About My Instagram Profile

It doesn’t exist.

Instagram LogoScammers/Spammers will say and do anything. Here’s proof.

I got this email today via someone (or somebot) on my website’s contact form:

Hi there, I have just been to your Instagram profile of aneclecticmind.com and I absolutely enjoy your shots! I think your Instagram profile should have a lot more followers and likes! Did you know that you can in fact buy followers and likes on websites like [redacted url] ?

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you are performing a terrific job! Looking forward for more of your pictures!

Have a great day!

I don’t have an Instagram profile — or at least I don’t think I do. If I did, it would be in my name and not my website’s URL. And I know for a fact that I haven’t posted any photos on Instagram, at least not in the past few years. And why the hell would I want to buy followers or likes?

Just another ploy to get me to click a link for a service (or a scam) I have no interest in.

A Craigslist/PayPal Scam

Too many people are playing this game. I played along to see what it was all about.

Last week, I re-listed my RV, the Mobile Mansion, on Craigslist. I decided I didn’t want to deal with email responses, so I listed my phone number, which happens to be for my cell phone.

Text Message
The first text message I got about the camper.

The text messages started coming almost immediately. The first wasn’t too odd — except that the person texting me wanted me to reply via email, claiming she wasn’t contacting me from her cell phone. Huh? But I didn’t want a long, drawn out email discussion. So I replied that she should call me.

I never heard back from her.

By the time the second text message arrived the next day, followed almost immediately by another one with nearly the same wording, I knew something was up. (I was born at night, but it wasn’t last night.)

Here’s the one I decided to investigate. It started off pretty weird:

BUYER: Good Day,i searched on CL and saw your< 2010 Keystone Montana Mountaineer 324RLQ - $29900 (Malaga, WA) >which i highly have interest to purchase from you now kindly let me know if it’s available and in Good Conditions ?

Note the deplorable English. It reeked of scam. I played along:

ME: It’s still available. It’s in very good condition. If you want to discuss it, call me.

The response came nearly 12 hours later at 10:11 PM:

BUYER: Sound excellently to me I am from Yakima WA how i wish to come over and view it in person but am currently out of town right now.I work as a Marine Engineer busy sailing on ship right now in U.S naval base.I’m really satisfied with the conditions about it,please kindly text me your actual price that you’re selling it for me ??

Yeah. He’s sailing on a ship in a U.S. naval base. I believe that. I decided to stick to my asking price, figuring that a real person would try to bargain:

ME: $29,900

If there was any lingering doubt about this being a scam, it disappeared with his response:

SCAMMER: Okay i have agree with the price of $29,900 and would have love to pay you via cash but am not around at the moment and i have no one to send to you that’s why i choose Paypal cos its safe,reliable and guarantee transaction safety of funds…so I will want you to get back to me asap with your Paypal email address so that i can proceed with the payment and you will be notify by the Paypal customer care immediately the payment is made and My Mover will be there to pick up and sign all necessary papers as soon as I make the payment …thanks for your consideration.Await your Response

So this guy is supposedly going to send me $29,900 via PayPal and “PayPal Customer Care” will notify me when the payment arrives. Without any paperwork. I don’t even have a name for the guy. I decided to see how far I could string him along.

ME: Don’t you want to see it?

Apparently not.

SCAMMER: In order to enable me to proceed with the payment could you please provide me with the following information below :
Your Full Name:
PayPal Email address:
once i receive the details i will go ahead with the payment and then i will contact my shipping agent for pick up
am okay with it that is why the pickup agent company will contact you for the pick up after payment is made and cleared and take care of the necessary paperwork for the registration after you get the payment. I will need your home address for the Picked

I should mention here that his text messages appeared in 160-character max segments that didn’t always arrive in the correct order. I had to jumble them around to figure out what he was saying. I’m not even sure I got the above quote right.

ME: I think you should see it first. Or do you trust your shipper to inspect it for you?

I heard nothing for nearly 24 hours and figured that he’d realized I knew I was being scammed. I decided to poke him a bit:

ME: I have another person interested but only offering $28,000. Do you still want it? I haven’t heard from you.

Eight hours later, he replied:

SCAMMER: are u there
i am interested have been wating for you to get back to me with your paypal email address and your full name so i can go ahead to make the payment

I made him wait two hours before replying:

ME: I’m not comfortable selling to you sight unseen. I am willing to deliver to you at no cost.
You can give me a deposit on PayPal and pay the rest in cash when I deliver.

A real buyer would be an idiot to turn down an offer like that. But he wasn’t really interested in buying. He just wanted my name and email address to continue his scam.

SCAMMER: PayPal is one of the best ways to make a payment online simply because it’s fast, easy, secure and reliable.

ME: Not as reliable as cash.
And I’m willing to deliver for free. That’ll save you a lot of money!

