Friday, 15 September 2017

The ‘Signed for’ Scam

The ‘Signed for’ Scam

Have you received unsolicited anonymous mail containing — Nothing?

     I recently received a small yellow padded envelope by second class ‘Royal Mail Signed ForTM’ delivery. I was out when it was first delivered and I had the choice of going down to the sorting office in the town some miles away, or requesting that the package be re-delivered on  the next available day. I chose the latter as the least inconvenient; I had only to stay in the house till the package arrived. 

     It was addressed to “The Manager”, but I signed my usual squiggle on the little electronic box the postie held out for me. Inside there was nothing. Figuring that the operation would cost the sender over £1 (including envelope and franking), I began to wonder what the purpose was. I went online to search for similar experiences. 

     One blogger posted the suggestion that the hidden reason was harmless enough, simply that of inflating apparent turnover of online sales to impress clients or competitors. Well, I saluted the ingenuity of both the poster and the blogger, for I had not come up with any cogent explanation of my own (not that I had tried that hard).

     Then I came across the suggestion that the scam is more sinister and works as follows. An innocent online customer buys and pays for an item and is given the ‘tracking number’ (in this case KK461028710GB). The scammer posts an empty package to an arbitrary addressee who innocently signs for the package before opening it and finding it empty. The ‘mark’, waiting in vain for his item, eventually checks with Royal Mail who tell him (to his surprise) that the item has been delivered and shows the irrelevant signature. No redress!  

     The scammer no doubt trusts that the innocent addressee, as he is little affected, will forget the incident. In order to frustrate that expectation I post this here and invite comments. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Yanis, and DiEM25

Dear Yanis, and DiEM25,

     A year and a half ago, the launching of DiEM filled me with hope, particularly in the context of the British referendum. Since then DiEM25 seems to have slipped off the main stage, which is a pity. I wish I could help it re-find its momentum.
    One way of seeing the problem is when we hear Yanis Varoufakis describe his confrontations with the central powers of the EU. They met, talked, listened. He left. They did nothing. My first analysis was that they did not understand. Indeed, I found it very hard to repeat the argument to myself;  about how it is all Germany's fault, so stubbornly bent on recycling money so that the Greeks can go on buying Mercedes cars. My second analysis is that Yanis does not understand. Oh yes, he understands the  economics; but the crux, the movable fulcrum, the point in the argument against which a popular movement might push and win — has he identified that? 
    Martin West thinks the single currency is a mistake. No single interest rate can suit both Germany and Greece. Put another way: how does it work in the USA, and how can Ecuador and the USA both use the same currency?  I believe there is an understanding in the USA that federal money must be returned to poor states if they are going to be kept in the union. I do not know how. There may, in that complex and subtle constitution, be a degree of political integration that is still missing in Europe. Or is it just the common language? But perhaps we do agree that something needs to be done about the Euro Currency Union.  
     Yanis Varoufakis suggests there is a democratic deficit? Before the Brexit Referendum, that sounded like a promising slogan, but we now see what a mess is made if complex issues are decided by simple people. It is not obvious to me that it is democracy that we lack. I believe it is education.  
     Can Europe be 'cured' by allowing more power to the EU parliament?  I doubt it. Or by curbing the EU civil service? Possibly. But we have to recognize that the origin of the EU depended on the dreams of a very few people; integrated Europe is not the product of a popular dream. Only by imbedding the guiding force in a hidden and inaccessible committee was it possible to get the project of a united and inter-dependent Europe off the ground.  It is true that we pay lip service to democracy, but I doubt we really believe in it, except to rally forces against flagrant corruption. I do not think we are quite there yet; I mean the corruption is not flagrant enough; people are not convinced that revolution would improve their situation. 
     I think the Pro-Europe lobby finds its greatest traction at present by showing that the EU is protecting workers rights, clean beaches, fish-stocks and, by instituting uniform production standards, is allowing economies of scale. These are the tangible and practical benefits of integration. For me, and for a considerable fraction of Europeans, there is some appeal in the thought that United Europe could be (would be) a great power. Britain being part of Europe would allow Britain to effect some control in world affairs.
     Arguably the most depressing sign at present is the resurgence of nationalism. The British seem to think they are special (which may be true), but special in a ‘good’ way; this, to any travelled person is clearly a delusion. 
     Yanis Varoufakis believes that right-minded people will spontaneously support socialism. In Britain, they do not; or they are too few. He suggested that all businesses subvert a fraction of their profits towards the public purse, to illustrate the principle that wealth is generated by a combination of capital and labour**. That suggestion sounds drastic and risky, and unlikely to garner mass public support. (Though admittedly, it is little different from our widely accepted but as widely resented corporation tax.) 
    But thank you DiEM25; please keep the ideas coming.
    Yours sincerely, Ian West