Well after meeting my new British neighbors, I felt a sense that I wasn't so alone after all in this beautiful but confusing little country. And as the months went by, we would hang out more and I would often times introduce them to signature American cuisine (chili dogs, home-baked chocolate chip cookies, things like that).Nigel in particular became a pretty close friend of mine, and we shared an almost nightly game of chess in my apartment. In truth, it was more often a stalemate then either person winning, and strangely enough every game we played that swung towards my favor ended and him having to leave and attendance something suddenly urgent.
Then one night during a conversation over chess and Guaro, I found myself a bit more curious as to what it was he and his companions actually did to support themselves. I was working remotely, doing troubleshooting for a Web server that was across town in addition to doing quality assurance for a call center on the bottom floor of the condo I was living in by listening to all their phone calls and grading them. But what was it these guys did? Every time I asked the response was something vague about pension plans in the UK. But I was pretty sure (and my British friends can correct me on this if I am in fact wrong), that something like that would be under the auspices of the British government and not a bunch of slickly dressed Londoners living the high life in Costa Rica.
"So how come you and your friends can make so much money that you never even leave the house unless it's to have fun?" I asked half teasingly. "Well mate what I do… is sell the dream" he said with a smile so large, that if it were on a smaller man's head, it would've bisected it to the point where the person would look like a Muppet when they spoke. It turns out that he and his friends were rogue telemarketers, and yes you did in fact read that correctly. They had acquired a list of retirees in almost every English city as well as a few in Scotland, and the list was huge to the tune of close to 2 million people. What they did was take this information, call the unsuspecting retiree and tell them that they had won some kind of lottery. It would confirm several pieces of personal information, and they even had a guy who is decent enough with Photoshop to where they faxed them convincing looking winning statements. The catch was that the retiree had to send 10% of the winning amount to a "bonded trusted agent" who happened to live in a neutral country (Costa Rica).
Yes. These were the assholes who ripped off old people their entire life savings in order to further the highrolling party one more day. They had no remorse, and Nigel thought it was hilarious that he had the power to destroy a family that he would never see in real life. The sad part was, that these guys were taking in anywhere between 20 to 30,000 British pounds per week on this scam. They worked from laptops connected to Skype so their victims' caller ID would register a London number. All money was sent via Western Union to the tune of about 1000 pounds per transfer. They had traveled all over the Caribbean, Mexico, and Brazil pulling this scam, and they were loaded with cash.
My first thought was to try and forcibly eject this troglodyte from my apartment via repeated blows to the head with the first thing I could find. But I kept my cool. I wanted to stop these assholes. That and despite military and martial arts training, I'm neither a large nor strong man. And he clearly was, in addition to being a career criminal. This was a villain, not a simple outlaw. There was no higher cause for this man's actions other than he and his friends own selfish gratification. I would bide my time.
One of the curses of being in the IT industry, is the fact that every friend you have who is not instantly sees you as their personal computer repair person. Anybody who works with computers can attest to this. And as it turns out, in addition to being soulless thieves preying on the old and weak, these guys were incredibly stupid technologically. The guy I mentioned who is so skilled with Photoshop, also had a penchant for online porn. And had gummed up his laptop so full of malware and crap, that it simply wasn't working anymore and it had all of their critical data on it. Nigel came downstairs one night and knocked on my door, and I hadn't talked to him since that night he told me what it is that he did. He looked at me with the salesman smile, asked how I was doing, asked how my luck with the ladies was, and other mundane bull shit. He then said that his friend was having a problem with his laptop and if I could take a look at it.
I thought this might be a chance to throw a wrench in their works, so I grabbed my external hard drive and followed him upstairs to their apartment. When I got there, there were two hookers half dressed snorting cocaine on the front coffee-table. Not really my scene… And that ubiquitous European house/techno music was blaring to the point it sounded like a club. No offense to you young Europeans, but you folks need a blues renaissance...just sayin'. I saw that the laptop sluggish, the desktop was wall-to-wall icons... Mostly crap. But it was a classic case of someone who doesn't know enough to run adblocker when you are surfing online porn sites. While installing Malwarebytes, I also installed VNC, which is a remote connection program for those of you who are not familiar with it. It allows someone to enter a computer and use it as it was their own remotely. When asked what the VNC was, I replied that it stood for Virus Nullifying Code, and that it would protect them in the future.
I removed about 500 traces of malware, and the machine was usable again. They were quite happy and offered me the company of one of the two booger sugar dust busters on the couch as payment. I declined, and said I had to get back to do some coding work for the Web server. I then waited two days...
Two days later, while they were asleep around 10 AM, I remote connected into the laptop. I had no way of knowing if anybody was on the machine at the time, so I kept my activity low to only moving the cursor around and listening out the window to see if it freaked anybody out. It didn't. I then ran a search for everything that ended in the extension of .doc, .xls, .txt, and all other text formats I could think of. I deleted everything I found. I then deleted all of the icons on the desktop, and set as the desktop background, the emblem for Interpol.
I could tell when it was that they woke up by the screams. Literal screams. Screams that you would never think could come out of a man. Everything was gone, the gravy train was over, whatever poor retiree they had scammed last was in fact the very last. I heard a fistfight ensue, between what specific people I don't know, but the yelling and breaking of objects led me to believe it was pretty intense. I have yet to this day to care. The last time I saw them they had all of their possessions in black garbage bags and were piling into a taxi, presumably on their way to an airport. I can't say that I miss them.
So what have we learned? Well, we learned that there's a difference between a villain and an outlaw. And we learned that if people feel they're free to behave as badly as they can, often times the lesser of us do just that. Friends are essential in any living environment, humans are social species and we have been since we lived in caves. But always be careful of who you choose to call friend, because behind the slick smile is often the heart of a monster. And if you are ever the victim of a villain, know that more than likely he will be out done by more clever outlaw...