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.