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I’ve been well aware of all kinds of scams going as far back as the notorious Nigerian Prince email scams of the 1990s. Last year I encountered a variation of the Nigerian Prince scam when I attempted to apply for a job that I found through I wrote an article about that experience for LinkedIn Pulse in an effort to warn others about scammers lurking on the various gig economy platforms.

Late last year someone from Boho Queen Jewelry contacted me via Instagram saying that he/she liked my Instagram account so much that I was invited to be that company’s brand ambassador on Instagram. I came close to accepting that offer but I decided to do a quick Google search on Boho Queen Jewelry first, where I learned about its shady business dealings. I turned that offer down and wrote a blog post about it instead.

A few months ago I encountered something similar on Instagram where a publication known as 1340 Art Magazine wanted me to submit my work. When I did so, I received an email saying that I was among the finalists that have been selected to be featured in the next issue of its quarterly publication but I had to pay money in order for the editors to consider my work. Once again I did a quick Google search, saw some alarming things about 1340 Art Magazine, and I decided to turn down that opportunity.  I ended up writing a blog post about it instead.

Last week I got a notice on Twitter saying that someone known as BriyanMalissa had started to follow me. I decided to follow her back, which is supposed to be the customary thing on social media. I made the dumb mistake of not seeing her profile first before hitting the “Follow” button. Had I done so, I would never have followed back in the first place, I would have avoided all this drama to come, and this post would not exist.

Here’s a brief background. There’s such a thing as cryptocurrency. The earliest cryptocurrency invented was bitcoin. (There are others known as litecoin, ethereal, stellar, ripple, etc.) Cryptocurrency is supposed to be an alternative to real-life currencies like the dollar, pound, rubles, yen, etc. and it is supposed to be free from interference from any government agency in the world. Proponents frequently come up with this utopian idea of people getting together doing their buying and selling in cryptocurrency totally free from any kind of government interference. Sounds blissful, right?

Wrong. Most businesses don’t accept cryptocurrency and no stores will let you pay for their inventory with cryptocurrency. So far, based on what I’ve seen, it looks like people are simply speculating on cryptocurrency in the hopes of getting a huge payout quickly. It’s not unlike the Beanie Babies craze of the 1990s or the tulip mania that swept through Europe back in the 1600s except that cryptocurrency only exists on computers and there is no real-life counterpart that you can hold in your hands.

Four years ago there was the notorious Mt. Gox incident where bitcoin speculation had sank that bitcoin exchange (which was originally founded as a trading site for fans of the card game Magic The Gathering). People lost a huge amount of money as a result. More recently another cryptocurrency trading platform, Bitfinex, was hacked, which resulted in losing a lot of cryptocurrency. Worse, Bitfinex said that it had serious difficulties with its banking relationships.

I’ve just heard too many negative things about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to decide against dealing with them. The fact that people like billionaire Wall Street investor Warren Buffett and the Motley Fool website have also advised people to steer clear of bitcoin and its ilk haven’t done anything to change my mind.

So I foolishly decided to follow back BriyanMalissa since she followed me without first checking her profile or the tweets she has sent out. I also didn’t notice the inconsistency in how she spells her name before I decided to follow back.

Does she spell her surname “Brayan” or “Briyan”? Does she usually refer to herself as Malissa Brayan (with the first name and surname like in most Western countries) or Brayan Malissa (with the surname then first name like how people refer to themselves in Romania and many Asian countries)? (Or does she spell her name Malissa Briyan or Briyan Malissa?) The profile photo shows a picture of a pleasant looking businesswoman but I have no way of knowing if that is really her photograph or if she swiped some innocent woman’s picture from the Internet to use as her profile picture. For the purposes of this post I’m going to assume that my potential scammer is female although I have no way of knowing whether she is really a woman or if this person is really a man who is pretending to be a woman online.

Anyway, on the day before Thanksgiving she reached out to me in private via Messages. I wasn’t on Twitter much during that time because I was busy with other things. I decided to respond to her the day after Thanksgiving making light talk about eating too much turkey.

She then introduces herself to me, says that she’s in New York City and she immediately starts to ask me for my name and where I live.

She uses “form” when it should be “from”. But there was something off about her English that seems reminiscent of all of those other online scams I’ve encountered. Even her writing style seems suspect. I swear these scammers must have some kind of an alternative stylebook to Strunk and White’s Element of Style where it says “Here is how you phrase your introduction to your potential victim…” (LOL!) because these scam messages tend to read the same after a while. I’m getting pretty good at being able to tell a potential scammer from a genuine person. Her next question to me confirmed this. Usually you don’t ask what someone does for a living when you are just introducing yourself to a total stranger on social media. I decided to start playing with Lisa’s head. I responded to her question about my profession by making myself out to be this very poor and desperate person who’s on the verge of being homeless very soon. I also pretended to assume that she’s a recruiter and I asked if she wanted to see my resume.

