Authentication Failure

This is a weird story of a building owner commissioning an artist to paint a mural on the side of his building—except that he wasn’t actually the building’s owner.

The fake landlord met Hawkins in person the day after Thanksgiving, supplying the paint and half the promised fee. They met again a couple of days later for lunch, when the job was mostly done. Hawkins showed him photographs. The patron seemed happy. He sent Hawkins the rest of the (sorry) dough.

But when Hawkins invited him down to see the final result, his client didn’t answer the phone. Hawkins called again. No answer. Hawkins emailed. Again, no answer.


Two days later, Hawkins got a call from the real Comte. And that Comte was not happy.

Comte says that he doesn’t believe Hawkins’s story, but I don’t think I would have demanded to see a photo ID before taking the commission.

Posted on December 14, 2020 at 6:31 AM16 Comments


Steve December 14, 2020 7:49 AM

At least all the owner lost was a little time and money repainting the wall. He could have lost the entire building.

Every once and a while you hear of someone hiring a bunch of people to tear down a house and then skedaddling before the job is complete, leaving the absent owner with no house and the workers with no pay.

Kurt December 14, 2020 9:28 AM

Last summer I ordered a few tote bags of dirt and mulch (the dirt ones were a conic yard of soil, about a ton each). The company has a nice online site, you order, pay, lease notes about where you want it, so for a few hundred bucks you could easily block someone’s driveway off with piles of gravel or dirt, or tote bags if you’re so inclined.

How could the company possibly validate that you are allowed to order stuff like this to an address? Especially as they often deal with landscapers. Do the people renting that space for example have permission or not? And so on…

Goat December 14, 2020 9:38 AM

@Steve the owner can sue for damages and the fake landlord would pay, this is assuming he is found.

Goat December 14, 2020 9:42 AM

@Kurt I can mail anything to anyone.. That’s why the really paranoid(and actually threatened) hide real address and use PO Boxes(random attacks are still possible, just stops targeted ones.

Goat December 14, 2020 9:56 AM

@Moderator why are my comments disappearing? If I did breach some rule please let me know… I understand the false positives here.

JonKnowsNothing December 14, 2020 10:22 AM

@ Kurt

re: Last summer I ordered a few tote bags of dirt and mulch

An old protest technique is to order up a dump truck load of something smelly and have it delivered to the person of protest-interest, official residence or official place of business.

All sorts of manure, rotting vegetables and milk. Spoiled milk produces a heck of stink that’s hard to get out and if you’ve ever been around someone with tiny tots who have spilled the milk in the car….

I don’t expect a random order of steer compost would be as easy to get dumped now, but nearly all companies that deliver “kits” or “lumber” and drop it at the street address as part of the delivery.

Although such kits are paid for by CC so traceable… It’s more the annoyance factor than much else.

ht tps://
ht tps://
ht tps://
(url fractured to prevent autorun)

Clive Robinson December 14, 2020 10:33 AM

@ Goat,

why are my comments disappearing?

You are not the only one it’s hsppened to, it happens to others. It’s thought to be a software bug…

It’s happened to me quite often when I’ve posted and hit the return to page. I’ve found the best thing to do is “hit the back button” to getcthe text I typed back then open a new window open on the 100 last comments page, and see if the comment is there.

Clive Robinson December 14, 2020 10:47 AM

@ JonKnowsNothing, Kurt,

Spoiled milk produces a heck of stink that’s hard to get out

To misquote a film,

“I love the smell of Butyric acid in the morning not”

Back in the Victorian era crooked milk vendors and even kitchen staff used to “add a little lye” to keep milk sweet. It killed quite a few people.

Mind you next time you eat a “real bagel” remember it’s been dipped in lye befor being cooked to give the right colour and smell (don’t worry the lye gets shaken off and “cooked out” before you eat it).

As for that “Southern Favourit” “grits” if you do not treat the corn with natural lye, then you loose various vitamins and you risk dying of “Share croppers disease” (pellagra).

Kurt December 14, 2020 11:04 AM


Almost no amount of mail will block up my driveway, but illegal stuff would be a concern (or smelly stuff, or exploding stuff, but now we’re into movie plot threat territory).

@Clive Robinson

Good news, if you remember Alton Browns Good Eats pretzel episode where he wanted to sue Lye but then had to do a whole shtick on not because safety ( you can actually make a proper bagel without lye:

MarkH December 14, 2020 11:08 AM

@Goat et al.:

Although it’s expected (and warned) that there may be some delay before a comment appears on the 100 new comments page, it seems to me that sometimes my comment doesn’t even show for a while on the thread I posted it to.

Clive’s guidance is spot-on. But often enough, just waiting a minute or two and checking back will show that the comment did get appended.

Such is reliance on software … I recall advice about the Russian postal system, which went something like “send things by post only if you don’t care how long it takes them to arrive, and if it’s okay with you that they might never arrive at all.”

PS I just got a “429 Too Many Requests” error trying to post this comment … never saw that one before!

Norio December 14, 2020 1:18 PM

What a weird story. I used google maps to do a street-level look at 1301 NE Adams in Peoria (it’s scary to me that I just typed in the street address and Peoria was added by google) and it’s in an industrial area. This was a bright, cheerful painting in dreary surroundings. And who doesn’t like the cookie monster?

The story goes on: ” …residents of the city of just over 100,000 are angry at [the building owner] for painting it over. “Now I’m the evil Grinch and getting hate mail,” he said. The site itself, meanwhile, has become a memorial of sorts… with mural-loving members of the public leaving behind teddy bears, flowers, and candles.”

Was this a state-sponsored hack? Are the Russians responsible?

Clive Robinson December 14, 2020 1:26 PM

@ MarkH,

I just got a “429 Too Many Requests” error trying to post this comment … never saw that one before!

Yup seen that one a couple of times. The first time you think “WHAT!!!…” hence hit the back button and hopefully –it’s browser dependent– it will pull the page with all your typing still in the edit box.

Oh and preview does not work if you have javascript off.

Goat December 14, 2020 7:10 PM

@MarkH what happened was that while looking for your nytimes link I discovered that the kafkasque comment you had made wasn’t there(it still isn’t) and similarly the one it was a respnse of (mine) wa s(and is) gone. Then when I reloaded the 100 new comments page again the comments I made recently disappeared. I loaded the thread and they were gone too.. Then I posted the comment about them disappearing and they all appeared again, making it a software bug..

Orion December 14, 2020 10:26 PM

Dear SolarWinds,

Do I have your permission to commence upload to your FTP server using the credentials leaking from GitHub? It’s not a backdoor, I promise.

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