Friday, September 26, 2008

Legal Scam?--Con Artists' / Politicians' Ace in the Hole: Create Controversy

--Generating 2 Strongly Opposing Sides is Key to a Good Legal Scam enjoyed by Con Artists and Politicians Everywhere

It's said the hand that turns the knob opens the door.

If you be the con artist / politician, you know that, to succeed in selling a legal scam, several steps are essential. steps necessary to just getting to the door, before you can even hope to open it.

As it's said: Never wrestle a pig; you'll both get dirty, and the pig likes it. Take the easy way.

You must hatch a problem so that you can organize a group of people to step in with the "solution." You must then employ the Us and Them technique so that your group of suckers can be manipulated, with strong emotion, to become the 'void-filler" in this legal scam. Tell them your powers can only be used for good. At no time overlook the potency of collective stupidity.

You can't make someone instantly buy your scam: all you can do is stalk them until they give in. So, next up, you have to create, or piggy-back onto, emotion-laden issues This enables you to not only get through the door, but to climb the staircase in search of this perfect scam. If all else fails, lower your standards still further.

It doesn't much matter what the precise nature of the issue is, as long as you can condemn the other side of it as being dead wrong. (Embalming of a corpse is not a legal requirement; most people are unaware of this.) And, in so doing, you can more appropriately lay claim to the righteousness of your cause--occupy the moral high ground. Tell your flock it's not easy being right all the time. This will go over well with those of your followers who seem like they have been working with glue too long

How do you go about engendering this controversy? A number of ways are available to you. (Con artists and politicians promoting a legal scam are all the same. They think anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for.)

> Start out broadly, by finger-pointing at everyone who might disagree with you in any way, no matter how small. Be ruthless. Cruel and unusual punishment works better. In the early stages you merely follow a fundamental Law of Bureaucracy: To get action create the illusion of a crisis, and hope somebody will try to do something about it. If at first you do succeed, try not to look surprised.

> Narrow your field down to a few of the better-known, more dominant, more influential entities. At this stage you will let a few of your fringe oppressors off the hook. (Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.)

> Among your array of enemies to fight, you must include entities such as oppressive government agencies, and some suspect and discredited watchdog organizations that you can accuse of devious ambitions which can be proven by "follow the money" trails. And, any other opposing group which can be scalded with the taint of blind ambition or greed makes a good scapegoat.

Mix in a little blasphemy with outrageous lies, stir well, and a most succulent conspiracy broth will emerge, ready for consumption by your sucker following. Be brutal. Be explicit. Be direct. Never play leapfrog with a unicorn.

> Now comes the final narrowing-down to that one enemy who threatens you in the harshest, meanest way--the one which is the biggest stumbling block to your achieving your noble goals (legal scam). You'll want to concentrate your fire more on this single villain than all the rest. Again, show no mercy. Nobody has ever complained about a parachute not opening.

> Stir this pot of contempt and hatred to boiling pitch. And, watch the money come pouring in to support your valiant cause. Once your group of suckers has made up its collective mind, don't confuse them with facts. Merely step aside and lovingly and gratefully accept their generous money donations. At this point don't overdo. That would be as pointless as a hit man outfitting his gun with a silencer to whack a mime.

How do you--as the victim of this accumulated nonsense--prevent yourself from getting so cleaned out that you are eating beans for breakfast? Just as you wouldn't consider beef jerky and Twinkies as 2 of the major food groups, and wouldn't consider barbequing Spam on your outdoor grille even if you didn't have anything better to eat, you've got to use plain old common sense. Talk is cheap because supply exceeds demand. Reason everything out from there.

Remember, if you go dancing with a grizzly bear, let him lead.

But, the safe path is the best.

Clutching your wallet to your breast, run for the tall grass.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Power of Slogans: Con Man / Politician Similarities--Part II

--Political Season turns out to be a Great Teacher of Con Man Jargon Power

For those who wonder why "abbreviation" is such a long word, and why a diplomat thinks twice before saying nothing, we hope this will serve as a primer on the con man / politician relationship.

