Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't be Victim of Escrow Scams: How to Lose $630,000 in a Hurry

--Escrow Scams Now about the most Profitable of all Internet Cons

The con artist's credo: The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing; if you can fake that, you've got it made This is closely adhered to in escrow scams. It makes the perfect vehicle.

A time back a St. Louis man, operating out of Europe, juggled four balls in a con man escrow scam that reads like it was taken directly from the pages of a legal thriller novel. In a perfect timing maneuver he pocketed some $630,000 in one week, by steering four large escrow scams into coming to a head in this timely fashion. Included in his loot were the proceeds from the sales of such non-existent items as a BMW car, a rare coin collection, uncut diamonds, and a European real estate development participation. All contacts were originally made through Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms.

He followed the ancient Con Artists' Axiom: The Gods of war allow the aggressor early victory, setting him up for a worse defeat later on Otherwise, his operation was typical, His "pitch"--which included all of the usual moves--was indeed inviting. Prices were mouth-watering, terms attractive, and ease of transfer--both money and goods--made dealing with him seem like a simpleton's delight. They included: on-paper-only escrow company image, phony references and credentials, and adroit, step-by-step steerage of the "marks" into dealing with him.

Only difference from the norm was the simultaneous perfection of his scam--which made it better than the average scam--bringing all four deals to climax within days of each other. This made it easy for him to get up and go, fold the tent quickly, walk away, and put good distance between himself and the law before his marks "wised up."

To fall off a turnip truck you must first get on. Here are a few hints to help you steer clear of such form of offered transportation when dealing with any kind of escrow: the con artists involved.

1. On the internet, and elsewhere, never deal with anybody who does not list their full address and phone number. Check it out. You'd be surprised at how many do not. It all starts here with an absence of full identification.

2. Does either the buyer or seller (whichever you're dealing with) refer you to a specific escrow service? If so, this is not a yellow light situation, it is a big, flashing red light. Drop this person like the proverbial "hot potato" and search elsewhere.

3. If, when attempting to contact the escrow company's customer service department by phone, you find it impossible to get past the robot brigade--to talk to a real live human being--hang up and and walk off into the sunset, in search of a different service.

4. When Western Union or Money-Gram money transfers are suggested, the shock should be something similar to what it would be seeing the SWAT team pull up in front of your house. No person-to-person transfers of any kind, if you are treating you wallet with respect. Only bank transfers--you to corporate entity--and have your bank report to you as to where the funds were transferred. And, use this method only in rare, thoroughly-investigated instances.

5. Check out the long list of known fraud sites at Escrow Fraud. com Imperative for discovering fraud and con artists' shell games.

6. If an internet transaction, check out how long the suspect escrow company's domain name has been in operation. You can do this at Register.com

7. Offers, with no negotiation at all, to pay for shipping and insurance should be received by you like finger nails being scraped across a black board. These "generous" offerings are usually made to disguise transactional hanky-panky. If you want it all, and want it delivered, this is not the way to go about it.

There you go. You need not be taken in by the accepted gibberish of the escrow money transaction.

Now, consider this, a fact we feel should be a kind of cathartic shock for, even, the brain-dead:

Online escrow service, Auction Pix, a long established firm, estimates that a ratio of 10 to 1 exists, fake to legitimate internet escrow sites. Yes, this is such an important fact that it bears repeating for emphasis: this means 10 times as many phony escrow sources as legitimate ones.

Think of it! That's staggering. It's meaning is simple: escrow fraud is epidemic. It should, then, be clearly indicative that a careless approach to these business transaction"intermediaries" could be as dangerous as going rock climbing while drunk.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Will this New Form of Tax Fraud Ensnare You?

--Scam Artists most likely to Benefit from IRS Policy Shift

Magalia, California--Unleashed by the 2006 IRS private debt collection "initiative," the rumor mill is starting to fill up with stories of new tax scams. Fueled by the pest-power of private collection agencies, this "initiative" holds forth the promise (or threat, depending upon which side of the desk one happens to be sitting) of providing a new windfall source of revenue--to 3 parties: IRS, collection agencies, and scam artists.

Supposedly, assurances to the taxpayers involved--for this new inclusion of private collection agencies in the tax payment equaion-- are provided by IRS:

Taxpayer notification. IRS will notify the "selected" taxpayers before they are contacted by a private debt collection agency. The name of the company will be included in the notification letter.

Collection agency letter. All participants will receive a second letter, this one from the collection agency, informing the taxpayer that they will soon be contacted regarding back taxes.

