We will meet a scam artist at least three times in our lifetime. In childhood, it may be a classmate or teacher. During our working years, it may be a well-known investor or a job recruiter. And once retired, it may be a neighbor or an old acquaintance.
For this article, we will limit our discussion to scam artists who borrow money from you with the intent of never paying you back.
Spotting a Scam Artist
To the inexperienced eye, scam artists are very difficult to spot. They fly under the radar and blend so well with society that majority of people hardly know they exist.
Some of the traits they share include:
- Pick targets well
- People who are nice, naïve or have hardly any information on something are their main choices
- People with a reputation for helping others are another preferred target
- Very good at finding a person’s weakness
- a. People who like being flattered will get a royal treatment
- Persons who believe in honor will feel they are in the company of someone with integrity
- Individuals who like to help, will find someone apparently sympathetic to the plight of others
- Appear to know everybody
- They will make up stories of socializing with them, even if they are mere acquaintances
- They will count them in a list of past partners or investors
These people are chameleons knowing what to say and when to say it. They switch affiliations in the blink of an eye, aligning themselves with those who have the most money or influence.
Make no mistake; these people have absolutely no consciences and will even sell you things they don’t own.
Some of the lines they use when borrowing include:
- “I need money for the tuition of my kids.”
- “My relative is stricken with a dire disease and needs medication immediately.”
- “My business abroad will still pay off dividends by next year.”
- “A check from a client just came in, but I need immediate money for the three day clearing for the check.”
- “My close friend did not repay his loan to me and I need to settle my immediate bills.”
It doesn’t matter if you have a sick or dying relative. It won’t slow them down from getting money you earmarked for medicines or doctor’s fees.
What they do with your money
When these people are not putting on a sad face, they will be seen people living it up in the trendiest bars or the best hotels.
You’ll even see them with the latest equipment, such as cell phones and laptops. And chances are, their families will be sporting the most expensive clothes or driving the newest cars.
In addition to this, they will badmouth you to other people. They will even go as far as to say that you treated them badly or scammed them of cash after doing everything to help you.
When the day comes for scam artists to pay you back, they will come up with a ton of excuses why the money can’t be returned yet.
They will promise payment next week, then the week after next, till it stretches to months and even years. In between this, they will promise specific dates and still not give back the cash borrowed.
Some of the more common excuses include:
- “The guy I loaned money to ran away without paying me.”
- “My business in not making money right now.”
- “A big customer didn’t pay me after I delivered items to them in good faith.”
- “The recent calamities have wiped me out and I need to put food on the table for my family.”
- “You’ll be the first in line after I pay off my suppliers.”
The sad truth about it all is that everything is a lie. They never intended to give your money back in the first place.
How to avoid being a victim
The first tell-tale sign is that these people will ask you for something after gaining your trust and friendship. It may take days or months, but they will ask for something when you are at your most vulnerable position.
Before you decide to give anything, whether it is money or a favor, postpone lending or giving favors till you can assess the situation better.
Yes, I know the scam artist will put it in such a way that something dire will happen if you don’t help them immediately. But if you give yourself enough time without the emotional pressure, you may be able to make the right choice.
Another thing to do is ask around. If the scam artist claims to know this or that person, talk to the person yourself. Consider it an informal background check.
Now just because a few people don’t say anything bad doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet. It’s human nature for people to avoid saying bad things about others. So the more people you talk to, the better. Sooner or later someone is bound to tell you the ugly truth.
Finally, make sure to have them sign a document stating that they borrowed money from you. A receipt or I.O.U. clearly indicating a payment date and amount to be paid is best. If possible, add penalties to the document.
What to do when scammed
Litigation is one way to get your money back. But you’ll need to consider how much you lost and how much it will cost to get it back. Don’t just consider the money; include your time and effort as well.
Keep in mind that even if you have a clear-cut case, including supporting documents and witnesses, the years you spend in court could be used to earn money instead. In the end, it may not be worth going through all the trouble.
On a more personal level, you can get the help of friends in collecting the money. But you’ll need to keep things in perspective as the scam artist may have borrowed money from them as well.
Collection agencies charge a percentage of cash recovered. But before going to them, ask around first. After finding a reputable agency, make sure you read any contract, especially the fine print. You might be setting up yourself with a bigger headache if these agencies are shady ones.
Finally, I have heard of volunteer groups specializing in helping people collect from scam artists. They don’t charge anything for their services as their purpose is to help others. Though I haven’t come across any myself, you might want to ask around on where to find them.
If nothing works
If all your efforts to collect payment fail, you may just have to bite the bullet and write it off as a loss.
Take comfort in the fact that it is only money and that you are still alive to talk about it. And though your pride may be hurt, just focus on getting on with your life. There’s no point in beating yourself up for this bad decision. You’ll be able to earn it back eventually.
The one thing you should not do is to keep quiet about it. Silence only encourages scam artists to continue cheating others.
The consolation is that you don’t need to exaggerate your experience. The truth will be more than enough in spreading the word, especially if other victims have the same thing to say. And the more people who hear about it, the less opportunities scam artists will have.
Scum of the Earth
I have heard of scam artists who were stricken with heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer. Despite being partially paralyzed or near death, these people continue to ply their trade. They truly are the scum of the earth.
There are supposed to be societies that punish these people by cutting off their hands or tongues. Rumor has it that this is the most fitting punishment and effective deterrent.
But until such a punishment become legal here, we’ll just have to live with the threat of scam artists throughout our lifetime.