How do I stop him from being suckered?
January 25, 2010 4:33 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop my roommate from getting scammed?

As I type this, my roommate is listening to a voice track for something called a "Success Business Package" from something that sounds like "iOffice". It's asking him to pay $149 for a business conference and offering him lots of money.

We don't talk much, and don't get along very well. He's also a little gullible — he did that summer sales thing where you sell people knives, but you're given too much stock and end up losing money, and spent a week on the phone with the company asking why he wasn't making a profit.

I feel like it would be wrong not to tell him he's being scammed, but I never talk to him and I feel it would be rude to say "Buddy, you know that's a scam, right?" So how do I subtly stop him from spending all his money (he can barely afford groceries as-is) without being a total jerk about it, preferably with as little confrontation as possible?
posted by Rory Marinich to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think you can have that kind of conversation without confrontation. People who fall for these types of things tend to be emotionally invested in them. Hell, my friends get pissed off at me when I tell them they are inflating the return they get on their real estate transactions--and these are legitimate business deals! Most people do not want others pointing out their cognitive biases to them.
posted by dfriedman at 4:43 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Is there any way you could direct him to this link (part of Rob Cockerham's online exposé on Herbalife scams)?

If you don't get along very well, I imagine saying "You know that's a scam, right?" could just make him dig his heels in more in order to "prove you wrong." Subtly directing him to objective resources that can tell him it's a scam would probably be more effective.
posted by pluckemin at 4:44 PM on January 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


You could bring up his prior history with the knife sales.

You could also Google/search the information and help him research other peoples experiences/knowledge about this company.

Unfortunately - some people are just gullible and need alot of bad experiences before learning. Just the other day I had to stop my sister from responding to the "family trunk found in Asia" scam that was going around. And I guarantee you this won't be the last thing this year I have to talk to her about.
posted by jkaczor at 4:46 PM on January 25, 2010


Maybe if you can ask him to explain what he's listening to to you, and then ask pointed questions. "This sounds interesting, but X, Y and Z don't add up. How can you make money on that again?"

That might be a little less confrontational, and it could get you talking to your roommate as an added bonus.
posted by xingcat at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you don't get along with your roommate, why are you trying to save him from this scam?
Nothing good can come of this. By that I mean him doing this iOffice thing, AND you trying to help him. If you don't help him, at least you aren't making things worse for yourself.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:47 PM on January 25, 2010


"You know that's a scam, right?"

"Careful, that sounds like a scam to me."

#1 sounds like he is stupid for not knowing. In #2 you just give him your opinion.
posted by domnit at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Could you do some research on the 'system' and get some hard facts down on paper then give him the paper. Say something like "Dude, I heard some stuff about your program and I just wanted to make sure you were aware of all the angles." Reputable sources will be the best thing here, think Consumer Reports and the BBB.

dfriedman is right, he's bound to be emotionally invested in this and will probably be pissed that you are butting in his life. Be prepared for him to: a. not believe you, b. think you are jealous of all his 'future wealth', or c. get pissed at you because he knows you're right and doesn't want to admit that he's made another mistake.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2010


Do some online research into this particular one, so you can then truthfully say "heya - I overheard that voice track of the Success Business Package that you were looking into. I've actually heard some stuff about that system, and it turns out to be a scam. I figure that since you're checking out their legitimacy, I can just save you the time - they're no good [shrug]"

This way, you're assuming he knows his shit (instead of belittling him), letting him know that you assume this of him, and also suggesting that this is a bar he should be meeting on his own, all while just giving a friendly tip-off on a bad bet.

Depending on the dynamic, you could apologize for overhearing his voice track, since it's not your business, but don't give the impression that he has no privacy from you.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2010


"Hey Bob, this might sound weird, but I think this track your listening to is for a dodgy 'business school' that I remember reading something about it on the Internet last week. It might be worth checking it out online and seeing it it's kosher-- I'll have a look for you if you want?"
posted by Static Vagabond at 4:51 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rory Marinich: “I feel like it would be wrong not to tell him he's being scammed, but I never talk to him and I feel it would be rude to say "Buddy, you know that's a scam, right?" So how do I subtly stop him from spending all his money (he can barely afford groceries as-is) without being a total jerk about it, preferably with as little confrontation as possible?”

There is nothing rude about being honest with someone about something that you're concerned could hurt them. It could seem condescending if you tell him this not out of concern for him but out of a spitefulness and a desire to "be right" - and it's harder to avoid that than it seems. But keep in mind that, if your intentions are honest, then it would be much worse not to say anything. A really good friend is one that tells you if you're about to do something foolish or inadvisable; and I think that it's often better if we treat everyone as though they were our really good friends.

