Thursday, October 18, 2007

Five Fabulous-Paying Jobs Anyone Can Do—Except They’re Totally Illegal

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

We’ve all thought about it at one time or another—breaking the law for money, risking our freedom and our lives for the lavish rewards that can come with being a successful career criminal. I mean, you’re a pretty hot person, so I know you’ve considered once or twice just how much your body could fetch in one night on the big city streets.

In case you’re wondering what you’re missing being a goodie two-shoes, here’s a look at some of the most popular occupational choices of those who dare to flirt with the wrong side of the law.

Hitman / Assassin

bang bang bang on the door baby

Job description: Have gun (or machete, or poison, or samurai sword), will travel. Someone pays you to kill someone, and you go do it. Bonus points for creativity and being able to make it look like an accident.

Benefits and salary: Plenty of opportunities for travel. Skilled hitmen can make tens of thousands of dollars on a single job (maybe even a million bucks if you’re really good).

Drawbacks: Not a whole lot of social interaction (unless you get caught). Getting nabbed can mean a trip to the lethal injection booth.

How to get started: Build a portfolio by killing a few people nobody likes, and put out the word to your underground cronies that you’re looking for work. Print some business cards with a snappy slogan like “Definitely Not An Assassin for Hire” and give them to your friends. The police will never suspect a thing.

Professional Embezzler

pay to the order of me, all your monies

Job description: Help alleviate overtaxed businesses of their excess profits. Light creative bookkeeping required.

Benefits and salary: You get the look and feel of a regular, everyday employee but with a significant pay increase.

Drawbacks: Embezzlement is becoming increasingly difficult to pull off given the detail of corporate audits these days. Getting caught means spending some number of years in prisons with people guilty of crimes like skull-crushing and testicle-popping.

How to get started: You may already be in the ideal job for embezzlement, especially if you’re allowed to play with your employer’s checkbook. Simply imagine up a few extra employees and add them to the payroll system. Or get your IT friends to help you skim a few micro-cents from the company accounts.

Narcotics Dealer

medical degrees are for pharmacists

Job description: Kind of like a pharmacist, except instead of dispensing antibiotics, you’re distributing products made by less reputable, more Colombian manufacturers.

Benefits and salary: If you can corner the market in a neighborhood with a heavy user base, you’re looking at scoring a hefty profit. Lots of interaction and networking opportunities with people.

Drawbacks: Fierce competition can kill your business… and you. Unfortunately you’ll often be catering to lower-class clientele whose funding may not be all that regular.

How to get started: Pick up a copy of Drug Dealing for Dummies, available in any fine Mexican bookstore. It comes with a free kilo to get you started on your way to running a successful cartel.

Brothel Operator

you dont have to put on that red light

Job description: Earns lots of entrepreneurial experience managing a quaint house of ill repute. Ideal for workers seeking opportunities in human resources, finance, entertainment, procurement, real estate, and whoring it up.

Benefits and salary: Legal in parts of two states with an ever-growing pool of customers! Earn even more by setting up shop in one of the other 48 states. Meet local politicians, judges, celebrities, and your friends’ husbands.

Drawbacks: Everyone around you has six STDs at any given time. Also, watch out for Robert De Niro.

How to get started: For a quick startup without the legal risks, simply move to Nevada or Rhode Island, rent yourself a piece of real estate in a desirable area, pick up a few employees from nearby bars and college campuses, hang up a couple of neon signs, and watch the dough roll in.

Corrupt Law Enforcement Official

bad boys bad boys

Job description: Shoot bad guys by day, wine and dine with them by night. The perfect supplementary salary plan for the underpaid cop.

Benefits and salary: Work with a great group of folks. Little or no extra work required beyond your normal police duties. In fact, sometimes you’ll get paid to do less work than you normally do. It’s hard to get caught because the only people who really know what you’re doing are criminals too. And if you do get caught, you have your years of flawless police record to help ensure your career has a cushy, jail-free conclusion.

Drawbacks: Well, there’s the whole “you’re a cop, bad guys shoot at you sometimes” thing. But if you’re friends with all of them, they tend to shoot you a whole lot less.

How to get started: 1. Become a cop or other law enforcement official. 2. Bust a lot of perps. Frame them if you have to. 3. Trade their freedom for money. 4. Retire to the private island of your choice.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fight Thieving Restaurant Servers With Checksum Tips

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

There’s a fascinating yet frightening discussion over at the FatWallet Finance Forums about restaurant servers stealing their way to higher tips on credit card receipts. Servers upset by low tips that they probably deserved have been known to edit the tip line of credit card receipts to bump up their tip. For example:

changing a dollar tip to an 8 dollar tip is easy for crooked waiters

See how easily a measly tip is changed to a generous one by a disgruntled server or bartender?

The easiest way to combat this illegal and downright nasty behavior is to reconcile your receipts against your credit card statements each and every month. You’ll spot restaurant wrongdoing and be able to phone it in to your credit card issuer faster than you can say “there’s a fly in my soup.”

