Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXIII No. 11, September 16-30, 2023

Short ‘N’ Snappy

– (Wo)MMM

There we go, but for the grace of god

That was the phrase that sprang to the lips when The Woman from Madras Musings stumbled on a news report on the prevalence of frauds perpetrated on digital payment platforms. It was just last month or so that the Betternals had a close brush with a would-be scamster.

It all began with one of the Betternals attempting to sell a piece of equipment in an online marketplace. She had barely posted the item for sale when she received a request to purchase the piece. The profile seemed quite legit at first glance – the picture displayed a happy family, and the person described himself to be a businessman dealing in furniture. The Betternal, having no reason to grow suspicious, sent him all the details he asked for, and though rather taken aback by the all-too-immediate acquiescence, she agreed to sell the piece. It was decided that the equipment would be picked up on the morrow and the payment – as proposed by the buyer – would be made right away, in advance and in full.

In hindsight, that ought to have been another red flag. But the signal escaped the Betternal – she’s the sort of person who refuses to see ill in anyone; if ever the devil does need an advocate, (Wo)MMM rather thinks he (or she) can rely on her to put up a decent defense. So when the buyer asked her for her bank details to make the payment, she furnished the information quite readily. The transaction process that he proposed was quite strange, too. He sent the Betternal a link and asked her to click on it to accept the deposit in her account. An initial sum of Rs. 10 was exchanged successfully. What now remained was the remainder of the payment which ran to a significant sum of money.

Another link was sent across, which the Betternal clicked on to accept as before. Except this time, the transaction failed and the ensuing automated alert was rather confusing – the Betternal’s bank alerted her that she did not have sufficient balance to remit the amount. The buyer was immediately annoyed by the turn of events. He was brazen enough to call the Betternal and press her to increase the balance in her bank account to accept his payment. The transaction was not going through, he tried explaining, because the deposit balance did not match the payment amount. The Betternal was rightly confused by this theory, but he pressed on. After all, he had made an initial payment of Rs. 10. That was possible, he pointed out, only because she had that amount in her account.

To his credit, he was convincing enough that the Betternal – a seasoned finance professional, no less – found herself swayed. Luckily, yours truly was around whilst this exchange was unfolding. (Wo)MMM is by nature rather suspicious. It may not be the sweetest of traits and it has admittedly led her awry on many an occasion but there are times when it has come in useful. It took some doing, but (Wo)MMM – and the rest of the Betternals – managed to convince Mater Betternal that the buyer was a fraud. The battle was won when she received a very agitated phone call insisting that she replenish her balance right away to ‘receive’ the payment. The Betternal lost no time in blocking his number.

It was a Friday night, if (Wo)MMM recalls correctly. No doubt she had been the spoilsport of some grand plan or the other for an ill-begotten party. She particularly relishes the fact that this was a rare instance in which the scammer came off the worse in the exchange – after all, he was out ten bucks with no way to recover it.

The payasam scam

The Woman from Madras Musings both loves and hates the second half of the year. The intermittent rains are lovely, but leave the roads a veritable terror to ply upon and ruin all chances of playing tennis. The festivals are a lot of fun but only worsen the already bad state of traffic. In all, a mixed bag; though it must be admitted that the sweets and snacks make it all worthwhile. This is pretty much the opinion of (Wo)MMM’s friends on the tennis court too, including the staff that maintain the facilities and play with the members.

One such professional gentleman is particularly enthusiastic about the festive season. He approached (Wo)MMM last week, demanding to know whether she makes sweets at home to celebrate the various festivities. (Wo)MMM confessed that she does on occasion, though the result is often sadly suspect. Undeterred, he pressed an earnest application for a bowl of payasam the next time she made some, to which (Wo)MMM – rather touched by the confidence placed in her – agreed. And so it came to be that she found herself lugging two largish dabbas of payasam to the tennis courts the day before yesterday. The petitioner received them with great grace and, producing a fairly astonishing number of paper cups seemingly out of thin air, proceeded to distribute said sweet amongst his colleagues.

It turns out that he has been asking – in an expertly Dickensian fashion that any conniver would be proud of – a number of members for payasam, almost all of whom have obliged, their hearts supposedly melting like (Wo)MMM’s own. The staff, one of his colleagues confessed, has been feasting on a grand variety of payasam on a daily basis for the past week. He reckons that they’ve all grown a few inches thicker around the waist, what with rains washing out the game and the prevailing zeitgeist of hedonism. Now this is a scam after (Wo)MMM’s own heart.

Bill Skills

Now that she has shifted to a new place with the better half, The Woman from Madras Musings is beginning to realize that life includes many small tasks which had simply been taken for granted so far. Managing the groceries, for instance. Or replacing gas cylinders. Or paying the electricity bill. It’s all been a series of mini adventures, really. The electricity bill in particular was unexpectedly challenging.

First, a significant portion of the consumer card was in Tamil. That was not a problem, really, except the better half is used to paying the bill online and he was having trouble identifying the customer number. After multiple failed attempts and a couple of bouts of frustrated hair-pulling, two phone numbers printed as postscript caught his eye, whereupon he fairly pounced on his mobile. The call was attended readily enough, but the conversation was suspiciously short. The preliminaries were barely over when he thanked the person at the other end and hung up. (Wo)MMM soon discovered, as the better half did, that the phone numbers had nothing to do with the electricity board – turns out that they are advertisements for some city establishment whose business remains elusive. Who came up with the idea of accepting ads on EB cards? Who are the enterprising ventures who give such advertisements? How successful has this campaign been? These are questions that will likely remain unanswered. But (Wo)MMM shall still wonder about them, from time to time.

Was the bill finally paid, you ask? Yes, it was. The better half resorted to YouTube where a surprising number of kind gentlemen and ladies have addressed this specific problem with step-by-step instructions. (Wo)MMM is of the opinion that they are more deserving of the advertising space.

– (Wo)MMM

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