What's new here?

Archive for the ‘Scams & Concerns’ Category

The Banned 4. Toys that we’ve seen banned or recalled in the past 10 years.

Spectrum Scientifics opened in 2007 with a load of great science toys for our customers. Since then we have seen many toys come, some toys go, and some toys get pulled from the shelves for one reason or another. Here is a list of the toys we have seen get removed from the toy list.

Note that this list does not include anything recalled due to potential ‘pieces break off and cause choking hazards’ and similar issues. We are discusing products that inherently had an issue that made them unsafe, or were used in an unsafe manner. This in no way claims to be a complete list.Merely the ones we have observed.

Not all of these things were permanently banned, either, as you will see:

Battat Magnetic Construction Toy, 2008

It seemed awesome, metal rods and magnetic balls would be used to put together nifty shapes! Great! Sadly the shiny metal magnetic balls were too tempting to swallow and they were powerful enough that two of them could ‘pinch’ in a kids intestine.

Battat and other companies rereleased this toy design with more secured magnets and non-magnetic steel balls.

Water Balz: 2012

 

Similar to popular Water Marbles, Slippery Spheres, Orbeez, etc, except these Water Balz were big! Much bigger than the little marbles that were Orbeez & Co:

 

 

Sound great? It was! But then an abusive parent shoved one down a child’s throat and it expanded with the moisture,  causing about what you would expect to happen. Toy suppliers volutarily removed the product from the market. You can still get them, but they are sold as chemistry equipment/gardening items, or whatever is needed to not have children as the primary target market.

CSI Fingerprint Kit: 2007-2008

We never carried this item, because we tend to avoid premium show-based kits which often just cost twice the price of better science kits.  But here it was in all its glory: A fingerprint kit with a chemical that was 7% asbestos. Ooops!

This incident, along with several other famous cases (such as the Thomas the Tank Engine Lead Paint incident) showed there were many problems with sourcing products in China. Too many times corners were being cut, and dangerous products being substituted, and other safety issues. Toy companies that imported had to start doing local testing of the products for safety, and quite a few gave up mass-importation. In China, things got very ugly with at least one head of a factory traced back to the safety issues first imprisoning an investigating journalist then hanging himself.

BuckyBalls: 2011

Incredibly popular when they were out, now these have almost been forgotten. Buckyballs were technically never sold as a toy for children, and the manufacturer took pains to try to keep them out of the hands of kids. But the Consumer Product Safety Commission, after adding on multiple sales conditions restrictions,  finally demanded the magnet sets be banned. The reasoning was the same as happened with Battat’s construction toy: kids swallowing the magnets would have them ‘pinch’ in the intestines. The company pretty much disappeared after this ban, but returned this year with a smaller, complient tiny magnetic ball kit.

But the magnet ban? It sent shockwaves through the toy indutry as toy sellers scrambled to remove the powerful rare-earth magnets from various toys.

Eventually, another manufacturer of the magnetic balls sets won a lawsuit against the CPSC and the magnetic balls sets are once again legal. But still cannot be sold to children.

www.spectrum-scientifics.com

 

 

The Star-Naming Scam – Repost with added commentary

Once again whilst driving and listening to the impending doom the local weather had prepared for us (it didn’t happen) I heard the StarsStar Naming ad on the radio, hoping to cash in on the Valentine’s Day gift giving.

 

I decided to repost an article I wrote about this scam several years ago. I will add a few notes to update things where needed.

Reposted article follows:

This holiday season was the first in some time that I have not heard radio ads for the ‘gift’ of ‘naming a start after them’.  Well, maybe I just wasn’t listening to the radio enough because I did hear one, and its just as bad as it ever was. (Reposting Note:  The ‘new’ ad was heard well out of the holiday season.)

 

OK, let’s just go over the facts right now: Stars are not named after people, stars are ‘named’ by all sorts of designations. The brightest stars have kept their arabic names, but the fainter ones are named via designation, which usually means they are numbered. (Edit to Add: The International Astronomy Union is the one that decides what a star is called, and guess what – they aren’t naming them after people!).   You can’t just walk into  the International Astronomy Union and throw down a few bucks and get a start named after you! (Edit to add – you can’t do it over the phone or web, either) They don’t do that, and consider it crass enough to put up a page over the matter.

