Personal Finance 

A $400K Lesson About Greed

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Last week, I linked to a video about how someone had multiple shots at a six digit payday on a game show and lost it all because they were staring at a potential seven digit payday. Greed is a sick sick animal.

Today, we have a story, courtesy of the Consumerist, about a woman who got taken for $400,000 by Nigerian email scammers. Yep, that actually happens. It’s a sad story about an unfortunate thing to have happened to an otherwise good person but we should all learn some very important lessons from this (you can just as easily lose that money to the stock market!).

If It’s Too Good To Be True…

There’s a reason why this saying exists… human civilization has been around for thousands of years and seen its fair share of scams. From the time of cavemen when a lion looked like it was dead (and wasn’t) to magical male enhancement and weight loss green tea products, scams are everywhere and we’ve become very good at detecting the scam. Even in that story, while she blew past her own BS detectors, her friends and family kept warning her and she ignored them as well.

The lesson is that if it’s too good to be true, ask three friends that you believe are savvier and smarter than you whether they think its a scam. Then ask three strangers. When they all say – “that’s a scam!” you either believe them, or you get taken.

Never Send Money Abroad

Unless it’s to a relative you knew before they emailed you out of the blue because they were sick or dying or needed some cash to collect a multi-million dollar payday… don’t send cash. Don’t buy stuff from an international seller unless its with a credit card. Money orders and transfers are not protected. Once that money order leaves your possession, it’s gone.

Don’t Let Yourself Get In Too Deep

The first few hundred you throw after a bad thing can be chalked up to stupidity, the next three hundred and ninety nine thousand is the fault of stubbornness and pride. After a certain point, you try to prove to yourself that you aren’t stupid and that you aren’t an easy mark by throwing away more money on the off chance it isn’t a scam. You have to recognize when you’re being smart and sticking to your guns and when you’re simply being stupid and stubborn.

It’s unfortunate she got taken for so much but life often isn’t fair.

{ 5 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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5 Responses to “A $400K Lesson About Greed”

  1. Patrick says:

    Great article Jim. I agree that if a money order or wire transfer is involved, it usually is a scam. It’s so easy to get caught up in a scam, especially when there are either huge savings or something for free.

  2. Lord says:

    We should send her an equally sized bill to pay for all the spam the rest of us have to deal with because of her. Some have embezzled from their employers to do so. My sympathy has run out.

  3. ChristianPF says:

    The thing that amazes me about those scams is that they aren’t even that clever – yet. I mean once these guys become good I think a lot more people are going to fall for it. But on the other hand email doesn’t cost a penny, so even if only 1 in 10,000 falls for it, they are still making money.

  4. Shaodx says:

    I am amazed that people still fall for this. It’s true what they say, there is one born every minute.

    My philosophy: this is economic darwinism. If you are stupid enough to fall for such a scam, you probably got it coming.

  5. NigelT says:

    Hi there,

    Enjoy reading the site.

    For those interested there is a website devoted to scamming the ‘scammers’. There was an NPR story on the whole thing. It is truly a sophisticated organization with very elaborate schemes to trap and ‘bait’ the scammers. Whether you agree with the ethics or not….well that’s up to you. Here is a link to the website that has the NPR audio and is also the link to the 4 month blog that the story is about.

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