Too good to be true

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

It’s been a hor­ror week for head­lines about peo­ple do­ing un­con­scionably, un­be­liev­ably, stupid things with money.

There have been sto­ries about money mules, ponzi schemes, mort­gage crooks, and stupidly over­priced Forex trad­ing schemes.

I spent much of the past week in­ves­ti­gat­ing how the equity held in a bunch of old peo­ple’s homes had been trans­formed into shares in a fi­nance com­pany pay­ing no div­i­dends. Hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble stuff and each one raises the same ques­tion: How could they have been so stupid?

But it is the wrong ques­tion and as­sum­ing they were driven by greed is equally un­fair.

I’ve met too many ‘‘vic­tims’’ to dis­miss them lightly, too many to do read­ers the dis­ser­vice of ad­vis­ing them: ‘‘If it seems to good to be true, it prob­a­bly is.’’

I could re­peat it a mil­lion times and it’d make no dif­fer­ence.

Years ago I had a shout­ing match over the board­room ta­ble with Blue Chip’s Mark Bry­ers.

It was back in the days be­fore his apart­ment- spruik­ing scheme col­lapsed leav­ing lives ruined.

Bry­ers just rubbed me up the wrong way.

How could any­one be sucked in by a per­son like this, I pon­dered for years af­ter­wards.

And then I saw some film of him work­ing a crowd of po­ten­tial in­vestors. He was good, very good, with a cer­tain type of per­son.

I’ve seen oth­ers like Bry­ers at work. They each know how to work their par­tic­u­lar sales tar­get.

No doubt there is one out there who has the right pat­ter to catch you with what­ever their aw­ful scheme is.

Just hope you never meet him and when some­one comes to you with a money-mak­ing scheme, by phone, email, or in per­son, or you spot some­thing that could turn your fi­nances around, take my ad­vice: Talk, talk, talk.

Talk to your dad about it. Talk to your neigh­bour. Talk to your friend.

Go and have a chat to the bank man­ager. Talk to the most fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate per­son you know.

Talk to the best ed­u­cated per­son you know.

Run the idea past peo­ple. Run the pa­per­work past them.

And if every­one you know is do­ing it – for ex­am­ple, the mem­bers of your church – go and talk to peo­ple who are not mem­bers.

And don’t just ask: Lis­ten. Don’t seek con­fir­ma­tion: Seek their gen­uine opin­ions.

I am sug­gest­ing you crowd-source sec­ond opin­ions, and third and fourth.

It in­creases the chance of you smelling the rat.

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