Did the May 15 gas boycotts reduce gas prices, scam screenwriting contests, and important info on junk faxes: Internet ScamBusters #233
We have some very exciting news for you.
Over the past several months, we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes at ScamBusters.org. You’ve seen a couple of the first steps with the first changes to the look and feel of the site (and we appreciate all of your great feedback!) as well as the creation of the ScamBusters.org Identity Theft Information Center.
Today we’d like to announce three milestones and improvements.
First, we’ve reviewed the work we’ve done since 1994, and are very proud that we’ve helped over 9 million people protect themselves from Internet scams.
Our goal is to get to 10 million as fast as possible. One way we can do this is to increase the number of subscribers to this newsletter. So, if you have friends who you think would benefit from ScamBusters, please suggest they subscribe. We’d really appreciate it!
Second, we’ve hired our first part-time “ScamBusters” to help us find more scams, write more articles, get the word out, and help you better protect yourself from Internet scams. In fact, today’s issue was created by “ScamBuster Pete.” Give us your feedback on how you like it.
Third, we are putting the finishing touches on a new free Identity Theft Mini-Course called “8 Steps to Secure Your Identity — Now and Forever.” This eight-part Mini-Course will help you protect yourself and your family from identity fraud — we’re really proud of it and believe it will be very valuable to subscribers.
So watch out for our announcement — hopefully next week — about how you can sign up (it’s free).
OK — let’s begin. In today’s Snippets issue, we’ll cover three topics:
- Can Gas Boycotts Reduce Gas Prices?
- Beware of Scam Screenwriting Contests
- Junk Faxes: When “Opting Out” Backfires.
Be sure to check out the third Snippet — we had been making this mistake until ScamBuster Pete told us about this very recently. 😉
On to today’s Snippets…
Can Gas Boycotts Reduce Gas Prices? Another “Gas Out” Fails to Prevent “Gassing Up”
The most recent flood of emails and web postings, which first began in 1999, implored Americans to boycott gas stations on May 15, 2007, in order to lower gas prices.
One bulletin, targeting millions of MySpace members (again), claimed that if everyone boycotted gasoline for one day, the “protest” would cost oil companies over $2 billion, and presumably force them to lower prices.
The posting added: “… so, please do not go to the gas station on May 15th and let’s try to put a dent in the oil industry for at least one day.”
Although some boycotts have worked in the past, the idea that a ONE-DAY boycott can be effective is an urban legend, based on a flawed premise.
A one-day boycott does nothing to either increase supply or reduce demand for gasoline, because drivers simply shift the dates on which they fill up.
An effective boycott requires participants to “go without” for as long as it takes to convince a supplier to make changes. In the case of gasoline, this would be nearly impossible, since most Americans drive cars in order to work, buy food at the supermarket, etc.
One-day gas boycotts may make people feel like they are making a difference, but they will not lower gas prices. Therefore, May 15, 2007, was just another date that will live in urban legend infamy.
Beware of Scam Screenwriting Contests
In the past (as well as now), budding writers aspired to complete the Great American Novel. Today, tens of thousands hope to write the Great American Screenplay.
Unfortunately, Hollywood’s doors are closed to most unknown film and television writers — unless they gain valuable “connections” or publicity for their scripts.
This is where the best screenwriting contests enter the frame. Competitions such as the Nicholl Fellowship, the Disney Fellowship and Scriptapalooza can open doors because of their prestige, prizes and the publicity they generate for winners. In addition, these screenwriting contests are highly respected among movie studios, producers, literary agents and managers.
Each year, however, many people enter “contests” where scripts are not read, winners are randomly chosen to receive low-value prizes, and “publicity” consists of a news release posted on a website, where it will languish in cyber-limbo.
But with literally hundreds of annual, semi-annual and monthly screenwriting contests now running, how can you tell a good contest from a scam?
According to an interview with Scriptapalooza founder Mark Andrushko, “The scams tend to be fairly obvious, with higher entry fees, less reputable people involved, or they are making huge promises that they can’t keep….Don’t be afraid to check out every aspect of the competition, from confirming its validity to seeing where the past winners have gone.” (http://www.moviebytes.com/NewsStory.cfm?StoryID=526)
As a rule of thumb, also choose:
- ANNUAL screenplay competitions.
- Screenwriting contests with a proven history that list previous winners.
- Screenplay contests that boast well-known judges — people who actually work in the film and TV industry.
Says Andrushko, “…many competitions will state things and list companies that are supposedly associated with their competition. They know there is no ‘competition scam police’ and that nobody will be the wiser. These competitions prey on the novice writer.” To check out another similar contest scam, see “Important things you really need to know not to get taken by the poetry scam.”
Junk Faxes: When “Opting Out” Backfires
People who sign up with the national “Do Not Call Registry” usually receive fewer telemarketing calls. But this isn’t always the case for those with fax machines, especially small business owners.
Unfortunately, junk faxes can be a nightmare. One reason for the ongoing fax menace is that any company claiming an Established Business Relationship (EBR) with you under the Federal Communication Commission’s “Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005,” can keep faxing. And the FCC’s definition of an EBR is VERY broad.
A lesser-known reason for the junk fax parade is this: Opting out from a company’s junk fax list can actually backfire!
According to www.privacyrights.org, “Some individuals have actually experienced an increase in unwanted faxes and unauthorized telemarketing calls by calling the opt-out number [on the junk fax]. Merely calling signals a ‘live’ fax number. [And] when you place a call from your home, your telephone number can be captured as well.”
Action: Do not call the number on the junk fax to opt out.
If you only use a fax for personal reasons, preventing junk is fairly easy. Be very selective about giving out your fax number to businesses — either in person, over the phone, or on applications or forms that could be used to claim an EBR.
If you’re a business owner, prevention is trickier, because listing your fax number on business cards, websites or in ads and brochures may allow junk faxers to claim an EBR — unless you state that you don’t accept unsolicited faxes. (This disclaimer may not stop junk faxes, but it could be important when filing a complaint.)
To file a complaint about junk faxes, use the FCC’s online complaint form or call their toll-free number at: 888-225-5322.
In your complaint, be sure to include the following information:
- Your name, address and daytime phone number.
- The phone number through which you received the junk fax.
- The goods or services promoted on the fax, the name of the company offering the goods or services, and any phone numbers, fax numbers or addresses that were included in the junk fax.
Read more tips on preventing or eliminating junk faxes on our site.
Time to close. See you next week.