McKenna checks out the hotel phone call scam

iStock_000024086772LargeThe hotel phone call scam is back in business. A friend of mine just told me how her son received a phone call in the middle of the night while he was staying at a hotel. Sometime in the middle of the night, the phone in her son’s hotel room rang and he was told that there had been a “glitch” in the computer system. The caller was apologetic, but explained how all of the credit card numbers had been lost and the hotel needed to reconstruct the billing information.

Being somewhat groggy—he’d just been woken from a sound sleep—her son gave the caller an address, but balked when they asked for his credit card number. He told the caller he’d go down to the front desk to give them the card, at which point the caller hung up.

This particular scam has been around for years. It usually travels around from state-to-state so the scammers avoid getting caught. In my book, it gets an F rating for courtesy—who wants to be woken in the middle of the night? It’s tough enough to get a good night’s sleep in a hotel without having some scammer pulling this stunt.

There’s not much you can do about it except to report the call to the front desk. Most likely, they’ll tell you there’s not much they can do about it either, but that other guests are receiving similar calls. The hotel phone call scam is currently making the rounds, so if you’re traveling and a very courteous person asks you for your credit card number in the middle of the night, you’ve got my permission to be not so nice in return.

McKenna takes on the Terrible Three tax scams

Business UnderworldIt’s that time again—April. Those good old April showers bring May flowers. The days get a little warmer. The birds start to sing. And, yes, even the tax man starts to sing, “My turn, my turn.” The trouble is, the tax man who is singing may not be for real. Each year, the IRS publishes its “Dirty Dozen” tax scams. Well, this year, I’m starting “McKenna’s Terrible Three.” So, here we go.

In first place on the McKenna’s Terrible Three list are the scammers who take the personal approach and make threatening phone calls, promising to have you thrown in jail unless you pay your taxes in GreenDot Money Paks. Seriously? Money Paks? Most of us would say, who would fall for that? Yet, people do. In that moment of panic, their brain stops working and fear runs the show. I’m pretty sure the IRS would prefer to be paid with a check or, better yet, an electronic funds transfer.

Second place on the list goes to those who prefer efficiency. These are the guys who send out those emails demanding you click links or you will face dire consequences. The links, of course, go to sites where you might pick up some fancy little malware or a virus. My advice? The only thing you want to click is the delete key to send that email into the trash.

How about free money from the IRS? You’ve got to be kidding me, right? People are going to fall for this? But, yes, they do. So, let’s be clear. People! The IRS is charged with collecting taxes, not running contests.

Okay, that ought to cover it. If you fall for one of these scams after this warning, Bob over at the IRS is definitely not going to forgive your taxes just because you didn’t pay attention. Don’t believe me? Call him up and ask.

McKenna on the USPS Shipping Notification scam


How many times to I have to say it? Spelling matters!

Fake shipping notifications are nothing new. We’ll all seen them show up in our email. A couple of years ago when these first started showing up, these innovative scams were very effective. Today, these scams have become so commonplace they’re almost laughable. Two identical USPS Shipping Notification scam emails showed up today. The only difference between them  was their return address and the URL of the link within the email.

The current fad is to send a message which reads:

Our courier couldnt make the delivery of parcel to you at 25th March.

Print label and show it in the nearest post office.

Because I like to look at the upside as well as the down, let’s take a look at the full scenario.

Good news: The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well on the internet.

Bad news: The guy behind this template can’t spell worth a damn. Once again, we have to put up with poorly written spam.

Good news: Whoever bought these templates overpaid. With luck, they’ll be disappointed with the results they achieve and will give up on this line of work.

Bad news: The sellers are probably having a Walmart-sized super sale and there will likely be many more emails coming. More bad news: They’re probably happy with their line of work while the rest of us must wonder, what’s next?

The best solution for dealing with these is to simply mark them as spam and hope your email program flags future iterations of this particular scam so you won’t see it again.

By the way, in the time it took me to write this post, another shipping notification came in. Another scammer scammed with an inferior product. If they handed out brains along with all that initiative, the rest of us might actually be in trouble.

SoNo Chili Fest

The SoNo Chili Fest raises money to help McKinley School in San Diego. The name comes from the location of the event, which is located between South Park and North Park. The event draws about 6,000 visitors, who all come ready to taste and vote for their favorite chili, try different beers in the beer garden, and listen to music. It was a gorgeous San Diego day, the kind the Chamber of Commerce boasts about—and the kind that makes visitors desperate to return. Here are a few photos from the event near and around our booth where our little band of San Diego authors were selling books.

The Snitch is here!

