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Financial Cons and Scams

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Medical patients sometimes hear what we say skeptically, but Americans in general will believe any darn thing.

Medical patients sometimes hear what we say skeptically, but Americans in general will believe any darn thing. A National Geographic survey found 80 million of us believe in UFOs and 77% believe that aliens have visited the planet. A Gallup poll found that 20% of us believe in witches and 25% accept that the positions of the planets and stars affect our lives. A Pew poll found that 30% of us claim to have had contact with the dead. So believing in some otherwise outlandish financial set-up should not be a stretch.

Let me give you a few examples. One familiar to many of us is the email (used to be a flimsy international airmail note) from a Nigerian prince or minister of something or other asking us, as a “trusted referral,” to hold $5 million for them. All we have to do is send $5,000 for the “transfer fee.” Uh, I don’t think so.

Another scam, this one making the rounds in Europe, happened to me when I was in Paris. Crossing a bridge, a young woman in front of us stooped and picked up a gold wedding band, claiming to have just found it. “Is it yours Madame? No? Well, it is too big for my finger, so you try it on. See, it fits. It says 18 karat on it but I do not know about these things, so you take it. If you will just give me 20 Euros for lunch I will be on my way.” $25 for a $1 fake? I don’t think so. She huffed off.

Exactly one block later, another young girl stooped in front of us and…”No thanks” says I—“We gave at the bridge.” Apparently, just like in franchising, each girl had an exclusive territory.

Or how about the urgent email appeal making the rounds from a friend or relative who claims to be stranded in, say, Manila and needs $2,000 wired to them to get home “right away.” Again, all together now, “I don’t think so.”

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Email approaches are so easy now because our addresses are freely bought and sold, even legally. The first thing to do when receiving such appeals is to email your friend/relative to inform them that they have been hacked.

Those of you around when managed care first broke on the scene will recall versions of “Give us $1,000 to join our panel, we will pay you half your normal fee (less than the break-even point), but we will send you more patients.” In other words, a new spin on the old “sell 3-cent apples for 2 cents but make it up in volume….” Whatever we did say then, or do say now, we should say instead, gang, “I don’t think so!”

Today’s managed care offerings are more sophisticated, but the same principles apply. Medicaid is one common example. It flourishes, however, because of individuals in the profession who put service to our patients ahead of breaking even. And at least Medicaid certainly does not support a profit-making enterprise, unlike the commercial versions.

There is no end to the inventive ways that humans continue to exploit one another, and money affairs have center stage. Human nature being what it is, I am reminded of the adage that “If you ask 10 girls for a kiss, 9 will ignore you, or slap you. One will probably give you a kiss.” And so it goes for financial “too good to be trues.” Makes you wonder.


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