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.

18 comments:

Ione Hesber said...

There are just enough advance fee requests from legitimate businesses to make these sound logical. For example, I had to pay an advance fee to get a total deep housecleaning job done. These requests are rare, but they are still there. That's just enough to confuse, I think.

Warren M said...

That burden of proof thing is a killer. The victim starts out behind the eight ball.

Jack Payne said...

Unfortunately, there are enough legitimate small businesses around who ask for "down payments"--often as low as $50 or $100--prior to rendering services. You're right, Ione. This is just enough to keep this whole advance fee concept alive.

Jack Payne said...

You said it perfectly in few words, Warren. No way can I improve on that.

Arnie Herbett said...

I've been reading your blog for nearly a year now, Jack. I finally broke down and bought your book, even though I thought the price was a little high even if it was a hardback-sized paperback. But now all I can say is the $16.95was well worth it. What a fascinating story. I couldn't put it down...in fact, I even took it to the dinner table with me so I could continue reading while I was eating. The ending keeps ringing in my head. I can't get over it.
Don't worry about me now...you have a loyal reader from here on in.

Anonymous said...

Noncircumvention agreements are a big part of this plan. As a former evidence-gatherer in a state Attorney General's Consumer Affairs Division, I've seen these used continually to spike any claims against the scam people. Also, as you point out, nondisclosure agreements are poison pill documents too.

Bern said...

I have to agree with Anonymous. It's the built-in legal traps that enable the con men to thrive.

Art DeMarteau said...

Way to go. You spelled out this problem pretty good.

Warmer said...

Can't tell where these guys are going to end up in our pocket. It's a plague. Is there no law protection left?

Jack Payne said...

Thanks, Arnie, I really appreciate that. I did try to bring my story to the climax of climaxes, and some say I succeeded. Innermost, though, I tried to tell the life story of what makes a con man REALLY tick. I hope I succeeded at this more than anything else.

Jack Payne said...

Bern and mystery figure (Anonymous), yes, it's these "side" agreements, more than anythig else, that keep the con men safe and kicking.

VirtueBoys said...

It's always the asides that push everything else out of the way.

Stallworth said...

I subscribe to several blogs about scams, but yours goes into this whole topic in much more depth, Jack. It looks like I will have to get a copy of your book too, so I can get a complete grip on the con man mind.

Jack Payne said...

Amen, Virtueboys.

Also, Stallworth, I like your thinking too.

Terry said...

I was just watching TV, Richard Simmons jumping around in a supermarket. I think you've got more energy than that, Jack. I anxiously await your next post.

Gene Kranik said...

What are these rumors about your going back into retirement? Hope they are not true. We need all this good infomation you do on con men.

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