My sister in law, otherwise known as the Financial Train Wreck, is a gold mine of inspiration for what not to do in terms of personal finances, and if you don’t know about her already then you may wish to check out my previous posts in the series, including let me introduce you to the financial train wreck, the financial train wreck and housing and will the new boyfriend help fix her finances?
If you read the previous post in the series on the Financial Train Wreck (or FTW for short), you will recall that I had high hopes for her newest boyfriend as far as her finances (and life generally) were concerned. Unfortunately something happened recently that has me a bit worried, and it’s all to do with an online scam…
FTW’s boyfriend gets scammed
Most people will have heard of all sorts of scams that people fall victim to, and many of them are actually quite clever and therefore hugely successful (for the scammers that is). While I don’t know the exact details in this instance, I understand that Mr FTW (it’s perhaps a bit presumptuous to call him Mr FTW, but it’s shorter than writing “FTW’s boyfriend”) was lured in by some sort of online contact that promised some sort of great investment. He paid them $3k, and of course it turned out to be a scam, and I’m sure that he would feel quite foolish and embarrassed that he was taken for a ride.
But the tale doesn’t end there unfortunately, as some smart cookie scammer has worked out that if someone can be taken for a ride once, then there’s a good chance that they can be taken for a ride again, you just need to have the right angle…
In this instance, the “right angle” is some sort of “specialist/lawyer” contacting all of the people that have fallen prey to the particular scam, and then offering to help them to get their money back. Now a number of emails had been exchanged between Mr FTW and this specialist in recent weeks, and he himself had come to the conclusion that this was another scam, but then he decided to forward the email to me in the hope that I would review it and conclude that it was legit.
Here comes the email – brace yourself
For your information/amusement, I have included the email below, which includes comments back and forth between Mr FTW and the “specialist/lawyer”. I’ve also added in my own translation of the “specialist/lawyer/whatever the hell he calls himself”, which is pretty much what I was thinking as I was reading through it the first time. Let’s see if any of it sounds odd to you…
Hi Mr FTW,I have tried to contact you without any success this morning since I wanted to speak to you regarding your email so we can put the trust issues aside. (IA translation: “You don’t trust me, and rightly so, but I’m hoping I can brush that off and get back to scamming you out of cash as quickly as possible”). Regarding your concerns, I am embedding the replies in bold font in the email you sent.Hi Ivan (IA comment: Yeah, like his name is really just Ivan. It’s probably more like “Emmanuel from Nigeria”)Sorry I have been missing your calls lately.Has been a hectic couple of days.I have been in contact with my lawyer and have been advised not to pursue this anymore. Please understand that as far as your lawyer is concerned, I am not sure if he has international experience to “dictate” laws in international countries. Has he ever dealt with international tax offices in the past? Has he ever “recovered” stolen funds/profits/claims from fraudulent companies? The point is you can listen to him if you wish, I suggest with a grain of salt because he maybe advising you incorrectly if he has no experience in the above stated matters. (IA translation: “Don’t trust your lawyer because he doesn’t have any experience in scamming you like I do, so he wouldn’t know how best to do the scams. Also, what he’s saying is actually correct, but I need to make him appear ignorant so that you don’t listen to him”).You have told me before that you have got refunds for other clients before, then u should of know about the up front tax before we got to this point. All this boils down to is a simple miscommunication/misunderstanding because if you remember I explained that we have been successful in securing the claim amounts/profits that victims were entitled to and they are at the same stage of settlement just like you regarding the Taxes. Unfortunately this is something I did not forsee and was not aware about until now because of the broad Philippines Tax Laws. The other victims have already agreed to pay their taxes and infact, their taxes should be cleared by Monday and their claims would be released. (IA translation: “I didn’t want to tell you about having the pay cash for ‘the taxes’ before because I knew that you’d tell me to piss off straight away. I thought I’d get you on the hook first and then drop the taxes thing on you and blame it on a ‘miscommunication’).I do not have that kind of money to pay. I am sorry, I donot want to and dont need to pry into your finances but if there is something you cannot do, you should have discussed