Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies 12.30.21
Ep 5 | 12.30.21

Identity "protection" and a pigeon drop.



Melissa Mccarthy: (As Diana/Dawn Budgie) I'm going to need your full name, date of birth and Social Security number, please. 

Jason Bateman: (As Sandy Patterson) Sure. Understood. Here it comes. 

Dave Bittner: Hello, everyone. And welcome to another special edition of the "Hacking Humans" podcast. This is an occasional series we call "Hacking Humans Goes to the Movies." I'm Dave Bittner from the CyberWire. And joining me is my "Hacking Humans" co-host Joe Carrigan from the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute. Hello, Joe. 

Joe Carrigan: Hi, Dave. 

Dave Bittner: On this show, Joe and I look at clips from some of our favorite movies, clips which demonstrate some of the scams and schemes we talk about over on "Hacking Humans." And joining us once again this week is Rick Howard. He is the CyberWire's chief security officer and chief analyst. Hello, Rick. 

Rick Howard: Hey, guys. Great to be here once again. 

Dave Bittner: Good to have you back. We've got some fun clips to share this week, so stay tuned. We will be right back after this message from our sponsor. 

Dave Bittner: All right. Let's dig into some clips this week. Joe, why don't you start things off for us? 

Joe Carrigan: My clip comes from the movie - I can't believe we didn't do this first, but it's actually the opening scene of the movie "Identity Thief," starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman. This movie is OK. 


Joe Carrigan: It's not a great movie. But this opening scene... 

Rick Howard: Well, that's a rousing endorsement, Joe (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: Way to sell it, Joe. 

Joe Carrigan: But this opening scene is awesome. This opening scene is a perfect example of an identity theft scam. So, Dave, why don't you - we don't even need to talk during this because it's a phone call. 

Dave Bittner: All right. 

Joe Carrigan: So it's - let's let it go. 

Dave Bittner: All right. 


Jason Bateman: (As Sandy Patterson) Hello? This is Sandy Patterson. 

Melissa Mccarthy: (As Diana/Dawn Budgie) Yes. Mr. Patterson, I'm Janine from the Fraud Protection Department of Identi-Vault Credit Monitoring Service. We're calling today because, unfortunately, it appears that someone has attempted to steal your identity. 

Jason Bateman: (As Sandy Patterson) Are you kidding me? 

Melissa Mccarthy: (As Diana/Dawn Budgie) Gosh, I wish I were. We did catch this in time, however, but I do suggest you taking advantage of our free total protection plan, which safeguards your credit rating against theft and fraud. 

Jason Bateman: (As Sandy Patterson) Yes, please. If it's free, absolutely. 

Melissa Mccarthy: (As Diana/Dawn Budgie) Just terrific. I went for this plan myself. Mr. Patterson, I'm going to need to verify some information from you. I'm going to need your full name, date of birth and Social Security number, please. 

Jason Bateman: (As Sandy Patterson) Sure. Understood. Here it comes. 

Joe Carrigan: And that's the beginning of the movie. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Now, the funny part of this scene is that Melissa McCarthy is sitting in a mall... 


Joe Carrigan: ...Obviously, with a little water fountain running behind her. She's - this is exactly how these scams work. Somebody calls you up on the phone. They tell you something that is scary, like we just stopped an attempted identity theft. 

Dave Bittner: Good news. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 


Joe Carrigan: Bad news and then good news. But the good news is we can help you. So give me the information, and we'll make it happen. All I need - it's free. Just give me your name, address, birthdate and Social Security number, which is essentially all the information you need to steal someone's identity. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: And then this movie goes on where Melissa McCarthy's character continue - steals Jason Bateman's character's identity and makes his life miserable. And he decides to go after her because the cops won't do anything about it. 

Dave Bittner: OK. What do you make of this, Rick? 

Rick Howard: What I thought was an especially nice touch was when he agreed to take on the protection plan, and then Melissa McCarthy says, oh, yes, I did that plan, too. I love it. That's... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: That's a nice little spin on that, right? 


Dave Bittner: Yeah. Yeah, what struck me is how she really had that tone of a customer service person down. 

Rick Howard: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Right. 

Dave Bittner: You know, like, hello, we're calling because of this. Oh, that's terrific. Very good. I'll - let me patch you through. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: You know, she just - she had that tone and cadence down perfectly. All right... 

