Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Legal Thriller Author Analyzes Paper Trails Scams

--Endless hanky-panky on the Internet as con artists invent a new information-extraction dance

If 75% of women wear the wrong bra size, and 75% of men wear shirts with the wrong sleeve length, is it any wonder that so many people do not understand paper trails, do not understand their critical roles in con games? Fraud, shell games, scandal-revelation and creation, and rip-offs of every kind flower from this tell-tale debris.

And, alas, most importantly, it is essential to understand how all of this paper trail information is tied together by social security numbers. (For the intent to rob you blind, this information collecting method is, obviously, patently illegal. For the lawn mower manufacturer, in his search for demographics trying to sell you a new riding mower, however, society seems to feel this is O.K)

Spreading like wildfire, with the aid of an internet stage setting, what are paper trails anyhow? Let's be more specific.

Simply put, as they might affect you, they are every sort of record, kept anywhere, that link business transactions back to you. These can be any paper document such as a bill of sale, promissory note, receipt, application, resume filing, customs claim, insurance form, notarized statement, any legal form. These spell out into computer records.

It's largely society's propulsion into the computer / internet era of the 1990s that has brought about this current-day fleshing out of the "paper trail." It's now so efficient that the structural schematic of this thought-police invasion--this total assault on your privacy--should indeed frighten you. What next? you might ask. Will you be marked with a tracking device so the government always knows where you are?

In this day and age it's computers, computers, internet, internet. Far and wide. They are to blame. It's computer records that pull all these bits of paper information together, to the delight of con artists.

Examples: Credit card purchase? Computer. Bank deposit? Computer. House purchase? Computer. And, the list goes on and on. Endlessly.

Take a simple, one-time credit card purchase. This is stored in the bank's computer, as well as several way stations along the path back to your bank, in the network's computers. When you deposit cash into your checking account the information is stored in a computer. when you deposit cash into your savings account the information is stored in a computer. when you buy a house you get a triple-whammy, the transaction is stored in a computer, in paper form, and on microfilm at your county recorder's office. Every time you turn around and blink these days, it seems, something about you is recorded in a computer.

And, sad to say, the common link that pulls all of your business transactions together is your social security number. It is the commonly used identifier of the present day age. By using only your social security number the con man can put together a near-total list of your business transactions stretching back over the years.

So, stealing your ss number--it being the string-tying mechanism which pulls everything together-- then packaging it neatly and presenting your financial affairs to the world as the "whole you"--makes it easy for the con man. These data include such invasion-of-privacy issues as what assets you have, where you shop, what you buy, and what you owe on various credit accounts and loans. The skilled con artist knows precisely how to pull this string.

Unfortunately, too many people today regard this as only a mild irritation, like talking to robots on the phone while trying to make a warranty claim on a defective computer. Red flag! It's far more serious than that So, like it or not, the challenge is on you, to weave, dodge, confuse, and bewilder any scam artist who might be about to stalk you.

How do you do this? How do you fortify your defenses?

You must disrupt your paper trail. This can partially be done in several ways, or combination:

1. A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (seemingly), cash was used. Stash your credit and debit cards. Earmark them for occasional or emergency use only, and for the most part rediscover cash money, paper and coin. Go back to this simpler form of exchange wherever possible. We all feel nostalgia isn't what it used to be, but this step alone will go far toward masking your paper trail.

2. Set up a Trust. This is like turning the porch light on, with nobody home. It somewhat confuses the paper trail by disrupting the con man's view, due to the linkage between you and your Trust. Like the service station attendant washing your windshield with a soapy brush, this will partly obscure the vision of the con man trying to put together a financial profile on you.

3. Refuse to star in the con artist's psychodrama. Go offshore. Not physically. Just export some of your assets This is not considered socially acceptable. Not patriotic, either. But, it's not illegal, and it is most effective. If you make yourself invisible to the bureaucrats--and the scam artists--they will have no address with which to find you. (A page torn from a legal thriller?)