He replied 28 hours later:

SCAMMER: dont worry about that am okay with it and dis is not my first using them okay
all you do is to get back to me with your paypal email address and your full name so i can go ahead to make the payment right away thanks ‘

At this point, I knew I wasn’t going to get any farther with him unless I gave him what he wanted. But I also wanted to see what he’d say when I insisted on a deposit and cash on delivery. I waited until the next morning before I replied with a fake name and a throwaway email address:

ME: Send me a $2000 deposit. I’ll deliver it to you or someone you designate to accept it. He can inspect it and give me $27,000 cash. Maria Sarducci, zip98828@gmail.com. Be sure to send me delivery info.

Sarducci? Like Father Guido?

Text 2
What idiot would actually believe this message came from PayPal?

Less than an hour later, the next part of his plot arrived in the form of another text message from a toll-free number. I have to say that I wasn’t surprised. I expected to hear from “PayPal,” although I did expect it to arrive as an email message. I also expected the message to include a link which I had no intention of clicking.

The way I saw it, the link could do one or both of two things:

  • It could run an app that somehow installed malware on my computer. That malware could do any number of things that would make me unhappy.
  • It could take me to a page that looked like a real PayPal page and prompt me to enter my PayPal user ID and password. They’d then have access to my PayPal account, which could be catastrophic — if I had a PayPal account with that address.

So the scammer had played his hand: a link supposedly from PayPal that I was supposed to click to get my money. How many people fall for this crap every day? I bet it’s quite a few — over the past week I received text messages from five different phone numbers that were likely going to lead me thought this same script. It must work if they keep doing it.

I decided to pretend I’d never gotten the text message from “PayPal.” I waited until that afternoon and sent another message:

ME: Did you send the $2000 deposit? That other buyer called. If I don’t get the deposit by tomorrow, I’ll have to sell to him.

This morning, I added:

ME: Hello? I’m still waiting for the deposit. You seemed so anxious to buy. What are you waiting for now?

I don’t really expect a response. I suspect he’ll either give up. But if he does respond, it’ll likely be to draw my attention to the text message from PayPal. If he does respond, I’ll tell him I haven’t seen any money come into my account. That should chase him off.

But I don’t expect to hear from him at all again. I suspect he’s got a few suckers on the line — or people like me who are playing him for fun — to keep him busy.

Why did I blog this? I just want people to understand that there are scammers out there and they will rip you off if you’re not aware of the possibility of a scam. When someone texts you and agrees to pay full price for an expensive item you’ve listed online, sight unseen, alarm bells should ring.

This isn’t the first time someone tried to scam me when I was selling a high-priced item. I’d listed my old R22 helicopter for $110K back in 2004 when a scammer tried to con me. You can read about that here.

Don’t be an idiot. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

April 19 Update: I got another message from a different toll-free number this morning. Actually, two identical messages arriving about 30 seconds apart:

You have 2 new messages for 2010 Keystone Montana Mountaineer 324RLQ Fifth Wheel : 15096998044.accmobusr.com/clrv1

Same domain, different link. In the meantime, I wrote back to the scammer:

ME: I’m still waiting to hear from you. The money did not arrive in my PayPal account. If you’re not interested anymore, kindly have the courtesy to tell me.

Again, I don’t expect a response. But if I get one, I’ll update this blog post.

Mobile Mansion for Sale

Perfect for snowbirds or a life on the road.

Back in 2010, I bought a 2010 Montana Mountaineer 5th wheel RV. I chose it after looking at well over 100 RVs of all sizes. At the time, I thought it was a “Perfect” RV.

Mountaineer 324RLQ Floor planHere’s the floor plan for my mobile mansion.

And it was. At the time, anyway. I bought an RV large enough for two people and a mid-sized dog to live comfortably for 4 to 6 months out of the year. It would need plenty of space, a comfortable dining area, a cozy queen sized bed, and a dedicated office area where I could spread out while working on books. And the kitchen would have to have enough space to prepare meals for two.

You see, the man I was married to had promised that he’d join me on the road in the summer months when he turned 55 in 2011. Buying the RV was just one of the preparations I made for him to leave the latest in a series of dead-end jobs, join me in Washington during the summer months, and chase his own dreams back in Arizona in the winter.

But although I trusted that man to keep his promises, he didn’t. Maybe he never intended to. Instead, he came up with another plan — one that didn’t include me. The divorce proceedings began in the summer of 2012.

Desk
Do you know how many books I wrote at this desk? And yes, that’s an HDTV — one of two in the RV.

In a way, it’s a good thing I bought what I came to call the “mobile mansion.” It gave me a very comfortable place to live in the months between when I left my Arizona home and when my new home in Washington was ready to be occupied.

