Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘con artists

Still More Newspaperboy Confessions Ch. VI

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Boy_SmokingBilly Larochelle and I rarely bumped into each other after I relinquished my spot in the waiting line for Nuggets to rumble off the presses six days a week in downtown North Bay. I moved to the other end of town and we went to different high schools. He also matured into an excellent multi-sport athlete. He wasn’t much bigger than I, but he had many times more talent, athletic skill and toughness.

But we spent a lot of time together for a couple of years pounding the downtown pavement selling papers and conning passersby.

The conning began rather innocently. While scurrying into and out restaurants, shops and saloons peddling our papers – he and I leap-frogged each other in our chase for customers – I managed to lose my money one day through a hole that developed in my pants’ pocket. (When I started newspaperboying, my mother gave me a little change purse but it wasn’t designed to use for gathering coins and providing change while maintaining control of an armful of papers so I did like my colleagues, I banked on – and in – my pants pocket.)  I lost more than usual because it was a payday Saturday and I was near the end of my second batch of papers. I’d bought 20 papers to start and ran back for another armful. The papers cost 2 cents each and we sold them for 3 cents. On paydays, we’d get quite a few nickels “and keep the change.” So I’d lost about a buck.

I told Billy my problem — and that I’d probably get what-for going home without any money. We were sitting on the curb in downtown Main Street and Billy thought for a minute. Then he said, “Cry.” I said, “What?” And he repeated, “Cry.” So I put my hands to my face and started “sobbing.” A couple of people stopped to see what was wrong and Billy told them I’d lost my money and that I’d get a licking if I went home without any dough. And he added some eloquent embroidery by adding that I’d been beaten up by bigger kids and my family was poor, and whatever else came to his mind.

It wasn’t long before a lady gave us  — me – a quarter to buy one of my remaining papers and a couple dropped a couple of extra nickels to buy the remainder. Then a guy who’d been drinking a bit stopped to listen and he popped a $1 bill – A $1 BILL!!! — out of his pocket and said, “Here, kid.” Hallelujah! Billy had saved my skin. But he wasn’t through. He said, “Keep going.” So I did and after a few more encounters, I – we – wound up with almost five dollars.

Billy wasn’t concerned about getting a fair share or an even split, he was just going to enjoy what we had. So we hopped to a nearby restaurant and got ourselves each a tin roof sundae (a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped heavily with chocolate sauce and handsful of salted peanuts). Then we went to a movie and got ourselves each a candy bar and a Coke. And we stopped for another tin roof after the theater. I still had about $3 left and offered to give him one dollar but he said, “Never mind.”

What he did do was have me run the same scam a few more times before we parted ways when I no longer sold papers. None but he and I ever knew about our venture. And it was certainly fun while it lasted.

When we did bump into each other on occasion around town as we grew up, one of us would just say “Cry” and we’d both break out big grins.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

June 28, 2015 at 2:01 pm

Lean Financial Times Fatten Scam Artists

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By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features



Uncertain economic times are playtimes for con artists.
While the crooks are around all the time, they feast on the fear and greed that grips everyone when the stock market goes south, pensions shrink, and investment portfolios get sucked dry. Add other types of events such as flailing governments, terrorism, and natural disasters that  include hurricanes, floods, and droughts that are fallow financial fields for scam artists.
There is no official estimate of how much money is bilked from Americans each year by a variety of crooked schemes, but most experts agree that it spirals into the billions of dollars.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks involving four U.S. airliners that killed some 3,000 Americans, the number of sleazy schemes multiplied. They all sounded full of promise.
In North Dakota, investors were milked of more than $2 million by a small group of salespeople linked with a local pastor who used religious and family ties to assure the victims they could achieve financial returns up to 300 percent. They were promised access to investment secrets of the world’s elite banks and their portfolios.
Schemers also preyed with victims in Indiana, where some 20 elderly investors were bilked of $1.4 million in a promissary-note scam. The folks were promised returns up to 12 percent on their money. Instead, it was funneled into off-shore bank accounts used by the perpetrators to subsidize a high-flying life style.
Also rampant are liars who laud little-known stocks with the expert assurances that they are bound to increase in value when the dust settles after these disastrous times end.
The biggest target for all these wolves are seniors.
Another sleazy scheme involves a referral from someone you know who already has made money on what he or she is about to recommend to you. All you have to do is come up with $20,000 or $30,000 and double it in a month or so.
The catch, you’re told, is that it’s not quite legal because it’s a tax dodge. The money will be used to buy high-ticket automobiles in a foreign country and bring them into the United States without paying import duties.
You feel comfortable because you’ve been given all the inside information you need. And your friend made money on this already. What you don’t know – and your friend may not realize, either, if he or she goes for the proposal again – is that the original deal was the “come-on.” That was the bait to lure you, and others, into the scheme.
This time, the crook will come back with some problems. One scenario is that the scam artist will report the vehicle, or vehicles, were stopped at the border and everyone involved in the deal has to come up with another $5,000 or $10,000 to pay taxes and penalties. Then he may come back for more money, claiming the truck driver needs a lawyer you’re going to have to pay for or the driver’s going to implicate you.
You’re relief may come in the form of an explanation that your money is gone but the trucker isn’t going to talk so you have no tax worries. That way, you drop the whole matter and forget the loss.
Because you feel you’ve been part of an illicit and illegal deal, you don’t go to the police or the government. These crooks are free to feast on another group of fiscal “fish.”
There are variations of this con, ranging from scalping tickets for concerts and sporting events to fencing stolen goods.
Another insidious scheme that lures seniors is the work-at-home scam. The crook convinces you there are ways to make money by working at home. Legal analysts can tell you the crooks make more than $30 million a year in this scam.
Victims usually are the elderly who need to supplement their fixed retirement income.
The prevalent schemes require victims to buy something up front – some materials, a manual to follow, or a mailing list – at prices as low as $40 or so.
The problem, of course, is that what you purchased may not be worth a cent. For example, the mailing list probably is old and already has been sold to hundreds, or thousands, of other people. Or the company from whom you bought the envelope-stuffing program may only pay you for recruiting other envelope-stuffers.
If you buy some material to make handicraft articles at home, you probably will never get a penny because you’ll be told that the results of your work don’t meet the company’s standards.
There are a couple of simple rules to follow if you’d like to avoid getting conned.
One is, if it costs money up front, it’s probably not a good idea.
Two is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.
And then remember the words of W.C. Fields, who covered both sides of this matter. In one breath he said, “Never give a sucker an even break.” And then he said, “You can’t cheat an honest man.”

Mature Life Features Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 24, 2011 at 12:05 am