Rick Howard: This is something that's come up in my family many times in the past month or two, you know? And I've got my kids and my wife trained to never say yes to that, so they all come running to my desk when those things happen. So I think achievement locked - unlocked, all right? I got this one (laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Very good. 

Dave Bittner: You know, Joe and I were just talking about this on "Hacking Humans." Joe, I'll let you sort of explain it here, but you made the point to never take inbound calls. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. Yeah. When somebody calls in to you and they say - they tell you whatever it is - we were talking about a bank in particular, specifically a bank. So if your bank calls you and they say, we have a problem, the first thing you should say is, OK, what's your extension at the bank? I'll call you back at the main number and go through your switchboard operator to get back to you. That is always OK to do. It's always absolutely OK. Now, this scam is a little bit different. This is a supposed identity protection scam or a company that, actually, if you said that and then you went and looked them up online, they may even go so far as to have a fake website up with a phone number that just calls back to the scammer. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: So, you know, you have to understand that when you're getting these calls, if you haven't ever heard of this company and you don't do business with this company, yeah, just hang up. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Yeah. And if it's a problem with your bank, hang up and call your bank. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. Call the number on your statement. 

Dave Bittner: Not the number they give you, the number... 

Joe Carrigan: Not the number they give you. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Never call the number they give you. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Yeah. All right, well, that is a fun one. I have our other clip this week. And my clip comes from a movie called "The Flim-Flam Man." This is... 

Rick Howard: Good one. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. This is a 1967 film. This is directed by Irvin Kershner. You guys recognize that name? 

Joe Carrigan: Is that - was he related to Don Kirshner? 

Dave Bittner: I don't know. But he directed a little movie you might have heard of called "The Empire Strikes Back." 

Rick Howard: What? 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Yes, yes. 

Joe Carrigan: Amazing that I'm not familiar with that name. 

Rick Howard: I think I totally lost my nerd credentials for not knowing that answer. 

Dave Bittner: (Laughter) Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, he directed "Empire Strikes Back" Now, so this obviously takes - was directed way before that. My understanding is that he was - Kershner was a teacher of George Lucas at USC Film school. And so when it came time to do "Empire" and George didn't want to direct, he reached out to Irvin Kershner and asked him to do it. And he did. And the rest is history. So this movie, "The Flim-Flam Man" - again, 1967. And this is starring George C. Scott, Michael Sarrazin. And in this clip, also, Slim Pickens is in this clip, as well. 

Rick Howard: Whoa. All right. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. So some real... 

Rick Howard: Some old-timers here. 

Dave Bittner: Some real characters. And George C. Scott plays a gentleman named Mordecai C. Jones... 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Dave Bittner: ...Who - he's a self-described MBS, CS and DD, master of backstabbing, corkscrewing and dirty dealing. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter). 

Dave Bittner: And he's a con man who makes his way going around the southern U.S. and conning people out of their money. So he befriends this young man named Curley, who is played by Michael Sarrazin. And this particular scene has to do with them basically doing a scam that's popularly known as a pigeon drop. So here is my clip from "The Flim-Flam Man." 


George C Scott: (As Mordecai) And look at that one - a belt full of tobacco money and a belly full of beer. 

Dave Bittner: So they're looking at a guy who just came out of a bank. And it's - Slim Pickens is the guy they're going to go after. He's a guy wearing overalls and a straw hat, looks like a - I guess a farmer. Certainly, this is a small, rural town. So Slim Pickens looks down an alleyway, and he sees a wallet on the ground. 

Joe Carrigan: It's got money sticking out of it. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 


Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Hold on there. I seen it first. I saw that. 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) Maybe you did, but I got it. And possession's just nine-tenths of the law. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Possession, my foot. I saw that wallet before you did, and it's rightfully mine. 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) You listen to me, old timer. I got it. And I ain't going to be giving it to you. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) You ain't going to do anything else, boy, you young, smart aleck, you. I'm warning you for the last time. You hand that over to me or... 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) Pardon me, gentlemen. Forgive my intruding, but I saw the whole incident from right over there across the street there. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) What's it got to do with you? 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) Well, that remains to be seen, sir. But unless you are trying to attract the police, I suggest that the three of us can settle this little dispute amicably like gentlemen. 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) Wait a minute. The three of us? Now, just where do you come in? 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) Well, we all three saw the wallet, young fella. Any one of us could holler for the law. Might collect a handsome reward, too. But I suggest that we get to some place a little less conspicuous before the... 

