In December 2009, I had a disturbing experience when I was asked by someone on a mutual Mayberry list to help him promote a charity event which supposedly would benefit children with terminal illnesses. He sent me an email requesting I promote this event to all my internet groups and Social Networks for him, and then he asked me to supply some Mayberry poetry books he could sell with a percentage of proceeds going to benefit the charity. The only thing I did right on the front end was to decline to just drop off books. Instead I suggested I show up for an hour to sign the books, see how they sold, and then decide how many to leave. After everything was said and done, I discovered to my chagrin I had been involved with a scam. (Read the full story at How I Was Conned at Christmas.) They say hindsight is 20/20, and I have learned some things through this experience I would like to pass along if you are ever asked to donate money or products, or purchase a service from someone you are not sure about so you can protect yourself from a con artist, scam or fraud
1. Google the name of the person or organization that wants your money. See what has been written about this person or business online. In my case, had I Googled the name of the person who asked for my help BEFORE the event instead of after it, I might have noticed the very first thing to pop up under his name was a theft warning report on Ripoffreport.com.
2. Call the organization or business the person is supposed to represent to make sure they work there. Contact the Better Business Bureau. Google the organization and see what kind of reputation they have and if there are any negative reports.
3. Ask for paperwork, documents, etc. These can also be faked or forged by a con artist, but get things in writing. If you are asked to leave product or donate money, be very careful whose hands you leave them in to protect yourself from fraud.
4. Keep all emails, paperwork and other correspondence. Take careful note if things start to fall through. Things can go wrong with the best organizations and most trust-worth charities, but broken promises are a red flag of possibly worse problems to come including a possible scam or fraud.
5. A handshake doesn’t cut it anymore. Whether they say they are a former Marine or Mayberry fan, they can still be a con artist. Now that there is national pride in our military again, unfirtunately some cons are using their “former military service” as a way to gain credibility and sympathy.
6. Prepare to be very publicly bashed if you report the con artist. The typical reaction of a con artist when he’s caught with his hand in the cookie jar is intimidation and threats that he will try to hurt you or your reputation if you say anything. Sometimes the threats and harassment can get pretty bad. Fortunately, there are laws about cyber stalking and harassment that can protect you IF you have kept good records and copies of all the posts and emails.
Fraud – A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain. A piece of trickery; a trick.
Con Artist, Con Man – A practitioner of Fraud or theft by deception who first wins the confidence of a victim. Con artists usually play on the victim’s desire to get something for nothing.
Scam – A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.