It seems like we're living in a society that's full of scams, hoaxes and questionable practices committed by individuals or corporations these days. Some scams are purely horrible, some are more incredible than egregious, and some are just really, really weird.
Welcome to Cons And Pros, a weekly roundup of the most outrageous scam stories we have come across this week.
This week from Vice, we have a story of a woman who befriended her high school teachers in order to gain access to answers to tests. While this scheme isn't especially notable for its level of difficulty, there's a poignancy to the article as you realize how easily people can be manipulated when they are lonely and need company:
When I applied this to my academic career, I started with my history and sociology teacher. Because I had her for two classes, we already saw each other multiple times a day. She got distracted very easily, and one day it came up in class that she had a lot of problems at home — her husband was sick and maybe going to lose his job, she had twins in college and was afraid that she would no longer be able to afford for them to go. I went and talked to her during study hall, and every day from there on I would ask her how everything was going. She didn't seem to have any friends, so when she realized I would listen to what she had to say, she just let everything spill out.
I feel bad that she was such an easy target, but she ended up trusting me more than she should have. She gave me her phone number and we would text. I did little errands for her. I was in her classroom all the time, and when she'd step out, I'd rummage through her desks and find her answer keys, take pictures of them, and set them as the background of my phone. During tests, I'd have the phone on my lap.
Noah Yoo at Pitchfork takes a look at how fake songs and leaks of unreleased songs from artists on streaming platforms is hurting the music industry:
One leaker told Pitchfork that they were paid upwards of $60,000 in royalties this year by DistroKid and TuneCore, after uploading unreleased tracks by artists including Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert onto Spotify and Apple Music. The leaker, who spoke under the condition of anonymity and provided transaction records in addition to withdrawal confirmations from distributors, said that they released the songs in order to please "eager fans" of the artists. And while much of the music was later removed, the documents viewed by Pitchfork indicate that royalties were still paid out, as much as $10,000 at a time.
According to Yoo, a lack of metadata databases in music have contributed to the prevalence of this streaming scam:
When asked why labels haven't pressed the issue of streaming fraud, several of the industry figures interviewed for this piece mentioned "the metadata problem." This refers to the lack of a universal metadata database in music, which makes it incredibly difficult to keep track of personnel and rights holders on any given song, and thus a huge ongoing issue in the record business. Royalty tracking start-up Paperchain estimates that there is $2.5 billion in unpaid royalties owed to musicians and songwriters, due to shoddy metadata.
Weddings are expensive, as we all know, and perhaps no one was more aware of the expenditures weddings rack up than Carla Evans, who claimed to have bladder cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver and kidney failure to swindle money from the Wish For a Wedding charity for a £15,000 wedding:
Evans had posted on social media that she was dying and asked for help.
A volunteer from the Manchester-based charity — which gives people with terminal illnesses a chance to have a memorable family event — then contacted her.
She described being "terminally ill", saying she wanted to renew her vows with her husband of 10 years, but was not sure she would make it.
Outlining the diagnosis in her application in November 2018, she wrote that she had been "given a time scale of six months maximum".
After being taken in by her lies, the charity offered to help organise a vow renewal ceremony worth £15,000, with Evans only asked to pay £500 towards the cost.
Barbara Feder Ostrov and Lauren Weber report on the story of Jorge A. Perez, an entrepreneur who built up an empire of rural hospitals in Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee and whose fraudulent schemes later drove the hospitals to bankruptcy, causing hundreds of employees their jobs and their access to healthcare:
Perez styled himself as a savior of rural hospitals. "My only fault is I tried everything in the world to save them," he told Kaiser Health News.
But for the townspeople left in the wreckage, the reality feels more sinister.
EmpowerHMS "is like a curse word," said Tara Brewer, head of the Chamber of Commerce in Sweet Springs, Mo., where the I-70 Community Hospital closed in February, taking with it dozens of jobs and emergency care.
The town's mayor, Francis Vaught, put it more simply: "We were robbed."
Summer Eldemire from The Daily Beast reports on this scandalous scam of a couple who faked the birth and death of a baby boy in order to receive gifts and money from their family and friends. According to police officers investigating the case, they also used a "life-like newborn baby doll" to pull off their scam:
The couple announced little Easton died a few hours later from fluid in his lungs and a low heart rate. Friends again came to their aid, coming together to pay for a personalized urn and cremation at a local funeral home.
"Easton's parents were blessed with just a little over 5 hours before he went to his heavenly home at 8:20 am. Easton experienced holding hands and hugs and kisses with his mommy and daddy and being told uncountable number of 'I love yous,'" read the obituary that ran in Johnstown's Tribune-Democrat on July 12.
Don't cry just yet: Pennsylvania prosecutors say Easton Walt Lang did not exist.