4. You ask, what if the Hokey Pokey is really what it's all about? Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that bank records enjoy no privacy protection. That's right, none. They are considered property of the bank, You are not, however required to reveal your social security number when opening a non-interest bearing account, e.g. checking, debit, credit card. So, don't. You are only required to reveal your social security number to a bank when interest-bearing accounts are involved. This is because the bank must report to I.R.S., for tax purposes, on how much they paid you.

5. You can even out-con the con man. Follow the New Hampshire state motto: "Go away and leave us alone." Get yourself a post office box, then write, "Moved, left no forwarding address" on the face of every envelope that the postman tries to deliver to your home. That would certainly leave anyone trying to steal your identity hanging by a quickly-shrinking thread. This would be like giving a seeing-eye sled dog to a blind Eskimo..

These are just a few of the steps you can take to shore up your privacy. These steps will not totally obliterate the scam artist's view of your financial structure. But, it will hinder it to the point of nearly crippling him, leave him babbling to himself, wondering how to write zero in Roman numerals. Consultation with an expert attorney would undoubtedly reveal more avenues of privacy restoration.

If such preventive steps were universally adopted, it would be quite a blow to the scamsters. It would leave con men everywhere quaking in their Hummer SUVs and calling their analysts on their cell phones.

Amateur Con Man's Windfall--Fake Social Security Cards

--June, 2007, raid of Del Monte food processing affiliate scores enormityof illegal immigrant social security problem.

Magalia, California--More than 165 undocumented workers were scooped up in the June, 2007, Portland, Oregon raid of a Del Monte food processing plant. The motivation? A previous check of employee records at the Del Monte plant had shown that only 48 of nearly 600 workers had valid social security numbers. The raid's result? It was found that some 90 employees had fraudulent SS numbers, which included those of juveniles, the elderly, and deceased. Others had fake green cards, residency cards, and 3 were convicted felons.

Angry comments were immediately vented. Portland Mayor, Tom Potter, complained about the bad policy of federal officials to "go after" local workers trying to support their families, referring to the apprehended as Portland residents. At the other extreme, were such sarcastic internet utterances as, "Just doing the fraud Americans refuse to do."

Legal thriller author, Jack Payne, whose recent article, Social Security Disaster, had wide play across the internet, has his observations:

"Generally overlooked is the compounding factor: social security numbers now being used as the universal identifier in our society. These numbers must be produced by anyone seeking to acquire a broad range of taxpayer-supported benefits--everything from welfare, unemployment insurance, school admittance, health and hospital benefits, grants, and student loans.

"Think of it. It's staggering in its totality.
In addition to the 9,000,000 SS cards out there, with no matching records of legality (as recorded by IRS at tax time), we now have all this above-and-beyond fraud dumped on the American taxpayer. In total, the fraud--mostly perpetrated by illegal immigrant amateurs--is so massive, so far reaching, that it boggles the mind.

"Remember when we were kids and oly-oly-oxen-free made perfect sense? Maybe that's the kind of infinite wisdom we need now."

You can get dizzy just trying to look at all the seemingly insurmountable barriers to solving this illegal immigrant problem--much less the finality of actually solving it. With 350,000 convicted illegal immigrant felons wandering about the country--with 600,000 cases backed up in the immigration court system--with the burden on our prison system of 29% occupancy by illegals--with so many cities proclaiming themselves 'sanctuaries'"--how can the Feds possibly hope to get a handle on this immense mess?

"Confidence is that feeling you have before you understand the situation. It's probably best the politicians hesitated, rather than trying to solve all facets of this complex problem, all at once."

Payne ends with a sigh, "Even Confucius had no answer for this one. When I looked, the only Confucius witticism I could find was one that is fitting indeed for this particular problem: Those who quote me are fools."

Legal Thriller Book Author Reveals: The Workings of Money Laundering

--Money laundering, a dangerous game, goes far beyond relatively non-violent con man activity

Magalia, California--The recruitment of new money-laundering agents by the "bad guys" is an ongoing process. It must be. The need is huge. risks big. casualties many, turnover great. A continual need for new sources, thus, exists. And, new agents , too, to wash the funds. Employees of certain businesses and institutions are in the highest-risk category to be recruited.

