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image FlexPetz is a San Diego-based company that allows people to rent out dogs by the day. So if you want to be able to take a dog to the beach on the weekend, but you don't have time to care for it during the week, this is the service for you. Marlena Cervantes, the founder of the company, doesn't like the term "rent-a-pet," according to this AP article. Instead, she likes to think of what she's offering as "shared pet ownership." The service is quite pricey, but it's doubtless cheaper than caring for a dog yourself for its entire life.

As soon as I read about this company, I thought about the many "rent-a-something" type hoaxes that have been reported here over the years, such as: Rent my Son, Rent a Wife, Rent a Negro, Rent a Midget, Rent a German, and Rent a Dildo.

However, I'm pretty sure FlexPetz is not a hoax. Though many might think that it's such a bad idea they would prefer it was a hoax.

My first reaction was to be appalled. Pets, to my way of thinking, are part of the family. They're not something to be rented on the weekend. But the more I've thought about it, the more I've started to grudgingly accept the idea of this company, because if you want a pet but you're not sure if you can take care of it for its entire life, renting one would be better than buying one and later trying to get rid of it. (via Art of the Prank)
Categories: Animals, Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Mon Jul 30, 2007
Comments (17)
So, this guy tells people he has a "revolutionary" technology that speeds up downloading from the Internet by a factor of maybe a hundred times or more. With it, you can download a full-length movie in seconds. He's had meetings with the President and vice-President about it and is working on ways to use it to beef up national security. Who wouldn't invest in a thing like that? He even wheedles money out of his relatives and his wife's family.

OK, you can see where this is going, right? The thing's a fake, a phony, a fraud. To be honest, I kind of hesitate to post stories like this since this site concerns itself with hoaxes; this, I would say, belongs more in the "scam" category. Still, it has hoax elements to it, so for what it's worth, here it is for your dining and dancing pleasure.

Breakthrough Internet Scam


The Plot Thickens
Categories: Business/Finance, Con Artists, Technology
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Mon Jul 02, 2007
Comments (12)
I receive a lot of email from people I've never heard of telling me that I've won a lottery, have inherited a small fortune, or have otherwise been selected to receive a large amount of cash. Just this morning, for instance, I found out that I had won the "Irish National Lottery" and that the "Ecobank/United Nations Scam Victims Compensation Fund" had decided to pay me $100,000. The money just keeps pouring in.

Typically I delete these emails without a second thought, recognizing them to be the scams that they are. But it's exactly this kind of skepticism that makes life hard for those who have the job of informing people that they've inherited money from a long-lost relative.

Justin Harper, of the Daily Mail, has written an article about firms in this line of business. Apparently every year the British Treasury receives £10 billion from unclaimed estates. They try to locate relatives of the deceased who might be entitled to the money. This has created a lucrative business for so-called "heir hunters" who, for a commission, try to locate the heirs and give them their money. But, of course, nowadays everyone is so skeptical about scams, that the heir hunters have a hard time convincing people that they really have inherited money. The Daily Mail writes:
THE Treasury Solicitor advertises in national and local newspapers when someone dies intestate and without known beneficiaries. It will give details of the person's name, where and when they died and the value of their estate.
About 20 are advertised each week and they cover estates valued at £5,000 or more. Adverts are issued on a Thursday which is a very busy time for the genealogists who operate in this field. These socalled heir hunters are in a race against time to piece together a family tree, find the relatives who are line for the inheritance and be the first to contact them.
There's money in it for both parties. The inheritor receives money they weren't expecting and the genealogist firm charges a fee of up to 25 pc of the money. A contract is signed before details of the deceased is given.
Fraser & Fraser is the biggest firm of genealogists in the UK and features in the BBC programme Heir Hunters showing how hard it can be to track down relatives who have inherited money from longlost family members. Researchers sift through millions of records of births, deaths and marriages along with censuses, electoral registers and other documents.
Fraser & Fraser also has staff throughout the UK on the road who speak to neighbours, social services and anyone who can shed some light on the deceased's family.
Ironically, one of the hardest jobs is convincing beneficiaries they are not part of an elaborate hoax when an agent from turns up on their doorstep with the good news.
I'm now wondering if any of those emails I've been deleting were for real.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 20, 2007
Comments (23)
Swindlers conned a Vietnamese businessman into buying $25,000 worth of "God Metal." Apparently, the existence of God Metal is an old folk legend in Vietnam. According to Thanh Nien News:
‘God metal’, also known as ‘black copper’, is almost a myth in Vietnam. Those who claim to have seen it say it is extremely heavy but floats in an iron bucket of water. In its vicinity glass shatters, matches and lighters do not ignite, iron nails are repelled, and gold turns white.
The mark for the scam thought he could resell the God Metal for millions of dollars. But first he wanted to make sure that it could do all that the legend said:
The gang came with a notebook-sized bar of black copper weighing 2.1 kg. They performed ‘tests’ in front of him and the metal seemed to possess all its mythical properties: a mirror and a clinical thermometer did shatter into pieces and a gas lighter failed to ignite.
They even showed him a burnt mobile phone, claiming to have “forgotten to turn it off before placing it near the metal”.

