Understanding the International Driving License Scam and Poetry Scam

Find out the real scoop on the international driving license scam, poetry scam, and twinkies #90

Internet ScamBusters™
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud

By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
All rights reserved.
Issue #90

Hi Everyone,

As August comes to a close, we decided to do a lighter 'Snippets' issue. Today we focus on International driving license scams, poetry scams, and we conclude with the important question: Is the shelf life of Twinkies really forever? ;-)

Let's get started...


International Driving License Scam


Planning a holiday abroad and wanting to rent a car? You may think you need an International Driving License -- but you'd be wrong.

What you, in fact, may need if you're traveling to many countries is something called an International Driving Permit (IDP), which is simply a document that translates the information on your driver's license into 11 languages (including English).

IDPs are optional for some countries and mandatory for others. For example, they are currently optional for France and Italy, and mandatory for Austria, Greece and Japan.

IDPs are available for about $12 from the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the National Automobile Club -- but NOWHERE else.

==> http://www.aaa.com/

==> http://www.nationalautoclub.com

Email or websites offering an International Driver's License are a scam -- there is no such thing as an International Driver's License.

When you travel internationally, you need to have an IDP and a valid driver's license, both issued by your country of residence. So for example, if you are a Austrian citizen living in the US and holding a US driver's license, you will need an American IDP).

The IDP must be accompanied by a valid driver's license at all times -- it has no value on its own and is not a substitute for a driver's license.

Action: Avoid getting an International Driver's License. If you travel abroad to a country that requires it, get an International Driving Permit from the AAA or National Automobile Club.


Poetry Scam


Scammers have found a ready target in poetry writers who are eager to have their work published.

Although there are many sites involved in this scam, the opening move is the same for each. You'll receive an email inviting you to submit your poetry for free to their contest.

Soon after, you'll receive a second email praising your poem and letting you know that it's going to be published in a beautifully crafted anthology.

You can buy this anthology for 'only' $50 (or somewhere in that range).

But wait -- there's more! <g>

Maybe you'd like to have a short biography inserted with your poem -- that'll be $25. Or join the prestigious society of poets that has sponsored the competition -- only $125 a year.

Perhaps your poem is the best they've ever read and you're now in the running for 'Poet of the Year.' It's only $495 (plus travel expenses) to attend the gala event in Washington, DC where the lucky winner will be chosen.

Strangely enough, one of the best ways to pick out the scams from the legitimate contests is that the scams are usually free to enter.

Real poetry contests often have entry fees ranging from $15-$40 to cover the costs of judging, administration, and prizes.

Other things to investigate when evaluating an online poetry contest are:

- Who is the sponsoring organization?

Is the name of the publishing house, magazine or academic institution sponsoring the contest one that you can verify either through online or traditional resources (i.e. phone book) or is it a post office box with no physical address attached to it?

- Who were last year's winners?

If the contest is an annual one, ask for information about last year's winners. You should be able to look at winning entries from previous contests and perhaps even contact winners.

If the work is mediocre or information is not forthcoming, this can be a sign of a scam. Of course, this only works for recurring contests.

- Who are the judges?

Legitimate contests should be up front about who the judges are. Research the judges to find out if they have suitable credentials for judging, and be aware that scam sites may 'borrow' the names of judges.

Consider checking with a judge's publicity organization to verify that he/she is, in fact, a judge for a given contest.

- What are the contest rules?

Rules should be clear and concise with information about how to submit your poem, entry fees, deadlines, prizes, what your rights are, and how judging will occur.

Action: Don't let the excitement about having your poetry published or winning a bogus contest overrule your better judgment. Follow these guidelines to make sure you're entering a real contest.


Twinkies: What Is Their Shelf Life?


If you're a baby boomer (and even if you're not), you've perhaps wondered about the 'real' shelf life of Twinkies.

We've heard lots of rumors about Twinkies including:

- They have a shelf life of 50 to 100 years.

- Their shelf life is 'longer than the cellophane they're wrapped in'!

- They contain chemicals used in embalming fluid.

- Hostess hasn't produced any new Twinkies in two decades -- the ones in the stores now have been sitting in the warehouses for years.

Perhaps our favorite rumor is that Twinkies have an incredibly long half-life, and could survive nuclear fallout. <g>

Are any of these rumors about Twinkies true -- or are they all urban legends?

Answer: These rumors are false. Twinkies have a shelf life of about 25 days -- not 50 to 100 years!

Nonetheless, that is quite long for a baked product. The reason is that Twinkies contain no dairy products.

According to the official Twinkies website, Hostess produces up to 1000 Twinkies each minute. Twinkies are baked in 17 different bakeries. More than 500 million Twinkies are consumed in the US each year. Yikes!

The weirdest thing, though, given that these rumors aren't true, is that we heard that the White House millennium time capsule includes a Twinkie, since it is "an object of enduring American symbolism." This time capsule was sealed in 1999 and won't be opened for 100 years...

That's it for this week -- see you soon.

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