Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

ROBERT A. STEINER, PRESIDENT ELECT THE SOCIETY OF AMERICAN MAGICIANS Box 659 El Cerrito, CA 94530 -- (415) 235-5516 HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE CON ARTIST AN OVERVIEW By Robert A. Steiner, CPA Copyright (c) 1987, by Robert A. Steiner. Virtually anyone can be taken in by a con artist. Do not ever, not even for a moment, believe that you are immune. Al Capone, who was certainly not a naive bumpkin, gave $50,000 to a con artist to invest in a venture which was guaranteed to double the investment within two months. While you cannot totally insulate yourself from the con artist, awareness of methods, alertness, and taking your time in decisions will go a long way toward protecting you. Do not believe the myth that only those with greed and larceny in their hearts - those willing to enter into an illegal or unethical scheme - can be taken. Grief works as well or better. Con artists scan the obituaries in the newspaper to find marks. Perhaps they will deliver - C.O.D., of course - a package allegedly ordered by the widow's recently deceased husband. You now own a package containing torn newspapers. Compassion is also a virtue which can place you at risk. You are home alone. The doorbell rings. When you answer, the three folks represent themselves to be, and appear to be, a grandmother, a mother, and a little baby crying in her mother's arms. The "grandmother" apologizes profusely for disturbing you. Then the mother takes over: "I'm sorry. My baby is thirsty. Could we please just fill her bottle with cold water?" How can you refuse? So you invite them in. The mother and baby go into the kitchen with you, while you chat and tend to the chore of filling the baby's bottle. Then you admire and comment on how cute the baby is, as you watch her guzzle the water. You are pleased when the baby stops crying. She was indeed thirsty. And where is "Grandma" while all of this is going on? She is in the living room, loading your silverware, jewelry, and antiques into her purse. What's that? You left your purse or wallet on the cocktail table in the living room? When you retrieve it, after the "family" has left, it will be considerably lighter. Do not overlook civic duty as a hook. A "bank examiner" telephones to explain that they suspect a teller of short- changing customers. You are requested to withdraw $1,000 from your account, in ten- and twenty-dollar bills. The bills will be marked for identification. As you leave the bank, the "examiner" will meet you. He will take the money, for counting and verification, and will give you a receipt. The last instruction is: "In order to do a proper audit and not to arouse suspicion, you must not tell anyone - not even your spouse. Don't worry, it will take only a few hours to check and return the money to you. It will be back in your bank account by closing time." Good-bye $1,000. Loneliness, stress, anger, being away from home, having recently fallen in love, and many other conditions may dull your judgment and make you more susceptible to a con game. But remember, you are somewhat ripe for picking at all times. Beware the seller of "alternative medical care which the medical establishment does not understand," or "cures which the medical establishment is trying to suppress." Beware the "faith healer" who claims that God speaks directly to him. The quack who fraudulently sells worthless nostrums "guaranteed to cure you" is no less a thief than the burglar who breaks into your home at night. If you smell a con, even if it is only the slightest suspicion, contact the police. Do not try to beat the con artist on your own. You will not beat a grifter at his or her own game. Do not even try. Do not even think of trying. Call the police. They are professionals at this. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stay away. The sure thing isn't. The deal that can't lose can. The "stolen gold watch" that the stranger will "sell cheap" is usually none of these: not stolen, not gold, and not cheap. The "low" price you pay is well above its value. Do not enter into any illegal or unethical deal. Do not let strangers into your home. If a stranger claims to have found money, and expresses a desire to share it with you, watch out. It is called "The Pigeon Drop," and is one of the oldest and most successful scams going. Next he, she, or they (They frequently work in pairs.) will ask you to put up "good faith money." Be on guard whenever anyone instructs you to withdraw cash from your bank account, for any reason. If you have a wonderful offer on which the salesperson must have an immediate answer, that answer should virtually always be no. If you are in unfamiliar territory, always make time to talk to someone: a friend, attorney, CPA, doctor, the Better Business Bureau, a policeman, or someone. Frequently, the mere fact that you are allowing yourself time to think about it and to talk to someone will scare off the con artist. On the other hand, a reputable businessperson will not be upset at all by that. He or she wants a satisfied customer, and is rarely a hit-and-run operator. After all, if you are a satisfied customer, you will recommend others. If you detect the hint of a con, say No and get away. Do not argue, do not explain, do not plead, do not apologize. You are under no obligation to deal with this new person who came along. If you must, make only one attempt at being polite. If that fails, if the person attempts to intimidate you or to lay guilt on you (They are masters at that.), forget politeness. Just get away. Unless you are well-qualified to make difficult judgments quickly, and unless you are in familiar territory regarding the subject under negotiation, do not rush into a deal. If it is on the level, most likely it will be there tomorrow. That will give you time to think about it and to discuss it with trusted friends, family, and/or advisors. And, if perchance it is not there tomorrow, you will be left with a valuable commodity - Money. Take your time. It will make you healthier, wealthier, and wiser. ---------- Copyright (c) 1987, by Robert A. Steiner. This may be copied and distributed free. (It must be copied in its entirety, including copyright notice and this statement, or it may not be copied at all.) It may not be sold. For information on presentations, please contact: Robert A. Steiner, Box 659, El Cerrito, CA 94530 (415)235-5516. ---------- Robert A. Steiner is a board member of BAY AREA SKEPTICS. To obtain a free sample copy of their monthly publication, BASIS, write: BAY AREA SKEPTICS 4030 Moraga San Francisco, CA 94122 -end-


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank