Thursday, November 29, 2007

Con Man's Version of the Living Trust?--Little Known Secrets

--Wade through all of the advantages and disadvantages, before coming to a reasoned conclusion--facts to face presented here

Eat well, stay fit, die anyway. This is the reality you must face when contemplating a living trust.

Important, if you are contemplating this form of legal instrument: the good, the bad, the needed, and the unneeded of the Intro Vivos Trust, must be considered.Be careful of the differences.

Have you been approached by a telemarketing trust-hustler, an at-your-doorstep quick-buck con man, or been intrigued by an internet ad on this subject? If so, hold up. Slow down. Wait. There are many factors to consider before committing all of your assets to one of these supposed ease-of-estate-conveyance instruments, particularly when offered by one of the above described purveyors.


> Unless your assets exceed $1,000,000 there are no tax advantages. Tax advantages don't kick in significantly until your assets rise above $1,500,000.

> If you are about to apply for Medicaid, you can incur severe penalties if your application is within 5 years of the Trust's establishment.

> Your home, if placed in the Trust, is no longer exempt from the estate tax (in most states), presumably one of the protections you sought when setting up a trust in the first place.

> You give away a lot of personal information when you set one up. So, extra, intensive scrutiny must be focused on the character, reputation, and standing of the people with whom you are dealing.
Don't forget, any dropped item will first strike your toes.

> The expense, often exorbitant.
These are facts the con man will not voluntarily tell you. A goldfish has a memory capacity of 3 seconds. This is the hope the con man is pursuing as he tries to rush his plan past you, especially if you've reached the age where you consider Happy Hour to be time for a nap. There are, however, some plusses.


> Orderliness. The first thing to know about a survival situation is to not get into a survival situation. A trust helps you avoid such a fate.

> Speed in distribution of assets after your demise. You bypass the long, cumbersome probate process (in most states). If you have illusions of competence, then now, before your demise, is the time to fan that flame.

> Clean-cut distribution of proceeds between multiple beneficiaries of your estate. This is a big advantage over probate, where the executor must repeatedly get court approval for so many of the estate-settlement expenses.

> Less squabbling. Reduced tension. Less outright feuding between your siblings or other beneficiaries. When you're all stressed out over this and have no one left to choke, a feeling of peace and tranquility will overtake you with the acquisition of a living trust.

> A great tool for protecting yourself against identity theft. It disrupts the view of any con man lurking in the bushes, planning an identity theft attack on you. Enables you to out-con the identity theft con man by confusing his vision of your estate.

If--oh, that little 2-letter word that means so much--you decide to go the trust route, set one up, it behooves you to find the proper party to take on this task for you. This would mean no telemarketers, high-pressure salesmen, no internet "Trust Specialists." Don't try to ski uphill. Best to stay in your own neighborhood. Level ground. There are probably many reputable financial planners nearby, as well as highly specialized trust attorneys. Find them. Use one.

We're aware that just going through life with your financial assets always, seemingly, in jeopardy, feels like being hit repeatedly in the head with a hammer--and it would feel so good if it stopped. Your attempt to make this euphoric state come to pass, however, must be a cautious undertaking, indeed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Scam Artists' Stalk Small Business

--Eight rules of engagement usedby scam artists to enrich themselves--especially harmful to small businesses

Magalia, California--The SEC, FTC, and the FBI, alarmed by the rapid spread of scam artists and their exploits which include but go even beyond identity theft, are cracking down. Their recent press releases give ample evidence.

How to Lie in Good Faith. This is the scam artist's peculiar interpretation of the much-scorned Law of Bureaucracy, as he focuses on small businesses of all types. Observers see these smaller entities as particularly vulnerable.

The life of a scam artist is viewed as not all that easy. There are many hurdles he must overcome, in order to scam private citizens and corporations of every kind. The small business person, without benefit of the training classes and seminars provided their employees by large corporations, are similarly challenged. They must know precisely where the scam artists are coming from, too.

Veteran business writer, Jack Payne, who has followed the antics of scam artists for the past forty five years, has these pertinent observations. From the viewpoint of the scam artists, he outlines eight of their rules of engagement:

"Start out with your most outrageous claims. This, so as to bring to the surface, chalk off, and get rid of, the most skeptical people right at the outset.

"After you have initially impressed your audience with your fountain of obscure knowledge, hint at a mysterious, secret backer you have waiting in the wings. This always stokes up interest.

"Get your audience foot-stomping mad at some evil conspiracy trying to hold you down, steal your ideas, quash you like a bug because they fear the righteousness of your cause.

"Control all facts by writing a book. Many book printers are available to carry your water. Then, when questioned as to the validity of your claims,, refer to your book, where all the "facts" are "down in print." Gullible people will not question "facts"--when they are in a book.

"Wild claims about the "Big Conspiracy" you must fight will not only cover your lack of evidence, but get you great press coverage. In today's journalistic world, the press zeros in on the conflict itself, rather than the evidence that led to the conflict. Just what you want.

