A Response to Junk Mail: The Scamming Veteran

Two years ago, I received an email from someone saying that their 11-year-old son was a big fan of mine, and my comedy helped him get through his cancer treatments. The timing was perfect – my wife was going through a preventative double mastectomy surgery due to her BRCA1 mutation, and I received the email while at her side in the cancer ward of Sloan Kettering.

The kid being 11 threw me a bit – that’s too young for my comedy, especially since he started listening before his treatments. A 9 year-old doesn’t usually fall in love with harsh commentary on race, religion, and social inequality. Maybe it was my bit on how invasive the TSA is or how abortion is nothing to be ashamed of that really grabbed him.

A bit of googling showed me he was a scammer – an Atlanta autograph collector in his 50s who changed his story repeatedly. So when I got an email this morning that sounded a bit similar, I was ready.

Dear Steve, I’m writing to you in regard to my husband Kenny who is disabled and a Veteran. My husband is a very big fan of yours. I would like to ask if you could please send him an autographed photo. If you could I know my husband would be thrilled and I would be forever grateful to you. Thank You Very Much
Sandy

Kenny Thrun
40 Clifford Street
Buffalo New York
USA 14210

One quick google showed me that not only was this a similar situation, but this was a much dumber man – he was using his real name, and he even had a classified listing selling all the autographs – again with his real name. And since he was using the US mail to engage in this deception, he was committing a federal offense. I alerted the Buffalo media, and decided to have a bit of fun with “her” meanwhile.

Thank you, Sandy. What a wonderfully touching email. As I’m sure you know, I do a great deal of fundraising for veterans. I would love to do more for your husband. Forget the photo, I’m sending all 5 of my albums as well.

I know some people at the USO – I’d love to see if they can put together a few autographed CDs and DVDs from some other comedians, too. Would Kenny like that?

Thanks!

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Steve Hofstetter

http://www.stevehofstetter.com
http://www.twitter.com/stevehofstetter
http://www.facebook.com/stevehofstetter
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http://www.youtube.com/thehofstetter
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How could she/he refuse such a kind offer? Probably because he’s not in the CD/DVD re-selling business. Cue refusal:

Dear Steve, Thank you so very much for the response! My husband will be very surprised and excited when it comes. As he has no idea that I wrote to you. You don’t have to over do it. A photo or anything from you will be wonderful. Thank you again.

Love Sandy xo

I am amazed that he’s so stupid that he even wrote back. Any intelligent person engaged in such a scam would be wary of people figuring it out. Though any intelligent person would not be engaged in such a scam. It was time to pry for some more information. Let’s play a little “yes, and.”

I know I don’t have to, but I would love to. You’re doing a great thing for your husband – everyone should have such a caring wife. Was Kenny in Afghanistan or Iraq (or somewhere else?) I want to personalize the photo.

Thanks!

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Steve Hofstetter

http://www.stevehofstetter.com
http://www.twitter.com/stevehofstetter
http://www.facebook.com/stevehofstetter
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http://www.youtube.com/thehofstetter
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I assumed that “he” was smart enough to be a veteran of a recent war. You know, one where you’d have to be young enough to enjoy my comedy. Nope. Seems that the only people who fictitiously enjoy me are nine and ninety.

Thank you so much for your kindness. My husband is a little
bit older. He is a Vietnam vet.

Sandy :) xo

It was time to take things to the next level. I was tired of fishing. I wanted to see just how gullible this “woman” thought I was. Or how gullible “she” actually was.

Oh wow! Sorry – I sholdn’t have assumed. Of course I would like to help. It was an unjust war, and it’s so sad to see how little support the veterans of Vietnam received from the government. The least I could do is make up for that with a bit of kindness. Your husband sounds like a great man.

My buddy at the USO says he thinks he can get a few photos and albums from Louis CK, Whitney Cummings, and get this – Seinfeld! I know you told me to not make a big fuss, but I can I have them sent your way?

I’m playing the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls in October. I would love for you two to come to the show.

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Steve Hofstetter

http://www.stevehofstetter.com
http://www.twitter.com/stevehofstetter
http://www.facebook.com/stevehofstetter
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http://www.youtube.com/thehofstetter
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I don’t know anyone at the USO, and I’m not playing the Hard Rock in Niagara Falls in October (though I am playing the ones in Memphis, Baltimore, and DC that month – tickets available). The important part was to get the “wife” of Kenny, a huge fan of mine/autograph collector, to refuse such a generous offer.

Like I said you are so kind. If you want that would be unreal. But my husband will be so happy just to receive something from you. As far as your show in October that is a maybe. Because my husband cant drive and I don’t drive. As the day got closer I would know if we could get a ride. Thank you again so much!

Love Sandy xo

Smart enough to not press in case I was on to “her” but dumb enough to full out refuse the other autographs in case they were real. After all, an autograph from Seinfeld would probably sell better than one from a guy who you may not have heard of til you read this blog.

But to not come to my show? After I go out of my way to allegedly call my non-existent friend at the USO? Not on my watch.

Thanks Sandy, I completely understand. I may be able to get the Hard Rock to send you a car – I will stay in touch.

Do you want the autographs personalized with anything? Ken? Kenny? Or just generally signed?

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Steve Hofstetter

http://www.stevehofstetter.com
http://www.twitter.com/stevehofstetter
http://www.facebook.com/stevehofstetter
——————————————-
http://www.youtube.com/thehofstetter
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I very much wanted “her” to reply and suggest that the autographs be signed to no one in particular, and come with a certificate of authenticity. I also wanted “her” to find a way to refuse the free ride to the Hard Rock. I got one of the two.

He prefers Kenny . I look forward to hearing from you. It will all depend on how he is doing as well. Because he deals with severe back spasms daily and that’s a long ride for him. But as they say will cross that bridge when it comes. :)

What? “She” didn’t sign it? What happened to the love and all the Xs and Os? Maybe “she” was on to me in that I was on to her. And so, it was time for the punch line.

Great news! I’ve spoken to the president of the military, and he loves this story. They have a big veterans comedy benefit concert coming up – Patton Oswalt, Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman, Maria Bamford, and Dave Coulier. It’s so big, it’s being simulcast on HBO and SyFy, and it’s sponsored by Chipotle and Taco Bell, so everyone in attendance gets a free burrito and something that looks kind of like a taco. David Petreus will even be there to make a speech about the importance of character in our veterans.

The concert was supposed to take place at Madison Square Garden. But here’s the great news – they want to move it to Buffalo! They’re going to hold it at the First Niagara Center, just two miles from your house. And they’re sending a limo for you designed for people with back problems so that you and your husband can be there. Why? Because they want you to share the stage with Petreus so that everyone in attendance can see just how important family is to veterans. Real veterans. Real, actual, no fakesies veterans. Because veterans are the backbone of our society. No pun intended, I know your husband has back problems. I just mean that they’re what keeps our country from spasming. Dammit, I did it again.

Anyway, I’m so glad you reached out to me. If you hadn’t, the world would never get to know what a kind and loving relationship the two of you have. You seem so close, it’s almost as if you’re one person.

Stay strong.
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Steve Hofstetter

http://www.stevehofstetter.com
http://www.twitter.com/stevehofstetter
http://www.facebook.com/stevehofstetter
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http://www.youtube.com/thehofstetter
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Despite “her” rapid replies to my earlier emails, I haven’t heard back on this one. I wonder why.

BTW, if you wish to purchase any of these autographs, his email is KKrantz55@aol.com and his phone number is 716-826-5060. Though with the amount of people reading this, he may have to change that real soon.

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