News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.
“This is Mr. Boomer.”
“Good evening, sir. I understand you are presently retired.”
“Yes, I am; been retired for nearly 20 years. Please say again who you are and why you are calling me?”
“It’s Mr. Macs, Tsitra Macs. I would like to present you with an investment opportunity you may be interested in.”
“Oh no you don’t. I’ve heard all about telephone scams. My children tell me never to speak to strangers or accept offers from them.”
“Please don’t hang up, sir. I have a unique opportunity for you. It’s not anything you’ve ever been offered before. And it will take just a few minutes of your time, and best of all, there’s no obligation. Do you have a retirement investment portfolio?”
“Well, yes. But I’m very conservative in my investment decisions.”
“I understand. Stocks are volatile, especially if you’re on a fixed income and can’t afford being caught in the wild swings of the bond and equity markets such as we’ve experienced this year. I have an alternative investment tailored just for you. Do you enjoy wine? Ever consider investing in fine wines, but you thought it was out of reach?”
“Well, frankly, my wife and I have recently upped our fine wine appreciation. One of our children is a Wall Street investment banker and has introduced us to fine, but very expensive, French and Italian wines. We really enjoy them, but they are all outside our budget.”
“Well then, this investment is perfect for you. Our wine portfolio has been carefully curated to include a number of expensive, rare wines that are the envy of every Wall Streeter. By purchasing a share in this portfolio, you will enjoy the appreciation in the value of these sought-after wines and, as an extra added bonus, you will have access to draw on these fine wines as a return on your investment. They won’t deplete your fixed-income cash flow; instead, consider them a dividend on your initial investment.”
“Wait a second, this sounds too good, Mr. Macs.”
“We’ve taken care of the risk and endless choices that have kept you from investing. We are a world-class, highly reputable firm that offers you the security and expertise you’ve been looking for. And the returns are amazing! Anywhere from 10 to 40 percent annually.”
“Hmm. This sounds like the type of investment my wife and I are interested in, Mr. Macs. And we can impress our children. Send me the enrollment information.”
“I can do better than that, Mr. Boomer. I can sign you up right over the telephone. And to expedite your investment returns, I can also take your banking information over the phone for your initial $10,000 investment.”
“OK, I’m in. I want to tell my friends about this, so please spell your name for me.”
“Of course. It’s Tsitra Macs.” (Note: spell his name backwards.)
This type of scam is proliferating. I first reported on these crimes in 2017, in which at least 39 British citizens were defrauded out of more than $1.2 million.
I just read of the latest effort to bilk seniors. The head of an elaborate false-front organization was arrested after the son of an 89-year-old Ohio man notified the FBI his dad had been defrauded of more than $300,000 during an 18-month period.
As you might expect, none of the touted wines were in the possession of the scammers, in spite of a sophisticated website that included cut-and-paste wine testimonials of recognized authorities.
The overall extent of the fraud? It’s still under investigation, but to date authorities have identified over 150 victims who transferred more than $13 million to this well-oiled fraudulent operation.
These are swindles of the ultimate sort: scammers seeking to part a fool from his and/or her money. It’s the ultimate expression of “dialing for dollars” – real dollars!
Nick Antonaccio is a 45-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years, he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member and program director of the Wine Media Guild of wine journalists. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @sharingwine.