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How to Spot a Scammer

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I'm scammed almost every day. Or, if not scammed, at the very least someone tries to scam me. Usually more than once a day. The first time was at the age of 12 playing Three-card Monte in NYC where I lost my watch. Another time when I sent in $80 so I could get rich stuffing envelopes. I have a solid 30 years of scam history behind me.

Here's another time: Someone stole $12 million. Not just from me but from a lot of people. When I wrote the above article, he accepted my Facebook friend request. But then I guess he saw the article and didn't respond to my email: "hey, wassup?"

I'm going to tell you the secrets of most of the times I've been scammed so if you want to be a scammer also, then you can be. I don't recommend it. People sue you. You have to have a good constitution so you could sleep at night (I would be horrible at it).

A lot of people will yell at you. I would yell at you. It's no fun when "JAMES FUCKING ALTUCHER" is yelling at you. I wrote it that way so I could sound tough but I'm not really that tough. But if "JAMES FUCKING ALTUCHER" is calling you and wants his money back then you better give it. Because he's a mean motherfucker.

Qualities of the best scammers:

A) They almost always tell the truth. They tell more truths than you even need so when it gets right down to sifting through all those truths in order to find the lies its like finding a needle in a haystack. And they tell so many truths its easy to say yes a lot. "So 2 + 2 = 4, right?" "Yes". "And we're all speaking English, right?" "Yes". "So this time machine might work?" "Yes".

B) They have lots of great things going on. If you just tag your little boat to their yacht then you are going to be sailing the high seas, for sure. With maids and servants and little umbrellas in the drinks. I mean, if you thought one million was cool, how about one quadrillion. That's how many good things they have going on. And if you say, "but what about... " they say, "yeah, but, then there's... " and they tell you ten other things worth a quadrillion. It's too much. Your heart flutters. Can so much money be possibly mine for the taking? Am I really going to be the guy to bring infinite free energy to China?

C) Free money. The way they talk it almost sounds like there's free money. One guy said, "Just go to this lunch and we'll give you part of the company." Nobody wants to give you money for free. Repeat that like a mantra. The next thing I knew, I was scammed. And it's going to sound ridiculous when I tell you. The guy at the lunch had invented, among other things, a time machine. I'm not joking. We were all eating steak. The guy had five or six inventions.

At the end of his PowerPoint: time machine.

I didn't lose money on that. But a lot of time. If I could use the time machine for just one thing I would get that time back.

By the way, a quality of a good scam: I still believe the time machine part. But the other guys involved were trying to scam me in other ways and it took me about a year to get rid of them.

It reminds me of another invention I was pitched about a year ago. The Star Trek food replicator. No joke. Here's how it works: these scientists invented an edible material (think: firm tofu) that can be shaped and flavored anyway they want. Combine that with a quality 3D printer that somehow has a method for adding seasoning and coloring to food and suddenly you can order yourself up a nice steak. I passed on that one. The last thing I need in life is to be responsible for solving all of starvation on the planet.

D) They ask for advice. The best very best scammers will always ask for your advice. This is their favorite technique. It makes them vulnerable. It flatters your ego. How can they be ripping you off if they also need your advice on the exact thing they are eventually going to rip you off on. It's almost like they are making you an accomplice in the ripoff. We're talking the Grade A scammers now. Example: the guy who stole the $12 million that I mentioned above was always asking my advice on how he could position his hedge fund so he could raise more money. I was really flattered that he was asking me. It made me feel like an expert.

E) They always have a reason. During a scam, things always go wrong. But that's OK, they say, because soon, X, Y and Z will happen. Every month, every day even, there's a new reason. And the reasons start to get thick with lies mixed with truths so you can't figure out which is which. It's too confusing. This has happened in most of my relationships as well.

F) They say: "I'm going to make you a very rich man." Nobody wants to make me a rich man. In fact, most people want to make me a very poor man. I can guarantee some people fantasize at night about how poor they can make me. But if someone tells me they want to make me a rich man I now know enough to run the opposite direction. If someone says to me, "I'm going to make you poor as shit," I am more likely to invest in them.

G) They have really good people around them. Like so and so was the Vice-President of the Planet at one point. And this guy over here was the world weightlifting champion. And this one got five PhDs at Harvard by the time he was 12. How can you go against a guy who has a superstar team like that. I mean, we're talking the Vice-President of the Planet. And somehow, despite having the rulers of the universe on their team, if they just get some help from JAMES F ALTUCHER, then they will make billions!

I can go on and on. It's pathetic the kind of things I've hoped would come true and everyone sort of looked at me and said, "Did he really believe what we just told him?'

The worst scams are when nobody did anything wrong. But they got your hopes up. They told you a number that seemed only slightly higher than you could've hoped for. Beautiful visions were spun. And things were looking good. The girl was still lying in the bed the next day. And dreams were coming true. It's hard to know which stars in the sky will turn into black holes. And which ones will open up worm holes into entire new universes.

Any other ways to spot a scammer?