iDate part 4 – as seen on TV

The last day of iDate started off early as we were scheduled to meet Angus Crawford from the BBC for some filming.  We’ve dealt with Angus before.  Oddly enough, it was when Firefly was in the UK last ready to go to iDate in Germany.  I spent two hours pointing at laptop screens, explaining how scammers work and generally doing all the stuff you do for a TV interview.  For those unaware, I’ll let you into a secret.  When you see the interviewer nodding, that’s recorded after.  Most of you are probably more than aware, but I decided to mention it as it’s something that still makes me laugh when I see it.  We finished filming at around 11am, then Angus and the cameraman went off with FF to record her story while I went downstairs to the conference and a few orange juices and to chat with whoever was around.  No, really, they were orange juices.  When 11:30 rolled around, I had another interview for a program that’s going out at a later date.  It’s the same routine – sit in a chair, feed the mic up your shirt, answer the questions, mention the question in the answer and make a conscious effort  to try not to glance at the camera.  Big Al got to avoid all the TV stuff, so did some work on his laptop before taking a wander around the streets to do some shopping of his own.  That’s how the morning went.  Interviews, cigarettes (did I not mention we’d sneak off for a smoke whenever we could?), hand shaking, small talk making and drinking orange juice.

After lunch, we did a bit of wandering around, looking in shop windows and present shopping before the final panel.  The final panel is exactly as it sounds.  A selection of speakers sit up front and are asked questions about all subjects related to the industry.  We learned a lot of useful things there, but then it was over.  Now we got to put our feet up before the journey the next day where we’d all say our goodbyes.  London was bustling that evening, but we found a Pizza Hut and enjoyed our last meal together before one last sleep.

As our drive out was on a Saturday, traffic wasn’t too bad.  The journey home still took much longer than expected.  First stop was to drop FF off at the airport.  Many hugs were given and many promises to meet again as soon as possible were made.  The original plan was for Big Al and I to meet a fellow baiter on the way home, but the time had gotten on so much that we never had time for that, and I had to reunite him with his family who’d spent the days we were in London enjoying the sights of Wales, in a lay-by just outside of Bristol.  More hugs and promises to meet again soon were given before I set off for the last but one leg of my journey.  First up, a chance to pop in on one of my favourite phone baiters, TheLovelyJill.  I spent a few pleasant hours and enjoyed my first home cooked meal in over a week there, before finally heading for home.  All that driving, and I almost got wiped out by an idiot driver who cut me up just three roundabouts from home!  Once safely home, I handed out presents, did a brief stint online to let everyone know I’d gotten back safe and flopped into my bed.

So what’s happened since then?  Well, I made good on promises to people to contact them with information they’d asked for and waited for the BBC item to be shown.  Unfortunately that’s been delayed until next month due to the court case it was related to being adjourned.  Still, that’s something to look forward to.  All in all it was well worth the effort it took to arrange everything.  We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I’m already planning the next conference and the next meeting of the ScamSurvivors volunteers.

So, we finally get to iDate.

First order of the day was breakfast.  We’re paying good money for this, so we’re gonna make the most of it.  I have to say, after the great breakfasts we were having in Crawley this was a disappointment in comparison.  After breakfast, it was back to the hotel room to load up on business cards and pens to hand out.  Part of the fun of the conferences is to see how many freebies you can get, and this time we were going to be a part of the freebie giving.  I should say that the pens are the exact same type as the ones I received from Crimewatch.  The conference wasn’t exactly well marked, but we found it OK and proceeded to get our ID badges and start mingling.

One thing iDate does is a “speed networking” session.  Honestly, I’m not overly fond of these as it’s crowded and very loud, which isn’t helped by the fact I’m partially deaf.  Cards were exchanged, contacts were made and we had the added advantage of being three people.  Being a group of volunteers I think find of throw people off when it comes to dealing with us as there’s no financial motivation for what we do.  However, we seemed to be pretty well received and we got our name out there some more.  We also got to speak to Marc Lesnick, who organizes the conferences.  Firefly got a hug and I got an invite to the next iDate in Miami next year.

A lot of what goes on at iDate doesn’t really have anything to do with what we do on our site.  There’s obviously a lot of talk on getting more customers and making more money.  We get to skip that part, so we took a stroll around for a touch of souvenir shopping before lunch. The good thing about London (or bad thing, depending on your point of view) is that every third shop seems to sell souvenirs.  We never had to stray more than about 200 yards from the hotel to get everything we needed.  I will say that lunch was much better than breakfast.  They did a pretty good carvery.  I was speaking at 3:30, so after lunch we did a bit more mingling before going back to our room.  I say “our” room, but we weren’t all three in the same room.  BA and I shared a room and FF has her own room.  We worked on adding some extra notes to the presentation before doing some more mingling, card exchanging and pen giving.

So it’s finally time for my talk.  At this point we hit a pretty big problem.  My laptop has a HDMI output, but the projector worked on VGA.  My plan was to do a practical demonstration partway through my talk that would show how the sextortion scammers create their fake webcam footage and record their victim’s webcam.  In the end I used the laptop that was already connected and spun mine around to show the fake footage.  That actually got a pretty big reaction, when one person in the audience suddenly shouted out “Hey, I’ve had her!!” much to our amusement.  The three biggest reactions were to that incident, the fact that scammers target people on linkedin and a slides that showed the scammers claiming the victim was masturbating in front of an 8 year old.  They’re not, but seeing that on the web is enough to scare many into paying.  We refuse to help anyone who knowingly engage in sexual talk with a minor, and this is why we put the date of birth from the scammer’s profile on our forum.