Joe Carrigan: This is the old changing the venue. 


Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Maybe you're talking some sense, mister. 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) Shall we? 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) Here. You better hold that. 

Dave Bittner: They walk down the alley a little ways to get out of the street. (Laughter). 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 


George C Scott: (As Mordecai) My friends, we have struck it. There's exactly $1,600 in cash here... 

Rick Howard: Holy cow. 


George C Scott: (As Mordecai) ...And a check for another thousand. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Hot damn. Hot diggety damn. 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) Hey, there's a name in there, ain't there? 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) Oats, a Mr. Titus Oats. 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) That's an awful lot of money. Maybe we ought to try and locate the owner and settle for a reward. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Hellfire, boy, I ain't about to go hunting for no owner. Why, it's losers weepers, finders keepers where I come from. 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) What are you suggesting, sire? A simple three-way split? Because if you are, I suggest we try cashing the check. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) I don't know. That's pretty dangerous. I wouldn't... 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) I wouldn't risk it. Too many people know me. I just sold my tobacco crop up at the auction there. 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) If only one of us was a stranger in town, I might risk it. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Scott) Thousand dollars. Hold on now. Maybe you oughta... 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) All right. I'll try. But now see here. I think I ought to see a little something from you two if I'm going to risk going into that bank. 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) How much, mister? 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) Five hundred. You holding that much, ain't you? Tell you what. You two put 500 in here. I'll go to the bank. That'll make, if I get the thousand, 3,600. That'll be $1,200 for each of us. That seem reasonable for you? 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Hell no. 

George C Scott: (As Curley) Sounds pretty fair to me. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: This is pretty big money for back then. Twelve hundred dollars flopping around. 

Joe Carrigan: He's counting out ones. 


Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) ...One hundred, two, three, five. But we keep the wallet right here. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Yeah, that's right. 

Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) That way, we don't run no risk of him skedaddling on us. 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) That don't what I mean none, sonny. You two stick here. You can keep an eye on each other for me. 

Dave Bittner: So the mark is counting out his $500, handing it over. So they distract him. 


Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) Here. 

Dave Bittner: George C. Scott swaps the money out of the wallet, puts fake money back in the wallet while they're looking the other way. 


Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) I thought I seen a policeman. 

George C Scott: (As Mordecai) No, don't think it's nobody. Now... 

Dave Bittner: They give the wallet to the mark. 


Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) I will. Let me hold it. I'll hold it. 

Joe Carrigan: And he thinks he has 1,600 bucks in the wallet, but there's nothing. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. And George C. Scott is walking away, walking out of the alley to go - to cash the check is what he's saying he's going to do. So now... 


Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates, laughter). 

Rick Howard: He runs away, right? 


Michael Sarrazin: (As Curley) I don't know. He's been gone over 30 minutes now. I think we ought to go look for him. 

Slim Pickens: (As Jarvis Bates) That's a good idea. I think we better go look for - wait a minute. Maybe I ought to wait here, in case comes back the other way. But it wouldn't hurt for you to go look for him. You know, I wouldn't trust one of them city slickers any further than I could spit against a hurricane. 

Joe Carrigan: So Curley suggests they split up so he can go looking for him. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Curley walks off and then walks back to look down the alley. And he sees Slim Pickens is running away as fast as he can with what he thinks is the wallet full of money. And, of course, he's been taken for his $500. That is the clip from "The Flim-Flam Man." What do you guys think of that? 

Rick Howard: I love the way that this works because, you know, presumably, Slim Pickens thinks that Sarrazin is a local. And so they could run into each other, you know, in another day. And they've both been taken here. That's what Slim Pickens thinks as he's running away, right? 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: But he takes all the money, right? So... 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Rick Howard: That's a really nice little detail here. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Yeah. Joe, what do you make of this? 

Joe Carrigan: It's - what I love about this clip is the - they're playing on Slim Pickens' greed, right? Like, they get him inside, and Curley suggests - Sarrazin suggests we find the guy that owns the wallet, right? We look for him. And Slim Pickens' like, no, no, no. We keep it. Finders keepers, that's the way I live my life, you know? So it's like, OK, so, you know, from a viewer's perspective, you're not watching somebody who is an innocent person getting scammed. You're watching somebody who probably has it coming. So you get a little... 

Dave Bittner: That's right. 

Rick Howard: Oh, that's nice. 

Joe Carrigan: It makes you root for the bad guys a little more. 