The Snitch for FBDo you remember The Eagles? Don Henley and Glenn Frey were so good together. It must be 1976 all again because they’re back—and on tour. I can just hear them singing now…”There’s a new Snitch in town…” Oh wait, that was “new kid,” wasn’t’ it? Well, anyway, there is a new Snitch and it’s out today. And the Eagles really are back on tour.
This month “The Snitch” includes a “recap” scam tip about my visit to the Jungle Red Writers blog. Things began on the light side, then got progressively more serious as the comments during the day went on. People are very upset about scams and cons. Check out some of the high points in “The Snitch” this month.
There’s also a recipe for Baked Salmon with Maple & Mustard Glaze—really good, especially now that the days are cooling off. Or, how about the whopper of a Goodreads Giveaway that includes an iPad mini? Find all of that along with news about “Kauai Temptations” in the November edition of “The Snitch.”

Have you already seen this month’s edition? Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks!

Kauai Temptations Trailer is 82 seconds of fun

Wilson McKenna has never written a bad check in his life. So how did he end up with $4,000 in returned checks from an island he’s never been to? Now, the bank wants their money and he’s determined to track down the crook who’s ruining his life. Before you can say “aloha,” he’s nearly arrested for impersonating himself, the woman who trashed his credit is dead, and he feels like he’s up to his ‘umi’umi in hot lava. McKenna had better watch out—some temptations can get you killed.

“Kauai Temptations is a fast-paced mystery with quirky characters and loads of island charm. Recipe for a great day at the beach: sunscreen, bamboo mat, mango shave ice, and Kauai Temptations in your beach bag!” — JoAnn Bassett, author of The Islands of Aloha Mystery Series

Kauai Temptations Book Giveaway

If you like book giveaways, here’s one for you. A soft cover copy of my new McKenna Mystery, “Kauai Temptations” is on giveaway at Goodreads through October 31. The first blurb came in from New York Times Bestselling author Jenn McKinley, who called it, “More delicious than a Coconut Mocha Frap (and that’s saying something), this rambunctious, character driven whodunit, kept me laughing out loud while I wallowed in the exotic locale beside the engaging amateur sleuth Wilson McKenna as he unraveled a timely case involving identity theft and murder.  Terry Ambrose has penned a truly engaging, page turner of a mystery in Kauai Temptations.”

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Kauai Temptations by Terry Ambrose

Kauai Temptations

by Terry Ambrose

Giveaway ends October 31, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win


What mystery authors would I invite to a dinner party?

KTcoverlgIn an interview for the Mysteristas blog, I was asked what mystery authors I would invite to a dinner party. I chose a TV news reporter to keep things moving, a couple of recent Edgar nominees, and some perennial favorites. If you want to see the names, head on over to to find out. Oh and you can also find out what three famous characters I’d toss into the mixing bowl if I were going to mash them up and create McKenna. My choices may surprise you!

Kauai Temptations — “More delicious than a Coconut Mocha Frap (and that’s saying something), this rambunctious, character driven whodunit, kept me laughing out loud while I wallowed in the exotic locale beside the engaging amateur sleuth Wilson McKenna as he unraveled a timely case involving
identity theft and murder.  Terry Ambrose has penned a truly engaging, page turner of a mystery
in Kauai Temptations.”  — Jenn McKinlay, New York Times Best Selling Author of the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries and the Library Lovers Mysteries

McKenna on Duarte Festival of Books

McKenna here, reporting in for Terry on the Duarte Festival of Books while he tries to sort out some sleep-pattern issues. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the hero in the McKenna Mysteries. I’m what Terry calls an amateur sleuth. Tell you what, I’ll let him have that one because the sun’s not up yet.

KTcoverlgSo, today is the festival in Duarte that the Friends of the Library sponsor to celebrate books and raise money for the library. It’s a long drive to Duarte from San Diego and it will begin with manly man hug from his buddy Brae Wyckoff for the drive up. On the way up, they’ll make a stop in Fallbrook to pick up that hot little British writer, Jenny Hilborne. With any luck at all, she’ll cop another quick feel when we meet.

In Rolling Stone, playwright/writer/actor Sam Shepard described Duarte as a “weird accumulation of things, a strange kind of melting pot – Spanish, Okie, Black, Midwestern elements all jumbled together. People on the move who couldn’t move anymore, who wound up in trailer parks.” Okay, so we’re going to this melting pot to talk books. And speaking of books and a melting pot, Terry’s going to be sharing a table with another San Diego author, Matt Coyle—who must have some sort of covert arrangement with Vroman’s Bookstore because he’s been talking about making trips between their table and the bookstore. . .sounds fishy to me. And then there will be the other members of the Murder, We Wrote group of authors. They’re reuniting for the day in Duarte. There are lots of panels and Terry’s on one of them to talk about “Who Dunnit?” Personally, I think his best bet is to sit back, shut up, and let me do the talking. We all know he’s not the fastest car on the track. Terry says he’s going to take pictures and twit or tweet them, but once he starts fumbling around with his equipment, well, we all know how that goes. Enough of this, it’s off to Duarte. Aloha, McKenna.


Kauai Tour – Kilauea Lighthouse – Part 2

I’ve added new photo to the Kilauea Lighthouse gallery, including shots of the lighthouses, new and old…and a couple with more info on those birds my mom used to love talking about.