Money collected. All checks will still be made payable to the U.S. Treasury--not to an individual or firm. The collection agency will provide the appropriate IRS mailing address for payments. They will never ask for cash or checks written to individuals.

Legal thriller author, Jack Payne, whose specialty is the study of scam artists and their operations, comments, "'Oh, ho, you say,' with a smile of satisfaction as one of the 'selected'. 'This assures me that I can't be ripped off.'" Payne continues, "Oh, yeah, sure You may find satisfaction that you will not be hounded in a way as to be victimized by scam artists. But, how about all the millions of other taxpayers who are unaware of these procedures? This is what opens up a whole new market to scam artists.

"What's to stop them from getting well-credentialed, and approach you waving a copy of this new initiative, and announcing that they have been charged by the IRS to collect back taxes on their behalf. They can lay down their own rules of process to these unwitting victims who have no knowledge of what these official rules are. It's as good as extending a license to steal to a whole new breed of scam artists.

"How about notification to every taxpayer of the proper, official procedure. Only then will the hand of protection to the new millions of scamable people be extended But, don't hold your breath. Remember, a pessimist is never disappointed. In the final analysis, when you put 2 common words together, 'the' and 'IRS' it spells, 'theirs.'

"It won't be long before we'll all be longing for the good old days when a tax audit meant, simply, going to an IRS office with, maybe, your attorney or accountant in tow, for an afternoon of good old-fashioned haggling.. Just you and IRS, no middle-man.

"But, If you do get on an IRS 'hit' list you now face a doubling-up, a collection agency to also bludgeon you. Every time you hit bottom it seems, somebody hands you a shovel. It will be most interesting to see how this new scam-fest will work out."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Scam Artists' Outrageous Insurance Scams--Do You Really Understand These?

--In insurance fraud, most scam artists encounter fitting retribution for their bizarre schemes

We owe the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, a clearing house for scams information, a word of thanks for these case histories. In their yearly "Hall of Shame," this anchor group, consisting of consumer organizations, government agencies, and insurance companies, came up with a compendium that reads like the Last Refuge for Scoundrels. Here are some horrible examples of how twisted scam artists fabricated their twisted dreams, transformed them into reality. It reads like a tutorial on how to microwave hamsters for fun and profit.

> A Virginia woman, claiming to have found a dead mouse in her soup at a Cracker Barrel restaurant, demanded $500,000 in damages. Autopsy on the mouse revealed no soup in the lungs, and it hadn't been cooked. She is doing a 1-year stretch.

> An Ohio "pain management" doctor threatened to deny pain killers to his patients unless they let him use their names to bill insurance companies for $60 million in drugs. He fraudulently billed insurance companies for more than 100 patients a day, for years. Two of his patients died of overdoses. He is doing life in a Federal slammer.

> A New York doctor paid drug addicts to use their names so he could bill insurers big-time bucks. He filed 2,000 bogus claims for phantom surgeries on a single addict. (This one is a real challenge to figure. On a single patient?) He is doing a 20-year term--before his "debt to society" is repaid.

> A Houston high school teacher promised passing grades to two failing students to set ablaze her Chevy Malibu car so she could collect the insurance money. She got 90 days to think about it.

> A Tennessee oncologist watered down cancer drugs, then billed Medicare for the full amount. Justice struck with a 15-year sentence.

> A Florida dermatologist diagnosed skin cancer, even though employees placed Styrofoam and chewing gum on biopsy slides instead of human tissue. He performed 122 surgeries on one elderly man. He received 20 years to repent for his sins

> A Chicago grain futures executive torched his $1 million home, with his 90-year old mother still in the basement, to make it look like she'd set the fire. His 190 year sentence will indeed give him more than enough time to pray for forgiveness of his sins.

One can only ask: in all of their pathetic machinations, how could these presumably sane people hatch such bizarre real-world scams? Over the top. It's like the scam artist saying, I'm only greedy on days ending in y..

Though justice was served, you cannot help but wonder from these case histories, has the world gone mad? It's been said that the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us. Maybe there is some truth to this.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Legal Thriller Author Explains What Every Investor Should Know About Internet Stock Scams

--From spam to bulletin board and chat room, scam artists have found a new home.

A century ago P.T. Barnum sagely told us, "A sucker is born every minute." At the time he was, no doubt, correct.

No longer. In today's internet world, that time-span has been cut back to every nana second. Now that spam has been somewhat curtailed, scam artists have moved their operations, largely, to internet bulletin boards and chat rooms. That's all. A change of venue. Like maggots fried in hot grease, they have moved, jumped, spread out, occupied many of these new communications centers.

