Bluefield Daily Telegraph
My sister, Karen, enjoys watching the Westminister Dog Show. She can rattle off the different breeds, their pros and cons, and what categories they compete in. I’ve watched some of the show a few times, but to me, a dog is a dog. I admire some of the big dogs and the hounds, but then you see these mops running around and these tiny dogs that could sleep in your shoe. How the heck did all these little prissy things evolve from the mighty wolf?
Last week, Editor Samantha Perry asked me if I could do something for her. She says she can tell when I’m writing a column. Well, I can tell when she’s going to ask me a favor. Anyway, Samantha had been asked to judge a dog contest at this year's Bluefield Merchants Association Street Fair. I was going to be in town that weekend, so I said I’d do it.
Saturday afternoon arrived and I soon found myself in Chicory Square.
Best in Show Grooming on Bland Street was sponsoring the contest. I was judging it with Charlie Cole of Cole Harley Davidson and Brittany Lester, who works for Veterinary Associates. I think it was the first time any of us had judged at a dog show.
The categories were not like the ones used at the Westminister Dog Show. Our classes included biggest, smallest, best costume, cutest, ugliest and best trick. I know the Westminister dogs have never ran around in Superman or Batman capes, little red dresses or devil horns. And I’m sure the judges have never had to pick the ugliest dog.
The dogs were up on the Chicory Square stage one at a time. Most of the time, we just went with our gut instincts when it came to making a choice. But the smallest dog, a tiny short-hair Chihuahua, didn’t take a lot of thought. It fit right in your hand. The biggest dog, a long-hair German Shepherd named Shadow, could have knocked me down without any trouble at all.
We had a lot of fun, and the audience and contestants had fun, too. The dogs got all the attention they could possibly want and some dog biscuits. As usual, I saw some dogs I wouldn’t mind having. I have a snake, Alice, and some tarantulas, but none of them lick you in the face and let you know how glad they are to see you. The whole show was a reminder about why dogs are our best friends.
A couple of days ago, Samantha passed a story idea to me. She had heard from a Mercer County woman who had been targeted by a peculiar scam. A man claiming to represent the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) called to tell her she was going to be arrested. According to this fellow, the dietary supplements she and her late husband had purchased years ago contained crack cocaine.
The call worried her at first, but it was ridiculous and she quickly realized it was a scam. She and her husband would have noticed if their vitamins or saw palmetto had crack in them.
The rest had all the markings of a scam. She was warned not to talk to anybody and offered a way out of her dilemma. Getting out of trouble could cost more than $70,000, but she could start paying a fine with an advance of $2,200. He later asked about checking account numbers, credit cards and Social Security numbers.
Scammers are clever. The first call had a Washington, D.C. area code, and a second call came from Texas. However, the caller had an Indian or Middle Eastern accent. The intended victim led her caller around for a while before telling him that she knew it was a scam. He sputtered before hanging up.
The case has been reported to the West Virginia State Police.
Con artists seeking personal information use a variety of different ploys. They will pretend to be government officials and employ intimidation or tell you how you have won a big prize. They might pretend to be speaking for your bank and ask to “confirm” your information. Sometimes these threats or promises come by telephone, but more often they arrive over the Internet. One “request” for information came from a bank: It looked very professional, but it wasn’t from my bank. If it had been from my bank, I would have called the bank to see what was happening.
Other times I get requests for help. For instance, I’ve had people from Africa ask me, a total stranger, to help them move millions of dollars. In another request, an “art dealer” from London asked me to help cash travelers checks. This dealer, working in one of the financial centers of the world, couldn’t find a place to cash American travelers checks? The scams are usually pretty silly.
One odd email was supposedly from a friend of mine. He said he was stranded in Scotland because his wallet had been stolen. Could I send him some money? Well, I knew he was in Princeton. Con artists are good at getting the names of your friends and family. The stranded loved one ploy has been used plenty of times.
We have to be wary these days of strange messages arriving over the phone or in our email accounts. Fortunately, wariness and common sense will protect you from most of these scams. If a message sounds too ridiculous or too good to be true, it’s probably a trick.
Greg Jordan is senior reporter at the Daily Telegraph. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.