Which businesses, institutions?

Prime targets: banks, gambling casinos, amusement parks, and hedge funds. The first three because they deal daily with humungous amounts of cash. And the last, hedge funds, not only because of the mountainous sums of money they manage, but because of their highly secretive operating nature.

What is money laundering anyway?

"Simply put," according to legal thriller author, Jack Payne, former editor / publisher of Business Opportunities Digest, "you've got to understand that the need to 'legalize' the money, by corrupt politicians, criminal syndicates, terrorists, embezzlers, con artists, and public officials, is great. Otherwise, it connects them back to the illegal activities in which they are engaged. The logistical problems created by their all-cash business creates this need. This is why the constant search for new sources--'placement,' the first stage-- goes ever-on."

And, how do you spot such probes to pump you for information, steer you, even recruit you?

"One example: the new bank customer, playing word games, getting overly-friendly with a teller. On repeat visits, a flow of seemingly off-the-cuff questions and observations from the gregarious customer: Gosh, how much cash do you handle in a day? (A quick multiplication question designed to estimate overall cash flow); I see that Brinks truck in the parking lot--how often do you get visits from them? (To confirm cash flow, and trace monthly and seasonal patterns.); I'll bet you have a special 'in' with the back room here, maybe even with the bank manager. (An attempt to determine how high up the ladder the teller's personal network of workplace friendships rise.

"In addition to probing for cash volume, the purpose is to find a 'soft spot,' the person close to the top of the management ladder who can be staked out. Simple bribery may be the route to take. It may require more: finding skeletons in a closet, intimidation, threats. Whatever it takes

"Big thing to remember," concludes Payne, "is if you think you've brushed elbows with a money launderer, don't be a hero.

"Money laundering is big, often world-wide. It's dangerous, dead serious stuff. Sounding off about it in public would be like getting your horn stuck while driving behind a gang of Hell's Angels. Leave family, friends, co-workers, and others out of this loop. Protect them, as well as yourself. There is only one course of action to take with such information: First clam up, than get it to your nearest FBI office. Do it yesterday."

Con Man's New Playground: Internet Scams

--Con men running wild on the internet.
Chat room, bulletin board, and newsgroup participants are the ones at greatest risk, as well as those who respond to spammers.

What is it about the internet that attracts con artists like flies to potato salad?

The reasons are many. While countries, provinces, state and local governments have clearly defined borders, the internet has none. Its reach is global. In this trading environment without borders con artists can easily hide behind fictitious names, a variety of aliases, mail drops. They can operate from nondescript boiler rooms, coffee houses, libraries with internet access. It affords the ultimate flexibility.

And, it provides a vast market of some 350 million people worldwide. From the mundane beginnings of the nineteenth century snake oil salesman to this present-day, kid-in-a-candy-store Utopia, is it any wonder that con artists everywhere are stampeding to get in? And, the choicest candy in the store is made up of the huge variety of newsgroups, chat rooms, and bulletin boards, which, along with spamming, make up the letter-perfect venue for them.

Such rip-offs as these nine:

1. Job scams. Often to extract your bank account or social security number.

2. Overpayments. The accompanying request to return the extra money is usually to steal vital account information.

3. Help in moving money from one country to another. The Nigerian offers. Good example. Need we say more?

4. Netherlands and Canadian lotteries. Practically never legitimate.

5. Find out everything about anyone. Great appeal to the dark side of so many people--those who wish to "get something" on a business associate, an acquaintance, or neighbor. Too often this is nothing more than an attempt to turn tables--to, instead, learn everything about you.

6. Questionnaires of all types. Many are seeded with extrapolative word puzzles, designed only to pull vital, personal information from you.

7. Jury duty. These notices are always handled by surface mail, not the internet.

8. Western Union scams. Usually a quick-buck grab, nothing more.

9. Disaster relief. Not only do United Way, the Salvation Army, and Red Cross rely heavily on donations, so do the con men

Thiiller book author, Jack Payne, whose book, Six Hours Past Thursday, covers con games extensively, has this thought,"Essence is to proceed with caution in conducting any money transactions--any at all--with first-time contacts. Luckily, the good guys have their names plastered all over the internet as well. Easy to spot, because you must contact them. They do not solicit you. Priceless information and help is out there. It's plentiful, readily offered.

