Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Andy the conman?

Hey ho

Well I'm onto the second day of my week off and its been productive. Yesterday I spent the day helping a friend con some people and today I bought a pair of jeans and spent 45 minutes on the phone to the tax office.
Ill start with Yesterday. My friend Luke the magician is quite often through in edinburgh for magic circle meetings (yes the magic circle is a real thing, sadly its not like you would imagine, its just held in a pub, you don't have to say a magic word to get in or sacrifice a chicken to open a magic portal) Well one of Luke's magic friends has to put together an audition tape for an australian version of the bbc3 show The Real Hustle. For anyone who hasn't seen the real hustle, its a show that tells you all about scams, showing how easy it is to scam people and how to avoid it. its quite good. If you haven't seen it, watch it. I'm quite tempted to try some of the scams to earn a few quid.
Anyway, Luke's friend Nic is quite a big name over in Australia, he's moved over here for a few months but this australian company is keen for him to audition, he is known as Australias honest conman. so a few of us got together yesterday to con some people. first off we did what's known as the trojan horse scam. In this scam Nick is on the street with a clipboard posing as someone doing a questionnaire about internet usage. after answering a couple of meaningless questions about the internet he gives you a free gift, a usb memory stick. The person walks away happy with a free gift, but what they don't know is the usb stick is loaded with a computer program that can monitor your internet as soon as you plug it into your laptop, with this program you could conceivably view there internet history, monitor your key strokes, access there internet banking details. I must point out that we were not actually doing this scam, we simply filmed Nick doing out the questionnaire and giving out some usb memory sticks. we did not hack into anyones computer or do anything illegal. We had 2 camera's (both hidden) one guy was filming from inside a pub and i was about 50 yards away trying to look casual with a handheld camera desperately trying NOT to look like i was filming anything. after that we filmed a couple of pool scams in the pub and then a 3 card monte scam. i lost 30 quid in this scam. luckily for me it was just for the camera's. it was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. Just to clarify I am not saying that conning people is a good thing to do with your spare time and i do not endorse any conning or illegal activity of any kind. ( was a good laf tho)
after that went for a couple of pints to catch up with Luc the magic man then headed home to watch Ashes to Ashes on bbc 1, thats an ace tv show. Sadly roland rat has only been on it the once. i look forward to seeing him again. Roland Rat has to be my favourite tv rat. I once met the creator of Ashes to Ashes. His name is Matthew Graham, he also created Life On Mars and has written a few things for tv. Really nice guy, when I pointed out that my last name is Graham and we could be related he simply said "no" then walked off. I was a bit drunk tho, so i prob would have done the same.
so roll on tuesday, day 2 of Andys summer holiday. Woke up this morning and contemplated heading up to Aberdeen for the night but then decided I couldn't be arsed, took a wander into town to look into getting a mortgage. I don't know anything about mortgage's all i know is you need one to buy a house. After spending half an hour with a mortgage advisor i have been put off the whole idea. Sadly i just don't think i can afford it. Flats cost a bloody fortune and i don't have nearly enough money for a deposit. so it looks like i'm gonna be renting when i move up to aberdeen in August. If any of the 3 people who read this know of any flats/rooms to rent in aberdeen then please let me know as i may have to sleep in my parents shed at this rate.

