Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Breaking Badly
How about this for a pitch?

Our story concerns a humble copyeditor, who is having trouble making enough money to pay his ever-increasing vet's bills. One day, he receives a phishing letter from an African prince, who requires his help in transferring 7 million USD out of the country. Although not taken in, our hero finds himself idly correcting the letter's spelling and grammar out of professional habit.

Then the revelation hits him. All over the world, fraudsters, phishers, bogus companies and fake websites are brought low by their inability to use standard English and their insensitivity to register. Everyone knows that poor English is the first thing to check for if ever one receives a suspicious-looking communication. Someone who could help fix that - for a fee, or a percentage - would stand to make a lot of money, fast. Rufus would never want for worming tablets again.

Before long, the copyeditor is at the centre of a vast criminal web, and making more money than he's ever seen before. He opens up Francophone and Chinese franchises in Marseilles and Shanghai. Soon, jealousies and rivalries begin to emerge...

But for that you must wait till Season 2.

durham_rambler has just received an e-mail, apparently from a friend of ours, explaining that he is currently on holiday in Ukraine, and while strolling around Donestk he was mugged and his wallet stolen. Please send money...

The explanation I have seen around the web is that these scams are deliberately drafted so that only the most ignorant and gullible will be taken in by them, thus sparing the fraudsters the nuisance of hooking someone who may at some point ask questions.

Sorry, Rufus!

Now you mention it, I've seen that explanation too, but I'm not sure how much sense it makes. This needs research...

Enter our heroine, a time-and-motion expert who hires out her services to criminal gangs in order to feed her knitting habit. She runs several business models through her computer, trying to calculate the optimal balance between Σ (which will represent stupid people with good spelling who might have been fooled by a well-worded letter) and Φ (the amount of time wasted on clever people with good spelling who bail at a certain point - known as the Ψ function - in the process). Remembering always to multiply everything by X (the Unexpected), of course.

Edited at 2015-03-04 02:38 pm (UTC)

Now you're talking!

The reason these mass frauds are worthwhile is because there's essentially no additional marginal cost to the fraudster in sending N to the Xth e-mails than N. So they don't need to be all that plausible. It's phishing (frauds targeted specifically to the recipient) which needs to be plausible.

Still, it's a clever conceit, and would play at the fraudsters' greed.

Is the bit about the protagonist's vet bills an allusion to Lee Israel?

I didn't know anything about Lee Israel; but I couldn't use the same conceit as Breaking Bad for a UK-based programme (which I'd envisaged this as), for obvious reasons...

There's no NHS for animals, though!

Israel was the down-on-her-luck celebrity biographer who composed and forged letters supposedly by Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, et al, and sold them to autograph dealers - initially to pay her cat's vet bills.

Actually, Walter's health insurance covered lung cancer treatment, and he didn't need to raise money to pay for it. But his wife insisted that he should have the very best oncologist in the state, and that's what the money was needed for. And so it would have worked out exactly the same under the UK system, since for obvious reasons the NHS can't give everyone access to treatment by the very best oncologist there is, and so you have to pay to go private if that's what you want.

Thanks for the correction. I must admit I've not watched the show.

It does put his activities in a different moral light, though, doesn't it, if they are prompted by uxorious queuejumping rather than medical desperation?

Well, it's partly about the US insurance business which looks NOT to pay for quality. So it's not quite queue-jumping because there are different queues for different classes and incomes, if you have insurance at all, which many more people may not after a decision is rendered on today's Supreme Court case. It's a theme in the show, not only for Walter but for his brother-in-law.

(found this from lj homepage, butting in)

drplokta is not actually completely correct. Walt was making drugs to pay for medical bills before he even told his wife about the cancer and she and his sister insist on his getting the absolutely best doctor. It's strongly hinted than Walt's insurance won't pay for more than the initial diagnosis.

On the other hand, Breaking Bad is really not five season indictment of the american medical system. Walt actually spends a good portion of the series in remission from his cancer and only cooks drugs for reasons of his own ego and control issues. Walt is a pretty complex character. Even in season 1 he refuses to let someone else (a rich friend) pay for his treatment seeing it as 'charity' that he won't accept. `


eta: Even I'm not being entirely accurate here. In Season 1, Walt is wavering on even taking treatment; initially his money making is geared more to providing for his family once he's gone. A goal that winds its way throughout the series.

Edited at 2015-03-04 08:53 pm (UTC)

Re: (found this from lj homepage, butting in)

initially his money making is geared more to providing for his family once he's gone. A goal that winds its way throughout the series.

Ah, that's a motive that certainly could apply in the UK. Though (as I know to my cost) vet's bills can also be pretty alarming...

I'd watch/read/buy that in a heartbeat. :D Bonus points for the heroine with a knitting habit. "Proofreader for the mafia" would be an irresistible tabloid headline.

We clearly need a pilot. Kickstarter beckons!

This is what I should do when I fail to get a job.

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