New Year's Resolutions - Revisited
So, I started 2016 with some really firm notions of what I want to try to do in 2016 with many things, including ham radio. One is to complete the many radio kits and build projects that have accumulated in my project bin. The other is to get back to CW. When I first got back into the hobby, I struggled to build my CW skills, and eventually got good enough to pass the 5 word and 13 word test for General. My strategy for Extra was to get the code down and then to work on the written test. Well, about that time, they changed the code requirements (like dropped them) and I became President of the NSRC (which meant I had less free time.) So, CW faded away while I worked to strengthen the club. Along that same time, I got over my head involved with public service work, so my world became even more focused on UHF and VHF. So, to make a long story longer, I am trying to renew my CW vows. I learned CW from a program developed by a Dr. Wheeler, who had a curious idea that we should learn CW as a language. He created several mnemonics (word clues) that were sound likes for the letters. I have to tell you, I have learned the letters, but not necessarily word groups. Plus, I stopped taking the lessons when we got to the numbers, so A-Z, I’m pretty good…throw a number into the mix and I am lost! It is hard for an adult to admit that they are not able to conquer this skill but that is just what I am admitting. I am thrilled by some in our club who are trying to energize CW…it is not a dead art. Ron Settle and Dave Hewitt have been putting some of our members through CW Academy and they report they have gotten good responses from their students. Back in the day, I am told, the Army would teach CW by pure repetition (Hmm isn’t that I learned French and Spanish and German?). People would listen to tapes for hours till they got it right. And CW still has practical applications for ham radio. For many QRP QSOs, CW remains the best way to communicate. For DXing, it is still the most reliable way to get your message through some of the noise. Yes, the commercial world and the government have stopped using it as a tactical practice, but it is still viable. So, I cranked out my trusty MFJ code practice device, and so, I am on to renew my CW pledge to myself. It is good to learn a new language even at my advanced age!
Meanwhile, just before I left for Florida in January for a family wedding event, I had an interesting encounter that I am going to recap here. This has nothing to do with ham radio, but it is a dangerous sign of our times. This note was written for my web site blog (another 2016 resolution!). Read on.
Crooks and bums:
I almost became the victim of a crime…and it started out innocently enough.
I have worked my entire career using the power of a man’s word and a handshake to make agreements on projects. I trust people, perhaps to a fault. I got an email request for a bid on video. I noticed that it also went to out to three of my competitors as well. I wrote back immediately, but added, that I would like more information and asked if we could talk on the phone. Three weeks later he wrote back and said he was recuperating in the hospital from ear surgery and could not talk. Texting had to do. So we carried on for several weeks texting about the project at some point he insisted that I invoice him for half right now. I was in the middle of another project, and kind of preoccupied, so I didn’t mind accepting a down payment, although that is pretty rare these days. In the course of this, I did do some initial due diligence and saw that he living in a neighboring suburb and his story seemed to make some sense. That is when he dropped the bomb: he wanted me to pay cash to his meeting planner.
Now, I have always tried to find solutions for my customers and, in an effort to be accommodating, I said I would see what I could do (at this point I was more concerned that he wasn’t getting ripped off!!). The money was processed and cleared. Before I would pay this person, I requested an invoice from the meeting planner and contact numbers. I was flying out the door for a trip to Florida and didn’t have time to sort out all of the details. When I was in Florida, I started to do more homework and found all sorts of cracks. The stories were not adding up. The meeting planner did not work at the address he gave. Her invoice suggested the event was in a hall that was not book for that date. His phone number and hers were both Google voice numbers…meaning there was no way to trace them. About this time, I started to ask the credit card processing company how to verify their card information. Well, they told me this sounded like a scam. This was a common trick…hearing loss, test messages only, hospitalizations all fit a known pattern. They use a stolen credit card, process a lot of money and then have you pay to another account cash. When the owner of the lost card disputes the charge, you are left to cover the expense. Nice deal. I shut this operation down, returned the money and stopped answering his texts.
I am only slight embarrassed to report how I had been victimized, but because I did not send any money to anyone else, and acted slowly, my research kept me from getting burned. I am slightly wiser as a result…but I lament how these folks have used the system against us. We have to fight back…and so I am writing this post to warn others to beware of such scams. Know your customers. Trust people, but keep both eyes and ears open.
73, Rob K9RST