For con artists the best list to get is the list of people who have already been taken. Financial criminals go to great lengths to hunt down and size-up their prey. They will buy the lists of people who attended investment seminars; they mail postcards and then spam investors with emails and phone calls. For the con artists nothing can top the “sucker list.”
A “sucker list” is a list of people who have already been scammed. Attempts have been made to get the list of people who were scammed by Jordan Belfort, the felon depicted in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Con artists also have targeted victims of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. In 2010, a Nigerian website claimed to have found $1.3 billion of Madoff’s assets and would distribute it back to the victims if they supplied their claim numbers from the legal filing and copies of recent account statements.
In 2013 more than 8,000 complaints were filed with the National Consumer League. Frauds included “phishing” schemes, and “sweetheart swindles” where con artists nurture an online relationship, building trust, and then persuade the person to send them money.
The con artists look for information in a wide variety of locations. They compile names of people that go to investment seminars, people who drop their business cards in a fish bowl at a restaurant, or sign up for a free trial of an investment newsletter. Con artists also buy lists of people who have responded to mailings for sweepstakes, or just successfully applied for credit.
Law enforcement authorities have seized documents that included lead sheets with hand written notes. These notes mentioned favorite sports teams, the “targets” profession, even any illnesses. For example, many con artists who prey on elder women want to know if the victim suffers from Alzheimer’s. They also looked for victims who had just experienced a negative traumatic event, like divorce, death, serious injury or an illness in the family. Con artists find that events like these affect “your cognitive capacity.” You may not follow the normal, safe practices due to other issues you are worrying about, and they prey on that weakness.
Amazingly, many of these con artists look for people who have already been conned. They say that these “targets” have passed the test of being willing to write a large check to a stranger over the phone. The primary target for investment fraud is a man in his 50s or 60s with high financial literacy. Con artists like to flatter and bond with targets.
We want our clients to be aware of the length criminals will go to in order to get your money. Bonding and relating to victims is a common way to fool people into giving con artists money. Discussing this with an elderly family member is a good idea as well. Make sure they are aware of the scams and how many scams target older Americans, especially widows and widowers.
Our next newsletter will cover precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim.
If you want to discuss these issues with an attorney please call our office at 818.887.9401.