Sex Files | Swindles & Scams Aug 19 2015
Ashley Madison hack could lead down road to serious trouble for important people.

Perhaps you haven’t been following the story, but the marital infidelity website Ashley Madison suffered a security breach in July by a hacktivist group called Impact Team in which all its account records were stolen. At first Ashley Madison’s parent corporation Avid Life Media tried to claim its data remained secure, but it later emerged that Ashley Madison’s client database was completely compromised. For the uninitiated, Ashley Madison hooks up marrieds who want to have affairs, and while most sensible people would think that's a terrible idea, the site had generated millions of clients. Impact Team demanded the site be shut down or all the user records would be published, and yesterday the group made good on that threat and posted 9.7 gigs of records from as many as 32 million users in 46 countries.

Generally, we’re in favor of digital civil disobedience, but this latest raid seems a bit out of character for the various anonymous hacker collectives. At least until you dig a little deeper. Impact Team’s proclamation says in part, “Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See Ashley Madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95% of actual users are male.” Exposing mass fraud seems more in line with the usual hacktivist modus operandi, but there’s more. Approximately 15,000 Ashley Madison accounts carry a .gov or .mil web address. Yes, you read that right—more than 15,000 of the accounts go directly back to U.S. military or government IPs. Some even carry a White House home address.
Thus, the moral posturing about sexual infidelity (Impact Team writes, “Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends.”) feels a bit like a smokescreen. In reality, this hack has very likely put a major scare into the political class. Some of the addresses are probably fake (the White House ones are good candidates, because we doubt any White House employees are thatdumb, whereas people who hate the government would be more than willing to spend the time and effort to set up fake profiles). But then some of the addresses most definitely aren’t fake.
The account information is only available so far on the dark web, but we’re very curious to see if anyone follows up on the details of those .gov addresses. There’s no telling who’s at the other end, and we can hardly wait for the denials to start. It's just delicious to think that, after passing all sorts of intrusive laws designed to corral and track internet users, the same politicians could end up being the foxes to a bunch of curious citizens' hounds. Could it actually happen? We have no idea, but we can dream can't we? Stay tuned.


Swindles & Scams May 10 2015
What's the key to easy profit? Get people to buy what you've acquired for free.

There’s nothing quite like the unregulated internet. We were wandering around Ebay—our favorite conduit for buying vintage magazines—when we spied this postcard of Swedish actress Christina Lindberg performing a dance number in a Japanese nightclub circa 1973. It’s a very nice image, and it’s available for $13.00 plus shipping, which can be considered exorbitant or a bargain, depending on your feelings about this type of material in general and Ms. Lindberg in particular. Problem is, it’s an image from Sangre Yakuza, a long running Japanophile blog. The shot was posted there a couple of years ago and you can click over and snag it for free right now. Doubtless the Ebay seller saw the scan and figured, "What the fuck? An image like that might sell as a postcard." And it will—when we last checked there were three prospective buyers watching the auction.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time we’ve noticed this happening with Lindberg. A few years ago we found one of our own scans for sale on Ebay. We wrote about that here. We can’t really blame these sellers for trying such a maneuver, but it just goes to show that you have to be careful what you’re paying for on Ebay because the company itself doesn’t police these practices. In fact, under Ebay guidelines the seller isn’t breaking any rules—he would be if he tried to sell the image as an original photo, but a postcard is by definition a reprint. It doesn’t really matter where it was reprinted from. Still, though, it’s a bit scammy considering he took it from a publicly available webpage and probably printed the postcards on his HP Deskjet. Anyway, we’ve posted the shot below, without the obnoxious watermark, along with the cover page of the magazine feature in which it appears. As a public service.


Swindles & Scams Jan 30 2014
Everything being said by people who hate Bank of America was proved true by our recent experience.

At Pulp Intl. we have an entire category labeled “swindles and scams,” and we think this qualifies. It all started when a cash card we rely upon stopped working a few days before Christmas. Terrible timing, of course. Gifts to buy, revelry to enjoy. But the screen of the cash machine read in glowing green letters: Transaction not possible. An immediate call to Bank of America revealed that they had cancelled the card. Why? Because a new one had been sent. But that made no sense—nothing had arrived in the mail. We asked, baffled, “So you cancelled the card without permission, even though it hasn’t expired and a new one hasn’t been activated?”

The associate, who called himself Elton, said, “The old card is expired.”

“No, it’s cancelled. You cancelled it. But it isn’t expired. It was supposed to run until December 31.”