"If you can't convince them, confuse them.
Discourage your investors from trading thoughts with each other. You don't want words from earlier drop-out malcontents to get a foothold.

"Urge your followers to start benefiting the world immediately: by selling your worthless junk to their families, friends, churches, and fraternal order brothers and sisters.

"Start the old pyramid rolling. Offer commissions to your investors to find more investors."

Says Payne, author of 55 business books, plus the legal thriller, Six Hours Past Thursday, "The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue. The skilled scam artist is living proof of this.

"But, your Saving Grace is that It's so simple--really--to pause, ponder, evaluate, do the math. Then, just walk away."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Con Man's Word Games--Don't be Fooled by a Carnival Barker Pitch

--For defensive purposes, what everybody ought to know: the con man's vocabulary and how to interpret it

Seemingly eons ago, the word, "mark," was born. It was in the 19th century era of the carnival barker that the practice of labeling "marks" originated. Once a victim proved his suckerhood, a shell games operator would slap him on the back with a chalk-filled hand, thus making him identifiable to the other crooked operators on the midway. The carnival con man of the day usually got away with these small-time scams because local authorities wrote such thievery off, "because they'll be gone in 3 days."

This practice has evolved. No longer must you worry about such messy tracking methods. The skilled con man, now a polished orator, resorts, largely, to spellbinding prose, a strictly verbal assault on your common sense. So, how do you keep the chalk off your back? How do you now detect when you are about to be ripped off?

Listen closely to the language. Hear each and every word penetrating your ears, on into your head, circulating about your cerebrum seeking analytical judgment. When the con man thinks he has got you in his cross-hairs, certain words will spill forth from his lips. Like the intellectual who uses more words than necessary, he will try to overwhelm you with his charm, wit, and charisma, along with his verbosity. Measure him, and what he says, carefully. Examples of the words:

> Anyone can make a killing. Anyone? C'mon. Obvious, even though the con man thinks, a good slogan will stop researh for 10 years. It's still tried, over and over again.

> Sure-fire. Automatic. Easy money. Airtight. Painless. Foolproof.. Safe. Sure, these words reassure alright. Don't they? Anyone who falls for this claptrap probably also believes in the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, and truthful politicians.

> Confidential. Secret. Then, you must ask yourself, why in the world is he about to spill all of this to a neophyte stranger like me?

> Removes risk. Risk-free. What? Come again. You're thinking, every morning when I leave the house I must drive carefully to avoid hitting somebody. When I get to work I must avoid second hand smoke. I must be careful not to cut myself when using a knife to peel an orange at coffee break. At lunch time I must be sure the potato salad hasn't been standing out too long, to avoid food poisoning. And, on my way home I risk what my husband might think when he sees the fishnet stockings and miniskirt I just bought and am wearing--will he think I was wearing these before I got to work, with a specific purpose in mind?. And, now this guy wants me to invest $10,000 with him and tells me there is no risk?

> Lazy way. Easy money. Painless. Automatic. Huh? As in the Geico commercials on TV, so easy a cave man can do it?

> This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. When you hear this you can be sure it is just that: a get-rich-quick scheme. Whom to acquire this elusive wealth? Why, the con man, naturally.

> Insider. Magic. No-brainer. You would have to be living vicariously through the eyes of a gypsy tea leaf reader to believe these words.

> Win / win. When you hear this think, lose / lose.

> Money machine. Offshore. Cookie-cutter. Dead cat bounce. Components of a legal thriller? Sounds more like language uttered by Tony Soprano and his gang of thugs.

In essence, it's best to be certain the con man's words fall only into an echo chamber as you turn and walk away. Be sure to avoid taking a friendly pat on the back on your way out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Scam Artists' Applying their Craft with new Mind Games

--Well planned psychological approaches employed

Magalia, California--It's just like a magic act, is the claim of scam fighters. With more quick-tricks than a magician on amphetamines, with the illusion of tarot cards plucked from their sleeves, the scam artists wow their audiences. From the scam artist's point of view, following are 7 of these tricks of the trade which are rigidly exercised when trying to seduce a group of people. (Paraphrased from the writings of Jack Payne, founder and former publisher of Business Opportunities Digest, author of 55 business books, and the novel Six Hours Past Thursday, who has followed the antics of the con man for the past 45 years.)

Eliminate self-righteous skeptics right off the top. Never, ever, respond in kind to their emotional utterances of protest. Instead, nit-pick them to death with every kind of unrelated trivia you can think of. Usually, if your initial claims are outrageous enough, this will serve adequately as a distraction to silence these kill-joy malcontents. Where it doesn't, augment your retort by telling them that their attention span is slight, and their need to improve their powers of observation is a pressing one. Offer to help them by laying more unrelated nonsense on them, at the same time demanding that they pay close attention so they will not insult your intelligence by demanding that you further explain.