(Edit to add: This line from the previous link says it all: “A: Sorry, we are a scientific organization, not a branch of the entertainment industry.  We cannot distribute addresses of enterprises selling fictitious goods.”).

 

So what do these Star Naming groups do? Well they actually proudly tell you how little they do: They put the name in a book. That’s it. That’s all. Give us $20 and we’d happily put your name in a book as well. But what is their cincher? Well in the ad I heard they register the book with the US copyright office. (Edit to add: Yes, they are still using the copyright office instead of the US patent office, in older ads they used to say the book was placed in a Swiss bank safe) Wow. The way the guy in the radio ad says it implies that means something to him, but as for astronomy it means nothing. I can produce a Star Atlas with every star name changed, and I can even register it with the US copyright office – but all that means is that no one can copy my book and make money off my new name Star Atlas. It doesn’t mean anyone with a telescope is going to start calling Rigel ‘Fred’. Even if it meant anything in the US, the rest of the world would hardly care a bit.

 

For the record, in older radio ads, the book was said to be registered with the US Patent office, I suspect the patent office took offense to being referred to in this manner.

 

The rest of these star naming nonsense adds on a few extras to make it seem like a bargain. In reality you are just getting a cheap astronomy kit at very inflated prices. The typical items are: a Certification Sheet (easy to print), an astronomy program (there are many freeware programs that are probably superior) and sometimes a book. The quality of the book is unknown, but I cannot imagine it is one of the better books on the market.

(Edit to add: Given that the radio ad had a price of somewhere around $65 and the stuff they include maybe costs $10 in materials, maybe, this is pretty much a profit factory).

So if you really want to do something like this, consider ‘adopting’ a star. Many non-profit groups have star adoption programs to raise funds. You don’t get the cheap software, but you do get a more accurate Certificate (although you have to print it). Our personal favorite is the Pale Blue Dot which helps the Kepler planet spotting project continue. Here you are looking at candidates for adoption that are not only stars, but that might have planets orbiting them!

(Edit to add: Note that ‘adopting’ is not having a star named after you. Once this project winds up – which could be a couple of years or decades this information will probably be gone. But you will be one of the people who supported the crucial Kepler planet-finding project.

 

Don’t fall for the ‘naming’ scams. Let this nonsense end.

 

Oh, little scammers, how you do amuse.

About once a week we get an email that reads like this:

“I will like to order some of your products and I will want it shipped to our place as follows :

<shipping address redacted>
Therefore, i hope to hear from you soon regarding my inquiry and to know where i can view products you have presently in stock and if there is any special pricing i need to know about. Lastly regarding payment i will be sending you my USA Valid credit card to charge for my order to avoid delays but can you let me know the type of credit cards you accept?Can you work hand in hand with my client freight personal agent? so they can Pickup the products directly from your location down to my client address in <redacted>

I hope to hear from you as soon as possible.
Regards.

Fred

NOTE IN TERMS OF SHIPPING THAT CAN BE ARRANGED WITH THE RIGHT SHIPPING COMPANY AND PAPER WORK AND ONCE YOU CAN WORK WITH THE SHIPPING COMPANY PROVIDED ,SHIPMENT WILL GET TO OUR DOORSTEP IN NO TIME.

Of course, this makes us roll our eyes as yet another lazy scammer is trying to get our attention.

The meat of this is in the middle paragraph of course. Let’;s break it down:

“Therefore, i hope to hear from you soon regarding my inquiry and to know where i can view products you have presently in stock”

This is the part that pretty says “scammer”. Whoever they are they are too lazy to even look at our website. Not once is there any mention of any specific inventory that we carry.

and if there is any special pricing i need to know about.

’cause you know, if you are trying to con someone, you should at least be economical about it and get the best price.

Lastly regarding payment i will be sending you my USA Valid credit card to charge for my order to avoid delays but can you let me know the type of credit cards you accept?

This line, or a line very similar to it appears in almost all of these scammer’s emails (usually the wording is more like “do you please maybe accept CREDIT CARD?!”)  More proof that they have not even given a real glance at our website, or else they’d know what credit cards we take.

Any credit card they give will be fake, or more likely stolen. I used to try and fish these guys to get them to reveal their fake card numbers, but the credit card companies seemed so uninterested in rooting out problems like this and made it hard to do so that I stopped bother, although once I did get a call thanking me for following through.