For starters, let's examine a few of the most impact-filled political slogans of history (from past Presidential campaigns):

> In Your Guts, You Know He's Nuts. Powerful putdown of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 Presidential race.

> Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion. Potent slogan, lifted from a statement by a prominent Democrat, used against George McGovern in the 1972 Presidential campaign.

> A Chicken in Every Pot, a Car in Every Garage. A strong slogan, effectively employed by Herbert Hoover in his 1928 landslide bid.

> Where's the Beef? Popular slogan, catchy phrase ,revered especially by late night talk show comedians.--but one that did not do Walter Mondale any good in his 1984 campaign against Ronald Reagan, who won 49 states. Probably because these 3 simple words were too vague, did not ring any particular bells.

> Ma, Ma, who's my Pa? When James Blaine used this slogan in his 1884 campaign--referring to his rival, Grover Cleveland's 1874 cotribution of an illegitimate child--it backfired. This was, perhaps, the first major attempt at "gutter politics" in U.S. history. Cleveland became the next President that year.

> Better Dead than Red. Powerful slogan which sprung up during the Eisenhower Presidency of the 1950s. "Left-wingers" and Communism were super-taboo in those days Lead to 2 Eisenhower landslides.

> Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids did you Kill Today? This bottom-of-the-deck slogan is said to have influenced Lyndon Johnson to pull out of his 1968 Presidential re-election effort altogether.

< Lips that Touch Liquor Must Never Touch Mine. Memorable slogan from the Temperance movement at the turn of the 20th Century

Now, let's examine a few catch phrases that can easily apply to the con man, and see how they might line up, comparably, to juice a political campaign:

> Boldly Going Nowhere. Could be used by any contender against any incumbent.

< You Can't Fall Off the Floor. Meaning, you may as well elect me (contender). Things couldn't get any worse.

> Hermits have no Peer Pressure. For any candidate pushing the isolationist line--get out of the UN, reel in all armed forces from around the world, concentrate on "Fortress America," go out in the backyard and eat worms.

> A few Clowns Short of a Circus. For the contender pointing a finger at an incumbent's inept administration.

> Capital Punishment isn't for making examples: It's for Making Bad People Dead.
Obviously, for those favoring cap;ital punishment. (This one is probably too long, though, to make an effective slogan.)

Biggest difference between a politician and an accomplished con man is illustrated by the old principle: Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.. The good con man knows that, at the right time, silence can be golden. The average politician hasn't seemed to have learned this lesson yet

If in doubt, you can always enhance your victimhood and cast your vote for the slimy weasel. When emotion trumps logic in elections--as sadly, it often does--this seems to be the only way out.

Or, if you can't figure a logical way out of the vote-choice dilemma, follow the Yogi Berra advice: When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scam Artists' Bonanza: Home Builder Bailouts

--Rampant Fraud Schemes, Resulting from Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis, Zero in on Home Owners

First it was Bear, Stearns. then Fannie and Freddie. Then, Lehman. Now the housing collapse has spread to many of the nation's top builders, as well. All points leading to a stupid question...

One of the mysteries of life is how can a 2-pound box of candy make you gain 5 pounds?

This is the kind of mystery so many home builders seemingly are trying to solve in these panic days of the sub-prime mortgage crisis, and the resultant collapse of home sales. If the shoe fits, wear both.

To set the scene:

1) Builders can't sell homes to real home buyers. Often this is due to antiquated floor plans as well as home buyers inability to qualify for a loan. Most builders adhere strictly to the letter of the law. But, sadly, with many other builders it seems to be a matter of thinking that safe sex means a padded headboard. They take "chances."

2) Thinking that a kiss is nothing more than the interchange of unisexual salivary bacteria, they feel emboldened to take these "chances." Plagued by interim construction loans hanging over their heads, builders turn to house flippers, housing speculators, scam artists, and other non-occupant buyers as their primary customers. Reality being their only obstacle to happiness, they try to do away with it. To them, an old axiom of frugality is satirized and becomes: A penny saved is beyond ridicule.

