Do I Have a Bridge to Sell You!

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Only the most naive person would believe the stranger who offers to sell him the Brooklyn Bridge-cheap! But, as they say,” a sucker is born every minute” and reality seems to bear it out!. The ease with which con artists relieve people of their hard-earned money is astounding.

Every few months another scam seems to make its way through our community with devastating fury, defrauding even clever businessmen of their investment. How can intelligent people fall for these get rich quick investments that promise impossible high returns? Anyone who believes it’s only the other guy that can be scammed is making a big mistake. Experience proves that nearly anyone can be taken for a ride, so hold on to your wallet tightly! Perhaps Nach tells us the story of how the Givonim fooled all of Klal Yisroel in order to teach us this important lesson. No one is infallible! People who are gullible, greedy or in deep financial straits are the most susceptible. Yet, even large banks and successful corporations have fallen prey to the modern alchemist’s clever schemes.

After its all over, we sit and wonder how we were able to be fooled so easily– but by then it’s already too late. The only thing we are left with are shattered dreams and broken hearts. While some private individuals have been taken for many thousands of dollars, large corporations and big banks have been taken for millions.

It’s a dangerous world out there when the law protects the scam artist who does business as usual, even though he knows that he is on the verge of bankruptcy, and has absolutely no intention of ever paying for the merchandise or making good on the debts. The domino effect is devastating.

I once warned a friend of mine not to invest his money with a smooth talker who offered him a high and quick return for his investment. I was stunned to find out a year later, that despite my strong warning, he wound up putting in some big bucks with this scoundrel which, of course, evaporated into thin air.

The success rate of such scam artists is amazing. The stories are heart-rending. There are no limits to their brazenness. Past horror stories are still fresh in our minds when the next one makes its rounds.

A widow tells me that she was taken to the tune of six million dollars by a clever Jewish lawyer in Monsey, whom she trusted to manage her life savings. Another widow who owns a store in Brooklyn asked for my help when she realized that she was being scammed to the tune of $50,000 by a clever con artist, who convinced her to invest in a non-existent clothing venture which promised her high returns. Unfortunately, there was little I could do at this point since the money had already been spent by this con-artist betting on horses. The skinny cows keep eating the fat cows, and they remain as skinny as before, since they gamble their money away and there is nothing left to recoup. How amazingly true! “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time !” And as someone added, “you can fool too many of the people too much of the time.”

Some of these scams are called “Ponzi schemes,” named after Charles Ponzi who (in 1919) cheated people by taking their money and investing it into non-existing ventures, or simply gambled other peoples money away. He established good credit by returning lots of money to the first few investors thereby making others believe that he could be trusted and was good for his money. Little did they realize that this money was coming from the new investors he was now defrauding, and that the business ventures were pie in the sky!

The problem is that as soon as one Ponzi scam topples, a new one is there to take its place. The chance of recovering one’s money is about as likely as discovering an oil well in your back yard. Other clever schemes are known as MLM’s (Multi Level Marketing, like Jewel-Way) that promise you the moon, but only deliver heartaches. By the way, the latest one hitting the market is called Golden Circle International, so better be on the lookout))

So next time someone wants to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, tell him you’re holding out for the Manhattan Bridge instead!