Can you work hand in hand with my client freight personal agent? so they can Pickup the products directly from your location down to my client address in <redacted>

Ah, yes. Here were get to the meat of the theft. The card is fake, and they want their ‘personal’ freight agent (a local partner to the scammer) to pick up the items.  That way there is no paper trail or tracking when the items ship.  Joy.

These emails are incredibly clunky and sloppy, and yet someone must be falling for them because we keep getting them.

The joys of online retail.

www.spectrum-scientifics.com

The Pale Blue Dot Project

We’ve complained in the past about the scammy ‘Star naming’ groups that pretend to name a star after you or a loved for for a ludicrous fee. These namings are in no way official and are little more than a way to separate you from your money.

But maybe you still want to have a loved one’s name immortalized in the stars in some fashion? Well they won’t name stars after you, and you have to have at least some fame to get an asteroid named after you, but there is one option: Adopt a Star from the Pale Blue Dot Project.

Its easy to do – and only costs $10 that goes to supporting scientific research. All you do is pick one of the 100,000 in the Cygnus constellation.  This is the region that the Kepler satellite pointed at to try and find extra-solar planets!  You get to pick the star, and if you are really lucky it might have a planet circling it (you might have to wait a long time until the data is analyzed) . If you do you’ll get a special notification.

Why is this cooler than ‘star naming’ scams? Here’s why:

1) Its real. You are adopting a star, not having someone write down your name in a phony ‘star list’ that is not recognized by any astronomical organization. Your star’s name will not change but it will be designated on the Pale Blue Dot Project.

2) You pick the star, instead of some random guy handing out the stars.

3) Your money goes to scientific research instead of some scam artists pocket.

4) Your star might have a planet circling it! How cool is that?!

5) You’ll get a printable certificate. You’d get one from the star-namers but the Pale Blue Dot Project’s is much cooler.

6) You can use PayPal and be done in seconds!

A lot of the brighter stars have already been adopted since the PBDP has been going for a couple of years now, so when choosing a star you might have to zoom in to get to the unadopted stars.

Help support science! Adopt a star!

(Note: this is an updated version of a story from our original blog)

www.spectrum-scientifics.com

The Star-Naming Scam – It’s Back.

This holiday season was the first in some time that I have not heard radio ads for the ‘gift’ of ‘naming a start after them’.  Well, maybe I just wasn’t listening to the radio enough because I did hear one, and its just as bad as it ever was.

OK, let’s just go over the facts right now: Stars are not named after people, stars are ‘named’ by all sorts of designations. The brightest have kept their arabic names., but the fainter ones are named via designation, which usually means they are numbered.  You can’t just walk into  the International Astronomy Union and throw down a few bucks and get a start named after you! They don’t do that, and consider it crass enough to put up a page over the matter.

 

So what do these Star Naming groups do? Well they actually proudly tell you how little they do: They put the name in a book. That’s it. That’s all. Give us $20 and we’d happily put your name in a book as well. But what is their cincher? Well in the ad I heard they register the book with the US copyright office. Wow. The way the guys says it implies that means something to him, but as for astronomy it means nothing. I can produce a Star Atlas with every star name changed, and I can even register it with the US copyright office – but all that means is that no one can copy my book and make money off my new name Star Atlas. It doesn’t mean anyone with a telescope is going to start calling Rigel ‘Fred’. Even if it meant anything in the US, the rest of the world would hardly care a bit.

 

For the record, in older radio ads, the book was said to be registered with the US Patent office, I suspect the patent office took offense to being referred to in this manner.

 

The rest of these star naming nonsense adds on a few extras to make it seem like a bargain. In reality you are just getting a cheap astronomy kit at very inflated prices. The typical items are: a Certification Sheet (easy to print), an astronomy program (there are many freeware programs that are probably superior) and sometimes a book. The quality of the book is unknown, but I cannot imagine it is one of the better books on the market.

 

So if you really want to do something like this, consider ‘adopting’ a star. Many non-profit groups have star adoption programs to raise funds. You don’t get the cheap software, but you do get a more accurate Certificate (although you have to print it). Our personal favorite is the Pale Blue Dot which helps the Kepler planet spotting project continue. Here you are looking at candidates for adoption that are not only stars, but that might have planets orbiting them!

 

Don’t fall for the ‘naming’ scams. Let this nonsense end.