This fairytale is nothing but a scam

Empty pocketRags to riches stories are compelling. But this one is just a way of separating you from your cash.

In real life, people who are down on their uppers – overloaded with debt, out of work, their savings exhausted, or simply not enough money coming in to meet commitments – often stay in their predicament.
But some can also focus on the bright side, make a substantial effort and work themselves back into a better place.

Short of the one in a million or more chance of scooping a big lottery win, the choice is between doing nothing, and so possibly seeing the financial situation worsen further, or working hard over a long period to improve matters a bit. Just ask any charity concerned with debt and poverty if you need proof.

Real-life fairytales
In fairytales, people who are down on their uppers – literally with holes in their shoes – find magical ways of making a fortune. They discover golden geese, marry a prince, chance upon the entrance to a cave full of jewellery, find a secretive rich person living in hovel – all the stuff of wish and fantasy. Often those who find wealth by sheer luck are punished for their greed. Fairytales have a moral purpose, after all.

So judge these extracts from a 24-page A4 booklet that bounced through my letterbox.

It shows a picture of a happy family. They say: "After years of struggle we are so happy now to be able to spend time as a family. And it's thanks to a system which has brought returns of £5,196.33 per week to us. Yet it only takes my husband and I a couple of hours a day to keep an eye on."

"Jane", who peppers the booklet with photos of her happy family and new car, explains: "Just four years ago and heavily in debt, we stumbled on a fantastic way of making money which was developed by a reclusive gentleman who used it himself to become a multi-millionaire. He taught it to us, passed it on, and within just seven weeks, my husband and I had banked £87,958.61.

In fact, using it in our spare time from home, in the past four years we have already banked over £1,132,800.98." I love the precision of the pennies which shows it must be genuine.

The figures show there was a serious slowdown after the first seven weeks. Had Jane and her husband kept that the original pace, they would now have more than £2.6m. Maybe they relaxed.

From rags to riches
But whatever the numbers, I adore the fairytale, "deep in debt to riches" by finding a secret millionaire theme in this story. We can all fantasise about finding a reclusive millionaire, perhaps one hiding away in a small flat.

Jane says: "Quite simply, it's completely changed the life of our little family. Literally within a few months, we were able to pay off almost ALL our debts and credit cards and begin buying the things we wanted in life."

It soon appears that the "reclusive millionaire" is not that reclusive. He took part in an unnamed and undated TV programme where he made £500,000 in "just SEVEN DAYS." It must be true because it was witnessed by a national TV reporter (unnamed) and the figures are 100% VERIFIABLE thanks to "professional accountants". I've met amateur tennis players but never amateur accountants – it's not a fun job so I always assume they are professional. They are not named.

And so it goes on. They were "fed up with bosses", tried "business opportunities and franchises", working really hard but "our personal debts spiralled to over £40,000.00." Then "we were forced to close the business down, sell our house and move out."

She continues: "We even had to go cap in hard to our parents which was very degrading. We felt complete and utter failures and it was so sad the day we closed the door to our home for the last time. The look on my children's faces still haunts me to this day."

Worse. "We ended up in a grotty rented house that we found out had previously been occupied by a group of illegal immigrants who were, let's just say, not too up on the hygiene front."

Then the chance and magical meeting with the millionaire. It goes on for pages in much the same vein although her financial accounts seem to use both the £-sign and GBP (only used when there is no easily accessible pound sign). This suggests the whole booklet has been imported from the US and adapted to UK use.

I've read the whole booklet. I still have absolutely no idea what the great idea is even though I'm urged to send off for free trial system which comes with three DVDs, an audio CD and a "Business Accelerator Consultation" certificate. I'm assured there are "ZERO RISKS".

A little further research shows Jane is the UK face of a US "Cash on Demand" site which tells fans, for a price each month, how to set up websites and send out booklets encouraging others to send in cash to become rich.

It's a lovely tale but as with all fairy stories, there are some hidden nasties. In this case, all those people who are down on their luck, send cash to Jane and her ilk, get zero returns and end up even further in financial desperation.

The top 10 scams of 2011

The top 10 scams of 2011
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This fairytale is nothing but a scam

Land banking involves plots of land offered for sale, often online, with the promise of sizable returns when planning permission is approved for housing or other development. Yet often the land is located in areas protected from development by planning law.

The companies involved soon disappear with investors' money and as the firms are not protected by the Financial Services Authority, their funds are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme

It is reasonable to assume that if you take out a mobile phone contract at £30 a month for 24 months that's exactly what you'll pay unless you exceed the tariff. Yet mobile phone providers have come under fire for a snag buried in the small print – a clause to allow mid-contract price rises.

Prices are rising by a median of 81p a month and 70% of consumers are completely unaware off this sneaky move, according to Tesco Mobile, so be sure to check any new contracts before you sign the dotted line.

Fraudsters recruit unknowing accomplices through email under the guise of offering employment, seeking a personal favour, or through internet shopping sites. The recruits are persuaded into receiving what are essentially fraudulent payments and then passing funds on.

The 'mules' are frequently offered a small financial incentive to encourage involvement and face difficulties in proving their innocence when the fraud is discovered.

The scams claim to offer people the chance to profit from carbon credits. Under regulations that permit businesses to emit a tonne of CO2 – the companies claim to offer investment in green projects like a forestry scheme or a solar panel project, which generates carbon credits that are then sold on to heavy industry.

A flashy brochure or website tells of a reliable 'government-backed' scheme which provides reliable returns for investors. Such a scheme doesn't exist however – a reality investors only discovered when they have parted with their cash and the company is untraceable. As with land banking, fraudulent companies are not covered by the FSA so victims have no course for recompense

Receiving an email from the taxman saying you are owed a payment may seem like a nice surprise, but it is actually from fraudsters trying to relieve you of your cash instead.

The emails provide a "click-through link" to a cloned replica of the HMRC website. The recipient is then asked to provide their credit or debit card details - all the information the criminals need to clear your account, and sell on your personal details.

Insurer Direct Line reported a hike in the number of 'crash for cash' scams last year – where fraudsters fake accidents by making unnecessary emergency stops at busy roundabouts or slip roads, forcing motorists to crash into them.

They then make bogus claims to the innocent motorist's insurer, often including fictitious injuries and passengers.

Learner drivers have been taken for ride by being unknowingly taught by trainee instructors. An investigation by the AA found up to 27,000 extra driving tests have been failed in the last year because one in 10 learner drivers are unwittingly taught by an instructor they do not know is learning on the job.

July saw the arrest of a Leicester postman who stole £46,686 worth of mail over two-and-a-half years. Yogeshbhai Patel, 38, was jailed for two years for stealing mail including 2,000 DVDs and 2,250 games along with CDs and other electrical equipment. He intercepting the valuable packages and spent the money on living a luxury lifestyle including helicopter rides and a trip to Las Vegas.

The Trading Standards Institute reported over 200 cases where elderly homeowners have been targeted by telephone cold callers, purporting to be from their energy supplier and offering energy saving devices which could cut their bills by 40%.

The TSI tested the devices in homes where owners had fallen for the scam, only to find they both failed to satisfy electrical safety standards or deliver any tangible energy savings.

Thermal cameras that track ATM pin numbers are the latest weapon in their arsenal and US scientists have warned it is the next threat for this form of crime. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that up to 45 seconds after a person types their pin code into an ATM machine or door entry pad the numbers and even the sequence are still readable by thermal cameras.


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