Thursday, December 22, 2022

My conversation with Janice Taylor.

Mask Masked by Gillian Wearing

     Having a book published can drive you a little nuts. Me anyway. After going through all the hard work required to paddle yourself to the center of this vast ocean of publishing, you now bob there, scanning the empty horizon,  ready to hail any distant sail.  
     That might be one reason why, after a person who instantly struck me as a Facebook scammer dangled her bait by inquiring about my book, I didn't do the smart thing and immediately block her. Instead I replied sincerely.
     Mind you, I hadn't gone completely mad — I never thought this was anything other than some guy in a windowless basement boiler room pinging 50 prospective marks at a time, looking for the one who'd doesn't pause and ask himself why a cute 20-something would suddenly be interested in a worn out old boot like himself. But she did start off her pitch in an unusual fashion. And I did let the line play out for a couple days — I guess I felt I was the angler as much as the prey. I was bored, curious how she'd spring the trap. Our chat began like this:
     Honestly, I didn't think much about it, at first. People do ask about how to get the book, as if they've never bought a book before. I looked at her Facebook page. It had some Chicago references on it. We do live in a diverse city. Nineteen of my friends — all men — had already friended her. She could in theory be a legitimate young person unfamiliar with the book buying process. The daughter of some businessman perhaps. It's possible. 
    The idea to create a professional account ... that was also different. A very specific suggestion, not one that would benefit her. Not the standard claim of a suitcase of cash found in Afghanistan that needs a trustworthy person to help with its disposal. It was the day before my book signing at Atlas, and I figured, okay, if she wants the book, and is real, she can stop by and purchase one. 

    I had looked at our mutual friends. All white men in their 50s or 60s. That screams scam. Alleged women romance and flatter older men and ... I'm not sure what. Hit them up for money for plane tickets for their joyful meeting. Or if she is supposedly in Winnetka, for bail or ... I'm not sure what. One of her friends was Vincent P. Falk, the genius programmer/fashion plate. That also told me she wasn't real.  I just couldn't picture Vincent Falk chatting up Janice Taylor at a North Shore soiree.

     It does? We'd lapsed into almost normal, nice-to-meet-ya conversation.     

     Thus ended our first evening's relationship. She was there, waiting, the next morning. I almost replied to her opening salvo with a testy, "Don't toss platitudes at me." But that seemed unkind, even to someone whose end game was ripping me off. I settled on acerbity.

     I was annoyed to find her back, but also sitting in a coffee shop, killing time. What was the harm?

     "Chicago is one of the bustling cities in the United States" sounds like a direct translation from Korean Wikipedia. And that page of drawings was snagged from the Instagram feed of an actual young California fashion designer, Amiko Simonetti. You can see her signature on the page that Janice posted. That was enough for me to unfriend her — and figured it was time to move this charade along. Why not just block her? I guess I wanted to see her try to spring her trap.

    I told myself there was an element of altruism to extending the conversation.  I figured, while she's after me, she can't also be sweet-talking someone else who might actually fall into the trap.  Plus people are not exactly lining up to chat with me. There is definitely something pleasant in just talking to someone. Those AI chatbots being developed now are going to make a fortune someday.

    The sun doesn't set over Lake Michigan. It rises. Okay, ignore her. But she kept circling back.

     I found myself lulled by another weakness: my tendency to want to share my own writing with others.
   Yes, Kumamon isn't technically anime, but yuru kyara, a "loose character." Close enough.

     Are you getting bored yet? I was. But somehow just blocking her seemed ... rude. No doubt a guy in some godforsaken place. But what if she was actually what she appeared, some 23-year-old daughter of a Korean businessman based in Wilmette, stealing other people's fashion designs, trying to seem impressive? Why be mean to that person? She hadn't done anything yet, nothing but chat. 

    The dumplings looked too good to be true. A Google Image search didn't find a source; no stock shot I could find. But I worried this could go on forever, and wanted to press her and see what happened.

    If you've hung in so far, we're nearing the denouement. 

     And so our conversation ended. I thought. I planned to post this a week ago Wednesday. Then the night before, she phoned me, just as I was sitting down to dinner. I have no idea how she got the number. We exchanged a few words — she didn't seem to want anything in particular other than to call me. As soon as I got off the line, I blocked her, which is what I should have done at the start.
     Her calling, stepping out of the realm of Facebook and into the telephone, creeped me out enough to hold this. I didn't want to do anything to encourage her presence in my world. But a week has passed, and I figure the coast is clear. Besides, I need something for today. What's the worst that could happen?



  1. Absolute hoot. I always ask after their husband/wife, the 7 kids, and Boogers, their Great Dane. I changed my pic to my cat and tell the scammer I only date cats too. It amuses me.

  2. This is intriguing! I hope you contact a couple mutual "friends" to get additional input about JT, and continue the story in a future post!

  3. Well, the sun does set over Lake Michigan if you're in Western Michigan on the east shore of the lake.
    I must say, you're far more patient than I am, I would've blocked her instantly.

  4. Well, the sun does set over Lake Michigan if you're in Western Michigan on the east shore of the lake.
    I must say, you're far more patient than I am, I would've blocked her instantly.

  5. People can call you through Facebook Messenger without knowing your number.

  6. Strange adventure. Not sure if I would have let it run so long....or longer. My wife and daughter are Korean, so she probably would have hooked me with the photo of mandu by appealing to my desire to show off my knowledge of Korean food.


  7. This is pretty creepy. The fact that the scam artists have your phone # could mean identity theft. The bad guys can get a lot of data from a phone #.

  8. Thanks for today's chuckle, Mr. S. A perfect example of why I refused to drink Zuck's Kool-Aid for at least fifteen years. The phony baloney euphemistically called "friending"...the ubiquitous scamming, the annoying messaging, and all the time-eating bullshit that includes pointless arguing, no-win pissing contests, and flame wars.

