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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

United Scams of America

Behold the dark side of the electronic age in this millennium. The highwayman of old lurked in the dark and preyed on the unwary; the hold-upper used to lie in wait in a grimy street corner and pounced on his prey. These days, to go about his dastardly deed, he sits in a corner of his room, possibly in his pajamas trolling the net, banging away on a keyboard or frequents some smoke-filled internet café hatching schemes, halfway around the world. Those of us who log on to the net are all at risk, unless and until we take the necessary psychological precautions to deal with this and become relatively "scam proof." I am not talking about an email offering you a generous proposition of being the beneficiary of an unclaimed bank account with millions of dollars somewhere in Africa, or an email stating you have won a fortune in a UK lottery, even if you haven’t bought a ticket. I am not even talking about the Wall Street scams causing billions of dollars worth rip off to the rich investors. It is the Main Street scams which the man in the street has to deal with every day, that I am concerned with. No one is sacrosanct from these scams. Con artists rarely ever see the faces of their victims or know the full extent of the damage that they wreak on real people with real lives. Here are some samples to give an idea of how hard hitting these scams could be, not only to Americans but also to others aspiring to move to the US, especially from India:

Green Card Lottery Scam

This scam, like the Visa lottery, is an annual event and it preys on the hopes of many uninformed would-be immigrants to the USA. The scam informs its marks that they've won the immigrant lottery visa to the USA and should claim their visa by sending $1200 to $2000 (the sums vary) to bogus addresses, along with their passport data and personal information. So to all visa applicants and would-be immigrants to USA, visa frauds abound, some of them perpetrated by the very institutions one applies to for visas.

Economic Stimulus Scams!

These scams involve identity thieves posing as the IRS and sending out spam e-mails promising an economic stimulus check. All the person has to do is download the attached form, fill it out, and send it back to the IRS to receive the check. The trouble is, the form is an identity theft tool that steals the personal information entered into it. And the address isn’t to the IRS.

Bogus Job Offers for Indian Nationals

In recent months, there has been a high incidence of bogus Employment/Job Offers in the USA, targeted to people specifically living in India. These jobs have come from a variety of sources, but are usually traced or linked to a company based in the United States of America, that are IT (information technology) consultants, contractors or simply a specialist employment agency These companies have clearly stated that they will "assist" or even outright claimed that they will "obtain" the necessary working permit visas (H1x) on behalf of the proposed employee.

Foreclosure Rescue Scams

These foreclosure "rescue" scams aren't new, but they are exploding across the country as criminals try to capitalize on the surging number of victims of the foreclosure crisis. These criminals promise hope when there might be none. They take money upfront and say they will help modify the victim's mortgage; instead, they steal the money -- and sometimes the victim's property.

Real Estate Frauds

Real estate fraud has now firmly emerged as the country's fastest-growing white collar crime - all, in essence, polite forms of bank robbery. In over 80 percent of the cases, scammers are helped by an insider. The buyer they send is completely full of holes, fake everything, and slippery enough to try to pull it off. A bottle of expensive booze and $500 cash help grease the wheels.

Invention Marketing Scams

You may have a great idea for a new product or service, but a great idea is not enough. Some invention promotion firms may help you get your idea or invention into the marketplace. But be aware, some inventors have paid thousands of dollars to firms that promised to evaluate, develop, patent, and market inventions and got nothing for their money.

Students Scholarship Scams

With millions of students seeking ways to fund college each year, some become victims of scholarship and financial-aid scams. Potentially phony lines in scholarship offers: “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back,” “I just need your credit-card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
“The scholarship will cost some money,” “You’ve been selected by a ‘national foundation’ to receive a scholarship.”

In tough economic times, it’s important to be on the lookout for scams trying to exploit your fear. The wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow and you sometimes wonder, if justice would ever catch up with this distinct, yet devastating phenomenon of our time. For now, all we can do as ordinary users of the net is to be on guard. A healthy dose of cynicism and common sense work as well as an ounce of prevention.

People are more susceptible to scams after going through adverse life events — a job loss, foreclosure or some other financial hardship. So it's not surprising that America's deepening economic crisis is creating a whole new universe of potential scam victims every day. Remember when CPWD in India was infamously known as the Corrupt Public Works Department, because of too much corruption rampant in the department; and Delhi's DDA came to be called the Deadly Development Authority because of deaths due to its buildings coming down during construction caused by use of sub-standard material. On the same lines, it could make perfect sense to call USA, the United Scams of America!



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