Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Scamming my father in law

A few weeks ago I wrote on my in-laws, victims of scammers again and again....
Like many Taiwanese their age, they were ripped off in the numerous Ponzi and pyramid schemes that proliferated in Taiwan during the bubble era of the late 1980s. In their case it was a 'friend' who ripped off their life savings for investment in the famous H scam (I'm not naming it publicly), served a brief prison sentence, and is now enjoying my in-laws' hard-earned cash. They used to go stand in front of his house periodically for years afterwards, silently begging him to return the cash...

...the H officials -- it was an established company -- recently met with the victims. They are unable to compensate them, but they did offer them spaces in the linguta, repositories where the ashes of the dead are kept (columbaria, I think they are called).

Immediately the scammers moved in. After all, the list of H victims is basically a list of people with proven ability to be scammed. For just NT$50K, they promised that they would sell the linguta spaces. My father in law immediately went for it, and another $50K vanished from his accounts. Finally my wife intervened and told him she would sell them on the internet. And sure enough, if you get on Yahoo and search for linguta spaces, you'll find the children of these victims selling the spaces so that 'their parents will have the peace of providing for their children' when they die. For the elderly burned in this and numerous other scams, the humiliation is double: not merely being victimized, but leaving nothing to the next generation as they are supposed to.
The scammers returned yesterday. This morning my father in law calls my wife and explains that a new company had contacted him, asking if he linguta spaces. When he replied that he did but another company was selling them, they responded by tut-tutting: if he had only had them in hand, they would have bought them instantly. Veterans of scams will recognize the high pressure sales tactic to dislocate the mark. They then went on to diss my father's current representative selling the linguta, saying that they were corrupt and untrustworthy. My father bought that line completely. My wife had to argue with him on the phone -- how did they know who you were and how many spaces you had? Of course, she pointed out, it is all the same people posing as three different firms, calling every couple of months, sucking another wan or two out of him.... the worst part is not that the elderly are so often easy marks, but that once scammed, it is so difficult to get them to give up on the scam and to instill skepticism in them.

The crowning irony is that my brother in law, who sinks all his money into property and is a pretty smart buyer, viewed the linguta certificates and pronounced them probable fakes. The whole thing appears to be one big scam from start to finish. It's heartbreaking that these things happen, and the authorities do so little about them.


Raj said...

With all due respect, does your father-in-law suffer from a mental disability or some such? I can't understand why, if he were fine, he'd keep letting himself be scammed. Why doesn't he trust his wife or son to confirm what he's doing first is ok. Too proud?

Michael Turton said...

Raj, I don't understand it either. You ask him about anything from politicians to floor plans (he used to be electrical engineer) and he's properly skeptical. But he seems to be a total sucker when it comes to this stuff, and he won't learn after being scammed repeatedly. Wish I knew more about this problem.


Anonymous said...

These scammers are true artists, and have the patience of fishermen waiting to reel in the big one.

It has nothing to do with intelligence, but perhaps a bit more to do with the victim thinking they can handle the situation.

Does anyone recall Ed Mezvinsky, a former Democratic Congressman from Iowa, who is now serving a seven-year sentence for fraud after getting caught up in a series of Nigerian e-mail scams?

Here are the details taken from another website:

Initially, Mezvinsky became the victim of "just about every different kind of African-based scam we've ever seen," federal prosecutor Bob Zauzmer told 20/20 for a report to be broadcast this evening.

But then, says Zauzmer, Mezvinsky began to steal from clients and even his own mother-in-law to raise the money to try yet another scheme.

"He was always looking for the home run. He was always trying to find the business deal that would make him as wealthy as all the people in his social circle," said Zauzmer.

After leaving Congress, Mezvinsky moved to Philadelphia's Main Line suburbs with his wife Marjorie Margolies, a former television reporter, who won a seat in Congress herself as a Democratic congresswomen from Pennsylvania.

"They were seen as people of means; they were a legitimate power couple," said Gar Joseph, a political columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.

The Mezvinkskys were also close to Bill and Hillary Clinton and were frequent guests at White House state dinners.

Prosecutors say Mezvinsky used his connections to the Clintons and his son's social relationship with Chelsea to persuade people to give him money to participate in the scams.

Mezvinsky traveled to Nigeria numerous times and ultimately lost more than $3 million as a victim of the scammers.

Prosecutors say Mezvinsky fell particularly hard for what is known as the "black money" scam. Victims are told millions of dollars have been coated with black ink so the money could be smuggled out of Nigeria.

The scammers then offer to sell a special, expensive chemical to remove the black ink so the currency can be used.

Prosecutors say Mezvinsky fell for at least three separate "black money" schemes that he thought would bring him millions.

Anonymous said...

It has more to do with the scam victim's own GREED than intellegence or sanity.
One of my relatives, a retired teacher from a rich family (田僑仔:), lost $1.5M USD to the same scam trick. She never talked to her family about the mysterious get-rich quick calls that she was receiving. She wired money to this guy in seven separate transactions, each time believing that she was going to get more back from the last transaction!!! When her kids finally found out and stopped her from wiring her eighth transaction, she became so enraged at her kids. She actually told them that she would have made $2M USD profit from her "investments" if they didn't stop her. How many people can make $1.5M in one lifetime, but she willingly handed that much money over to a complete stranger in less than one month!!

It's hard to feel sorry for people who are victims of their own greed.

Amy Lin said...

My mother became the latest scam victim 2 months ago. She got a phone call from artists purporting to be law enforcement agents investigating some illegal transaction that she made. When mom told them she had nothing to do with these transactions, they told her she must have been a victim of identity theft. To avoid prosecution and to stop the bad guys from taking money out of her bank account, they advised mom to empty her account immediately and bring them the cash for evidence and safekeeping. This all happened in a couple of hours. As soon as the money left her hand, mom realized the truth. She went to the police and was told that there have been similar reports in the recent past, and each time the plot gets more sophisticated. Couple weeks later she was asked to go to the police and identify the artists. Those were not the ones who scammed her.

I am guessing that the next victim will not be asked to bring cash, but to bring bank statement and chop. To prove that the victim was not one making the illegal transaction. And the bad guys get to walk leisurely to the bank and empty out the account.