Several weeks ago, I posted an article entitled, “How long can Arevenca con men keep on winning?” It got quite a bit of attention among bloggers and among victims of oil scams. What I have learned is that getting victims of this sort of fraud to go public with their complaints is harder than convincing a victim of sexual abuse to go public.
Like sexual abuse, cons are, fundamentally, psychological crimes. They operate less by force or fear, and more by exploiting tricks of the mind like the sunk cost fallacy, the Ben Franklin effect, the backfire effect, and many other mental tricks.
Victims of cons feel ashamed. They should have known better. They were warned about exactly this sort of scam. They are always better at sizing people up and avoiding trouble. How could this have happened? Especially for a smart person accustomed to successful business dealings, getting conned creates internal dissonance. “If I’m not good at making deals, what AM I good at?” It hurts.
There is also a fear of public embarrassment. Aside from the pain of admitting that one has been victimized, people also fear losing their hard-won reputations as successful, savvy businesspeople. Nobody wants to look like a sucker.
As with sexual abuse, victims must overcome their shame and be willing to come forward, if they want to save others from a similar fate. That requires that those of us who know victims — be it of an advance-fee fraud or a mustard scam — recognize that the people who lost money are not stupid. We all get suckered from time to time. Just that in the world of oil trading, the sums of money are bigger. We need to remember that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Insulting people just makes it more likely that they will stay silent, and scammers will continue to prosper.
So then here is the answer. Arevenca, and other con men, will keep on winning until they are confronted. The Internet is powerful, in that a news article, product review or lawsuit in one corner of the planet is immediately accessible almost everywhere. One might think this would make a less hospitable environment for people whose sole advantage is that their reputation is a secret. But it requires that those of you — yes, you, readers — who have been victimized, be willing to speak up.
On this topic, I received a comment here that gave a lot of details claiming that Arevenca had successfully fleeced a US company. I haven’t let the comment go out publicly because it talks a lot about the private affairs of specific people and companies, both as victims and perpetrators. I am careful about letting an anonymous commentors make such claims. But it’s very interesting. Please stay tuned.