What’s In It For Them ?

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When I think about the staggering amount of $50 billion  Bernie Maddoff milked from his clients with his Ponzi style investment scam,  I’ve always wondered – why has this scam gone on unnoticed for so long ? Where was the breakdown ?  Barely a year ago, another scam artist, Lou Pearlman was sentenced to 25 years in prison for defrauding investors of some $300 million.  Pearlman , the creator of the famous Backstreet Boys and NSYNC boy bands enriched himself shamelessly with the millions the bands made from their records and endorsements while sharing them peanuts. The rip off was so bold and calculating that Pearlman made himself the 6th Backstreet Boy in the contract thereby making it difficult to trash him legally.  The presiding judge had offered a reduction of one month of his sentence for every million Pearlman returns to his investors. 

Isn’t it about time for the justice system to impose the death sentence on these kind of monsters who shatter people’s lives by defrauding them of their lifetime savings ? Aye ? Nay ?   I hate the thought of Maddoff sitting in his well appointed cell watching CNBC and browsing the net waiting for his time to croak.  Even if he is deemed not high risk or danger to society like a psychopath he should not be walking around free. He should be in the dungeon sleeping with rats to give his victims the feeling that he is being punished 😡

The Maddoff incident reminded me of a rule I read in the book The Rules of Wealth.  I thought that the author had some wisdom to impart to ordinary folk like myself with this rule .

RULE 71 – ALWAYS ASK WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM

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  I don’t want you to be paranoid generally but it is OK to be paranoid when it comes to your money. There are a lot of sharks out there looking for easy pickings from the less awake amongst us. Watch out.

 Jeremy Paxman, the UK broadcaster, always interviews politicians with a basic underlying assumption that they are hiding something and he has to find out what and why

Obviously we don’t want to go round believing everybody is out to get us, but there is a good technique here that we can adopt to question anyone :

  • Offering us a money-making proposition
  • Offering to “look after” our money
  • Looking to invest in our future or schemes
  • Offering us any financial advice
  • Offering to work for us
  • Offering us a partnership
  • Offering us products or services

You have to be suspicious of anyone and anything that could make inroads into your wealth. Be wary of anybody who:

  • Promises to help you get rich quick by short-cuts using tax loopholes or dubiously legal schemes
  • Uses the word “offshore”
  • Uses the letters MLM or pyramid selling
  • Claims to be incredibly wealth and is offering to share their secrets with you – the secret is they make money out of people like you!
  • Offers to increase your wealth by using the Internet
  • Asks for money upfront to seed investment, pay for promotional material or carry out a survey

And there are three things to always remember:

  • If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is a duck and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t
  • If it looks too good to be true it probably is
  • Not all that glitters is gold

Remember to keep asking “What’s in it for this person? “ Don’t trust anyone. Don’t give your money to anyone to look after for you. Check the small print of anything you sign. Be on your guard.

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Folks like Maddoff and Pearlman undoubtedly had business savvy and charisma which made their job much easier. Even if we get sweet-talked by friends and well known people we must not trust easily. One time I had a couple of lunch meetings with a financial advisor who claims he works for a big bank. I wondered why he always wanted to meet at a coffee shop and granting that it was close to my office and he carried official business cards from his bank, I wasn’t too sure. On our third meeting, I asked that I meet him at his office and true enough he was completely legit. There was no way I was handing him anything at the coffee shop 😯

 

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