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Faces of Fraud: Cases and Lessons from a Life Fighting Fraudsters by Martin T. Biegelman

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Chapter 11

Who's Who of Fraud: A Story of Vanity and Deception

French philosopher and novelist Jean-Jacques Rousseau in Émile, Or Treatise on Education said, “Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of every folly but vanity.” The fraudsters in this case study must have been avid readers of Rousseau for vanity was their weapon, and deception was their intent. In the process they obtained millions of dollars from tens of thousands of victims.

Everyone wants to be liked, well thought of, and respected. We enjoy recognition for a job well done, a significant achievement, or a lifetime of accomplishments. When we receive recognition and accolades, we feel special. It pumps us up and makes us proud of ourselves. No one wants to be known as a loser. That is exactly what a group of ingenious fraudsters focused on when committing a very unique scam. Rather than appeal strictly to greed, these criminals appealed to people's ego and vanity as a back-door approach to empty their wallets.

Do you remember the scene from The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man confront the all mighty Wizard? They all wanted something from him. The Scarecrow wanted a brain. The Lion wanted courage. The Tin Man wanted a heart. Remember what the Wizard gave them? He gave the Scarecrow a diploma, the Lion a medal, and the Tin Man a testimonial, a watch. In a way, that is what the victims in this case study wanted. They wanted recognition, appreciation, and a sense of ...

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