"Whenever in doubt, tap these multitudinous sources."

A Con Man's Dream! Think Big When Going Over to the Dark Side

A father / son team of convicted felons actually did this in the early 1990s. The Dominion of Melchizedek, a totally fictitious, sovereign nation was located on an uninhabited Stoll owned by the Republic of Marshall Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Columbia, South America. President of this island nation rip-off was the son's wife, who reportedly lived in California. It was purportedly a quasi-religious society governed by a "House of Elders." It had a complete financial system with phony banks and stock exchanges. It sold citizenships, insurance and stock licenses.. It sold diplomatic passports, religious grants, business licenses.. And, it had an embassy listing in Washington, D.C., Unbelievably, it was actually "recognized" by an African state. (One can only question what these officials were smoking at the time these documents were signed.) This mighty little nation even had the boldness to declare war on France for nuclear testing. (The mouse that roared?)

The sum of the Dominion's activities ran amuck. Cataloged by John Shockey, former U..S. Comptroller of the Currency, these included: taking deposits, investment sums and fees, and issuing worthless "guarantees." Also, making loan commitments, verifying and "authenticating" values of other Melchizedek entities which issued hundreds of millions of dollars in worthless debt instruments which were used to obtain real money loans and were exchanged in real brokerage houses for real value securities.

Amazing is the fact that--despite excellent, detailed exposure in articles run in Forbes, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal as long ago as the early 1990s--this monumental scam is still up and running, more than 15 years later. The Dominion's web site--www.melchizedek.com--was clickable as of press time of this News Release. Endless? Limitless fraud? On and on, into perpetuity? Where does it all end? Or, does it? one might ask.

Breakdown of the system in its ability to restrain giant scams seems to be the key to success for this con man's dream. In his book, Six Hours Past Thursday (www.sixhrs.com), author, Jack Payne, goes one application better. "This nation-building exercise is entirely illegal," says Payne. "It's blatant, in-your-face, outright crime. From the opposite side of the fence my book tackles another broken system," he goes on, "Our cumbersome, snail-moving legal system. Converse to Melchizedek, this system is rife with opportunities for entirely socially acceptable, non-jailable 'legal' crime." His novel weaves the story of how a Chicago mobster, with the aid of a con man, creates such an entity, a gambling island Mecca, ala Monte Carlo, off the coast of Florida.

"From fiction to reality! How close the gap?
Really! In this vast setting, a world stage, it's amazing the scale on which such shell games--such completely nutty mind games--do not only operate but flourish. And, when you have no moral compass with which to navigate," concludes Payne, "the sky is your only .limit."

Legal Thriller Author Outlines Social Security Disaster

How the U.S. Government is Committing "Legal" Crime Against its Own Citizens.

A Chicago painting contractor upon retirement moved to Florida. It didn't take long for the IRS to came down on him for somebody else's unpaid taxes. and a lending institution threatened him with a lawsuit over skipped loan payments, again, by somebody else. He was, simply, a victim of social security card number theft. Being bewildered by this, he drew a credit report on himself, and discovered a multiple of unidentifiable charges. His "crime"? Some 50 years earlier the man, now 70, applied for, and got, his social security card. "I don't understand it," he worries. "I've always lived a responsible life. I always paid my bills. I never ran up a credit card balance. I never cheated on my taxes. Now all of this. It's a nightmare."

Last year some 9,000,000 people paid taxes that would not match up with social security records. Core of the problem? Illegal immigrants. Up to 80% of these fraudulent records are thought to originate with these illegal immigrants who file stolen or manufactured numbers. Follow-up investigations have shown as many as 35 employers filing the same social security number under different names. Incredibly, no mechanism exists for notifying the rightful number holder of the misuse of his / her number.