This up-the-ante, beat-the-street move was made necessary because state law enforcement agencies, the SEC, and the FTC have, in recent years, set up teams to daily police the worldwide web. With spam, being the most obvious and easiest to detect, the scam artists have been forced to a better, alternative outlet for their "avant-garde" visions.

With a chat room, nothing more than pulling all the old con-lines out of mothballs and reusing them is needed. With con-world tactics, they spiel out typical con-like jargon, and reel in the usual high percentage of suckers. Just like the good old days.

With bulletin boards--those Illusory walls seemingly profaned by graffiti--it's a little different. The scam artists are challenged. Tactics and timing take greater emphasis. Try this example on for size:

A clever scam artist left a message on a prominent stock board that a small U.S. hi-tech company was about to be bought up by a European firm for $900.000.000. This was a sum nearly double its market value. The posting had a link to another bulletin board which displayed a press release giving the details. The press release was a phony, placed there by the con man himself. His purpose was 1-track, to temporarily drive up the price of the stock. With the temptations stoked by the bargain-basement price, investors flew to the stock driving its price from $5 to $7.50 in minutes. With the aid of the many day traders on the exchange, who buy quickly on rumor, the scam artist walked off with a fast-buck haul of $520,000. Presto. Nothing more than a classic pump and dump, only taken out of the usual "pump" time frame, speeded up so that the whole thing would come to climax before law enforcement authorizes could even answer their phones to take the inevitable complaints. Real. But, like a classic page from a legal thriller book.

Take a long look sometime. Observe all of the stock boards and news boards hanging in cyberspace. As so many scam artists still dance on the internet in a perpetual spam-fest, this stock "guru" found a better way. Whereas legendary con man, the Music Man's Professor Harold Hill, gave us 76 trombones, he put a little cha-cha-cha into the sax section.

The SEC gets in upwards of 200 complaints a day about illegal activity on the web. Most pf these are stock scams. With fraud made this easy it should come as a heavy-booted reminder that this particular form of Scamology 101 should be featured in Scam School, for the benefit of all concerned watchdogs and law enforcers.It's textbook.

With his imposing presence, elegant sartorial style, and eloquent use of the language, the con man has evolved. And now, with his range so widely expanded, your life as a potential target has expanded right along with it. Unless you count your age in elephant years, you will most likely find yourself in his cross-hairs at some moment in your life.

Prepare. Learn. Now is the time. Be ready for that cure-all elixir when it comes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Con Men's Prime Bank Note Scams on Upswing

--Playing on letter of credit / prime bank note confusion, con men rake off huge profits.

Magalia, California--A departure from letter of credit fraud has been the recent emergence of prime bank note fraud, mostly emanating from Europe, aimed at defrauding Americans, now facing an F.B.I. crackdown. This scam is considered a step up because it requires strict noncircumvention agreements, which impedes the mark's ability to adequately, independently verify information about the investment. Often a tough wrap-around is a nondisclosure agreement.

What advantages exist for con men? Here are some:

Complexity. This always attracts con men, who, scam fighters say, consider themselves mentally superior. And, prime bank notes give them a show-case stage setting from which to demonstrate this.

Prestige. Foreign exchange instruments are always a great lure--for vanity appeal alone.

Easy to apply faulty logic. Because foreign exchange is shrouded in the mysterious, con men have largely a free hand to befuddle the whole issue as to its process and implementation.

Foreign banks use bank guarantees the same way U.S. banks use letters of credit: to insure payment for goods in international trade. Like letters of credit, these are never traded or sold on any kind of market. Knowledge of this non-liquidity has crept out over recent years. Not so for foreign bank guarantees. Victims are still for the most part in the dark about these.

"This scam is a dream for con men who want to shoot big, with a really cleverly concocted premise to peddle," says legal thriller author, Jack Payne. whose book, Six Hours Past Thursday, spells out many such cons. "The bait is that they have access to a block of these guarantees. By reselling them several times they claim to be able to earn a usurious return for the mark. For example, a $20,000,000 deal, turned over 10 times at 2% would produce a $4,000,000 profit."

Payne summarizes, "These large scale scams are whoppers now, and growing.
F.B.I. action against these is picking up.
Once the sucker bites, it's finger-snap clean, fast, and efficient for the con man. His money is speedily dispersed from the foreign bank, in which it was deposited, into an offshore account and washed. Once laundered, it quickly disappears into the pocket of the con artist for his high living pleasures."