After my stroll into town i came home to discover yet another letter from the tax office. This is the 22nd letter they have sent me claiming i owe them over 3000 quid. Apparently there is a back log in the office and they have not got round to reading my latest file. After re doing my tax form( why are they so needlessly complicated?) i sent it back around 2 weeks ago and they have not updated there system yet. i was told someone would call me back later today once they dig up my info, its not 5:50pm and nothing yet so i doubt ill hear anything for weeks, if at all.
The whole situation is ridiculous, i don't understand why the tax office is so complicated, i work and my employer takes care of all the tax it should be that easy!!
It reminded me of another situation involving money that happened a few weeks ago. I got a letter from a company called Mckenzie hall, a debt recovery and trace consultants agency. there was very little information in the letter, it simply said they wish to contact me regarding a personal matter. I was a bit wary as it was a debt recovery agency but then i didn't think i was in any debt. So i started thinking, trace consultants? Maybe someone has been trying to track me down? Maybe its a relative I never knew I had, Maybe they recently died and left me over 300 million quid, but to get it I have to spend 30 millions pounds in 30 days and not have any assets at the end of that month, it was meant to teach me a lesson, to make me hate money and appreciate what i've got. Well then long lost uncle i will take you up on that challenge,
But then i realized that was the plot to brewsters millions, the film starring Richard Pryor and John Candy, its really good you should watch it.
i called the number on the letter, turns out it was not a long lost uncle but a long lost water bill.
A few years ago I somehow managed to get into uni, to this day i still don't know how, they may have thought I was someone else, this would explain why everyone kept calling me Steve. I was studying in the wonderful city that is middlesbrough, living in a house in the city centre with a couple of other students. I left in april 2002 making sure all the bills and rent etc were paid. i was fairly certain this was a wind up or a scam so I wrote a letter to the water company telling them as much, here is that letter.

To Whom it may Concern

Good Day,

Its customer number 30435399001 here, (my friends call me Andy). Whilst having my breakfast this afternoon (I'm a late sleeper) I was perusing the mail, amongst the usual barrage of bills and offers from domino's pizza, I discovered a letter from Mckenzie hall debt recovery and trace consultants (They know me as customer number M14273935).

Upon calling them I was extremely disappointed to discover it was not a long lost relative trying to track me down to offer me millions of pounds. I was in a state of disbelief when I was informed that I have an outstanding water bill from Northumbria water from when I stayed in Middlesbrough I found this very surprising as I LEFT the property in 2002. I moved to this property in early 2002, I cannot tell you exactly when as I do not remember, I think it was January and I was there for approximately 3 months. I am told a criminal charge claim was apparently processed by the courts in October 2003. I find this very odd that I was not invited to my own trial??? After being put on hold for a ridiculous amount of time by Mckenzie Hall I was told to contact Northumbria court to enquire more. I called them and was again put on hold for an even longer amount of time, they could give me no information without a claim number, the number I had been given (2m321152) apparently is not valid for that department. I was then advised to contact yourselves to get more information. After calling yourselves and being put on hold for what felt like months I spoke to one of your representatives, Helen Charleton (she was very pleasant, give her an extra day off! is she single?)

The lovely Helen told to put all this in writing as due to security reasons you cannot discuss everything with me over the phone, I do not see what difference it makes if I put everything in writing as opposed to talking on the phone, why would ANYONE call you up and ask to pay a 7 year old water bill? I was told by the lovely Helen that I cannot adequately prove my identity over the phone, I can’t see how writing down everything is any better, nor do I understand why a water company would have such tight security. Is there a drought on that I don’t know about? Perhaps it is to prevent identity theft, which is a good idea. However, why would anyone want to steal my identity? I’m not that interesting. And why would an identity thief call up to pay an old bill? If someone wants to do that then I say hell yes!! And to be honest so should you, at the end of the day your getting your money which you probably will not get from me (the real customer number 30435399001, or Andy to my friends).

I can think of no way to prove my identity through this letter that could not be done on the phone. In a previous draft of this letter I wrote down several personal details in an attempt to prove to you that I am in fact the real Andrew Graham however afterwards I realized that you (the reader of this letter) may well be an identity thief and this whole thing may be a gigantic conspiracy to steal my identity. So to re iterate my point, what difference does it make if I write all this down or just talk to someone on the phone???

Apparently I owe you in excess of £400, I do not see how this is possible as I left the property in early 2002 having paid all the bills, I am also incredibly surprised that it is my name on the bill as I was not the first tenant in the property and do not recall giving my name to any water company. I am also incredibly amazed that I am being contact 7 YEARS AFTER I HAVE LEFT (the caps and red font in that previous sentence were to emphasise my shock and disgust at this, I hope that came across well) I sincerely doubt that I am due you any money and to be perfectly honest do not trust any company that takes this long to track someone down.

The lovely Helen instructed me to give you an idea of my where about for the past few years so here goes.