She soon responded with her non-grammatical English and she got to the reason why she decided to send me personal messages out of the blue on Twitter.

She’s trying to get me to buy bitcoins from her. I looked on her Twitter profile and I saw that her profile consists of nothing more than retweets of other people’s pro-bitcoin tweets. She hasn’t written anything like an original tweet in her own words about anything. (Say what you will about President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed but at least he composes his own tweets.)

At this point I became so totally annoyed with her and her personal messages that I decided to end this raising of her expectations that she will financially fleece me and move on to the next phase where I totally shut her down and frustrate her. Using anti-bitcoin links from Warren Buffett and the Motley Fool, I went in for the kill.

Then I decided to twist the virtual knife in her back further by going full Grammar Nazi on her for her use of non-grammatical English in order to gain my confidence.

In the process I also called out her inconsistency in spelling her own name.

Okay so I made up that part about my mother telling me to never deal with someone who doesn’t know how to spell his/her own name. (Although she really used to tell me that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.)

For the piece de resistance, I decided to frustrate her further by blocking her on Twitter so she can’t respond to what I sent to her via private message.

I’ll admit that I could have also ignored her then blocked her. But I’ve grown so impatient with these scammers trying to waste my time with their attempts to butter me up so they can rip me off that I just couldn’t resist giving one of them a taste of her own medicine. Just as Lisa tried to waste my time with her friendly overtures in an effort to take what little money I have currently left in my bank account, I decided to waste her time by raising her hopes that I’ll become her next victim then suddenly dash them in a cruel way. I’m not sorry for doing that. She’s a scammer and she’s scum. She deserves what I did to her.

All this went down two days ago. I’m sure that she has since moved on to her next potential victim while continuing to retweet other people’s tweets instead of writing her own original tweets.

UPDATE (November 28, 2018): Just a few hours after this post went live, I found out that Twitter has suspended that account. Good job, Twitter! At least that’s one less online scummy scammer who preys on unsuspecting people.

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Not too long ago someone made a comment on one of my posts on my Instagram account telling me that he/she really liked my work and he/she asked me to submit my recent art to this publication called 1340 Art Magazine while providing a link to a webpage where I can send a sample of my work. I looked at the magazine’s Instagram account, where I learned that they also have a print publication version that’s released quarterly. So I figured what the hell and I sent a picture of one of my paintings. Not long afterwards I receive an email from Lisa Harris informing me that I was selected to be among the finalists whose work would be featured in an upcoming issue of that magazine. She said that in order to qualify for having my work possibly being selected for publication, I had to follow this link and fill out the online form.

When I went to that form I saw that they charged $20 for one submission and $30 for four submissions with a message saying that paying the higher fee and submitting four pictures would increase my chances of being selected for their print publication. I began to lose my enthusiasm for submitting anything, especially since I’m dealing with major financial problems at the moment.

A couple of days ago Lisa Harris sent me another email urging me to get my submission in before the May 31 deadline if I want to have a shot at getting any of my art published in the online quarterly publication.

It seemed like an awesome opportunity but I was leery about paying a submission fee, especially since I had never heard of 1340 Art Magazine before. I did a Google search on that publication and I saw that the word “scam” came up after I typed in the name of the publication. Here are some links about 1340 Art Magazine that made me change my mind about submitting anything to them.

Reddit thread: 1340 art magazine – Is it a scam?

Wet Canvas thread: 1340art magazine, possible scam?

How’s My Dealing? 2.0 thread: 1340 ART MAGAZINE

Plus there are YouTube videos on 1340 Art Magazine being a scam operation by impaired00Visions,  panda shy, and heather macdonald.

This whole thing reminds me of a similar Instagram encounter I had with Boho Queen Jewelry late last year. Thanks to doing a quick Google search, I decided that I’m going to save my money and not bother with submitting anything to 1340 Art Magazine. By the way, I came across this article on the Agora Advice Blog on How to Recognize An Art Scam that’s worth reading.

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Fan art featuring 30 Disney cartoon girls reimagined as grown-ups.

Why aren’t people talking more about Latinos killed by police?

Will Donald Trump destroy the presidency?

A look at vintage Polaroids of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and other Star Wars actors taken during the making of Return of the Jedi.

Undercover author finds Amazon warehouse workers in UK peed in bottles over fears of being punished for taking a break.

Understanding the difference between race and ethnicity.