"Legal crime, foisted off on all of us, by our own government? What else can you call it?" asks legal thriller author, Jack Payne. "The legal card holders never know until IRS chases them down for back taxes, and when private companies try to collect unpaid loans and past-due bills. On both counts, obligations run up by somebody else. It seems like a clear, outright case of fraud. With no legal requirement to report irregularities, the people who know do just that: they do not report. Rather, they simply thrust their heads into the sand, plead nolo contendre, and take shelter behind the Privacy Law They have no incentive to level with you about the imposter's use of your social security number. In fact, important non-incentives to inform exist. because benefits to them are abundant.. The Social Security Administration collects big amounts of extra tax money which they toss into something they call their Earnings Surplus File, an accounting limbo that now gobbles up $420 billion. Creditors extend more loans, and merchants sell more goods on credit. Employers get cheap labor. Result?, everybody is a winner through our maligned, non-system system. Everybody, that is, except the rightful card holder, you This is why this unwillingness to protect you from such obvious theft adds up to 'legal' crime. What else can it be called? It's the politicians in Washington who created this farce of a financial state, and it's they who are responsible for it," Payne concludes.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stock Tips That Do Not Add Up

Beware of the Stock Tipster who Proves to be 100% Correct

It works something like this: "Stock Broker," Ira Foghorn, a complete stranger to you, phones and tells you to watch Blowhard Networks on NASDAQ. Its stock is going to go up. You do. It does. A few weeks later he calls again and tells you to watch Simpleton Industries. Its stock is going to tank. Again you watch. It drops, just as he'd said it would. Another few weeks later, guess what? He calls a third time to tell you that Consolidated Bread's shares will rise. Very curious now, you repeat your observance. And, of course, once more, this mystic is proven to be correct.

How did he do it?

Simple! You were one of eighty people, whose names he'd gathered from the internet, phone book, a directory, or other list. His second call was to the remaining forty, those to whom he'd proved himself correct. By the time he calls the third time, his list is down to twenty. You were one of the remaining twenty.

The word "con," as in con man, is derived from the word, confidence. And, I think you will agree that, based upon abbreviated face-time performance only, "Stock Broker," Ira Foghorn, has "performed," thus generating confidence.

In today's unreal, alternative universe, smoke and mirrors magic proliferate. In this setting it is most tempting to accept the infamous "free lunch," Now, Ira's suggestion that for a small up-front fee he will put you into Suckers, International, so that you, too, can share in the benefits of his omnipotence, sounds enticing indeed.(After all, lunch is always free, isn't it.)

If you bite, any further conversations with this flim-flam man will only get you a reaction akin to the fast-talking physician writing out a prescription while checking his watch as he mentally consigns you to his scrap heap of victims. To him, the surgery on your wallet is over. Successfully. Now it's time to brush you off, and get on to the next "mark."

Legal Phone Scam

How to lose your shirt the quick easy way with this common legal scam. Start calling 809, 876, and 284 phone numbers. Here's how they work:

A mom / homemaker, a New Jersey native, received an "urgent" phone message: call back immediately, your father had an accident. Upon doing so--putting through her call to a given 809 phone number--she was told to hold while the party tried to locate the proper duty nurse (at the supposed hospital). She did. For ten minutes. In later checking through other sources she found that her father was not endangered, had not had an accident, and was indeed well and happy. She promptly forgot the phone call, dismissing it as a matter of mistaken identity. Forgot about it, that is, until jogged back to reality by a $12,400 charge on her next phone bill. "I was in a panic. I didn't pay any attention to phone numbers," the confused woman said.

That's how they work. From the shelter of the Caribbean, Dominican Republic, 876, Jamaica, 284, British Virgin Islands phone numbers--these charlatans remain adrift from FTC phone number regulations which protect Americans on 900 phone number calls. Sudden accidents and illnesses are not the only lure to call. Other ruses are: a threat of legal action, to claim a prize, to claim an inheritance from a long-lost relative. Many more. Once you call back, aim is to stall as long as possible, to pile up chargeable minutes, which can range from as high as $2,400 per such unit of time.

