Is Everything Broken?: Internet Fraud, Raging Teens, Fake Shooters, and Real Shooters

When I rang the doorbell outside the police department on the second floor of Borough Hall to file a fraud report, a middle aged woman eventually emerged to say that the police were all busy with an emergency and that I had to come back later. 

Five minutes later, my mom chat group exploded. They reported that cops were frisking students and searching lockers at our high school, after a phone call reported a threat. In the end, there were no guns or shooters, but the school and community were traumatized for the afternoon.

Read more at Apt. 11D, The Newsletter


8 thoughts on “Is Everything Broken?: Internet Fraud, Raging Teens, Fake Shooters, and Real Shooters

  1. The other week, my son and I were doing a college visit at Pitt when someone called in a mass shooting at the high school down the street a few blocks. It was a mess, but I think the problem was more social media than law enforcement. Bored and/or frightened people listened to the police scanner and tweeted it. It was pretty obviously fake from the start. The call came to the UPMC police, not 911 or the Pittsburgh Police, and said six students were shot dead. No one local would call the UPMC police for something at a high school that far from UPMC facilities.


  2. I’ve been recommending this to people:

    My parents have a landline. Until I gave them this device, they would answer all the scam calls. It was making them very bad-tempered about answering the phone. I understand, it’s very difficult to resist the trained impulse to answer a phone’s ring. Anyways, they’ve reported a vast improvement in call rates.

    Apparently scammers track whether you answer the phone, how old you are, etc. I’m pretty sure they buy lists, either from legitimate or dark web sources, to better target their calls to the vulnerable.

    The following is offered in the spirit of public service–I suspect most of the readers of this blog are up to date in the ongoing battle against scammers. However, many people aren’t. This is a good article from Trustpilot about defense:

    As tax day has just passed, a reminder that the IRS will never contact you by phone, and they don’t take gift cards.

    Other good practices: Turn on multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Use an authenticator app if possible. Scan your computer regularly for viruses. I use Malwarebytes; I have friends who use Norton. Use a password manager.

    Floss, and use sunscreen


  3. As I commented on the blog at the time, last year, my son’s last day at his HS was spent in lockdown (while I was also there, setting up the senior luncheon after the instructions for graduation). Also a false report, and one that brought armed policeman to the school to search for bombs and hidden guns.

    Shootings/threats have now become common enough that they seem plausible — Harvard students endured a swatting (i.e. a false threat that brings police to a volatile situation) last week. Information also spreads fast and further increasing the feeling of threat. The world feels less safe and it feels less safe if one must consider the possibility that a six year old might shoot you. Is that a breakdown? Definitely for me.


  4. I’m interested in the Etsy scam — it seems that the thief gets books out of it by stealing them? But that seems like an odd scam, because books don’t seem like an easy to monetize theft. Is it a blackmail scheme? in which a buyer exploits the seller by threatening to report them to get a payoff?

    I noticed early on that Etsy does not really seem to care about its sellers. There are always enough sellers. My guess is that they prioritize protections in favor of buyers, who they do not want to drive away.

    Etsy occasionally has initiatives where they try to support crafters in starting at Etsy (for example, the GeesBend quilters in Alabama), but the support is always short lived, though some crafters do get name recognition that allow them to move into more profitable venues.

    (not expecting answers, though I am interested).


      1. I’ve used Etsy for ten years with no problem. This was totally crazy. I’ve reported the guy to law enforcement and they will pursue him. He seems to have a legitimate amazon business, so no clue how many other people he scammed. Etsy gave me a hard time because we exchanged the books in person, so I had no USPS verification of the purchase. My bank said that they’ll reimburse me, after I finish all the paperwork. So annoying!

        Communications with Etsy are made more difficult, because their skeleton staff for customer service works overseas. Southeast Asia somewhere, I think.


      2. Glad you are getting relief from your bank.

        I’ve just been reading about a scam of law firms in which a foreign client scams a lawyer asking for representation, sends a retainer check to get representation/action letter in a case against someone (a coordinated scammer). Then the target (the coordinated scammer) settles the case and sends the check. The lawyer deposits it in an escrow account and then the client asks for the settlement. One lawyer asked his bank if the check had cleared before sending on the money and that wasn’t enough diligence, apparently. He lost the money — the bank wouldn’t refund his money because the check was fake. The article said to wait as long as six weeks before releasing the money in escrow.


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