He paid the gang an advance of $25,000. But the next day the swindlers were nowhere to be found. Nor was his cash. (Thanks, Joe.)
Categories: Business/Finance, Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 09, 2007
Comments (4)
Way back when -- almost four years ago -- I posted a brief entry about a doctor who was providing people with fake doctor notes. I titled the entry "Fake Doctor Notes," and soon, for some reason, that post became the number one result on google for the keywords "fake doctor notes." As a result, the comments began to fill with people asking me to provide them with fake notes. This went on for years. I'm sure the moderators remember it well. It only ended when we finally disabled commenting for that post, after the comments had grown to 46 pages and 911 comments in total.

I assumed that it would be illegal to actually provide people with fake doctor notes, but here's a site that's doing exactly that: The site claims that, for only $24.95, it will provide you with a fake excuse saying that you've been at a doctor or a dentist's appointment, been to the emergency room, had jury duty, or been at a funeral. (I wonder who the note comes from in the case of a funeral? From the funeral director?) It looks like what you get for this money is a Word template formatted to look like an official note. For that amount of money, I think it would be a lot easier simply to create your own fake note in Word.

The site blatantly states that you can use these notes to get out of work or school, but then at the bottom of the page, in very small print, it says "For Entertainment Use Only." I'm guessing this is their legal cover for an otherwise shady operation. has an article about a woman from New Jersey who tried to use an excuse provided by to explain why she failed to show up for traffic court. The court spotted the note as a fake, and is now considering filing contempt charges against her.
Categories: Business/Finance, Health/Medicine
Posted by Alex on Thu May 31, 2007
Comments (21)
image The tulip craze that hit Holland in the seventeenth century is arguably the most famous financial bubble in all of history. According to the popular account of what happened, prices for tulips began to go through the roof in 1636 as word spread that wealthy people were willing to pay huge sums of money for tulips. Soon the general population joined in the speculative fervor, many people using their life savings in order to buy bulbs, believing they could resell them at windfall profits. At the height of the mania, a single bulb cost as much as a mansion. But eventually reality set in. In 1637 panic selling commenced as people realized they were never going to make a return on their investments, and the price of bulbs crashed, losing over 90% of their value. Many people were financially ruined.

Like I said, that's the oft-told, popular account of what happened. But I've always been suspicious of it. For one thing, the main source many people rely on for their info about the tulipmania is Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, which was written in the 19th century, and which doesn't offer any references to back up some of its rather far-fetched tales (such as the claim that one sailor was sentenced to months in jail for mistakenly eating a tulip bulb that he mistook for an onion).

Anne Goldgar debunks many of the legends of the tulip craze in her new book, Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age. For instance, according to the Financial Times review of her book, Goldgar was unable to find a single person who was bankrupted by the tulipmania.

Nor did the speculative craze include large sections of the population: "In lore, Dutch chimney sweeps spent their savings on bulbs, but in fact the buyers were mostly merchants and craftsmen from the province of Holland. These are the smug burghers we know from portraits of the era. Many were Mennonites."