Other Caribbean havens to watch out for, to avoid making a punching bag of your wallet, are: 246, Barbados, 242, Bahamas, 268, Antiqua, 345, Cayman Islands. 664, Montserrat, 758 St. Lucia, 787, Puerto Rico, 869 St. Kitts / Nevis, and 441, Bermuda.

Con Man's Back Room Game: Fictitious Credit Cards

If it's your ambition to become an Identity thief, you've got a tough row to beat. You've got to become skilled at a bunch of new things: ear-to-the-ground listening in public for starters. Eavesdropping everywhere. Dumpster diving. You must learn how to suck up tidbits of information like pulling a plunger from a toilet bowl. Inconspicuous loitering around key banking terminals is another talent you must acquire. And, along the way you must also know how to refrain from interrogation techniques wherein you risk exposing your own identity. Challenges. Many, you'd better believe it. All are formidable.

Now, the most gifted of these criminals have learned a way to short cut this whole messy procedure. They have shrunk it, boiled it down, to a true "Lazy Way" to fleece.


Shift operations to the back room--out of sight. Create fictitious credit card numbers. This, the scam artists are now accomplishing, based on the algorithms used by the card-issuing companies themselves. They are producing authentic- seeming numbers. Very often these fake numbers are so professionally constructed that they easily pass verification fire walls and are actually given approval codes.

Advantages to the thief? If the scamster concentrates on scamming only businesses that operate via phone or over the internet--where showing cards is not necessary; where only digits count-- abundant possibilities for theft spring forth.

So, if you are a phone or internet business, how do you protect yourself from these scams?While technology is coming to your aid--fast--you can't wait. In the meantime, here are just a few of the defensive steps you can take:

Because a phony number might still come out the same as the one on your MasterCard, it is essential for the thief to keep the true number-holder blind as to what is going on. (This is why double addresses are so often used.) Hence, from the seller's side of the problem, much suspicion must be focused on all bill to / ship to double-address orders. Other red-light warnings are orders that are bigger than typical: orders requiring fast shipping (remember, the thief cares nothing of the cost--he has no intention of paying anything at all); early date cards--those with much time remaining before expiration.

A big minus for the thief: as his delusions of grandeur grows, technology is fast catching up. The card processors, not being born yesterday, are going, full-bore, at solving this threat to them. So, bank on it: with their vast financial resources, they will.

In the meantime, it behooves the merchant to show a maximum of caution, be vigilant, observing, and ready to slam the door on quick notice.

How to resist the con artist trying to make a "Yes Man" out of you through mind games.

The Yes / No Legal Scam

The skilled con artist knows how to rig the game to make the players think they are winning. Every time you put a quarter into the slot machine, out come 2 more. In setting you up for the big con, this formula is altered a bit, to nothing more than ace-high salesmanship. They know they must get you in a good mood, very positive thinking, in every respect, in order to get you over to their side.

Thus, you are subjected to the preliminary "Yes / No" test. In it you are being set up, softened, conditioned to saying "yes" to that final (when it comes) "closing" question, "Would you sign here, please?" Their means? A long, introductory series of questions that you, in complete control of your mental faculties, can only say "yes" to. Examples: Would $2,000 a week in additional income be helpful to you? Would your wife appreciate the extra luxuries? Would it be easier to set up a fund for your children's college education? Would holding a mortgage-burning party early make you happy? Would you breathe easier knowing that your retirement is secure?

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes--to all 5 questions. Of course. Is there any doubt, really, as to what your logical reactions to such questions would be?

Now the con artist has you in the habit. You are being led, inexorably, like a sheep, to the slaughter, toward the desired end-result, the "kill." This would be your final head-nodding, agreeable acceptance of whatever crackpot scheme or product thisartist is trying to sell you.

How do you break the rhythm of this rip-off, keep a full handle on your conscious objectivity in reviewing his "sales" presentation? You almost have to play a little game on yourself, a form of self-hypnosis combined with some amusing musings on answers. For example, mentally--as you go, as he is talking--pose to yourself a mythical "no" answering routine. To demonstrate how this might work, let's go through those leading questions again:

"Would $2,000 a week in additional income be helpful to you?" (No, I enjoy being a struggling paycheck-to-paycheck working slob.)

