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Monday, April 02, 2007

THE LOWEST SORT OF MUCKER THERE IS

A guiri kid sent me an email a while back. He was being harassed by other guiris, who, in trying to act on the up and up, proved themselves to be the lowest sort of mucker there is.

Shameless exploiters of fellow guiris.

For your edification, here’s our exchange of emails:

A friend of mine sent me an article you wrote about scams in Barcelona, and I would like to ask you for some advice about a situation I have inadvertently gotten myself into.

I will try to make the story as short as possible, hopefully it will make enough sense that you can offer me some advice. I went to a bar in Gracia about a month ago with a friend to eat some tapas, and three british guys sat next to us b/c there were no seats left in the rest of the restaurant. We talked for a while, they bought us some food for letting them sit there, and then we left. But before we left, my friend exchanged phone numbers with one of them, and as we were walking away , mentioned to me that they were a bit weird, and that she didn't intend to call them back that weekend.

That night when I got home, I remember one of the guys talking about a website domain he had bought for his neice, so I looked up the registration on a whois search, found the name, googled it, and a site came up near the top that described a british conman who was creating boiler rooms in taiwan, and this man, who was at the bar with us, worked for him, training brokers to sell stocks in fake companies , etc... I found it kind of funny, so I emailed the link to my friend, but I also tagged it on my delicious account, and I wrote in the description something about how I met a weird guy in gracia that night and his name came up on this website bla bla bla...

Two days ago I received an anonymous email with an attached image of my face from a photo that was never put on the internet from earlier this summer, with text below it that read:

my name...

xxxxxx student

lives near xxxxxx

1000 euro

sighting: emailadress*

I won't mention the email address so I don't get myself into any more trouble... Anyways the email was titled "looks like you upset someone".

I had no idea what it was about, I thought it was a joke, but I couldn't figure anything out. over the last two days I have been corresponding with this anonymous person, but accidentally included my address and cell number in the signature of one of my emails (i'm an idiot, i know). She told me (she told me she was a girl, but who knows), that I was in deep trouble and that I must have done something bad to someone, and so on... When I did a google search for the domain of the email address in the original attachment, I found a cached myspace web page with a small image tagged with the domain name, and the image looked just like the guy from the bar. This just made everything more confusing.

So last night I had my friend call the phone number she had written down that night, and she talked to the guy who was the friend of this supposed con man. He said that I apparently I wrote something terrible about his friend on the internet, it got put all over the place, and now he's trying to find me, and he's offering 1000 euro for the person who "sights" me. The anonymous emailer made it a point that it was a "sighting" and not a "touching" request, to imply that there are different levels of severity with these kinds of requests. She also mentioned that 1000 euro's is common, but that if it were 5000 then I should worry a lot more.

I still didn't know at this time what I had said about this guy on the internet, but 15 minutes later when I got home, I found out that a google search for this guy's name makes my personal webpage come up at the top (I had my delicious account set to automatically post daily my bookmarks to an old blog I used to maintain for my students in the States, and forgot to turn it off). So I immediately removed the site link , took down the blog, but the google result will remain there for who knows how long.

The anonymous emailer knows the whole story now and told me that I better hope these guys are not really mean or else something bad could happen to me.

That's about as short as I can make the story. Do you have any insight into a situation like this? I mean, as far as I'm concerned , I just have shitty luck, but I still have a reason to worry, and I still don't feel safe walking around the streets of Barcelona. It may sound silly , but looking at the whole chain of events, I feel really uncomfortable about the whole thing. I have no idea where this guy got my photo, and I have no idea where this magical "wanted" website is where these random people are looking at a photo of my face that says my full name on it and offering 1000 euro's to find me.

I hope I'm not bothering you too much by asking, but your article was so intriguing and my friend suggested that I should email you and see what you thought. Thanks so much for your time,

XXXXX

...

Hello XXXXX,

Thank you for contacting me regarding your troubles in Barcelona.

My first impression after reading your email is that the Brit you met in Gracia is merely trying to scare you. Why? Because anyone who is serious about finding you wouldn't tell anybody. Least of all you. There are many shady characters in Barcelona working fake stock scams and phone banks. Many Brits. This being the equivalent of Tijuana for English scammers on the down low. They don't want any publicity. They possibly operate here to avoid legal issues back home.

My specialty is small time crooks operating in the center. Short cons and rip artists that target tourists. That said, this operator doesn't fall within my usual line of work. But, based on the information you gave me: it's not exactly a scam he's pulling on you. He's not asking for money. He wants you to delete any incriminating information you may have posted about him.

The anonymous emailer is likely the scam artist posing as a woman who wishes to alert you to the "sighting" reward. Since it was sent from a domain that links to a page with a photo of the man in question, I would say the probability is high. I would go with this premise. Your unwanted anonymous friend isn't very clever either,considering how easy it would be to create an untraceable email address.

From your side, you have information as well. Domains, names, past activities, associates in Barcelona, and a phone number. What pops up with the phone number you have? Have you looked for it on any directories?

I can't deduce anything else from the info you gave me. I would just ignore the whole thing. You have incriminating evidence, you have records of emails. He's probably more scared of you.

Good luck with this rat bastard.

L. Kovaks

...

Thanks so much for answering me. The man called me last night at 5:30am, and I answered on the sixth or seventh call. He told me he wants to send a "caller" to meet me somewhere today to talk about the situation, He told me the girl who contacted me is his assistant, and he said he has paid lots of money to collect information about me. He told me it cost him 1000 euro to make that phone call.

I think you're right first of all. The man is an idiot. I have his photo, I have his name, a couple of phone numbers that don't come up on any websites that I can find. He told me on the phone that he and his friends have spent the last seven years erasing information from the internet. He also said that if I don't meet with this guy he's going to lose his temper and he knows where I live, etc... I believe he knows where I live, b/c it's not so hard to figure out, but I don't really know what he can do to me. Nothing he can do to me will help his situation, so I don't really know where to go from here. I suppose I will meet with this guy and have my roommates nearby to make sure nothing happens. I was thinking of meeting him in santa maria del mar, since there will be a lot of tourists there today. But then again, that seems too much like the plot of a murder mystery movie, so maybe I should just go to a cafe.

Anyways, thanks for your advice, and keep writing on your blog. Your writing style is brilliantly addictive. I read the whole thing straight through without stopping yesterday.

XXXX

...

A quick bit later I got this:

Well it turns out to be a lot more lame than I thought. They somehow threatened to break my fingers, then threatened to make me build a website for this guy's neice, and now they realize I took the content off the site a long time ago and they said that I'm lucky i'm a civilian or else something really bad would have happened. I'm not going to answer any more of the emails.

(the rest is a business matter so I've deleted it from this post)

XXXX

...

So you can see the scratchers were trying to stymie this unlucky guiri. They got smarted up by his wise guy comments. Tried to instill fear. But it was a mere ploy, one of the oldest around. Folks in these parts say, “perro ladrador, poco mordedor”. These guys act like they’re going to snap a cap in your ass. They’re acting.

Although their ilk fall outside my usual line of work, I might have to investigate further. This shameful behavior is making me want to massage some chins. And not in a nice way.