However, if you still hesitate, knowing you don't really get along well with this fellow, you can always lie. "I actually mentioned that you were doing that to my cousin Joe, and he said he tried it and the whole thing was a scam." You can always "have a friend" who tried it and failed miserably. This is clearly not a good idea if you're planning on cultivating any kind of relationship with your roommate, but if it's the only way you can think of to keep him from doing something stupid and encourage him to be more wary of scams, it's probably better than nothing.
posted by koeselitz at 4:57 PM on January 25, 2010


Walk by, glance at his screen, and say "oh, yeah, I've heard about that scam. funny stuff, huh?" and move on. Basically act as if you saw it on a web site somewhere, and that you assume he's found it the same way and also find it a funny scam. That way he can (if he's not an idiot) avoid feeling embarrassed for nearly being taken in. And if he proceeds anyway: oh well.
posted by davejay at 6:16 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and if you're worried that pointing out it might be a scam before he does it causes a confrontation, you should probably start getting a new roommate, 'cuz that guy's not going to have money left for much longer.

I still remember when my wife wanted to sign up for a recruiting scam, and I told her I didn't trust it, and dug up research on why it's bad, and she still wanted to do it (out of stubbornness or desperation, I don't know which) but at the last second she balked. You can't convince someone who doesn't want to be convinced, but you can tell them in a way that avoids provoking their defense mechanisms (something I failed to do in my attempt with her.)
posted by davejay at 6:18 PM on January 25, 2010


Just send him a link to 419eater.com then while you're both having a laugh, you can bring up the fact that the guy selling the "success package" is also probably some dude sitting in his basement in his underwear.

More seriously, I'd be looking for another roommate, because if he's really that gullible, it's only a matter of time until he loses his money and can't pay his half of the rent.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:35 PM on January 25, 2010


Be prepared for him to: a. not believe you, b. think you are jealous of all his 'future wealth', or c. get pissed at you because he knows you're right and doesn't want to admit that he's made another mistake.

Or, as one of my college roommates did: d) try to sell you and everyone else in the dorm on this life-changing program.
posted by smackfu at 6:42 PM on January 25, 2010


dfriedman is right, he's bound to be emotionally invested in this and will probably be pissed that you are butting in his life. Be prepared for him to: a. not believe you, b. think you are jealous of all his 'future wealth', or c. get pissed at you because he knows you're right and doesn't want to admit that he's made another mistake.

This is the big reason why I don't think you should try to help him here. If you don't get along well in the first place and if he's the kind of guy who would buy in to this sort of thing, I'm guessing he's the kind of guy who doesn't deal with criticism well.
He's bound to be emotionally tied up in this and anything you tell him other than "Go man go!" is going to make you the Bad Guy because he's backed into a corner- If what you say is true, that means he was about to do something stupid- so therefore he rejects that and you're the guy who's stupid. Think of GOB from Arrested Development.

I'd swear I know your housemate in real life.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:04 PM on January 25, 2010


Free advice: ignore him and his stuff. You don't get along. You have no obligation to him. If he were (1) a friend, or (2) a neutral stranger, sure - do him a good turn. But a frenemy? Nah. Why? Not because you harbor any ill-will toward him, but because it's bound to end up badly... he won't take your advice and think you are butting in. If he takes your advice, he'll always wonder if he was right to do so, and if perhaps he missed out on riches. Either way is a loser for you - and you don't want to do that unless he's a friend, or at the very least a neutral stranger... but a hostile entity? So not worth it.

Bottom line: mind your own business and you'll be fine - no good will come of your trying to be a hero on this situation.
posted by VikingSword at 7:21 PM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


In high school there was this kid who was on the peripheral of our group of friends. In general I thought he was pretty intelligent if a bit weird (case in point, we called him "Shifty Dave" for his nick name).

One day my other friend who was somewhat close with "Shifty Dave" asked for some help in trying to set him straight on some "business opportunity" he was considering.

It turns out that some guy came to the McDonalds where he worked (preying on the desperate) and somehow convinced him he could make loads of money sitting on his ass playing CounterStrike all day.

It turns out this "opportunity" was Quixtar, a reincarnation of Amway. I found article after article about how this was stupid and did not make any business sense and how the numbers just didn't work, all from ridiculously credible sources, and this guy didn't listen to any of it.

I told my friend to ask "Shifty Dave" why his "upline" (ie. the guy he paid to mentor him and who he bought product from) still lived in an incredibly shitty apartment with a shitty car (which "Shifty Dave" actually confessed to our mutual friend) if this was such a guaranteed way of making loads of money.

If you think that mattered to him you'd be wrong. He was too emotionally invested and his desperation combined with his desire to avoid looking stupid and show people how smart he was eventually got him screwed. I hear he gave up on it a year or two later but he lost a bunch of money on it--fortunately he was still young and didn't have many financial responsibilities.

Why did I tell you this whole story? Because the moral of it is that I ended up wasting countless hours of my valuable time getting incredibly frustrated by trying to help some guy I didn't really care about, who wasn't asking for someone to prove him wrong, and who wasn't intelligent enough to put two and two together when all the data was laid out in front of him.

Bottom line:
DON'T WASTE YOUR VALUABLE TIME ON THIS--NOTHING GOOD WILL COME OF IT. IT'S JUST NOT WORTH IT.
posted by Elminster24 at 8:18 PM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's also what I call "pointing out the obvious". If a "business method" is so good at making money, why are people selling the "business method" instead of out practicing it? Just sayin'.
posted by Xoebe at 5:49 AM on January 26, 2010


Have the friend check ripoffreport.com before he gives them any money.
posted by cass at 7:26 AM on January 26, 2010


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