Home » That Article In ‘The Cut’ About The Financial Columnist Who Fell For A Shockingly Obvious Scam Is A Reminder That The Only Safe Place For Your Money Is In Non-Running Cars

That Article In ‘The Cut’ About The Financial Columnist Who Fell For A Shockingly Obvious Scam Is A Reminder That The Only Safe Place For Your Money Is In Non-Running Cars

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I’m not sure if you’ve spent any time this week on the vast network of computers and EKG machines and cash registers that we collectively call “the internet,” but yesterday and today everyone seemed to be talking about an article on the website The Cut written by a financial advice columnist who got scammed out of $50,000. I’m pretty sure the article was such a popular topic of discussion because it contained so much rich, creamery schadenfreude packaged in such an appetizing way: a smug, wealthy person who literally writes about “financial literacy” for a living, getting convinced by the most inane, transparent of scams into cramming $50,000 into a shoebox and throwing it into the window of a Mercedes-Benz SUV. It’s a hell of a ride, but, more importantly, it lays bare the one bit of truly worthy financial advice: The only smart way to keep your money safe is clearly to transform that wealth into many non-running cars that you can then litter about your property or along a nearby street.

The financial-advice columnist, Charlotte Cowles, definitely went through something shitty: She got an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be Amazon, talking about some unexpected large purchases, and from there was transferred to people claiming to be from the Federal Trade Commission and then the CIA. They knew her Social Security number and information about her family, and talked her into pulling $50,000 from savings and giving it to someone purporting to be an undercover CIA agent.

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In reading her account, the ruse seems glaringly obvious, and the insistence that she avoid telling her husband, lawyer, police or anyone should have made any remotely-familiar-with-modern-society person stop in their tracks and, you know, not give any money to these people. But that’s not how it played out.

To her credit, writing about it is a good thing to do, as it can help inform people of the dangers of such scams. She could have kept quiet, kept her reputation as a non-mark financial advice columnist intact, but she didn’t.

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So, that was good of her, I suppose. I can respect that. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that my long-dead grandma, who spoke either six languages or none, depending on how strict you are with what defines a “language,” and who I think was illiterate, could have detected that something in the ham-fisted performance of these scammers was “off.”

[Editor’s Note: I want to make it clear that, though we’re poking fun at this columnist, we are empathetic. We don’t want her or anyone who is the victim of a scam to feel shame, especially given that this columnist mentions she had to attend therapy as a result of this incident. We wish her all the best; with that said, we’re just poking a bit of fun, here. And again, we respect her for telling this story and for raising awareness to this issue in a way that no public service announcement or less-compelling news story ever could. People are talking about scams right now, so Cowles’ story could really prevent someone from going through something similar. -DT].

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The scam was the sort of thing that nobody I know would have fallen for, because no one I know would bother to take a phone call from “Amazon.” Amazon isn’t calling you! But, Cowles did think Amazon was calling her, and then the FTC, and then the freaking CIA, and she seems to have bought it all. If she was transferred to Sasquatch to confirm her bank account and routing numbers I have no reason to believe she wouldn’t have taken that call, too.

Cowles makes it very easy to be less than totally sympathetic because she notes how she’s an unlikely scam victim by writing this:

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“Scam victims tend to be single, lonely, and economically insecure with low financial literacy. I am none of those things. I’m closer to the opposite. I’m a journalist who had a weekly column in the “Business” section of the New York Times. I’ve written a personal-finance column for this magazine for the past seven years. I interview money experts all the time and take their advice seriously. I’m married and talk to my friends, family, and colleagues every day.”

She’s clearly a person who comes from wealth — someone who can just get 50 grand at a moment’s notice without Googling “kidney removal to sell” and “do humans have a middle kidney” and in the end, she implies that the loss of that $50 large didn’t really affect her all that much.

Every step she takes in this thing makes you want to yell at your screen, in a vain attempt to stop someone from being such a rube, a patsy, a dummy. She’s a financial columnist! How? Why does she buy into this ridiculous crap? It’s maddening.

Okay, you just read the damn thing, I suppose. But, let’s get to the real important part here: She gave away $50,000 in a shoebox. Clearly, cash is not secure. It’s too portable, too easy to just lose or hand off. A strong wind or a horny dog can make $50,000 in cash disappear far too easily. And don’t get me started on electronic storage of money; that’s even worse — you can lose countless sums in microseconds, with no actually sensory notice or anything at all, just invisible electrons whizzing through highways of metals, or electromagnetic waves, gliding unseen through the air.

But you know what is a secure way to store your wealth? In the form of a car. Ideally, a non-running one.

‘Hold On, I’m Gonna Have To Rebuild This Motor And Tune This Carb, Then Sell A Few Cars Before I Get You That Cash’

My yard is currently littered with a 1989 Yugo, a 1977 Dodge RV, a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle, and a 1989 Ford F-150, all of which are, for some reason or another, currently immobile. Well, at least under their own power. And those heaps, sitting there, un-garaged, getting wet and a little moldy in places, generating their own rich, redolent smells, represent the vast majority of my material wealth here on Earth. This is why I really should be a financial-advice columnist for an outlet like The Cut or perhaps Oui, if they’re still in print.

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You see, those four non-running cars are at that perfect point in their automotive lives that they’re really not losing value any more; they’re holding their considerable value, and, barring a horrible bout of rust or a falling tree or a determined bolt of lightning, are probably worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! At least, according to my math.

