Greed and Stupidity

By Raffique Shah
March 16, 2014

Raffique ShahI suppose I should not have been surprised at the number of people who telephoned the Central Bank, or turned up at its offices, to claim the “winnings” they had been alerted to via the now ubiquitous cellphone text messages.

Still, I could not believe there were so many gullible people in a country that boasts of a 90-plus per cent literacy rate, of universal free secondary education and easily accessible tertiary education. Maybe I am a fool for equating education with common sense, for believing that the average person can easily spot a scam and not fall victim to the boundless wiles of cartels of conmen who trawl the shrunken world of electronic communications searching for and fleecing fools.

The Internet has long been a hunting ground for these predators. From way back when, every so often I would receive unsolicited e-mails informing me that I had won massive sums of money—Euro or US dollars, for sure—in “lottos” or other games of chance I knew nothing about, and which I most definitely had not participated in.

So if I had not bought a ticket, how and why would I win a prize, especially something in the seven or eight-digit range? Really, with my luck being what it is, I knew all along that I would have to work for whatever I wanted in life, that there would be no free lunch or free money.

Let me explain my blight. When I was a boy, someone passed in at our home selling raffle tickets that sought to raise money for some charity, and my generous mother duly parted with one shilling—having me select the ticket. The first prize was a sewing machine. When the raffle was drawn, mine was one number shy of the winner’s!

You would think that it could only get better for me. Wrong. I used to buy one lottery ticket from a pensioner, really to help him, but also with the outside hope that maybe I would win a prize. I allowed him to select the ticket, riding his luck in a manner of speaking.

One day, he passed in at the office to sell me the weekly ticket, but I was unusually late, so he offered what would have been my ticket to my colleagues, two of whom bought half each. That ticket won the first prize—$500,000 in those days.

I was happy for my colleagues. Like me, they were of ordinary means and deserved some luck in life, and I felt that somewhere along the line, the wheels of fortune might favour me.

When the Lotto started, well aware that the chances of winning were close to one in a million, I still bought two tickets for the weekly draw. Later, I bought one ticket occasionally, and eventually I stopped playing and paying what many dub the “fools” tax’. Other than a handful of very lucky persons, the only winner in the Lotto or any game of chance is the organiser, in our case the Lotteries Board.

Now, with that kind of born-to-lose background, why would Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran or any of his staff award me $50,000? They would have to be mad, and I madder, to think I earned or deserved it.

Yet, scores of persons who received patently bogus text messages advising them of their incredible ‘luck’, all but laid siege to the bank demanding their bounties. That so many people were conned by some hustlers, pirates in far-off Somalia skimming money from gullible Trinis, means that our reputation as fools has spread across the world.

With Trinidad and Tobago having a mobile penetration rate of one-point-five (more cellphones than people), and with these devices linked wirelessly to the world, we can expect more people to fall victims to scams. Matters not how much you warn people about the perils of the global communications jungle, there will always be gullible and greedy people who walk into these traps with their eyes wide open.

You would think mostly poor, semi-literate people will bite such bait as they desperately seek to climb out of poverty. Again, wrong. Greed is an across the board affliction. I know of well-off and wealthy people who have lost sizeable sums to hedge funds bandits like Allen Stanford who lured them with promises of unrealistic returns on investments.

But scammers do not need to be as seductive or sophisticated as Stanford. A long-time but clearly rewarding scam is the poorly written e-mails, purportedly from a prince or princess or relative of a dead dictator, usually from Africa, who has inherited huge sums and needs your complicity to access the loot.

They advise that you will get a hefty commission if you help them “liberate” the money. The only requirements are your banking details and a small outlay.

Would you believe some people still fall for this crap, losing substantial sums chasing crooked shadows?

Greed and gullibility are a deadly concoction. There is a global industry of tech-predators armed with cellphones and computers, preying on foolish people. And they thrive, thanks to greed and stupidity.

3 Responses to “Greed and Stupidity”

  • During the Cold War, such was classified as brainwashed.

  • Jerry Colin Hussain

    Lottery is not the only scam. Scamming is the byproduct of the Capitalism system. There are no democracies …instead it is all a scam in the Capitalistic system. Trinidad and Tobago was spoilt over the years by the G8s. They came and they conquered ….took our people into slavery and brainwashed us all on how to scam each other. Independence was a huge scam; we were never independent and never will be…it is all a scam. From these governments to drug lords to foreign and local companies to universities it is all about scamming. Once upon a time ago education was a competition in the business of opening minds searching for better ways in doing things, helping the nation grow, protecting the environment etc……but in today’s world scamming and being successful at it is the name of the game…viewed another way is profit/loss as they take control and run everything to the ground and sell it back broken for big bucks using up our tax dollars….or make it happen despite the bad risks/losses. Even the movies that are made you see the sex scam…life has no worth scam….God does not exist scam or God wants us to have millions of dollars scam etc. The soft skills scam…but everyone knows there is no morals, no honesty, no good attitude, no respect, no ethics, no family life, and the lists is just too long. We are all damaged goods in a corrupt world. Does USA have any moral right to challenge Russia following their track record? There is no right from wrong anymore…it is all scamming.

  • Yeah ,we miss the good old days ,of yesteryear, when ‘all ah we didn’t thief,'(or did we , Uncle Mac Carty?) and money was no problem, in the words of Trini /Canadian ,John O’Hollaran buddy,Papa Deffy ,Dr.Eric.
    Back then , we had Japanese oil/gas Gardens escapades by Errol, and Kamal ,state land acquisition ,ADB loans Ponzi schemes , for the benefit of self aggrandizement characters , while their leader ,kept his eyes closed , due to political expediency.
    Oh ,..and can I squeeze in ,”Houses before Horses,’scams? Well maybe not, for sleeping dogs should remain that way….still, hmmmm?
    Speaking of scams,I cannot help but think that if Uncle Shah had remained a top end labor leader ,with a conscience -unlike the two Afro eat a fooders, Uwi -MBA Wade, and Errol, or dug his teeth deeper into T&T politics, not only would a self serving HCU managerial bozo ,like Harry Harinarine , not able to fleece hard working ,Caroni pensioners of their dollars , via promises of exorbitant interest returns,only to eventually give loans to crooked , Costa Rican diplomat pal,but both him , and a certain , well connected ,Spiritual adviser , to Auntie K , would be in prison by now.
    Not only would CLICO, one time, big dog, Uncle Dupree, be in jail, but so would a conniving -insider trading beneficiary-female turned PNM Finance Minister , in addition to a certain ,one time PM , whose three daughters,allegedly got their entire , high end ,British education paid for , with stock holders , and policy owners dollars.
    Well, maybe Neal , it’s time for you to take up the cause for justice, now that we know that media, anti crime guru Ian Alleyne ,is a politician wannabe? Now that’s an idea!
    Thanks Uncle Shah, and let’s say no to scams, which is becoming all too common in T&T& no…all cannot be blamed on our growing Guyanese, or Nigerian immigrant population. OHhh, and before I forget -99.9% of dem professional criminal,Yankee exported social miscreants, we label as ,deportees.
    I luv this land!

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