Unfortunately, however, it’s a lot more RV than I want or need for the winter travel I’d like to make part of my rebooted life. Yes, it’s spacious and comfortable and it’s easily towed behind my 1-ton Ford diesel truck. But it’s a pain to park and it doesn’t fit into many of the tight spaces I’d like to go. It’s perfect for a snowbird — someone who wants to go south for the winter (or north for the summer) and just park in one or two places for the season. But to travel? To move every few days? Not practical.

So I want to downsize. I’d like to replace the mobile mansion with a bumper-pull trailer that’s under 20 feet in length and has no slides. Something light that I can pull with a 1/2- or 3/4-ton truck. Something that’s easy to park, even in tight spots. Something for a life on the go.

That’s why the mobile mansion is for sale. I’ve got it listed on RV Trader and on Craig’s List, as well as in a few local places. If you’ve been thinking of joining the ranks of snowbirds — or breaking free from your nine-to-five grind to start a life of adventure on the road (in comfort) — this might be the perfect solution for you.

This Can Be Yours!
This whole rig can be yours for just $42K!

The asking price? $32,900 for the RV — pay the asking price and I’ll deliver it within 500 miles of 98828 at no extra charge. You can get a NADA Guide RV value and specifications here; just keep in mind that the value doesn’t include the solar setup.

If you want the truck with it, the price is $42,000 firm for the whole rig. You can buy them as a starter kit and hit the road before the first snow falls!

Amazon Reward Points Scam

Come on folks — don’t fall for this!

I’ve been getting so many of these in email lately that I figured everyone else must be, too. It’s a scam. Don’t click any of the links. Throw it away.

Amazon Reward Points Scam

If Amazon.com was writing to you, they would use your name, not your email address. There is no Amazon.com Loyalty Department. When you point to one of the links, it displays a URL that is not on Amazon.com.

If all that fails, look at it logically: are they promising “reward points” or a “$50 Amazon Gift Card”? A real promotion would be clear. Don’t let the placement of a few Amazon logos fool you.

Know What You’re Eating

Read the ingredients.

Chobani Yogurt
This is my favorite yogurt these days. Just wish it wasn’t so damn expensive since I eat so much of it.

I was looking for yogurt in the supermarket the other day. I’ve been drinking a lot of smoothies lately and I wanted an inexpensive alternative to the Chobani greek yogurt I usually buy. Although I usually make my yogurt, I’ve been so busy with work around my home and cherry season chores that I figured I’d make things easy on myself and just buy a quart or two. I figured that if I could find an inexpensive brand, it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of making it myself anymore. At $5+/quart, the Chobani gets costly quickly when you go through a few quarts a week.

So I was in the dairy section of the supermarket, checking out brands I’d never really looked at before. I didn’t need Greek yogurt for my smoothies, but I did need it to be plain, fat-free yogurt — and nothing else.

Yogurt, in case you’re wondering, is milk with active yogurt cultures added. It involves heating the milk, cooling the milk partway, adding the cultures, and holding the temperature until curds form. One more step — draining off a good portion of the liquid whey — is what turns regular yogurt into thick Greek yogurt.

I looked at labels and was absolutely shocked by the additives I found in some. While it’s common for Greek yogurt makers to fake Greek yogurt by adding thickeners, I didn’t expect yogurt makers to add unnecessary ingredients to regular yogurt. Yet there they were in the ingredients list. Pectin was especially popular — nearly every yogurt contained it.

Organic Yogurt Ingredients
Good thing that locust bean gum is organic.

The ingredient list in one organic yogurt was so offensive that I took a picture of it.

Remember, yogurt = milk + active yogurt cultures. It doesn’t need pectin, corn starch, locust bean gum, or added vitamins.

You have to understand that many of my friends are organic food snobs. In their minds, if it’s not organic, it’s not healthy. These are the people who buy organic produce, sometimes paying three to ten times the price of non-organic produce. They think organic means no chemicals. (Certain chemicals are allowed in organic food production.) They think organic means healthier. (No scientifically conducted test has shown a difference in nutritional value between organic and non-organic food.) They think that the industrial farming methods that make it possible to feed millions of people cost effectively are unsafe or even evil. When faced with a choice between an organic yogurt and the Chobani I usually buy, they’d pick the organic, likely without even reading the label beyond the word “organic.” That word, which the manufacturer has paid a premium to the FDA to use, is shorthand, in their minds, for “healthy.”

Chobani Yogurt Label
It might not be certified “organic,” but at least it’s yogurt — and only yogurt.

I looked at every label for every non-fat and low-fat plain yogurt in the supermarket. In the end, I bought the Chobani. It was the only one that didn’t include additives that aren’t a part of real yogurt. I also bought a half gallon of skim milk and will be making two quarts of yogurt today, using the Chobani as a starter, for next week.

Those of you who are blindly buying products because the label proclaims they’re organic might be putting all kinds of weird ingredients into your bodies. You can keep them. I’ll stick with a product that contains exactly what it should — and only that.

Organic vs. Non-Organic Yogurt