A financial bubble in the tulip market really did occur, followed by a crash. However:
It's a myth that tulipmania devastated the Dutch economy. How could it, when so few people traded tulips? Even those who did survived the crash. Tulips were merely a sideline to their real professions. In any case, Goldgar explains, few buyers actually paid the exorbitant prices they had agreed. The crucial point is that this was a futures market. The flowers spent most of the year underground. Trades were made constantly, but were only paid for in summer when the bulbs were dug up. In the summer after the crash, most buyers simply refused to accept and pay for their bulbs. Some paid the sellers a small recompense, usually less than 5 per cent of the agreed price. These modest payouts don't seem to have ruined anyone. Rather, tulipmania damaged the code of honour that underlay Dutch capitalism. When buyers reneged, trust suffered. Tulipmania was a social crisis, not a financial one, argues Goldgar.
So most buyers simply refused to pay up for the bulbs after the crash. Unfortunately, in today's financial markets people don't have that kind of luxury. Nowadays, with a single click of a mouse, all your money disappears instantly and forever.
Categories: Business/Finance, History
Posted by Alex on Mon May 14, 2007
Comments (13)
The Japanese poodle scam - wherein thousands of gullible buyers were sold lambs instead of the dogs they were expecting - was first reported in UK Sun newspaper. The story went that rich women were buying cut-price poodles from a company named Poodles For Pets, and were astonished to find later that they were sheep.

The story itself was immediately dubious (aside from being in The Sun, which tends to be somewhat lax in the fact-checking department), when you consider snippets like:

The scam was uncovered when Japanese moviestar Maiko Kawamaki went on a talk-show and wondered why her new pet would not bark or eat dog food.
She was crestfallen when told it was a sheep.

Then hundreds of other women got in touch with police to say they feared their new "poodle" was also a sheep.
One couple said they became suspicious when they took their "dog" to have its claws trimmed and were told it had hooves.

The story unravelled when police in Sapporo, where the company was claimed to be based, said they had never heard of the scam. The talk-show story was not as it seemed, either. It appears that Kawakami had told a story about a lamb being sold instead of a poodle. However, she'd said that it had happened to a friend of hers.

It seems that nobody had heard of the scam - it hadn't been reported in any Japanese newspapers.

The final nail in the coffin? The original article claims that the scam "capitalised on the fact that sheep are rare in Japan, so many do not know what they look like."
In fact, Sapporo has had a sheep farm since 1848.

Forum thread here.
Categories: Animals, Business/Finance, Celebrities, Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Flora on Wed May 02, 2007
Comments (5)

Truck Spills 40 Tons of Cow Intestines
The title is self-explanatory. Thanks to Big Gary for forwarding the story. He notes, "Nothing hoax-y about this; just more evidence that civilization is doomed."

Woman Fakes Heart Attack To Fight Off Intruder
The obvious problem with this tactic is that it relies upon the intruder being decent enough to help you out. What if you fake a heart attack, and the intruder just lets you flop around while he continues to rob your house?

Fake Blogging to Become a Crime in UK
Businesses that post fake glowing reviews of themselves online will potentially face criminal prosecution in the UK. The article notes: "Shortly before Christmas, the owner of the Drumnadrochit Hotel near Loch Ness admitted to posting a fake review of his own venue on the TripAdvisor site, calling it “outstanding” and “charming”. David Bremner said: “Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. But I don’t think it’s that big a deal.”" I've actually stayed at that hotel. It's a tourist trap -- dingy, overpriced rooms. Though there isn't that much to choose from around Loch Ness. (The Edinburgh gang might remember this hotel, because the bus to the Loch Ness Cruise left from the front of it.)

Anna Nicole Smith did not impregnate herself with her dead billionaire husband's frozen sperm
Claims to the contrary turn out to be a hoax. Though the idea sounded plausible.

Urination Rumors a Hoax
"The rumor that chefs at Texas Roadhouse urinated on an elderly woman's steak has been cleared up." Thank goodness for that. I'm so relieved.
Categories: Birth/Babies, Business/Finance, Gross
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 12, 2007
Comments (14)
imagePac-Man Hits The Road
Wright County sheriff Gary Miller was amused to see that, where Highway 55 has painted ovals on the road to show drivers how far apart they should be, some anonymous artist had added a Pac-Man.