3 medical projects driving maker innovation in health.

A look at the 13 lesser known members of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker said that the site was made to exploit human vulnerability.

15 tattooed seniors answer the question: “What will it look like in 40 years?”

How these lava lamps are securing the Internet.

Behold the unnervingly rectangular livestock of pastoral art.

Watch as a 17th century portrait emerges from 200 years of discolored varnish.

Why job hunters don’t find work.

A profile of the man who is helping Americans access safe drinking water.

Why the US fails at worker training.

Somebody wrote an email bot to waste scammers’ time.

Twist fabric scraps into colorful twine.

This “Ordinary People vs. Creative People” comic has spawned a very creative meme.

Neoliberalm has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals.

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I recently dodged a financial bullet. That near-miss started during the recent Christmas/Kwanzaa/New Year’s holiday week when I was uploading a bunch of new holiday photos on my Instagram account. One night I saw a comment posted to one of my Instagram photos from a company known as Boho Queen Jewelry. The comment basically said that they liked the photos I had posted under my own account and the company invited me to apply to become on of its brand ambassadors.

My immediate reaction was that I was thrilled to receive such an invite. I had heard about some people becoming Instagram influencers where companies will either pay or give free samples of a product to Instagram influencers in exchange for posting a photo of themselves actually modeling a product. I thought this invitation from Boho Queen Jewelry could potentially be the first step for me to eventually become an Instagram influencer myself and it may lead to a new career path for myself.

I was very flattered to receive such an invite mainly because most of the pictures of jewelry I’ve posted in my Instagram account were either of my own creations or they were ones I had shot of other people’s jewelry during craft shows, art shows, and trips to the various shopping malls. I hadn’t done any kind of professional modeling before nor had I ever done any jewelry reviews. I thought it was cool that someone thought of me as being a potential online marketer of some really cool looking funky jewelry whose photos I saw posted on Boho Queen Jewelry’s website.

I decided to sleep on it since I had received that invitation so late in the evening. The following morning my immediate thrilled reaction had chilled and I wanted to proceed with this proposed brand ambassador gig with caution because I had never heard of the company before. I decided to do a quick Google search on Boho Queen Jewelry to learn about how others view that company. I immediately came up with a bunch of links that alarmed me.

Boho Queen Jewelry was previously known under two different names—Mirina Collections and Nora NYC—which became notorious for the way it conducts its business using this pattern.

First the company searches the Internet for photos of jewelry created by talented jewelry artisans. Then the company creates knockoffs using the cheapest materials they could find. The company lists a knockoff on its own website with a retail price that’s two or three times higher than what the talented jewelry artisan charges for his/her original work. Sometimes the company will list its knockoff product using the photo of the original jewelry that it swiped off of another website.

The company trolls various blogs and Instagram accounts by leaving comments inviting people to become its online brand ambassador while providing a link to a page where the person can apply. The person applies and is always accepted into the brand ambassador program. The newly appointed brand ambassador is then required to buy the jewelry but at a special lower discount than the retail price.

Here’s where the fun begins. While sometimes the person receives the jewelry in one piece and writes a good online review of the product (such as this one), usually the new brand ambassador encounters one of two scenarios.

1. The person never receives the jewelry. The person contacts the company via emails only to have them ignored.

2. The person receives the jewelry but it’s broken or damaged. The person contacts the company asking for a replacement or refund only to be ignored.

If the dissatisfied brand ambassador tries to contact the company through its Instagram page, the company will block that person. There have been cases where the company has threatened to sue the brand ambassador for writing a less-than-glowing review about that person’s interactions with the company on his/her blog or Instagram account. There have even been a few cases where the company went back into the brand ambassador’s bank or charge accounts at a later date and took out even more money.

Even though the company has changed its name for the third time, the way it conducts its business still remains the same.

After I read the accounts of people getting ripped off I decided against applying to become Boho Queen Jewelry’s brand ambassador and I immediately deleted that company’s comment on my Instagram photo.

The one thing that most raised my suspicion is the company’s requirement that you purchase its products (even at a discount) in order to do an online review. I know from my days working for the school newspaper during my college years that most legitimate companies never charged for a product that it wanted someone at the newspaper to review. Instead these companies would frequently send free samples of a product in exchange for a review. In the case of something like a movie, the film’s distributor would either provide free tickets or would set up a special free screening at a local theater that’s limited to reviewers only prior to the film’s official release.

Additionally when I worked in the corporate office of a now-defunct computer reseller, I saw that the various computer and/or software companies that wanted the reseller to sell its products would either send free samples or send a sales rep to do a free demo of a product. None of those companies ever charged the computer reseller money for reviewing the product before deciding on whether it would sell that product.

