J and Moderna vaccines are only approved for 18 and over. 

But legally speaking, vaccines are a medical treatment, and thus, parents of the minor will be notified, and parents do have the right to refuse. 

The school, of course, can require immunization/vaccination before allowing the students back, unless the student has a specific vaccine exemption on medical, and in some states, religious reasons. California, for example, had been tightening the rules and dropped religious exemptions altogether. This made the various anti-vax parents form networks trying to promote the doctors who will certify vaccine exemptions, but the law made the exemptions subject to review, as prior exemption abuse included non-pediatric doctors writing exemptions. 

Some US states recognize the "mature minor doctrine" which basically is where a mature minor knows enough to recognize the risks and rewards and capable of making up his or her own mind about self-health. Generally, they have to be at least 15 years of age and is generally a way for a minor to seek treatment against the will of his or her parents. The court will often have to appoint someone to test the minor and the judge will have to make a final decision. 

This is different from the full "emancipated minor" where the minor is declared legally his/her own person and no longer considered a minor, and can live by him or herself, and/or sign contracts and stuff that a minor normally would not be allowed to do. It is basically a limited version of emancipation.

It gets more complicated as some states have laws on the books that SOME vaccines require parental notification, while some do not.  

In case I lost you completely, yes, anti-vax parents can prevent their children from getting vaccinated. This is complicated as it intersects public health, privacy rights, and parental rights. But there are legal ways around it... both will involve a judge. 

Practically speaking, most mass vaccination sites barely checks your ID. Are they really going to notify your parents if you do want the vaccine? Doubt it. 

What Mental Gymnastics is Antivaxxers Using to Deny COVID and COVID vaccines? 

Nothing really special, as they have always tried to make mountains out of molehills. 

For example: after getting COVID vaccines, some reported arm lymph nodes swelling. Medical professionals say "normal reaction" of the immune system. Anti-vaxxers say: COVID vaccine causes breast cancer. No, not making this up. 

Then there are the "scientists" who can't get a job in the regular sciences, so they decided to court the anti-vax crowd... by feeding them nonsense. Let's take Vanden Boosche as an example. He circulated an "open letter" to advocate governments around the world to STOP MASS VACCINATIONS. His arguments can be roughly summarized as the old anti-vax trope: vaccination is making MORE DANGEROUS diseases! Which is just a variation on "diseases aren't that awful". 

I'm sure the 554000 people who had DIED from COVID in the US alone, and the millions dead from COVID around the world would disagree. 

Frankly, the logic is backward. The more we immunize, the LESS CHANCE a disease can spread and mutate. This is a virus, NOT a bacteria. Bacteria and natural selection will create more drug-resistant bacteria, but that's because we can't kill all bacteria. Coronavirus is NOT a bacteria. The virus can only replicate when it infects a host. And the more it replicates, the more chances it mutates and becomes a new variant. Immunization means a virus cannot infect the host, cannot replicate, cannot mutate, cannot create new variants. 

Furthermore, modern vaccines usually sequence the whole virus, not just a specific segment of it, and thus the vaccine is effective against multiple variants, not the specific strain. We've seen in the reports that several of the existing COVID vaccines are effective against the new variants. While using the "older" vaccines on the new variants did produce fewer antibodies vs the original virus, medical professionals agree that they should still provide adequate protection to trigger the immune system. Furthermore, being immunized means you cannot be an asymptomatic carrier/spreader. 

And the vaccine makers are not standing still. They are evaluating strategies to create new variants of vaccines to protect against multiple variants, would a third dose help stop the variants, and so on. 

So What Do We Do About It?

So what do we do about vaccine hesitancy? Usually, showing them the facts, and let them PROPERLY weigh the risks vs. reward should be sufficient. 

But if they are the type to treat NaturalNews as "one true news" and laments how Infowars was shut down by "leftie wingnuts" then there's no saving them from themselves. They would describe themselves as "not anti-vax". Indeed, RFK Jr describes himself as pro-vaccine, even though he runs an anti-vax organization. Indeed, a dozen people generated 2/3rds of all antivax messages on Facebook and Twitter

When people go to extreme lengths to jump the queue for COVID vaccine (such as a Canadian couple flew to remote village for vaccine meant for locals or Mexican celebrity flew to Florida for COVID vaccine) one can only say "more for the rest of us" should some people choose to not get in line. 

And if they happen to survive, remind them about herd immunity and luck.