“No, the card is only active until December 2013. That means it can be cancelled anytime during the month.”

“I have the card right here. It says it’s active until the last day of December.”

“No, it doesn’t say that.”

“Yes, it does.”

“It does not.” (See below)

Now, we had to wonder, do they not know what their own cards say? But of course they know. It’s just that Elton’s default move when told the bank had made a mistake was to lie, just like his superiors lie to investors, and the top executives lie to the entire world. When in doubt, just lie. But to make matters worse, he crossed the line from merely lying to blaming the customer. That’s the strategy they tried with the mortgage crisis, so perhaps it’s in the corporate bylaws somewhere. Maybe BofA should simply change its call center greeting to, “Thank you for calling Bank of America. We can’t help you, and it’s your fault.”
During the nine calls made to Bank of America, we were told variously that the social security number we gave them was not on file thus we had no account there; a new cash card had been sent; a new cash card had not been sent; and that two cash cards were already open on the account. In a truly bizarre turn, during one encounter we answered the three security questions we’d selected for account verification, but Elton (again) decided that, though we had fulfilled our security requirements, that wasn’t enough and he asked us a fourth question we got wrong. He demanded to know at which branch we’d opened the account, which was something we couldn’t remember after having lived in three countries and five cities since then. So then what was the point of the pre-selected security questions? Apparently nothing—the bank can simply quiz callers until they get something wrong. Their ace-in-the-hole is probably to ask the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.
But maybe Bank of America is simply too busy to actually help customers. After all, in 2013 alone it lost a $2.43 billion lawsuit for hiding income, a $39 million gender bias lawsuit, had to pay a $404 million settlement related to mortgage fraud, a $165 million settlement over defrauding unions, and that isn’t even a full list. Based onavailable evidence Bank of America is an extraordinarily corrupt institution that absolutely sucks all the way down to the little slot in its cash machines. The eventual resolution of our particular fiasco was this: a new card arrived after two weeks (no faster unless we wanted to pay out of pocket for express mail). Now that it’s here, we’re going to empty the account and Bank of America will be out of our lives forever.

There is one positive to all this: having been treated as if we don’t exist by the bank, we at least have the option of telling tens of thousands of Pulp Intl. visitors what happened. Does it matter in the end? Doubtful. Does the bank care? Certainly not. But at least we can add another anecdote to the growing tome of horror stories about Bank of America. And sharing our story here feels better than merely passing bad word of mouth to a few buddies at the bar. So thanks for listening. Now we can get back to your regularly scheduled pulp with all that off our minds.


Swindles & Scams May 5 2013
Famed author claims she lost a piece of timeless American classic to scam artist.

One of the most reclusive writers in the world has been forced to step into the public eye because of what she claims was a carefully orchestrated swindle. Harper Lee, author of the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, filed suit in a Manhattan court against a man she says stole rights to her book. Lee’s lawsuit details how Samuel Pinkus, the son-in-law of her longtime agent Eugene Winick, tricked Lee into transferring the copyright on her 1960 masterpiece. In 2002 Eugene Winick was ill and Pinkus began folding some of his father-in-law’s clients into his own literary agency. In 2007 Pinkus took advantage of Lee’s failing eyesight and hearing to transfer Lee’s rights to himself, assuming irrevocable interest in the income derived from To Kill A Mockingbird, and offering no payment to the author. Lee signed the crucial papers when she was recuperating from a stroke. In 2012 she took legal action and regained the copyright, but Pinkus still derives income from sales of the book though he is no longer Lee’s agent. The lawsuit says Lee has no memory of agreeing to anything, and frankly, any neutral observer would find it hard to disbelieve her.

Since this is a website, not a court, we’ll just say what other stories about this haven’t yet—Samuel Pinkus thought Harper Lee was going to die and stole her book. With Lee dead, and very little likelihood such a private individual would have discussed the matter with anyone, there would have been nobody to dispute his ownership of a revered, Pulitzer Prize-winning gold mine. When she recovered and realized what had happened, Pinkus scrambled to give the copyright back but had arranged to keep raking money off the top in perpetuity—his backup plan. Pinkus, naturally, has had no comment on the lawsuit, and presumably won’t until the Manhattan court has to decide whether his scam will stand. In this age of trillion dollar bank swindles, naked buy-offs of elected officials, and rampant court corruption, we don’t have high hopes for Ms. Lee. In fact, we suspect that in the aforementioned circles Samuel Pinkus is being hailed as a genius.