But for the trillions of people who don’t want to go through the trouble of reconciling their receipts each month, there’s an easier way to stop tip alterations just by glancing over your credit card statement each month. It involves using checksums to add a layer of security to your tip amount. The term “checksum” normally refers to a technique used by computer systems to ensure file integrity. Here, we’ll be using checksums to ensure human integrity.

There are many checksum systems you can use when tipping, but here’s a great example that’s easy to learn and can be performed without the aid of a calculator unless you suck at math really badly.

Step 1: Look over your receipt

You’ll get ripped off far more often for food and drink overcharges than you will by spiteful servers. Check each billed item and compare it to the menu price.

Step 2: Calculate the appropriate tip

Tip as you normally do without worrying about checksums for now. For our example, let’s say you had the following bill but service was slow, so you’d like to tip about 10%.

subtotal 47.16 plus tip 4.71 total 51.87

Step 3: Apply a checksum

That $4.71 is just begging to have ten dollars added to it, and $51.87 becomes $61.87 so easily. Foil these alteration efforts with this simple checksum method.

Adjust the amount of the tip so that the numbers in the final total to the left of the decimal point add up to the right-most digit. In this case, the total has a “51” to the left of the decimal point (A). 5 + 1 = 6, so the final digit should be six. Adjust the total to $51.86 or $51.96 (B) by adding nine or subtracting one from the tip (C).

5 plus 1 equals 6, change the total to 51.86, change the tip to 4.70 to match

Step 4: Check your credit card statements each month

While the receipt will help you ensure no fraud was enacted upon your dining bill, you only need the statement to verify the checksum. For this example, simply locate the dining transaction, add the numbers to the left of the decimal point, and confirm that they add up to the right-most digit. If they don’t, you’ve been scammed.

credit card statement showing thieving server has struck your bill

This technique is not foolproof. If the scammy server had added nine dollars to the total—making it $60.86—the checksum calculation would still come back okay. But because it’s harder to turn a “51” into a “60” than a “61,” it’s unlikely your server will do this unless they’re wise to this particular checksum technique.

Step 5: Deal with the theft

If you hit a checksum that fails, dig out your copy of the receipt to confirm it doesn’t match the total on your statement. Next, do three things:

  1. Call your credit card issuer. It should be fairly simple to get a credit for the difference between your actual bill and what you were forced to pay due to this fraud.
  2. Call the police. You were the victim of a crime, so you should report it, even if it’s just a few dollars. If the stealing server has multiple victims who report his or her behavior, the police will likely take action against the server and/or the restaurant. Hopefully a few thieving restaurant workers behind bars will set enough of an example to discourage similar actions in others.
  3. Call the restaurant (optional). At this point, you’ve likely got your money back and given all the information you can to law enforcement. You can try calling the restaurant to report the theft, but it might not do much. In the best case, the manager will recognize the server’s name on your receipt and confirm he or she has been suspected of wrongdoing. Maybe you’ll even get a free meal out of it for your trouble. Worst case, the restaurant does nothing.

The original poster in the FatWallet Finance Forum topic may be onto something when he or she says that this is probably one of the most widespread types of theft that goes unpunished. Now you have the tools to fight it. The next time you’re at a restaurant, eat, drink, be merry, and do a little extra math come tip time to help combat this rapidly growing problem.

UPDATE: Jeff B. put together a nifty Windows Mobile app for tip checksum calculations that’ll help make it easier to compute the proper tip given your level of service and checksumming method. Thanks Jeff!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Maximum Notary Fees By State: Don’t Get Ripped Off By Big Fat Notary Guys!

Author: Nick
Category: Money

got it, fat man? notary fee in maryland is two dollars. not four dollars, not ten dollars, and certainly not a bucket of chicken

I recently had to have a document notarized, so I stopped by the nearest package shipping store since such stores typically employ a notary public. After getting my single-page document notarized, I was surprised when the notary charged me $4.00. That’s because Maryland law specifically limits the fee I can be charged in this situation to $2.00. I was in a hurry, and the notary was a large, scary man who lifts heavy packages for a living, so I quickly shelled out my four bucks and was on my way. (I was also tempted to pay by credit card in defiance of his “Minimum of $5.00 for credit card purchases” sign, since card-accepting merchants cannot place minimums on card purchases under most merchant agreements with Visa, MasterCard, et al. But again, this guy was massive and looked like he hadn’t had lunch yet.)

I also recall a moment from my childhood when I was with a relative who needed something notarized and was charged $10.00 for a single page. What a rip-off! Well, the days of overcharging notaries are numbered because here’s a handy-dandy chart detailing the fees a notary public can charge in each state for a single-page notarization. There may be additional fees for more pages, copies, or other services, so I also link to each state’s notary division website which typically lists the applicable laws you can cite to make notaries cave to your demands to be charged fairly.