I moved to Middlesbrough in september of 2001 to attend the university of Teeside. I initially moved into 111 Ayresome Street Middlesbrough with a very strange man called James and a drunkard (in a fun way) called Ben. Sadly after Christmas 2001 Ben did not return to university. I was gutted. I was forced to live with a very strange man called James who constantly ate all my food and I am fairly certain was a male prostitute. so i decided to move out, i looked far and wide across the great city that is Middlesbrough and after many minutes of searching i found a room in the house next door. I moved in there in January 2002 with the lovely Jeanette the scouser and Pippa the Welsh woman ( do the welsh have a nickname? other than the welsh of course).

I left Middlesbrough in early 2002 I cannot remember exactly when, as to be perfectly honest, I was drunk for most of 2002. I believe it was around April but cannot honestly remember. I have been asked if there is anyway I can prove when i left. I have looked into building a time machine, but sadly I lack the technical expertise and cannot afford to buy a Delorean. After leaving Middlesbrough I returned to my parents home. I stayed there for around a year and then took a job working on a cruise ship, during this time all my correspondence was being sent to my parents house and then forwarded to me on ship. After leaving the Cruise ship in July of 2005 I returned to Aberdeen and continued to stay at my parents house until April of 2006, when I moved to a flat in Rosemount, Aberdeen, I was there for 2 years. After leaving there I then left the country and resided in New York from May 11th to October 10th. From October 18th to time of writing this letter I have been living in Edinburgh.

I realise you may not need all this information but I was told to give you details of my whereabouts from my time in Ayresome street until the present day. I was renting the property in Ayresome street through the university who in turn rented it from someone else, a blond lady. I cannot remember her name as it was 7 years ago and sadly we did not keep in touch. This blond landlady did have my contact details and even if she lost them, she had the universities details, who in turn could get in touch with me. I do not know who you have working for you in trying to track people down but they certainly are no colombo!!

I realise that I have left the country for long periods of time however I always had my parents address as my point of contact and I have stayed in a fixed location for years at a time. I find this entire situation unbelievable and am not entirely convinced it is a wind up.

As previously mentioned I would like to get to the bottom of this matter asap, sadly I cannot give you a contact address as my lease in my current property will be up in August and given your reputation I do not expect to here back from you until 2016.

My email Address is Andy@randomandom.com.

I look forward to hearing from you, although by the time you do get in touch I expect we will all be talking through holograms or something else equally as futuristic.

If any part of this letter has seemed insulting, I apologise and did not mean to cause any offense. Please try and see this from my point of view, you are saying I owe you money from a property I rented 7 years ago and only stayed in for 3 months. I have said this several times in this letter but how is it possible it has taken this long to get in touch with me? Its not like I've been avoiding you. I even returned to Middlesbrough for a halloween party in late 2002, however it may have been difficult for you to find me on that particular night as I was dressed like postman pat.

I realise that who ever is reading this letter probably does not have the best job in the world (I honestly mean no offense) you most likely have to read lots of letters like this and have to deal with arseholes saying they don’t owe you money. I know what it is like to deal with the public, I run a restaurant, I have to deal with morons all the time. The public really are a bunch of twats aren’t they? I imagine that you must deal with a barrage of verbal abuse at times, please know that you will not get that from me, but mind you, you probably won’t get any money out of me either. I do believe that an error has been made somewhere, and that’s alright, people make mistakes all the time, I once dyed my hair blonde and still have not lived it down.

Anyway I look forward to hearing from you, please get in touch via email or phone, however as I previously said if you cannot give me any more information because of security reasons then what is the point? How will you ever get any money from me? You are welcome to come and meet me in person if you wish!! You can buy me a coffee or a drink if you want!! (I’ll have a pint of Heineken) If you do choose to call please do not do so too early as I previously mentioned i am not a morning person like and will probably not answer the phone.

Hope you have a tremendous day.

Kindest Regards

Customer number 30435399001


Andrew Graham

That is a genuine letter I sent. I did not write that just for the blog, I honestly sent this letter to the northumbrian water board. They were quite good about the whole thing. They sent me an email stating that they believed I still occupied the property and the outstanding balance has been wiped. Its amazing what a little diplomacy can do.

until next time

Be cool

Andy G

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