    I reject 99.99% of any friend requests I get. And yet, I've encountered numerous combative assholes (usually young righty zealots) who proceed to savagely disparage me for only having four "friends"...two neighbors, a cousin, and her cat. As if someone's value and intrinsic worth can ever be gauged by the length of their list of accumulated meaningless contacts on a vast for-profit website. A stranger's long friends list means about as much to me as the number of stars they know (the ones in space, not the Hollywood kind).

    Your one-on-one smelled fishy and suspicious and scammy from the get-go, Mr. S. Young women do not contact older men randomly, out of nowhere. Neither do older men contact young women out of the blue. In each case, the one initiating contact desires something specific and concrete...and it's always either sex, or money, or sex-for-money. One of your friends must have been hacked. That's how you, as a contact, were added to her sucker list

    You were too nice to her, Mr. S. You must not be as much of a curmudgeonly old geezer bastard as I am. As soon as a few red warning lights flashed SCAM SCAM SCAM...the generic username, the effusive greetings and salutations, the suspicious list of mutual old-guy friends, the stolen fashion drawings, the stilted non-American English, the intrusive personal questions and attempts at banter, and especially the Lake Michigan sunset, I'd have initiated my shredding process.

    I'd have ripped her a new orifice, called her a number of scatological and unprintable names, used racial slurs, and gotten her as angry and as pissed-off as possible...before my final sarcastic "Bye Felicia" signoff...and then I'd add her to my three-figure blocked username list. In addition, I'd have reported her name as a fale account, and tried to do my best to well... the street term is..."f'k her up."

    At this point, you can tell that I'm really not much of a Mr. Nice Guy online, which is why, in the last 25 years, I've been banned from more venues and platforms than I can remember or count. BUT...nobody has scammed me or ripped me off yet, either.

    Think of my hostile reaction as similar to the blowing of an NFL ref's whistle into a phone scammer's ear, in an attempt to potentially render them unemployable (I do that, too). Would you say I totally hate charlatans of all stripes and persuasions? Does the sun rise over Lake Michigan?

  9. Neil, this woman contacted me via LinkedIn--same picture. I LinkedIn with her and then she started a conversation. After a few brief interactions, I blocked her after she said she wanted to call. I, like you and the people you know who friended her, am in my 60's and have no idea why she requested to be LinkedIn with me, I thought she might want an introduction to someone in my network--not the case.

    I am not sure what the scam is here, but clearly it is more than innocent.

  10. Gotta say, after having plowed through this whole remarkable post, I'm disappointed that she never made whatever pitch she so patiently seemed to be leading up to.

    Also, I wonder if you happened to take note of *her* phone number, for the purpose of determining where she might be calling from. Though spoofing phone numbers is evidently easily done -- we've received spam phone calls that purport to be from our *own* number...

    Given that she lives in Winnetka (theoretically), perhaps she'll run into EGD's Wilmette correspondent, Caren at a coffee shop! Though Caren is evidently not in her preferred demographic. ; )

  11. I'll give the unknown author points for creativity, plus confidence that his or her stilted language was still good enough to fool the 'murricans, despite not noticing that his purported residence accidentally morphed from Winnetka to Wilmette somewhere along the way. I do share the wonder about what the end game was supposed to be, though. Wired money seems unlikely when you're claiming to be just two towns over from where your pigeon lives.

    Incidentally, watching the sun set into Lake Michigan from the Michigan side (we recommend the view from Union Pier) is definitely a treat. It's customary to bring a bottle of wine and two glasses, toasting the moment of sunset and encouraging the sun to come back tomorrow.

    1. I mentioned the sunsets over Lake Erie last summer, when Caren wrote about the August moon, burning above Lake Michigan. For the last thirty years, I've lived a few miles from Lake Erie, and because of its NE-to-SW orientation, we are treated to spectacular sunsets, mostly during the summer months.

      One of our local parks, Lakewood Park, is edged by a terraced hillside. The concrete terraces are known as the Solstice Steps. These steps overlook the shoreline, wrapping along 480 feet of its loveliest embankments. Facing north, and curving to the northwest, this site offers stunning views of Lake Erie’s sunsets.

      Its name is derived from its placement--the steps face the point on the horizon where the setting sun reaches its northernmost point on the day of the Summer Solstice. There's even a demarcation line, set into the cement, that points northwest, toward the exact spot where the sun drops below the horizon on June 20 or 21.

      The steps are always crowded in the summertime. On the nicest evenings, hundreds of sunset-watchers give the place a kind of Key West feel. I've been to Mallory Square down there, and it's a carnival atmosphere almost every night. But Lakewood Park is far less raucous. No kitties jumping through rings of fire, no jugglers, no musicians or stilt-walkers. A much straighter and more sober and far more sedate crowd. Hey,'s Ohio...

  12. If she contacts you again, please ask for my $5K back.

  13. I keep hoping someone will write the definitive book about the phenomenon of bogus online entities, their scams, their methods, and how to foil them, in a history dating back to at least AOL chat rooms! Why not YOU?

  14. interesting. I checked out here facebook page. What struck me is she has no facebook friends but she does have some replies to her posts. Every frend request I get is from younger women I am old so any friend request I get is from some one youger I don't accept. Maybe they are scammers but I will talk. It doesn't take long before they ask for money. For the most part is a small amount like 50 dollars. I wont do it and yet they will continue to text me. As for Janice she said her facbook page was hacked. She does say she is from Chicago. Most people that live in a suburb says that. It is possible these girls are having their accounts hacked For the most part I think they are who they say they are but just looking to get a few bucks or gift card off of people. Just be careful out there.


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