"Would your wife appreciate the extra luxuries?" (No, she enjoys home canning, making her own clothes and soap, and all the other joys of care-free poverty.)

"Would it be easier to set up a fund for your children's college education?" (No, I'd only have more time to blow the money, like I might be doing right here, now, by listening to you.)

"Would holding a mortgage-burning party early make you happy?" (No, I don't want to incur any prepayment or other back-end costs. And, besides, my banker's got to eat, too.)"

"Would you breathe easier knowing your retirement is secure?" (No, this whole concept challenges my Vow of Poverty.)

In sum, beware of stories with happy endings. Often they have unsettling postscripts. Thus, going through some such mental gymnastics--as you go through this person's "Yes Man" routine--might a little better enable you to hold your own feet to the fire, keep you focused on objective analysis. This, so you will be better positioned for the end-game: when you must ponder the only yes / no question that counts, whether on not to sign on the dotted line.

A question that's a con man's delight: The Employee or Independent Contractor Scam

You've got some spare hours and want to earn some extra income. You get an offer to become an "Executive Assistant" in an aluminum siding company.. You visit their representative, and look over their literature, handsome colored brochures which proclaim opportunity, opportunity, and more opportunity. But, nowhere are benefit packages mentioned, the usual, medical, vacation, sick leave, termination pay--nothing of this in writing. But, the rep speaks lavishly of these "benefits." You are sufficiently impressed, join the team, find you are only to collect commissions for selling aluminum siding, work a few weeks, get disgusted and quit.

When you go back to collect your pay, the shell game starts. You are told that you were never an employee, but an independent contractor, and delay excuses are made for not having your limited earnings available yet. You get up and go. Then you wait. Next time you try to contact them, you find the tent has been pulled and the company is gone. This is a pattern that is practiced repeatedly, and with much success, by con men who operate under a simple premise, that a conscience does not prevent sin; it only prevents them from enjoying it.

Why this pattern?

Because it enables them "cover," a means by which they can hide behind an advantage to them, a differentiation problem--is he an employee or independent contractor?--that the politicians are too cowardly to solve.

Congress has punted on this due to the difficulty of precise language and because, generally, employers everywhere want to keep the language vague so as to give them more maneuvering room in taking on additional help. These companies assert lobbying pressure against precise language. Some states have laws, but mostly subject to interpretation all over the map. End result? You are caught in the middle.

Only IRS has hard rules covering this debate, the exact nature of which are unknown, but as a general rule run something along this line:

To qualify for independent contractor status a company must not provide any tools to work with. Example: when you, as an employer, call a plumber to come fix your sink, he, as an independent contractor, brings his own pipe wrench. You do not provide this for him You can only supply merchandise which will be used up in the process of the job, e.g. tissues to wipe down the plumber's tools while he is working. The company--you--may not specify work hours. That must be left up to the outside guy, the plumber. No other form of guidance may be exercised. You, as the employer, have engaged a freely-operating contractor to attain a desired result, a workable sink, that's all. The means of getting this desired result must be left up to him. And, importantly, the outsider must not be provided work facilities on a regular basis. This is yet more separation criteria in determining, is this person an employee or an independent contractor? To top off: the outsider submits invoices for services rendered (he works for others beside you). And, employees do not submit invoices.

So how do you protect yourself against these charlatans, expose their rip-off?

> Ask them to write down the work "benefits" they offer, maybe because you wish to ponder them, and / or, talk them over with family and friends. This will rattle their cage, maybe even make them drop you on the spot as a potential "mark."

> Have them clarify, in writing, the status of an "Executive Assistant" as opposed to Sales Representative. A request they will find totally repugnant.

>Ask for a list of references from satisfied customers. Ask for bank references. (Did Hell ever, actually, freeze over?)

You won't have to go much further than this. If these simple requests are filled for you, this opportunity might be worth further pursuit. If not, well, you've saved yourself a lot of time, effort. And, needless frustration.