As with many criminals, people who scam others for a living tend to carry on doing so until something dramatic makes them think again – such as a significant prison sentence, losing someone important in their life, violence etc.
“Fred” was a scammer for many years, working for various scam outfits until the day the Federal agents turned up at his office and he ended up spending several years in prison. Now he works to prevent fraud and warn people of how it is done. This is Fred’s warning.
Developing the Persona
The scammer assumes a false personality or social mask that makes it easier to pull off the deception. Swindling is really acting, and you play a character who will help you appear legitimate, confident and successful … even when you are not.
On the outside you will see nothing but charm, an engaging personality and swagger. On the inside lies a predator. There is no conscience in this business. It’s every person for themselves, and the goal is to get as much money as possible.
The business needs to have a persona, too, to look legitimate and trustworthy. Some scam companies run television commercials and hire famous actors to appear in them.
It’s About Emotion, Not Logic
Think about the first time you fell in love or a time when someone cut you off on the freeway and you were seething for hours. Were you thinking clearly? Probably not. Those who believe they’d never fall for a scam don’t realize it’s not about how smart you are; it’s about how well you control your emotions. Fraud victims are people with emotional needs, just like the rest of us. But they can’t separate out those needs when they make financial decisions. That’s what makes them vulnerable.
As a master scammer, I made it my first objective to get the victim’s emotions stirred up and so agitated that you won’t know which way is up and which is down. Once I have gotten you into this condition, it doesn’t matter how smart or dumb you are, you will succumb.
The two most powerful ways to do this are through need and greed.
To find a client’s emotional need, I’ll ask a bunch of personal questions. Then I’ll throttle up the pressure by focusing on that need. “Oh, you lost your job? That’s got to be tough.” Or “So your two kids are in college and the tuition is driving you into the poorhouse.” Now the person isn’t thinking about whether the offer is a scam but instead, “Here’s a fix for my problems.”
The “crush,” or the “kill” — that’s what we call closing the deal — is emotionally driven. It’s not logic. If you apply logic, the answer is: “No, I am not going to send you my hard-earned money. I don’t even know who you are.” If my victims had applied logic to our deals, they would have walked away every time.
The other pathway to the ether is simple greed: I just promise people they can make a ton of money.
The Perfect Victim
I’m often asked how I could have ripped off senior citizens. The answer is that con men target people who have money, and a lot of seniors are sitting on fat nest eggs. It’s the Willie Sutton rule: He robbed banks because that is where the money was.
But there’s more to it than that. I think older people are easier to scam, because their emotional needs are closer to the surface. They aren’t afraid to tell people how much they care about their kids and grandkids. They aren’t afraid to share their fears about the unstable financial markets and how much they worry about being on a fixed income. These fears are real. And every one of them is a bullet for my gun.
My scam career was focused on investments like phony oil and gas deals, bogus business opportunities and gold-coin scams. And for these types of investments the perfect victim was almost always a male. Why men? Men are grandiose; they are full of ego. And that’s all driven by emotion; it’s driven by insecurity; it’s driven by a feeling of inferiority.
Most people who get emotional quickly will fall every time. And if they don’t get worked up, I won’t waste my time with them. If prospects are asking a lot of questions or tell me they want to think it over or talk with their lawyer, I will hang up the phone. Victims don’t ask a lot of questions; they answer a lot of questions. Victims don’t read paperwork; they wait for you to tell them what it says. Victims don’t look for why the offer is a scam; they look for why the offer will make them money. They want you to make them feel good so they can pull the trigger.
Early on in my career I was selling bogus oil and gas units to investors. We were selling units for $22,500 for a quarter unit, or $90,000 for a full unit, promising a 10-to-1 return. Sure, we had a well, but it was a dry hole, and we knew it — there was no chance of hitting oil. Every so often when I was pitching these deals, an investor would ask if I was registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. I would always say, “Of course we are, and I want you to verify that the minute we get off the phone.” The truth is, we were never registered, but 98 percent of the people who ask that question never check. They just want to hear me say it.
Don’t Get Burned
Never make a buying decision when you’ve just heard the sales pitch. Always give yourself at least 24 hours to think about it. This gives you time for the emotional effects of the sales presentation to subside — and time for you to do research.
Don’t ever share personal information about your family or about your worries with people who are trying to sell you something.
In any interaction with someone trying to sell you a deal, always ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” In other words, if this is such a great deal, why are they calling you about it? Why don’t they just do it themselves?
If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.