The one big lesson I can impart here is this: If you get an invitation from any company to be its online brand ambassador, always do a quick Google search about the company first before accepting that invitation. Just typing in “NAME OF COMPANY reviews” in the search box (without the quotation marks while replacing the all caps with the company’s name) will do the trick. If the number of negative reviews outnumber the positive ones, do NOT deal with that company. Your banking and credit card accounts (as well as your online reputation) will thank you.

I’ll end this post with a list of links to blog posts about other people’s less-than-thrilling interactions with Mirina Collections/Nora NYC/Boho Queen Jewelry.

Boho Queen Jewelry: A Review

Product Review: Boho Queen Jewelry

Boho Queen Jewelry Storytime/Honest Review

Retraction: Mirina Collections & Nora NYC (Updated)

“Mirina Collections” LIES

Twitter verifies Jason Kessler, the organizer of the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville that resulted in violence that left one person dead.

A historian explains why the Founding Fathers would be baffled by conservatives’ obsession with flag worship.

90-year-old Czech grandma turns small village into her art gallery by hand-painting flowers on its houses.

Have Turkish archaeologists found the final resting place of Saint Nick?

Has the original Santa Claus been found in Turkey?

Guardians can sell the assets and control the lives of senior citizens without their consent—and reap a profit from it.

America is not a society that values human life.

Voices from the anti-Trump resistance.

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How much should you charge a band for CD and album cover art?

Yes, Stephen Paddock fits the mass shooter profile.

MilkLeaks chronicles the very worst of alt-right agitator Baked Alaska.

Giant straw animal sculptures invade Japanese fields after rice harvest.

Don’t tell Grandma but cross-stitch embroidery has an extreme side.

Americans are now paranoid that robots will toss their resumes in the trash.

We can’t ban guns in America, but we managed to ban all this other stuff.

The rise and fall of the word “Monopoly” in American life.

A disturbing dispatch from Seattle’s super secret white nationalist convention.

How Trump’s focus on working class men hurts working class women.

“X” marks the spot where economic inequality took root.

It’s time to talk about what’s radicalizing white male terrorists.

The Smithsonian presents a gallery of 6,000+ rare rock and roll photos on a crowdsourced web site, and now a new book. 11:30 am

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7 DIY projects for your old t-shirts.

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Twenty-one colorful cubes compose Denmark’s newly opened LEGO house.

There’s something REALLY shady going on with Equifax’s website.

Dead air: The ruins of WFBR radio.

How LuLaRoe stole someone else’s art for its clothes while keeping the original artist’s watermarked name on the item.

Photos of auto mechanics recreating Renaissance-era paintings.

How to stop Google and the police from tracking your every move.

Wonderful photographs of Victorian women of color.

Hundred-year-old fruitcake found in Antarctica is in “excellent condition.”

Miniature scenes with a darkly satirical twist by Frank Kunert.

There’s a Tumblr full of Nazis getting punched because that will always be awesome.

A free tutorial on the sashiko embroidery technique.

Digital versions of twenty-five thousand songs recorded onto vintage 78RPM records have been released online for free.

Amazon scammers’ new trick: shipping things to random widows in your town.

Watch Don’t Be a Sucker!, the 1947 U.S. government anti-hatred film that’s relevant again in 2017 for free.

An intimate look inside a rare kingdom where women reign.

The last American baseball glove manufacturer refuses to die.

Robert E. Lee opposed Confederate monuments.

An interesting graphic based on philosopher Karl Popper’s The Paradox of Tolerance.

The retro-industrial wonders of the Mold-A-Rama coin-operated machine.

Listen to the voice recordings of black American slaves.

Kurt Cobain was not only the lead singer and guitarist of Nirvana but he was also a talented visual artist as well.


I’ve heard plenty about how there’s a trend for people getting employment through the Gig Economy and how this has been hailed in news articles like this one. I also went to a workshop on this topic plus I heard it again when I served as an extra at a taping of an upcoming TV special featuring financial guru Ric Edelman.

I’m giving the Gig Economy a try but there is one thing I’ve encountered that doesn’t get mentioned in the mainstream media: Scammers are also lurking looking to take advantage of people who are looking for work. I wrote this story and posted on LinkedIn Pulse because I really think this scam trap needs to be publicized as widely as possible. Here’s the link to this article (which includes screenshots of a Google Hangout conversation with someone who sounds like a facsimile of one of those Nigerian prince email scammers).