Rick Howard: That's nice, Joe. Yeah. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Well, and also that they're taking this scam to the next level in that they're - they have the wallet full of cash. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: But then the check is another level. So... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: Hey, listen, we could split this cash, but there's a thousand-dollar check in here. Isn't it worth risking that to see if we can even - get even more money? And as I think, Rick, you pointed out, that's a lot of money for the late 1960s, right? 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: Well, and the check is the exit plan, right? That's how George C. Scott extricates himself from the situation. That's how he's out of the scene, right? 

Dave Bittner: Right. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: Now it's just the other two guys, right? So... 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: ...Yeah, adds a nice little touch, too. 

Joe Carrigan: And the nice part is that - another excellent part of the scam is that Slim Pickens removes himself from the scam. And... 

Rick Howard: Oh, yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: ...Leaves - you know, Michael Sarrazin's just standing there. He doesn't have to run away from him 'cause Slim Pickens runs - does the running. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Yeah, and thinks that he's taken... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: ...The scammers, but he's actually the one who's lost his money. Yeah. 

Rick Howard: That seems to be a running theme in the clips we've shown so far in these segments, is the con guys try to make sure that their marks don't think they were conned - right? - as they walk away. So there's no danger of getting caught later, which I really like. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. I wonder how long it would take for Slim Pickens to figure it out. You know, when he - 'cause when he goes through that wallet, he's going to see that the money's been swapped out, that it's - there're fake bills in there now. 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Dave Bittner: So as soon as he finds a place to - you know, when he stops running and finds a place to open up that wallet and look over the money that he thinks he's stolen, then the jig is up. But by that time, the scammers, of course... 

Joe Carrigan: Are long gone. 

Dave Bittner: They're long gone. They're out of town. 

Rick Howard: That's what I want to hear. What's the next scene? Is that George C. Scott and Michael Sarrazin running to a car in their rusty, old truck and running uptown? Is that what they're doing? - 'cause that's not what it looks like happens at the end. They're just kind of contemplating how, you know, fantastic they were. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. Well, I mean, this movie tracks sort of their exploits as they go from place to place, and it doesn't always go smoothly for them. There is a town that kind of gets wrecked as they try to make an escape in their truck. So there's some of that as well. But, you know, for my money - you look at an old movie like this, and one of the things that strikes me is, boy, movies used to be paced a lot slower than they are today, right? 


Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. (Laughter) Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: Like, that's one thing. But then - I mean, you got an actor like George C. Scott, and you got Slim Pickens in there. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: I could just watch these guys do anything. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: It's just delightful to see them at their craft. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: You know, I don't recognize Slim Pickens until I hear his voice. 

Rick Howard: Oh, really? That's interesting. Yeah. 

Joe Carrigan: Yeah, because, you know, growing up, "Blazing Saddles" was, you know, a movie I watched. 

Rick Howard: Sure. 

Joe Carrigan: And he has some great lines in that movie. 

Dave Bittner: Yeah. 

Rick Howard: You know, when I hear Slim Pickens... 

Joe Carrigan: Somebody's got to go back and get a mess of dimes. 

Rick Howard: (Laughter) When I hear Slim Pickens, I only see him riding the nuclear bomb down from... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: With Dr. Strangelove. Yeah. Yeah. 

Rick Howard: Dr. Strangelove, yeah (laughter). 

Dave Bittner: That's what I was thinking, too. Yeah. Yeah. But he is one of those folks; you hear his voice, you know exactly... 

Joe Carrigan: Right. 

Rick Howard: Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: ...Who he is. And he's perfect in this movie. 

Rick Howard: It's true. Yeah. 

Dave Bittner: All right. Well, those are our clips. We will have links to those in the show notes, if you would like to check them out for yourself. We encourage you to do so. We would love to hear from you. If there are some clips from movies that you would like us to check out here on our "Hacking Humans Goes To The Movies" special editions, you can send them to us at hackinghumans@thecyberwire.com. 

Dave Bittner: The "Hacking Humans" podcast is proudly produced in Maryland at the startup studios of DataTribe, where they're co-building the next generation of cybersecurity teams and technologies. Our senior producer is Jennifer Eiben. Our executive editor is Peter Kilpe. I'm Dave Bittner. 

Joe Carrigan: I'm Joe Carrigan. 

Rick Howard: And I'm Rick Howard. 

Dave Bittner: Thanks for listening.