Every day, I get offers of untold riches. My email inbox is filled with offers to claim lottery prizes, foreign inheritances or other wonderful cash gifts. I have gotten so accustomed to seeing them, I automatically delete them upon arrival.
There have been enough stories in the media, as well as coverage in popular culture, about these "get rich quick" schemes that one would think everyone already knows that they are all scams. Sadly, on almost a daily basis, I learn that someone has offered their personal information to these crooks, and found their identity compromised, or their bank accounts emptied.
I don't want to seem insensitive; but, all of these scams play off of a common denominator - the human to desire to get something for nothing. The scams promise millions of dollars for simply providing a safe conduit for funds that need to be moved/invested/hidden. And, they all count on the recipient being greedy enough that they will set aside their concerns and common sense, all in the hope of making lots of easy money.
We are taught from the time of early childhood to recognize that we never "get something for nothing." As we grow and mature, we learn that it is through work and perseverance that we gain compensation or items of value. If we are not required to make some type of investment, whether monetary or sweat-based, there is no reason to expect free gifts in return.
And yet, we do. Time and again, people think they are the exception. They decide that they're somehow more special and have been chosen above all others to be blessed with riches.
A few years ago there was a Ponzi scheme that made the rounds over in McCulloch County. The perpetrator had married a well-connected local girl, and presented himself as a high-stakes investor. He threw enough cash around, conspicuously, that folks in the area were talking about the young man who seemed to have it all. And, he knew exactly how to get even more money for his baseless scheme: he would pull aside the potential investor (victim) and tell them, "There aren't many people in Brady smart enough to really understand how this system works, and why it works. But, I've been listening to you and watching you, and I think you are one of the only ones that can really appreciate how special this plan is, and how it requires the right kind of people to prosper."
The victim, now puffed to bursting with compliments, would quietly pull money out of investment accounts, often not confiding in their usual trusted advisers, and deliver it to the investor. And, that would be the last time they would see their money.
Not all of the scams involve email or internet offers. Sometimes, the scam artists show up on the victims doorstep, or call them on the phone, and try to initiate a scam. And, sometimes it works.
There are too many scams out there to try and detail each and every one of them. But, there is enough commonality in the way they operate to issue some very general warnings that will always apply.
1) There is never "something for nothing." If the offer or plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
2) No good ever came of any enterprise that began with the words, "Don't tell anyone else about this." Scam artists thrive in an environment of secrets and silence. If you wonder about the validity of an offer, talk to two or three people you really trust. If the perpetrator gets spooked, that means they are afraid of getting caught.
3) Good things do happen, and people do give gifts. But, they do not ask for something in return, and they do not need your social security number or bank account in order to do those kindnesses.
4) Be content with what you have. When we start envying the wealth or possessions of others, we will do almost anything to have those things. Ask yourself if life would really be better if you had more material goods. The answer is seldom "yes."
5) Be careful. Be cautious. Be sensible. Nothing is gained by getting in a hurry for things.
It’s all just my opinion.