3) To avoid losing money, builder sells at a discount,, not only to investors, but also to "straw" buyers, and all kinds of scam artists. These people must represent that they intend to occupy, though they have no intention of doing so. Never argue while frying pork chops; distractions and flying hot grease particles do not mix; In no way can the health of your eyeball be assured. This is where the troubles begin.

4) Through the "Good Old Boys Network"--often replete with scam artists--rigged appraisals are set up. Example: a home selling for $300,000 might be over-appraised by $80,000 (not too difficult to do in a fast-falling market). Once the loan closes--at appraised value--the buyer, frequently a scam artist, pockets this $80,000 over the purchase price--often with a kickback to the Builder.

5) Multitasking is a way of screwing up several projects at the same time. This might well be a crowning example. The big variety of buyers--whether qualified, legal, or not--seems to be proof of this, at least as it applies to home builders. The variety of house closings became so complex that law enforcement was virtually invited to the party. Never moon a werewolf. You'll only have 2 options. He'll either tell you to pull your pants back up, or haul you off to the slammer. This could be the moral of the story.

Money can't buy you friends, but it does attract a better class of enemy. This is what many "adventurous" builders are now finding out. Still in the enemy category, many of these buyers (scam artists?) are now plea-bargaining with the prosecution, and turning state's evidence against the builders. After driving builders to drink, they are now stealing the corks off their lunch.

These days, so many builders are hung out to dry--right along with their lending institutions--that they can only ask themselves: What would the Lone Ranger do?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Con Men Staple: Collect Up-Front Money from Suckers

--Old as the Hills, Collecting Advance Fees for Services Not Yet Performed, or Never Performed, remain a Basic Tool in the Scam Kit of Con Men

If variety is the spice of life for con men, advance fees are the big can of leftover Spam.

Used for generations, advance fees always work, so why not keep using them as a dangle, a fitting way to set up a victim for a fleecing? This is the common thinking of con men. If you feel you were born wet, naked, and hungry, then things got worse, look at it this way: If you fall into this archaic trap you will suffer such evolution in reverse. when you are offered a lucrative-sounding advance fee deal, remember, If you don't believe a lion is dangerous, ask any antelope.

What are advance fees?

These occur whenever the victim pays his hard-earned money to con men in anticipation of receiving a product or service of greater value--such as a contract, loan, investment, or gift. Then in a big majority of cases, receives nothing in return. To the con men way of thinking, advance fee deals are much like dating a homeless woman. You can drop her off anywhere. In this case the "homeless" would be you, once parted from your advance fee.

Unfortunately, such finder's fee-type agreements are often legal. To get his advance fee returned to him, the burden of proof falls on himself (the victim), who must prove that no meaningful services were performed, or product delivered, on his behalf, or for his benefit, by the con man. This is frequently a difficult undertaking. Finder's, keepers. Losers, sleepers.

So, how do you steer clear of these traps?

1) Legitimate business is rarely done in cash, on street corners. Thus, rule #1 is stay far away from this kind of sleazy transaction. Follow cowboy wisdom: Don't squat with your spurs on.

2) Know who you're dealing with. It's always surprising, just how many full-blown adults will ignore their mother's advice, and not only talk to strangers, but deal with them, entrust them with their money. It's so easy to check with your bank, attorney, your Better Business Bureau, the police, any number of consumer watchdog groups. Do so. You don't want to be like the nonchalant truck driver who adorns the rear of his vehicle with a bumpersticker reading: Honk if anything falls off.

3) Complexities are commonly thrown at you in these kinds of deals. As confusion, distraction, and turmoil are among the con man's prime tools, you will find these "agreements" incredibly complex. The text is frequently similar to the product of the lawyer who takes a simple 2-way promise and turns it into several 1-way promises which neither side can comprehend or hope to fulfill. Watch out.
Frequently the document shoved in front of you to sign will seem like it should have been printed on Kleenex, for it expects you to pay through the nose. Reject it, outright.

