By Nathan Barton
I got an e-mail this week that I found most interesting. I know that most of us get the “Nigerian” scam e-mails now and then, if I spam catcher doesn’t. (I once got a real WRITTEN, HARD-COPY Nigerian scam letter in the mail (USPS) with a genuine Brit stamp, cancellation, and physical address, but that is a different story.) So when things look funny: poor grammar, poor spelling, awkward sounding phrasing, and things promised that are too good to be true, it is probably one of those: whether from Nigeria or Ghana or Liberia.
This was, well, different. The subject is: “ANNOUNCING: Free On-site Trainings by Request for Your School and District.” Now, the use of the plural for something that most American and British/Canadian English speakers would leave as singular (“Training” not “Trainings”) set off some alarms. The sender set off some more: “Akshay Jakatdar (REMS TA Center) firstname.lastname@example.org via seiservices.com.” Interesting, no? Yes, lots of e-mail addresses use surrogate mailers these days: do it myself. However, Akshay Jakatdar is an uncommon name: several websites claim that there is only ONE person in North America; I found another in India, and both Akshay and Jakatdar are East Indian names, according to a quick search. And the surrogate server is SEISERVICES.com. BUT, the “actual” e-mail address is a dot-org. This is strange because the letterhead/header on the email says this is a GOVERNMENT agency: “Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) Technical Assistance Center (TAC).
I did a check on Mr. Jakatdar (or someone claiming to be him), find him on Facebook and Linked-In and he does appear to be East Indian. He is a 29-year-old male, lives in DC and works for a company called Synergy Enterprises. If that is an “Inc.” would that be the SEI in SEISERVICES.ORG? Linked-in has a second (more professional) picture of him and it is indeed “Inc.”
He is a Program Associate/Technical Assistance Lead, one of those meaningless titles so fond of both government bureaucracies and beltway bandits. It also tells me that he served on the Japan Exchange and Teach (JET) Program, where he taught English as a Second Language in Japan. He graduated from the College of William and Mary, where his Bachelor’s thesis focused on the achievement gap between white and minority students in American public schools. He received his Master’s degree with Honors and Distinction from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, where he served as Vice President and Treasurer of an organization dedicated to addressing the needs of LGBT students, faculty, and staff.
Hmm. More than I want to know. I reread the e-mail, and notice the government logo at the bottom, and check on the many hot links: some actually go to ED.GOV – not “erectile dysfunction” but “Education Department” since DOE.GOV is not the Department of Education but the Department of Energy (another totally worthless government department, but again, a topic for some other time). It doesn’t have any other obvious grammar or spelling errors, but it also does not have the “feel” of a government website, or of an educated English speaker. And this guy supposedly graduated from W&M AND taught English for the State Department?
Thunderbird SGM I have heard about, and not favorably: maybe not a diploma mill, but maybe not too far from one. Like Colorado Technical University (CTU), it once may have had a good reputation, but the level of its instruction apparently is not very high (at least for those of us when graduated from high school and college before 1980). So this is NOT a strong point for this guy.
So I go to SEISERVICES.COM and sure enough, that is “Synergy Enterprises, Inc.” a “woman-owned small business.” And definitely a beltway bandit firm. Our Mr. Jakatdar is NOT one of the twenty “key employees” featured on the site, but he appears very much to be a minority: 15 of the 20 are women. They have 110 employees, the firm is 11 years old, and they are VERY politically-connected. They work for 12 FedGov departments and have 11 “private” clients, almost all of which seem to be other beltway bandits: government contractors. “Small?” Yeah, legally. Woman-owned? Probably. But they don’t own their own souls.
So, I have to conclude that this is probably a “legitimate” e-mail and not a scam (well, not any more a scam than ANY government and especially FedGov program is). Not a Nigerian type, at least. But it IS not something I want to have anything to do with, and this guy is NOT going to be added to any (however bogus) “friends” list on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Match-Up, or anything else (or would not, if I did those kinds of things).
Why did I get this? Probably because I am involved with emergency management on a local level, as part of my military volunteer activities and community support. My e-mail is available in various places for contact with first responders, emergency planners, and community organizations as well as churches and schools. Ugh. I set myself up. In a good cause, admittedly. I still don’t want anything to do with SEIServices or REMS TA Center or USED or all their garbage. I don’t need to help them drag the Fifty States or me down any faster into their swamp and quicksand of tyranny and nanny-state government.
But it has come to the point that the US Department of Education, with its pretty little tree logo in the blue circle and its “Great-White-Father-Knows-Best” attitude, has contracted with a firm that has people who themselves are the failed products of the education system that the FedGov has created. A failed education system that values political correctness and political connections more than liberty or truth or fair dealings. And as a result, create something that is difficult to tell as being “legitimate” (I use the term tongue-in-cheek) or bogus.
This e-mail wasn’t a scam, but it was and is still SPAM, and the only reason it isn’t officially a scam is because the scam is over: the Fifty States bought into the real scam hook, line, and sinker over the past forty years, and all we got for it is stupid e-mails like this, trying to suck us in just once more.
It is precisely this sort of incompetence that threatens not just our liberty but our lives and our families and homes and communities: the FedGov is the best historical example of the Peter Principle as applied to organizations that we can find: even better than the Soviets. It is why Consumer Reports warns people to leave “healthcare.gov” alone, at risk of their money and identities and sanity.