Pitch your product / service to senior citizens, religious types, the disadvantaged, hard-working family farmers, and groupings of people who are by circumstance dependent on others, or by nature either born followers, or naive adherents to "faith" and "trust." These are your primary markets.

Outrage your audience against a mythical government agency you must fight. These make good scapegoats. Make the suckers a part of your conspiracy-fighting battle by giving you money to wage your sterling crusade.

Always get your victims to pay primary attention to dramatic theory rather than any evidence of reality which could be logically measured.

Be bold, loud. Make your claims in the form of rapier-like thrusts, sharp verbal jabs that will be clearly heard. People tend to think something transparently out in the open could not possibly be suspect.

Don't be too greedy in the beginning Shoot for only a small, initial amount of up-front money. $20-$30 is a good range--for an information kit of some form. Once the sucker has paid that much it's easier to squeeze him for more.

You've got to force your investors to surrender their rights to legal action, by any means you can manufacture. Give them a statement to sign at the last possible minute (as if it is so unimportant that you had almost forgotten it). or mask your disclaimer in a nondisclosure agreement containing print so small their eyeballs would bleed if they tried to read it.

These are just a few of the "basics." Says Payne, "The end game is always to create an atmosphere where emotion trumps logic. And, with identity theft at record levels, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000,000 incidents a year in the U.S. alone, con games are now of epidemic proportions, good spawning grounds for new scams."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Legal Thriller Author Reveals Easy Ways to Spot Natural Disaster Rip-Offs

--How amateur con artists thrived after Hurricane Katarina, due to government ineptness

Amateur con artists of all stripes find that conning the government is the easiest scam of all Finagle's Law of Bureaucracy: The first myth of management efficiency is that it exists, worked well for the exploiters of Hurricane Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, rank amateur con artists had a field day, not even needing the benefits of any particular rip-off training. Collectively they ripped about everything ripable from FEMA's pockets, including the lining. Here is just a sampling of the "enrichment activities" which took place at taxpayer expense as reported by a Senate Investigating Committee:

> An unbelievable 33% of the 2.5 million total applications for all forms of individual assistance were duplicates. That's right, nearly 1 million cases of fraud. Extraordinary.

> Government auditors, using bogus identities, false addresses, and creative disaster stories--for practice--were able to obtain their own $2,000 checks. No questions asked.

> Of 200 home addresses listed as hurricane damaged, 80--a staggering 40%--turned out to be nonexistent apartments or vacant lots.

> Twenty people used 35 bogus social security numbers to rake in more than $100,000 in payment-loot.

> Almost half of 11,000 people who were issued special debit cards good for $2,000 each as survival funds, got a second $2,000 windfall.

> More than half of a group of 250 collected using phantom social security numbers--numbers which had never been issued.

> Use of the social security numbers of dead people proliferated.

> Many cases were found of the special electronic debit cards being used to pay for jewelry, bail bond services, a .45-caliber handgun, and "adult entertainment" of some form or another. This part of the story reads more like fiction, like from a legal thriller.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, almost simultaneously with residents streaming out of New Orleans, a wave of illegal immigrants streamed in. Many of the clean-up jobs were taken by these people, no doubt extending the massive fraud, due to the known, high quantity of fake social security number use in their ranks.

End in sight? Who knows? After a 2-year struggle, the Homeland Security Dept. is still trying to get a handle on it. Being a cumbersome, lumbering government agency, one should not hold one's breath in wild-eyed anticipation Con artists are not the only ones who know that dealing with the government is like kicking a 300-pound sponge.

Oddity is, some 80 years before--in 1925--New Orleans was devastated by an almost identical hurricane-disaster. Not a penny came out of the Federal Treasury to bail the city out of that one. Nonetheless, somehow, the city got rebuilt. Obviously, with no federal bailout, no funds were available for fraud. So, the outcome was entirely different on that score too. How times have changed!

A generally accepted sage-wisdom of life is: You don't want to be so intelligent that nobody can relate to you. Consequently, professionals in every field generally regard talented amateurs with respect. The top executives of NBA basketball were duly impressed with the court prowess of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James while they were still in high school. Corporations vigorously recruit computer nerds, engineers, scientists, and honor graduates of all stripes on college campuses yearly. Even the federal and state governments are constantly seeking talented amateurs from among the masses, to employ and train.

Not so in the con artists' profession. Here the sociopath professional regards the amateur with disdain, convinced he is incapable of developing any kind of workable shell game. He feels, in this field of endeavor, the amateur, not having the I.Q. of a postage stamp, would be the type who would hold up a bank with thumb and forefinger for a gun, forgetting to keep the hand in a pocket. It is therefore appalling to the professional con artist to see this army of not-ready-for-prime-time players charge forward in Louisiana with such stunning success.

Many lock-the-barn-door steps have been taken by Homeland Security since the August, 2005 hordes of amateur con artists were unleashed upon them. But sadly, an ominous, almost hysterical note of panic winds through these moves. There's a ring of resignation about them. Too patch-quilt! Too little! Too late!