Monday 15 December 2008

Madoff's made off, with your money

My money morphs to Beano

I was hardly 16 when this man accosted me and told me all sorts of tales that I came under his spell, the superstitious programming I had been subjected to through my early years took root and I was about to do anything.

As he took me into his confidence, I put my money in newspaper wrapping to be blessed and not to be opened till I got home. I had been told I should not travel or I would come upon a mishap, just as I knew I was to travel – it all worked on me.

By the time I came to, my blessed money was a Beano comic, unfortunately, I lost my sense of humour that I did not read the comic but ripped it up seriously angry with myself. Thankfully, I had some other money in another pocket, it made the difference between getting home to cry earlier or a 10 kilometre walk.

Lessons learnt

Yes, I was a victim of a confidence trickster or rather I was a silly fool, just young, thick and stupid – what I took away from that experience is what mattered; I will not be accosted by strangers, they have to keep up with my pace or fall away; I do not respond to calls in the street that do not refer to me directly by name - cat calls are for cats, in my view and I do not listen to beggar’s stories, I give and move on.

There is more, but you really have to have a story to get me dishing out my money for a blessing or some get rich quick scheme.

Selling skills not goods

When I moved to the UK there were friends who wanted me to join their communities of fantastic business opportunities as they renamed pyramid selling to multi-level marketing, I really have never been taken by dollar-sign eyes; I stick to my knitting – I know Information Technology and keep doing Information Technology, it has done well for me, that is what I am an expert in.

Everyone else thinks they are some budding businessman and entrepreneur, in Nigeria especially, rather than concentrate on their professional skills and develop that to a niche expertise, they all want to be bosses, they all want to sell and make lots of money.

I told my multi-level marketing friends, I would not do the business but I could sell them my computer expertise, no, they wanted that service for free, what mattered most was to get my money – well, I learnt long ago, they would get none of it – I’ll rather have a paltry sum of money in a rolling lottery than be fleeced by con artists pretending to be business gurus.

Impeccable credentials for fraud

Move over to another end of the spectrum and there is a man with all the accolades, they all think he has the Midas touch but he is as touching as the Artful Dodger.

He was the chairman of Nasdaq, they do not come with a better reputation and pedigree, people were almost begging to get into his fund which was minting money like it was the bank of the universe for those who got in first.

In fact, it was a humongous Ponzi scheme, but who would believe that a man whose reputation underpins the kind of trust we repose in financial settings was involved in what should be the forte of confidence tricksters at street corners?

It must be cunning if not genius bordering on the most malevolent to trade on the impeccable credentials of holding an office of great financial responsibility to run a Ponzi scheme, knowing that people would be flocking in with money in the quest for greedy and atrocious profits – never let it be said that big fools and their big money have been mightily parted forever – Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Boo! Hoo! Hoo!

The numbers are mind-boggling

The damage has been done to the tune of $50 billion and every reputable name in the business of making money seems to have been conned and fleeced making my Beano comic a more rewarding return on investment.

The punishment would hardly fit the crime, he has been bailed to the tune of $10 million, he might go to jail for 20 years and probably be fined $5 million for flittering away $50 billion – anyone who has a heart might well better start having a heart attack – Bernard Madoff [1] has made off with your money and methinks nobody will help you get it back.

Suddenly, I feel glad I met the confidence trickster those many years ago because I am neither impressed with mediocrity nor sophistication, when it comes to my money; I am careful about what I am willing to lose and always have something set aside never to be left home and dry.

My commiserations! One time in your life you get done by a confidence trickster, hopefully it is early and not by very much.


[1] BBC NEWS | Business | Banks hit worldwide by US 'fraud'

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