After my talk we had to split up.   Monica Whitty was talking more about scams right after me, but I’d already promised Svetlana I’d attend her talk as it was her first time giving one.  FF and BA stayed to listen to Monica though, and I’d had a chance to speak to her before my talk.  After Svetlana’s talk, I rushed back to listen to Dave Wiseman from Scamalytics give his talk, completing a 90 minute block on scammers.  I must say it’s good to see the dating industry willing to talk about these things as it’s a major problem for them.

With day one complete, we got to chill out again after doing some more mingling.  There was a party in the evening at a place called “The Library”, which was – oddly enough – a converted library.  After some more mingling, the three of us found a quiet corner where we could chat for a while before making our way back to the hotel for a well deserved sleep.

Next time I’ll talk about the last day and TV interviews.

iDate London part 2 – into the belly of the beast.

On the 14th we were due to travel into London ready for iDate.  Checkout time was at 10am, but we were there for an extra half hour getting photos and chatting with the staff.  We’d made no secret about what we were there for, and they seemed genuinely interested.  Now I haven’t been to London in over 20 years so I really wasn’t looking forward to driving there.  We’d already sorted out the congestion charge, so the plan was to drive to Victoria bus station to drop off my wife for her to go home, then go to the car park.  I was actually pleasantly surprised with how quiet the traffic was up until Victoria.  We dropped my wife off and then began the troubles.

The next turning took us into a massive traffic jam.  OK, no big deal so far as we weren’t in any kind of rush.  We followed the satnav to where the car park was supposed to be.  No car park.  We drove around again.  Still no car park.  All the while, we were in very slow moving traffic.  We found what we thought was the car park.  Wrong car park.  Luckily a very friendly worker let us out without having to pay, mainly because he could see we’d already prepayed for our parking.  Around and around we went in circles for about an hour, desperately looking for the car park,, with everyone getting more and more stressed.  No one lets anyone in in London, so eventually I had to go native and drive like an idiot, pushing in when I needed to.  There was also lots of swearing on my part as I got more and more frustrated with the driving conditions there.  I’m a country boy, used to seeing maybe a half dozen cars on the road at the same time as me.  London was not a fun place to drive.  Finally we spotted the car park, halfway up a road the satnav had told us to go to the end of and then turn left.  After an emergency bathroom break, we walked to the hotel.  By this time we’d been travelling for four hours on what should have been a 90 minute drive.  It had taken almost as long to get from Gatwick to London as it had taken me to drive from my home to Gatwick a few days earlier.

We were only about 10 minutes from the hotel, and the place was a joy.  They had a doorman.  I’d never experienced a doorman before.  Then again, one night in this hotel cost more than most of my previous week long holidays.

The first person we bumped onto was Svetlana Mucha from who you may remember my mentioning in my write up about Vegas.  We exchanged pleasantries, then we got our room passes and went our separate ways.  Now we were in the hotel, we were able to relax and have a few beers.  Garfunkels was a few doors down, so we went for a meal before heading back to the hotel room.  Shortly after we were joined by Svetlana, who came bearing gifts – Ukrainian vodka for me and cookies for both Big Al and Firefly.  There were still some stuff we needed from the car, so BA and FF jumped in a taxi to go back and get them, later meeting Svetlana and I in the bar where we’d gone to wait for them.  Then it was my turn to nip off as her presents were still in the car.  In no mood to walk there and back, I jumped in a taxi and told him where I needed to go, only for him to get lost too.  At one point we ended up in a dead end, and the driver had to jump out and walk around trying to get his bearings.  Apparently Tomtom has the wrong location for the car park, and that was why we’d had so much trouble.  In all fairness to the taxi driver, after realizing he’d also been driving around in circles the same way I had, he pointed me in the right direction about 100 yards from it and told me the ride was on him.  Presents exchanged, we all went off to bed, ready for the start of the conference the next day.

Next entry will talk about the conference itself.

iDate 2015 London

A week has passed since iDate, so I really should do some sort of a write up about it.

Our trip actually started on the 9th of October when Firefly, Big Al and myself met, along with my wife and several members of BA’s family.  As I’ve said in the past, I’m not much for flying so picking up Firefly was the first time I’ve ever been in Gatwick airport.  We spent a few days in a small B+B called Little Foxes, a few miles away from the airport that turned out to be a really great place and a great place for a base of operations.  We were there for four days and had an absolute blast, just chilling out and visiting various places.  Brighton was nice, but VERY expensive.  Eastbourne was similar to Brighton, but a much more enjoyable experience.  We’d originally intended to go to Hastings, but changed our minds at the last minute.  A wise choice I think as we all thoroughly enjoyed that day.  The next day was Crawley.  That was a great day, and my chance to show those who’d flown into the UK what a “full English” breakfast was like.  Our 4th day was in Horsham.  First impressions were that it was really expensive.  A lot of higher end shops, but we managed to find a few places to both shop and eat that didn’t cost the Earth.  The nights were spent either working on the site, or chilling with a few beers and stand up DVDs.  Or working on the site AND chilling with a few beers.  The owner actually told us a few stories of her encounters with scammers and seemed genuinely interested in what we do.  Those first few days were for us to unwind, spend some time together and actually have a bit of a holiday.  I think I can safely say we achieved that.  It’s a place I’d definitely consider staying at again.

In the next blog entry I’ll talk about our adventure into London, road rage and stupid sat nav directions.