4) Be especially on guard--to not sign any nondisclosure or noncircumvention agreements. The nondisclosure will prevent you from properly verifying the bona fides of the con man. And, the noncircumventioln will be used to threaten you with a civil law suit, should you report your losses to law enforcement agencies.
Be mindful of Gold's Law: If the shoe fits, it's ugly.

All in all, advance fee deals are about the worst strong-arm shots the con man will take at you. Why? Because it's the most efficient way for him to part you with your money, then speedily make tracks.

Consequently, when he offers to put a cushion on the chair in the gas chamber, or to perfume the cyanide for you, reject him with vigor, forthrightly.

And, walk away.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Scam Artists Investigations: Public Corruption Now Top Criminal Activity of FBI

Signs of the Times?--1,800 Government officials in U.S. sent Off to Slammer Over Past 2 Years

If at first you don't succeed, blame somebody else and seek counseling

Public officials' creed? Much of this is going on right now as an FBI crackdown has netted a major "catch" of public officials.

Would you call this level of scam artists' activity in government a top priority?--2,500 pending cases, a 50% increase in public corruption over the past 5 years? The FBI calls it just that. It has already sent 1,800 government officials "up the river" over the past 2 years alone. Lately it's been a matter of: He who feeds at the public trough gets far more than a case of heartburn--more like a case of severe food poisoning. (You can tell a lot about housekeepers' lifestyles if they keep a can of Raid on their kitchen table.)

In April, 2008, a Landmark state of Tennessee public corruption investigation--an FBI sting, conducted under the code name, Tennessee Waltz--was brought to a close with the conviction of a dozen state and local public officials. This included several state senators, a state representative, 2 county commissioners, and 2 school board members. Scam artists? It got so bad that the closest these people could get to making a fashion statement would be by wearing a designer jump suit.

The FBI's sting operation involved setting up a dummy corporation, one designed to distribute recycled surplus electronic equipment to third world countries. Bribes were offered. And, taken. Some of the legislators even introduced in their chambers the exact, same legislation that the FBI had written for them--in furtherance of its dummy corporation's cause. All told, $150,000 in bribe money was paid out.

It's said that confession is good for the soul, but bad for your career. It was career-preservation that was apparently the reason these cases went to trial. The old axiom--it's impossible to tell between a politician sitting on his hands, and one covering his butt--was apropos here. Some of these people proved to be so slick they could, literally, steal the shortening out of a biscuit without breaking the crust.

It's been long recognized on Capital Hill, in Washington, D.C., that you could well run into this temptation: If you apply for a job as a Congressional Staffer, and are asked if you lie, cheat, or steal, you can only say, no, but I'm willing to learn. Evidently, such conscientiousness has spilled over to 'fly-over" country too.

For the convicted scam artist politician--what with carrying humongous attorney's bills--reality has struck hard recently, with a clear message:

Yes, money talks, but--now--all yours says is , "Goodbye."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New "Beware of Con Men" Warnings Dominate Vishing Schemes

--Con Men Upgrade: New Sophistication Enables Even Greater Threat to Consumers' Wallets

It's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

What's that?

The many schemes the con men can dream up to lure you into their various traps. When their conventional scams become tired, they sprinkle their Holy Water on a completely new one. And, presto. Look out. Run for cover.

Any connection between your reality and that of the con men is purely coincidental. If you were to believe some of the new email scams surfacing now, it would be like putting credence in a claim by your accountant that there is no such thing as a number three. Yet, many of these new email scams feature such a sophisticated approach that they are fooling a sea of new suckers at an alarming rate. Does artificial intelligence beat real stupidity? Never overlook the collective mental vacuity of naive people in large groups.

Go figure. New approach--believe it or not--is assurance. Assurance that the con men, themselves, are protecting--yes, protecting--you against con men and fraud. (That's like getting a pet Zebra and naming him Spot.) Here's how they do it:

This new assault on your identity--called "vishing"--involves an alleged bank representative, cleverly disguised as a responsible business executive, contacting you by email, and persuading you to divulge your PII (Personally Identifiable Information), claiming your account has been suspended, deactivated, or terminated.