Man Made to Wear 'I AM A LIAR' Sign
Having lied to the police about having been abducted, Craig Breuwet was made to walk up and down a busy street wearing a sign stating 'I AM A LIAR', rather than facing trial.

Fake $1,000 Water Bills
A suburban NY village, frustrated at those residents who dodge the water meter checks, have started sending out fake water bills to non-responsive inhabitants.
Categories: Art, Business/Finance, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Flora on Sat Dec 23, 2006
Comments (6)

Fake Bill
Man arrested for trying to pass a fake "Bill" bill: "The bill was unmistakably fake due to the fact that the ink was running on the bill, the president's face was missing and for the president's name, it had the name Clinton on it," said Deputy Nathan Stephens. About time a Clinton bill has surfaced. We've already seen too many of those phony Bush Bills.

Case of the Inhaled Vampire Tooth
Because of Halloween this news story has been going around. Back in 1995 Josh Anderson accidentally inhaled a fake vampire tooth. But doctors couldn't find anything. Sixteen years later "A bronchoscopy produced a mass of granulated tissue surrounding a perfectly intact vampire tooth, about as long as a thumbnail."

Pop Culture is Home of Hoaxes
The Sacramento Bee ran an article about hoaxes, in honor of Halloween, and called me up for a quick phone interview. The article requires registration, but here's the part where I'm featured: "Our attention span is small because there's such a mass of information available." Alex Boese, author of "Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes," agrees. "(Mass media) makes this a ripe time for getting fooled," Boese says, on the phone recently from San Diego. The good news? Mass media "also makes it easier for us to debunk (hoaxes)," he says.

image Spooky Lens Aberration
From a Worth1000 thread: A friend of mine took this photo whilst walking through a wooded area in Scotland recently. No, there was no mist or smoke around. Anyone out there got any logical explanation for the misty visage in the bottom left? (Thanks, Kathy)

Freshman 15 is real
According to the legend of the Freshman 15, college students typically gain 15 pounds during their first year. Brown University researchers have now determined that this is almost true: "According to research presented last week, the "freshman 15" might be more real than previously thought -- although the actual weight gained by freshman is more likely to be between five and 10 pounds." By the time I graduated from college I had gained almost 30 pounds. I went from 170 to 200. But I lost the weight pretty quickly.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Business/Finance, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 01, 2006
Comments (17)
image placed $100,000 in one-dollar bills inside a plexiglass box on a billboard in Las Vegas. Putting the money there was a publicity stunt to promote their betting business. As part of the stunt, they allowed people to bet on whether or not the money would be stolen from the billboard. And lo and behold, while a guard was on a break a thief somehow broke into the box and took off with some of the money.

Although the theft itself sounds like a continuation of the publicity stunt, swears that the money really was stolen. And apparently the police actually are looking into the theft. Personally, I'm having a hard time believing that this entire thing wasn't planned. I'm also doubting that there even were real dollar bills inside the box in the first place.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Sat Sep 09, 2006
Comments (28)
Status: Weird News
As a long-time Doctor Who fan, I couldn't resist posting about this. It seems there's some phony British currency circulating around on which the Queen has been replaced by Doctor Who. The faux £10 notes bear the inscription "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of 10 satsumas." Apparently the notes were created by the BBC for use during a scene in which the Doctor causes an ATM machine to start spewing money out into the street. Instead of using real money, which would have been a bit expensive, they printed up some phony notes. But, of course, fans quickly grabbed the loose notes that were floating around. An article in the Western Mail quotes an onlooker who says: "From a distance they almost look like real notes but you'd never be able to use them in the pub." Well, you might be able to if the bartender was a Doctor Who fan. I'd give someone a beer for some Doctor Who currency (but maybe no change). I found scans of the notes on Doctor Who Online.
Categories: Business/Finance, Future/Time
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 28, 2006
Comments (10)
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