Maximum Fees Allowed For Most Single-Page, Single-Signature Notarizations By State*

State Maximum Fee
Alabama $1.50
Alaska No limit**
Arizona $2.00
Arkansas $5.00
California $10.00
Colorado $5.00
Connecticut $5.00
Delaware $5.00
District of Columbia $2.00
Florida $10.00
Georgia $2.00
Hawaii $5.00
Idaho $2.00
Illinois $1.00
Indiana $2.00
Iowa No limit**

Kansas No limit**

Kentucky $0.50
Louisiana No limit**

Maine No limit**

Maryland $2.00
Massachusetts Varies
Michigan $10.00
Minnesota $1.00
Mississippi $5.00
Missouri $2.00
Montana $5.00
Nebraska $5.00
Nevada $5.00
New Hampshire $10.00
New Jersey $2.50
New Mexico $5.00
New York $2.00
North Carolina $5.00
North Dakota $5.00
Ohio $1.50
Oklahoma $5.00
Oregon $5.00
Pennsylvania $5.00
Rhode Island $1.00
South Carolina $0.50
South Dakota $10.00
Tennessee Varies
Texas $6.00
Utah $5.00
Vermont Varies
Virginia $5.00
Washington $10.00
West Virginia $2.00
Wisconsin $0.50
Wyoming $2.00

*As of September 19, 2007 (If any of these fees change, please comment below and I’ll do my best to keep this table up to date.)
**States which specify no fee schedule for allowable notary charges typically also state that such fees charged should be reasonable.

Fees and laws associated with notary commissions can change at any time, so please check for the latest fees before you yell at your local notary public.

As for you notaries out there, be warned: many states provide for severe fines or even imprisonment for notarial misconduct. So unless you think a couple extra bucks is worth five to ten in the state penitentiary, make sure you charge fairly–even if you are an incredibly large man.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Watching A Penny Stock Spam Scam In Progress

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , , ,

omg up to 11 cents buy buy buy sell sell sell

My e-mail inbox just got about 50 copies of the following amazing offer:


Sym: (X X X X)
Price: .088

Announces the Opening of Two New Stores by
(X X X X) is pleased to announce that Puerto Rico 7, Inc. has opened two new stores. The stores are recorded as Pinero II and Borinquen Towers. Both locations were researched demographically to deliver above average sales due to high traffic streets and communities directly surrounding the stores. The Management team believes that the stores will each quickly reach an annualized run rate of 1.2 Million dollars of sales.


Hurry, we see this stock starting to make the turn NOW.

I replaced the real stock symbol with XXXX, but if you’re eager to know the company, you can probably just check your own spam folder.

Out of curiosity and boredom, I’ll sometimes check these stocks on Google Finance to see how they’re doing and what news might have spawned the massive e-mailing campaign. Imagine my surprise when I saw this article at the top of the stock’s new ticker: Spam puts Prime Time in focus

The article explains the “news” which these penny stock spammers are using to hype the company: apparently another company it has an interest in just opened two new 7-Elevens in Puerto Rico.

That’s right. You’re going to be a millionaire by buying this stock right now because some other company somewhere opened two 7-Elevens.

The article also reveals how these penny stock spams usually play out: a few gullible investors fall for them and buy up shares, jacking up the price until the spammers end their campaign. But just before sending the last of their hundreds of millions of e-mails, the spammers sell all their shares, typically sending the stock price into freefall. The spammers sell high and walk away millionaires; a bunch of other unlucky folks lose a lot of money.

In case you were thinking of investing in these Mexican Wal-Marts (or Puerto Rican 7-Elevens, or whatever they are), just remember that somebody has to lose this game. Don’t think you can play these spam messages to your advantage either. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to buy up enough of the stock yourself and sell it in time to avoid the spammers’ own sell-off. So unless you’re one of the spammers who created the game in the first place, you’d be wise not to play unless you want to lose.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Punny Poll #19: Ever Cheat on Your Taxes?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

pay poor tax of $12 - by
Photo by OhioProgressive

Last Punny Poll, you were asked to confess your TV set spendings. Over half of responders claimed that their most expensive television ran them under $500. Another 30% have “invested” more than a grand on their tubes. Roughly 13% either found or stole all of their TVs, or perhaps they just don’t own one like that girl in Bridge to Terabithia whose classmates laughed at her. Don’t worry, non-TV owners, I won’t laugh at you. (Though I might giggle a bit at those of you who spent more than $1,000. Tee-hee.)

You may have heard by now that the Internal Revenue Service will pay you to turn in people who cheat on their taxes. Did you know that the average American cheats the IRS out of $1,000 in taxes each year? Okay, perhaps that figure is a little inaccurate. In reality, it’s just a handful of Americans (mostly corporations) that are doing most of the cheating. We’re talking about individuals and companies skimming millions from the Federal government through illegal tactics. So while the average cheat amount per taxpayer is so high, the median is much closer to zero.

That said, I’m willing to bet that somebody in the vast crowd of Punny Money readers has dabbled in a bit of tax fraud. Maybe you omitted a couple of earned dollars from that week you served jury duty. Or perhaps you “forgot” to declare a few thousand in savings account interest. You don’t even need to be American to cheat on your taxes! Punny Poll #19 asks you to fess up to your cheating ways. Don’t worry; I won’t hand you over to the IRS unless your total fraud bill comes to $2 million or more (the minimum that’ll entitle one to a reward from the IRS).
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