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Maybe half a million? Who knows? The value of non-running Yugos, for example, has to be skyrocketing, as Yugos are just getting more and more rare, which, of course, is the primary determinant of car value, right? That’s why everyone who kept their Chevy Vegas and first-gen Honda Preludes are now likely, what, billionaires? That sounds right.

You see, a non-running car is a vault of wealth, one that can’t easily be moved from where you put it. That’s why the non-running thing is key. Also helpful are tires that have lost most of their air, and, even better, small trees that grow between the bumper and body, a biological security system that will definitely keep your investments safe.

So, if I get a call from Amazon, and, miraculously, answer it, and then just play improv-style “yes, and” to every request made by the voices on the other end, I know that my wealth is still safe and secure because any $50,000 I may have is in the form of a bunch of mildewing shitboxes killing the grass of my lawn or, perhaps more positively, keeping my precious driveway gravel secure. I literally can’t be scammed out of money over the phone! It’d take a scammer with a tow truck, a lot of free time, and a preternatural resistance to both tetanus and poison ivy to scam my wealth away from me.

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And, if I need to return those cars into money, then all I have to do is, let’s see, reinstall some carbs after I get that engine un-seized, or install that new flywheel and rebuild a transmission, or figure out what the hell is wrong with those fuel injectors, I think, or why the timing doesn’t seem to be doing anything, and that’s um, it! Then it’s just a quick process of selling and boom, cars into cash! It’s foolproof.

So, as you get this article passed to you by friends looking to enjoy a satisfying, self-confident chuckle at someone else’s $50,000 worth of expense, I hope that you’ll take a moment to repay their favor with some genuinely good advice that they can definitely use: put your money into non-running cars, and litter them with pride alongside your street curbs, underground parking areas, or, ideally, lawn.

It’s the best possible financial advice there is. Take it from me, someone who just decided that they’re a financial-advice columnist and who has never, ever, been scammed out of $50,000.

I wonder how many more Yugos I can fit on my lawn?

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Defenestrator
Defenestrator
2 months ago

I do appreciate the journalist fessing up to being scammed as part of making the very correct point that nobody’s totally immune. She’s a terrible example of it, in that she noted a half-dozen red flags while strolling right past them like an idiot with a shoebox full of cash, but the overall point’s still valid. Cory Doctorow has a much better example from a few weeks ago of a scammer catching him at just the right time for the story to line up and the scam to work: https://pluralistic.net/2024/02/05/cyber-dunning-kruger/

Last edited 2 months ago by Defenestrator
InTheBackround
InTheBackround
2 months ago

i went with non-running motorcycles in my garage/basement. much easier to store

Jj
Jj
2 months ago

This just shows the level of sophistication in this field. These are the same idiots who never thought the market would drop. Even if they did know, they know who they have to please to keep their access to CEOs that allows them to write their (essentially) sponsored content to push stocks.

MattyD
MattyD
2 months ago

Deleted

Last edited 2 months ago by MattyD
Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
2 months ago

I’m amazed to read the stories in these comments about people who fall for scams. I always thought to myself, “Why would these people bother? Noone is going to fall for this shit.”

FB Marketplace is so littered with scams I’m about to stop using it. In doing some recent shopping for a camper I can say about 4 in 10 ads for them are scams. If the price looks too good to be true, it is. If you get an instant response to your message, as in, too fast to be able to have typed it out, it’s a scam. If they ask you to send an email somewhere else, scam. If for some reason they cant be there in person, scam. If they’re selling it for someone else, scam. I just bluntly offer to come this very moment with a fistful of cash. If the answer isn’t, well come on down, it’s a scam.

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
2 months ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

Not gonna lie, I fell for a scam where they spoofed USAA’s number, the caller was a native English speaker, and they called me late while I was sick, so I wasn’t thinking clearly. Of course, I thought the password reset verification codes were from them confirming it’s them but that’s how they got access to my account. Once I got off the phone, I realized it was a scam and immediately called USAA. Unfortunately and the most frustrating part was, even though I caught it early, they would not cancel the transactions, so I got hit with hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees. I am totally fine with the death penalty for these fuckers.

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  M0L0TOV

Yeah, that sucks, sorry to hear it. Please add people who spread computer viruses and ransom ware. Get medieval on them, no mercy.

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
2 months ago
Reply to  Ariel E Jones

Agreed! The company I work for gets so many damn phishing attempts via e-mail, it’s ridiculous. However, I did have fun with a scammer pretending to be one of the owners of the company.

MikeF
MikeF
2 months ago

It REALLY strains credibility that she was able to access $50k in cash Just. Like. That. Maybe in Manhattan but at a random local branch in Brooklyn?

Amassing $11k for a motorcycle purchase (because the seller refused to believe a bank check – verified in advance – is safe) required trips to 3 branches of my Credit Union, and only then because one branch took pity on me. Anything over $2k and they give you a hard time about calling days in advance. FTR, I did call but underestimated the lead time.

EDIT: When you get a bank check, the money is out of your account. The check is FDIC insured so even if the bank were to close, it’s still valid. Woe to you if you lose one – it can take months to get the money back.

Last edited 2 months ago by MikeF
Torque
Torque
1 month ago
Reply to  MikeF

Last car I purchases was from a dealer and after agreeing on an OTD, i.e. out the door i.e. final price. I paid with a certified check made out to the dealer to avoid risk of carrying a large sum in cash.

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