it with me in detail, before coming to this conclusion. (IA translation: “Why didn’t you tell me earlier that you had no f&*king money? I wouldn’t have wasted my time emailing you if I didn’t think that I could get any more cash out of you! I’m trying to run a scamming business here mate, so time is money”)That is unfair and I am not very happy. I can understand how you feel and I am not too happy either about this unforseen circumstance and your pre assumed conclusion.Should you decide that you cannot move forward with this, then your settlement amounts will be kept by the perpetrators, LANDEN OPTIONS AND FUTURES. It was your hard earned money and you are entitled to it, the profits and not them. (IA translation: “If I tell you that those pricks will keep the money then that might really piss you off enough to make a rash decision and pay me for ‘the taxes’. I’m best not to tell you that I’m the same guy that stole your money in the first place, and now I want to steal a bit more. How else did you think I got your details to contact you?”)According to my lawyer I should never have to pay up front tax in any country to release funds. Already addressed this concern above. (IA translation: “I didn’t actually address this point properly, but I don’t really want to as it won’t make sense, so I’ll just write this bull$hit comment and hope that you don’t ask any more questions on this one”).Thank you for getting my hopes up and wasting my time. There is no need to contact me anymore moving forward. I will attempt to contact you later today or if you wish on Monday and lets aim to resolve this to our benefit. (IA translation: “I realise that you just told me to f&%k off and never contact you again, but I’m going to pretend that you didn’t say and contact you anyway as I might still have some chance of scamming you out of another $27k).
How do people fall for this crap?!!
Now I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I was dumbfounded by how ridiculous this whole thing sounded, and that was before I’d even read the email. But then I read the vomit-inducing garbage above and couldn’t be bothered wasting any more time on it as my opinion of Mr FTW was taking a turn for the worse. My wife asked me what I thought and whether I could call FTW and her boyfriend to discuss it, and I just said words to the effect of “What’s the point – it’s obviously a scam and a total waste of time, and if I read Mr FTW’s commentary in the email it’s obvious that he’s already arrived at this conclusion”.
I’m pretty sure that my wife called them anyway and explained all of this, but that fact that they even asked us to review it has me a bit worried that there’s a part of Mr FTW that wants to believe it. It really is very sad, and I just couldn’t understand how people could fall for this crap. It just seems ridiculous to me, but that’s probably because I don’t have any emotional attachment to this story (I haven’t lost my money, and I’m also not looking for a “get rich quick” opportunity that’s too good to be true).
As I know very well (and you probably do as well from reading this series!), FTW doesn’t exactly have the highest level of financial intelligence, so it’s perhaps not so surprising that she would fall for something like this. It really is a lot more surprising that Mr FTW would fall for this though, as I rated his overall intelligence as being much greater than FTW’s, but it just goes to show that just because someone is intelligent, doesn’t mean that he/she is financially intelligent.
The lesson for all of us
If you’re reading this blog, you probably have a strong interest in personal finance, and are almost surely trying to accumulate enough wealth to make you financially independent (and possibly even retire early in the future). Achieving financial independence is hard enough because you will need to do so many things quite well (e.g. work hard, increase income, reduce expenses, and overall be smart with your money) for quite a period of time, and a serious lack of financial intelligence is a huge impediment to doing those things quite well.
While you may not be able to spot every scam that’s out there, the main lesson for me in all of this is that you need to be continually improving your financial intelligence so that you reduce the negative effects of financial mistakes on your overall wealth creation journey. The more financially intelligent you are, the harder it is for your to screw up, and the average hyper-consumer is screwing up continually without even knowing it.
Unfortunately FTW and her boyfriend have quite a way to go on their financial intelligence journey, but let’s hope that this sad story is the motivation that they need to make some changes to their overall strategy!
Have you ever been scammed?
If you (or someone you know) has ever been the victim of a scam then we’d love to hear about it. I’m sure that hearing examples of scams will help all of us learn something (and improve our financial intelligence) and that’s the lesson for today after all!