By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital
November 2, 2003
Several years ago, a friend and I were discussing whatever scandal or fraud
topped that day's business news. Someone had spent considerable time and
energy executing a plot to separate someone else from their money, without
providing anything in return except heartache and an empty bank account.
My wise friend, a successful entrepreneur, observed, "if someone's goal is to
make a lot of money, it's pretty easy. And you can do it honestly, if you
just take your time and don't try to take shortcuts. It's the shortcuts
that get people in trouble."
A recent News Sentinel feature about business people who had been the victims
of theft from within their own companies reminded me of his advice. I
thought about it again this week when our office received a call from someone
from a business index publication. This guy was trying to separate us from
somebody trying to take a shortcut into my wallet. The incredible thing is
that this company is attempting its scam on us again, even though they've been
trying the same scam on us for two years.
Here's how it works. Out of the blue, two years ago we received an
invoice for $350 for a copy of some business directory. (These people are not
affiliated with the Real Yellow Pages, Yellow Book or any other legitimate
business with which I am familiar.) We called and wrote the folks
informing them that we never ordered, received or asked for a copy of the
directory. They insisted we did, and they had a telephone recording to
prove it. We offered to pay the bill, if they would only provide evidence
of that recording. The recording was never produced.
I wonder how many people just pay the invoice without question?
Then we started receiving nasty letters and phone calls from a collection
agency. Over this $350 "debt." We encouraged the collection agency
to have their attorney contact us and provide evidence that we owed them any
money. Back and forth we went.
Last week they called again. Not to collect the 'debt,' but to verify
our information for publication in the new directory. Apparently their
scam and collection departments don't speak to each other. The caller
informed our receptionist that we had subscribed to this service before and that
D. Moon had authorized it. (I know D. Moon and he never authorizes
anything.) On and on and on it went. He became angry when our
receptionist shared our history with his company and suggested he try the pitch
on someone else.
There are plenty of lessons in this story. We all know there are
hucksters willing to shortcut their way into other people's pockets.
That's not news. What shocks me most is that these types of scams must
work on a percentage of people. If not, these folks wouldn't keep doing
David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a
Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article
originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).