Mondo Bizarro | Swindles & Scams Apr 8 2013
Nessie enthusiasts and debunkers solve nothing at science symposium except perhaps who can hold their liquor.

Upcoming on Sunday is the eightieth anniversary of the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness monster, which occurred April 14, 1933 when a couple claimed to have seen what they described as an enormous animal in the loch. In honor of the occasion, yesterday at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in Scotland, Nessie scholars held a symposium debating the creature’s existence. The photo above, shot by Robert Wilson on April 19, 1934, remains arguably the most famous Nessie image, and for years was touted as proof something large lived in the loch, until 1984 when the British Journal of Photography published an analysis by Stewart Campbell concluding that the object in the water measured three feet—not nearly long enough to be the famed Nessie. Years later, a big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell, just below, was fingered as the brain behind an elaborate hoax resulting in the photo. But true believers have disputed the account.

Subsequent sightings and photos have all been inconclusive, which means of course that nothing was decided at the Edinburgh symposium. Those who believe in the creature have no hard evidence to prove their position, and those who disbelieve can’t prove it doesn’t exist. The latter isn’t a surprise, as it’s logically impossible to prove anything doesn’t exist, whether monsters and deities, Kang and Kodos of Rigel IV, or the chair you're sitting on right now. Doubtless those involved in the symposium knew that, which means the event was probably just a good excuse to shoot the shit for an afternoon then adjourn to the raucous Edinburgh bars. From there it’s just a few pints until someone drops his pants and screeches, “Watch out! The monster is out of the loch!” So be forewarned—the next Nessie photo you see will probably be someone’s pale cock, and if photo analysis proves it’s three feet long that’ll be one proud scientist.


Swindles & Scams Nov 22 2012
Routine site maintenance uncovers two different types of scams.

If you live in the U.S, today you’re probably celebrating Thanksgiving, maybe watching some football. But people where we live don’t know from Thanksgiving, so with nothing else to do today we decided to go back through some of the old posts on the website to make sure all the external links were still working. Interestingly, we noticed that the first two dead links cycled around for a few moments, then sent us to functioning pages that had nothing to do with the original articles. For instance, a link in our post on Lee Harvey Oswald’s coffin sent us to the front page of The Huffington Post. Is having dead links on your website now the equivalent of leaving your sunglasses in a restaurant? They’re okay to steal because they’ve been temporarily forgotten? Well, not in our universe. In the next couple of days we’re going to ferret out all the dead links on Pulp Intl. and redirect them to relevant content. We’d be surprised if there are even half a dozen, but we’ll fix them

Second thing we noticed—this happened earlier this week—is that on a couple of auction sites there are sellers offering Pulp Intl. scans as photographs. How do we know they’re ours? Well, we’d love to say it’s because nobody else has these pieces of art, but clearly, someone else could have acquired them too. No, we know because we retouched the scans and the alterations are still there. When Pulp Intl. content is reposted on a blogspot or tumblr, that’s more people sharing rarely seen art, which is a good thing, plus it helps our traffic. But when someone takes images from a website and sells them as original photos, that’s low. The Christina Lindberg image above is one of the ones we found, and it came from our post here (we won’t link to the auction because that’ll just turn into another dead link in a few days). So the lesson is caveat emptor, people. Now enjoy that turkey.


Mondo Bizarro | Swindles & Scams Aug 10 2012
Man claims to have spotted sea monster in Norway.

You can add Norway to the list of countries with a mysterious sea serpent. Or not. Last week Andreas Solvik and two friends were in a small boat on Lake Hornindalsvatnet in the southwestern part of country when they saw a disturbance on the water. Solvik snapped the photo you see above. We’ve taken a good look it and we gotta say, what we think Solvik saw was a disturbance in his bank account and he cooked up a hoax to make a few kroner on the side. Lake Hornindalsvatnet actually does have a legend about a kjempeorm, or monster, associated with it, and because it’s the deepest lake in Europe, there’s a feeling among some locals that a monster might be able to survive uncaptured, but only among laymen. When a local scientist was asked for his take, he theorized that because the area has an extensive logging industry, what Solvik photographed and what people have seen for many years are probably either logs, or masses of sawdust that sat on the lakeshore for a while collecting algae before finally floating into deeper water. That's an interesting theory, but we don’t think Andreas Solvik photographed something that turned out to be wood. We think he Photoshopped something that he hoped would turn into money. Check below and see what you think.