Dangerous Potholes on the Road to the Gig Economy

I’ve been writing occasional articles for LinkedIn Pulse, the majority of which are crossposted from this blog. So far I’ve written seven articles in two years. I’ve been told that I need to start contributing there if I want to get my name out there in the professional world but it’s a challenge getting noticed. Even with a hot trendy topic like the Gig Economy I’ve gotten less than 50 hits as of this writing. I’m hoping that some of you reading this may want to check my latest article out, especially since that one is exclusively on LinkedIn Pulse and it hasn’t been crossposted in this blog.

Happy Earth Day! Here are some links for you to enjoy! 🙂

Donald Trump’s modeling agency is on the verge of collapse, say industry insiders. It will be the latest in a line of failed ventures like the Trump Taj Mahal, Trump Steaks, and Trump Vodka.

The original sculptor of the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street says that the Fearless Girl statue facing his statue distorts his work so much that he is considering filing a lawsuit.

Cannabis industry attracts more mainstream investors as business grows.

A mass-market shoe with 3D-printed midsoles is coming soon.

Eight-year-old boy learns to drive on YouTube then takes his little sister on a joyride to McDonald’s.

Microsoft Office vulnerabilities mean that no .doc is safe.

You’ll be working with robots sooner than you think.

Are you a photographer who needs a light box but you are currently short on cash? Here’s a video showing how you can make your own light box for less than $10.

Google’s new AutoDraw web-based drawing tool is a better artist than you.

It may be time to say farewell to the Pentax camera as Ricoh shrinks its camera business.

Chinese doctors use 3D printing to prepare for facial reconstruction surgery.

Microsoft to offer self-service refund for digital games.

How to stop Microsoft Office hackers from stealing your bank account.

12 ways to study a new programming language.

How Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffet adhere to the Five-Hour Rule where they set aside at least one hour a day (or five hours a week) devoted to such practices as reading, reflection, and experimentation.

Exiles from the war-torn areas of Syria, Palestine, and Afghanistan form a theater troupe in Germany.

Why Kickstarter decided to radically transform its business model.

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Microsoft will unveil the most powerful gaming console it has ever made on June 11.

Beware of “drive-by” computer scam.

Fake SEO plugin used in WordPress malware attacks.

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Ohio inmates built and hid computers in prison using recycled electronic parts.

Dear Microsoft, stop blaming girls for not pursuing STEM careers.

Artist Hasan Elahi discusses racism in the digital art world.

Take a weirdly hypnotizing tour of America’s dying malls.

According to a recent survey, British women said that they prefer knitting to sex to help them relax from stress.

For photographers on a very tight budget, here’s a video showing how you can make your own DIY photography studio in your own home.

Disney files patents to bring humanoid robots to its theme parks.

Gizmodo reports on why people still use Microsoft Word.

Disney launching new animated Star Wars series on YouTube.

Black girls have been playing with white dolls for a long time.

Paper horror houses (including the Bates Motel) that you can download, print, and build for free.

For the past few years I’ve been getting increasingly picky over who I actually friend on Facebook. That’s because in the past I’ve accepted Facebook requests from someone whom I don’t recognize only to have this person turn around and tag my name to some selfie of a bikini-clad woman whose swimsuit barely covers her and she’s also trying to strike a sexy pose as well and I ultimately have to block this person. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t accept requests from anyone whose name I don’t recognize and who hasn’t created any posts on his/her wall at all.

Well the creeps who stalk Facebook have gotten smarter. This morning, while I was checking my cell phone for any notifications, I got a Facebook friend request from a woman I know from my church whom I have been friends with in real life for many years. I was confused because I knew I had accepted her as a Facebook friend years ago. I thought that something happened to her current Facebook account so she had to get a new one and I decided to accept that request.

A minute later this person decided to start a chat session with me, even though I really had no intention of staying on Facebook very long because I have work to do. After a few friendly greetings, this person starts talking in a way that didn’t even sound like her. She was claiming that Mark Zuckerberg was giving away $150,000 and she was willing to give me the contact to this agent that I can call to get the money. That chat session was so unlike my friend that I got suspicious.

I did a search under my friend’s name and found that there were two pages under her name. One was the one that she created a few years ago and it has many posts and pictures. The other one had the same name and same profile picture but it was created yesterday and it had no wall posts at all.

At that point I took screen shots of the chat session and I tagged the chat as suspected spam. I even unfriended the other friend’s account with no wall posts. I then made a post to my friend’s original Facebook account where I linked to the other account along with screen caps of the chat session. The friend’s daughter posted that she had gotten the same Facebook friend request from her mother that she knew was suspicious.

I’m going to post the screen caps in this blog mainly to warn other Facebook users. I only blocked out my friend’s name and picture since it’s obvious that she’s a victim of this doppelganger who’s posing as her.





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