You are directed to contact your bank via a telephone number provided in the email, or by an automated recording.

But, it this case it's best to react according to Bucy's Law: Nothing is ever accomplished by a reasonable man.

Were you to call the number given, you would be greeted with, "Welcome to the Bank of _________" and requested to enter your card number in order to resolve a pending security issue. Sadly, there are still too many people around who prove that evolution can go in reverse, too many people who still get suckered by these crafty con men. (An ostrich's eye is bigger than its brain; how many people do you know like this?)

The con men even warn against providing sensitive information by email, and not to click on attachments, because these might be (horrors) contaminated with "malicious software aimed at capturing your login credentials."

How to react?

A fake fortuneteller can be tolerated; but an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Don't click Don't react directly to anything suggested. Incompetence knows no barriers of time or place. Instead, contact the financial institution supposedly involved-- do this by independent means. Banks never notify their customers of irregularities in this manner..

Appropriate in these unusual email cases is Goodfader's Law: Under any system, a few sharpies will beat the rest of us. Does this mean you don't have a chance? No. You do. How? What should your reaction be?

Rejection? Should be automatic, as this email assault insults your common sense. It all comes down to a matter of which grouping of people do you fall into? The suckered, or the enlightened?

It's like the converse purposes of smoking a pipe: It gives a wise man time to think, and a fool something to stick in his mouth.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Con Man / Politician Similarities: Many--Watch for Them

--With Political Season in Full Swing, Observe the Parallels between the Con Man and Politician

It's said that diapers and politicians should both be changed frequently--for the same reason

Extreme thought? Yes. A "fit?" Read on. You be the judge.

Politicall talk--like the rantings of the con man-- is so often filled with purposefully confusing, seemingly idiotic questiolns like: Why do we park in the driveway, and drive on the parkway?

Hence, with the political season upon us, it seems appropriate to study some of these stunning likenesses between the tactics and maneuvering of the con man--and, the politician.

Take ad hominem attacks, for instance...

> Attack the person, rather than the argument. "Senator Twaddle's book about the Fall of the Roman Empire has no credence, because, in his youth he served 3 days in jail for drunken driving." (May be true, but has nothing to do with the Fall of the Roman Empire.) Or, the similalrity of"Senator Twaddle's views and those of Adolph Hitler. "Hitler, too, believed drapes should go all the way to the floor." (So, does this make Senator Twaddle also a monster?)

> A varient of this is Deflected Thinking. This too is valuable. "How can Senator Twaddle argue for his spendthrift Dermatology Funding Bill when his mother-in-law has multiple tattoos?" If asked to explain, and the accuser appeals for time to prepare his impromtu remarks, you'll know he's stalling.

> Attack by innuendo (no, we're not talking about an Italian interpretation of a doctor's proctoscopic examination). "Why doesn't Senator Twaddle tell us what he really knows of the coup in Lower Slobovia? Is he afraid we'll panic?" Instilling fear is a major tool. (Panic now, avoid the rush.)

> Pretense that a personal attack is not occurring. "In order to maintain civil discourse, I will not discuss Senator Twaddle's drug problem." (If all else fails the attacker merely lowers his standards further.) Frequently, when listening to such nonsensical slander, you might feel you are becoming a jibbering basket case thinking: if life is a waste of time and time is a waste of life, why don't we all get wasted together and have the time of our lives?

> Attack on intelligence. Opponent could find Senator Twaddle guilty of many shortcomings. He's ill-informed. Behind the times. Lacks comprehension. Not up-to-date Behind the curve. Or, the Senator is just plain stupid. (This, however, does not always work well. Fortunately, when going to this extreme, it's comforting to remember that a show-off, is often shown-up in a show-down.)

Look. Listen. Learn. The political season--every 2 years--is a great teacher, alerting you to most all of the shenanigans going on all around you. You can only be better off in defending yourself--particularly your psyche and sanity--by knowing the tricks.

If the con artist / politician is a woman. Remember, witches are crafty too.