Sunday, May 15, 2005

There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Three card monty with granny

As one grandparent would say, "There are always strings attached," or this: "If it is free they want something from you" or how about "Traps are baited with goodies".

Well, it seems even with advancing age, people think there is an easy way out. Money will grow all by itself and the nice man wearing the expensive watch and driving the very expensive car came all the way out to the old farm to make everyone rich. And sell a nice bridge in Brooklyn, too!

This charming naivity is why con artists flourish. Why we need special cops to monitor this stuff and prevent these con men from finding victims and ripping them off. Especially when they are elderly.
BACK in February, Jose and Gloria Aquino received a flier in the mail inviting them to a free seminar on one of their favorite topics: protecting their financial assets. As retirees, they were always on the lookout for safe investment strategies as well as tips on how to make sure they didn't outlive their savings. Besides, the flier promised a free lunch for anyone attending the workshop, so what did they have to lose?

Potentially plenty, they would soon discover.

We are happy seeing the NYT detail these obvious cons. Just like we are happy the NYT carries Krugman in his lonely quest to outshout the troop of right wingers who own great tracts of NYT editorial real estate.
Over lunch, the crowd listened to a presentation by two investment executives from Diversified Concepts Inc. of Manhattan. Using charts and graphs, the men gave advice on how to invest wisely during retirement. Then they passed out forms and asked the retirees to list all their assets and financial holdings.

The Aquinos filled out theirs and left. Two days later, they said, one of the executives came to their home and described an investment with the American Equity Investment Life Insurance Company that would provide 7 percent interest on their money - immediately.

"When somebody tells you he will give you a 7 percent upfront bonus on your money and that you'll get that 7 percent even if the market goes down, you get interested," said Mr. Aquino. He said he signed the necessary documents and the executive left, handing a brochure to the couple.

That evening, the Aquinos told their daughter, Caroline, about their investment. "She said, 'Oh, don't invest like that before searching farther,' " Mr. Aquino recalled. "Then she went on the Internet and found these lawsuits going on in California against the company and we realized that we were not making a good decision."

I am old enough to remember the 1980s and the bank scandals. Remember that time? Some Savings and Loans promised returns that were impossible? And when they didn't happen, the banks collapses and many elderly lost everything they saved? It was huge news back then. People went to prison. Even the Clintons were cheated which is why the GOP harrassed them about it all pretending they, the victims, were actually criminals. Ahem. Talk about upside down!

Well, the same con men are back and peddling the same con in a different disguise. A magic rate of return only it returns when you are long dead! Imagine that! Safe in the hot hands of the investors who will ship it off to China and Japan so it can come back here even more valuable, they will play with this money till the moon falls from the heavens. The fact that the elderly can't touch it doesn't bother them a minute.

You think these monsters will take care of us if they get their hot larcenic hands on our retirement money? Is the sky blue?

These men belong in prison. This con should be illegal. The hidden text should be up front not on a back page in tiny letters in gray. Elderly people can't see too well. It should be in huge letters on the front of any contract. We saw how Congress massaged the banks and credit industries with the new bankruptcy bill. Will they pass laws outlawing this stuff?

Is the moon green cheese? From the looks of the mice eating it away each month, evidently it is.

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