Sex Files | Swindles & Scams Aug 8 2011
A Marilyn Monroe porno film? Argentinian memorabilia collector says yes.

Yesterday, an Argentinian memorabilia dealer named Mikel Barsa attempted to auction what he says is an 8mm porn reel starring Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe. According to Barsa, who represents anonymous sellers that priced the film at $480,000 but got nothing when no bidders emerged, Monroe was broke at the time and had no choice but to parlay sex for money. This would have been presumably 1946 or 1947, when Monroe was indeed known to be broke and had indeed posed nude. However spokespeople for Monroe’s estate have come forward and pronounced the porno a fraud. But they would say that, wouldn't they? So we got hold of a low-rez copy of the flick in order to assess it ourselves. In it the alleged Monroe strips, plays with a dildo, and engages in a little 69 with a male partner before moving on to the main event. Afterward the pair have a smoke and a laugh. It doesn’t take a photographic expert to see that the woman involved doesn't resemble Monroe very closely. The hairline is wrong, the facial proportions are way out in left field, the breasts are not the ones that so thrilled Playboy readers when she appeared as the magazine's first centerfold, and there’s what looks like a hysterectomy scar we’re pretty sure Monroe didn’t have. We’ve posted some screen captures below so you can see for yourself how obvious this scam is. But don’t be too hard on Mr. Barsa and his associates. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—in a culture that values money above all things, you can’t be surprised what people will do to get it. 


Swindles & Scams Aug 26 2010
Star of Crocodile Dundee movies runs afoul of Aussie tax authorities.

Australian film star Paul Hogan, who charmed the cinema world twenty-four years ago playing Mick “Crocodile” Dundee, was in his native Australia for his mother’s funeral this week when he received another piece of bad news. Australian tax authorities had issued an order preventing the grieving star from leaving the country until he settles a bill for outstanding taxes. According to their records—and as we all know, the tax office’s records are the only ones that matter—Hogan owes on a whopping $38 million. Seems he relocated to Los Angeles shortly after his film franchise took off and never bothered to pay taxes in his native country. Authorities say he squirreled his cash away in offshore bank accounts. The exact amount they are demanding hasn’t been disclosed, but it’s safe to say this is going to be the biggest croc Hogan ever wrestled. 


Swindles & Scams | Sportswire Aug 20 2010
Federal prosecutors say defrauding clients out of two million bucks was a slam dunk for Jay Vincent.
Yesterday, former professional basketball player Jay Vincent, who played for the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and other teams during a nine year NBA career, was indicted on a variety of counts relating to an alleged scheme to defraud 20,000 job seekers. Vincent’s Foreclosure Bank Inspection, Co. offered people work nationwide inspecting homes that had been returned to bank ownership. His company took care of the necessary training for the job, but there was a catch—applicants had to pass a background check. These checks (which are constitutionally dubious, in our view, since they result in applicants being refused jobs for transgressions like having a poor credit score) cost upwards of eighty dollars, but once Vincent’s desperate applicants paid the fee, prosecutors say his company simply pocketed the money.

How much cash do they claim was made on this scam? Two million dollars. That’s a 2 with six zeros after it. If true, this is sad on two levels: first, that a former NBA player who probably had a thousand other opportunities went this route; and second, that jobseekers who were being crushed by a recession had no choice but to feed on the corpses of people who had already been crushed before them. Vincent has had no comment thus far, but his attorney has described the former basketballer as a “legitimate businessman engaged in legal activities”, which we think is like claiming to be a “legitimate cigarette marketing executive”, or a “legitimate geologist for a mining company that blows the tops off pristine Appalachian hills and dumps them in valleys, destroying wildlife and contaminating groundwater”. In other words, “legal” isn’t a synonym for moral—at least not in our book. But unfortunately, we didn’t write the book everyone else is playing by—Wall Street did. And it seems as if Vincent may have memorized it chapter and verse.     


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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 25
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
November 24
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
November 23
1936—First Edition of Life Published
Henry Luce launches Life, a weekly magazine with an emphasis on photo-journalism. Life dominates the U.S. market for more than forty years, publishing scores of iconic photographs that remain some of the most recognizable ever shot, and peaking at one point with a circulation of more than 13.5 million copies a week.
1963—Doctor Who Debuts on BBC
The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell as a mysterious alien who time travels in his spaceship, the TARDIS. With his companions, he explores time and space while facing a variety of foes and righting wrongs. The show would become the longest-running science fiction series ever broadcast.

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