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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 Moonlighting.com. 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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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

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