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Buyers Beware!

By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum

While I don’t profess to know much about business and don’t offer any business advice, I have often written about monkey business of which I have gained a little knowledge and have written about from time to time in the CY magazine. I've done so in order to alert the public of some of the dangers that lurk in our midst and prevent the public from being conned out of their hard earned money by the charlatans and swindlers that walk the streets. While many people may be very intelligent, they have never been taught the “Street smarts,” and can easily be taken by the master con artist’s deceptive tricks.

Recently I received a call from a good friend of mine asking for my advice on a particular lucrative business deal he was being offered to engage in. Without going into any details, I advised him to stay away and not to touch it with a fifty foot pole. I was quite familiar with this Multi Level Marketing scheme and I knew that their promises were no better than Yasser Arafat’s, and that their products are overrated, and that their claims to riches were illusionary. A few minutes after I hung up the phone I received some calls from those very same scam artists who were pushing their product. They were very angry at the advice I had offered and they wanted to know why I was so strongly opposed to the deal which they claimed was a perfectly legitimate and profitable enterprise. From past experience I’ve learned that there is nothing as dangerous as empty space between one ear and the other and I knew that debating someone that’s already sold on it was worthless and no matter what I said my arguments would fall on deaf ears. Listening and hearing seem to be two separate senses.

For many years I have advised people not to waste their time and money with MLM’s such as “Amway” ( Scamway, ) “Jewel -Way” and the many others that have left many people penniless and disillusioned. Unfortunately, many ignored my advice and went into them despite all my protestations. I was even taken to bais din when I put an ad in the paper exposing one of the biggest crooks in our midst who embezzled millions of dollars from the religious public with his fraudulent business deals which he advertised in the Yiddish papers with outright impunity. I learned that people were easily bamboozled by promises of great riches that supposedly lay at the end of the rainbow and that no matter how sensible the advice, people want to believe the unbelievable and the unrealistic. Even the bais din couldn’t fully understand that when one offers 3000% interest on an investment it is ludicrous and a sure sign of fraud and allowed this scam artist to continue advertising his ridiculous claims so long as he doesn’t write the word “guaranteed” in his advertisement. It was only a few months later, when the FTC closed down the company called “Purchase Plus” that the bais din realized that they too had been taken for a ride.

The sales pitch of those who promote these pyramid, Ponzi, and MLM scams are so powerful that few people can see white light when wearing green glasses. Some people seem to refuse to take advice and have to bang their own head on the wall to believe that it will hurt. They’ll climb up to the top of the ladder of imagined success only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall. “If you want to double your money, just fold it over and put it back in your pocket” is a good piece of advice that should often be followed. While there are certainly many exceptions, one must be very weary when the offer sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately lots of people have lost their money in business deals which are nothing but camouflaged pyramid schemes or clever Ponzi scams or simply misrepresent their true earnings or the true worth of their product. It is very easy to manipulate statistics and books to make them seem very lucrative deals as we have seen happened with companies such as Enron and many others who have embezzled billions from the naive and unsuspecting investor.

That is why it is extremely important that one get the advice of a good lawyer or accountant before going into any business deal and never rely on the person who is trying to sell you the product or the business venture, unless he’s your own father. While I know that my words of caution may land on deaf ears, I will be quite satisfied and pleased if I can prevent even one person from being bamboozled.

P.S. In order to get a better understanding about such monkey businesses, I suggest you read “False Profits” by Robert Fitzpatrick and Joyce Reynolds, and “Behind the Smoke and Mirrors,” by Ruth Carter.

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