Active Thinking Topic 34 -  Scammers of the World Unite!

Tuesday 21 June 2022, 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: ZOOM online

Focus Questions

1. What is your favourite scam? What makes it work?

2. Why have 'influencers' always had such a huge effect on the viability of scams?

3. There are many kinds of scams but most victims have certain things in common. What are some common characteristics of scam victims?

4. What are some of the oldest scams in history (yes, you can go back millennia...) ?

5. What makes it sometimes unpopular or even dangerous to call out some scams? Examples?

6. Sometimes political movements are corrupted or captured by scammers. Past & present examples? What gave them potency?

7. The so-called metaverse, still evolving, is a free-range territory for scammers. What kind of scams can you anticipate emerging in this space?

8. What makes makes for a brilliant piece of advertising scam? Examples? [e.g. From Thor's inbox: "Hello My Dear Nice To Meet You Dear How Are You Doing Today? is, Miss Fina Tema am from Finland please i have something very important to discuss with you" ]

9. At what point do some business practices become scams? For example, many consultancies skate on very thin ice. Or banks have been known to incentivize their staff to push investment products that are not in customer's interests. Or phone companies etc often bamboozle customers with elaborate 'plans' that hide real costs. ... the list is endless.

10. How far should laws and governments go in trying to protect gullible citizens from scams or near-scams?


Extra Reading

Caitlin Fitzsimmons (February 13, 2022) "Lonely Australians lose $200m to romance scams amid pandemic". Sydney Morning Herald @ 

Dominic Powell (June 2, 2022) "‘Parasitic’: Why the founder of Dogecoin thinks crypto is a scam". The Age @  [Quote: "I think it’s very telling that the people who are seemingly most involved in, pouring the most money in and exerting the most power over cryptocurrency right now are the same people who destroyed the economy in 2008, the same people who are billionaires in the real world."]

Australia, National Disability insurance Agency (2022) "What Are Scams?" NDIS @ 

Mark Reddie (7 June 2022) "AFP targeting Italian mafia figures in next phase of AN0M probe". ABC @  [Quote: The Australian Federal Police is investigating 51 Italian organised crime clans — including 14 from the 'Ndrangheta — as well as 5,000 members living across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Investigators have accused them of working closely with Middle Eastern crime gangs, Asian triads and South American cartels to smuggle tonnes of illegal drugs into the country. "They are responsible for 70 to 80 per cent of the world's cocaine and they are flooding Australia with illicit drugs." Assistant Commissioner Ryan said billions of dollars in dirty money was being washed through the economy"].

Khaled Al Khawaldeh (8 June 2022) "Number of scam calls to Australian phones cut by half while text message crypto scams soar." The Guardian @  [Quote: "Communications industry peak body and watchdog sees telcos block more than 549m scam calls since inception of code ... ACCC data shows Australians lost more than $205m in the first four months of 2022 with the majority of losses coming from “crypto-investment scams” which increased by over 300%. Those scams were primarily via text message – a method that has seen an increase in scamming of 54% since last year".]

Amy Bainbridge (16 June 2022) "Funeral insurer Youpla 'grew and grew' off welfare payments, then collapsed". ABC News @  [Quote: ""I just thought that it was just a great thing for Aboriginal people, as we struggle all the time to bury our loved ones."  From 2001 to 2017, ACBF was the only funeral fund to use the government-run system Centrepay to debit millions of dollars from Centrelink payments. Now, ACBF — also known as Youpla — has collapsed, leaving thousands of customers like Ms Roberts without funeral cover. "The fact that ACBF was on the Centrepay system for so long meant that the business was able to grow and grow and grow and thrive to the point where we estimate that Indigenous people have lost over $200 million."

Abul Rizvi [Former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration](18 June 2022) "Boats are not the problem, it’s the 130,000 asylum seekers living here." The Age @  [Quote:" Most Australians would be surprised to learn that since 2015, Australia experienced its biggest labour-trafficking scam abusing the asylum system. This scam involved about 100,000 people being organised to arrive by plane, mostly on tourist visas. Organisers of the scam targeted vulnerable people, initially from Malaysia and China, with the prospect of well-paying jobs in Australia, usually working on farms. The organisers apply for asylum on behalf of workers who often know nothing about the applications. That gives them work rights for a number of years while applications are processed, during which time the organisers usually take a cut from the workers’ already meagre wages. It is far easier and cheaper to exploit the asylum system by trafficking people on aeroplanes. We now have almost 30,000 asylum seekers at the primary stage of application and another 37,000 at the clogged-up Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The majority of asylum seekers are refused protection which means there are another 31,000 who have been refused at both stages but remain in the community without any support or work rights". The Immigration Department does not have the resources to actually deport these people]

Wing Kuang (18 June 2022) "China's Lipstick King Austin Li was a rich influencer adored by Beijing officials. One mistake triggered his downfall". ABC News @  [Thor, comment: I've included this piece because it illustrates the human tendency to follow the herd in fulfilling a personal "dream" - in this case buying lipstick seen on the face of a male idol. This is the perfect recipe for a mass scam. In this case the delusion was shattered by the unknowning violation of Chinese communist party taboo - accidentally using a symbol as mindless as an icecream battle tank on the anniversary date of the Tianmen mass murder, which officially doesn't exist in China. You might also argue that deleting history for political advantage is another kind of scam (.. yes, shades of Trump's non-election ..)].

"The ‘big rip-off’: how Trump exploited his fans with ‘election defense’ fund - The former president used donations to a nonexistent legal defense fund for his hotels and the January 6 Ellipse rally." The Guardian @ 

Robert Reich (20 June 2022) "The Crypto Crash: all Ponzi schemes topple eventually". The Guardian @  [Quote: "Eighty-nine years ago, Franklin D Roosevelt signed into law the Banking Act of 1933 – also known as the Glass-Steagall Act. It separated commercial banking from investment banking – Main Street from Wall Street – to protect people who entrusted their savings to commercial banks from having their money gambled away. ... Glass-Steagall’s larger purpose was to put an end to the giant Ponzi scheme that had overtaken the American economy in the 1920s and led to the Great Crash of 1929. ... But by the 1980s, America forgot the financial trauma of 1929. As the stock market soared, speculators noticed they could make lots more money if they could gamble with other people’s money – as speculators did in the 1920s. ... Finally, in 1999, Bill Clinton and Congress agreed to ditch what remained of Glass-Steagall. ... As a result, the American economy once again became a betting parlor. Inevitably, Wall Street suffered another near-death experience from excessive gambling. Its Ponzi schemes began toppling in 2008, just as they had in 1929... millions of Americans lost their jobs, their savings, and their homes (and not a single banking executive went to jail). ... Which brings us to the crypto crash. ... Why isn’t this market regulated? Mainly because of intensive lobbying by the crypto industry ... The industry is pouring huge money into political campaigns.And it has hired scores of former government officials and regulators to lobby on its behalf."

Hannah Bowers and Alex McDonald (21 June 2022) "From text messages to fraudulent ads, how scammers are draining bank accounts". ABC News @  [Quote: "The Australian Cybersecurity Centre reported cybercrime cost the economy an estimated $33 billion in 2021. ... "I don't think there are many crimes that you can say penetrate the family home almost on a daily basis," ... One of the leaders of a group involved in a prolific scam operation was jailed in May after duping dozens of Australians when large swathes of the population were in COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. Court documents reveal the group created false identities on a website they called the "1-stop-rort-shop", bragging online about software that was able to evade SMS spam filters. ... Police found the men had access to staggering amounts of personal information, including people's secret online questions and answers.]


Scammers of the World Unite!   (c) Thor May 2022

return to Ddiscussion