An ADHD friend of mine, a medical doctor from New York, once described medical diagnosis as ‘pattern recognition’.

That’s why, he said, a competently written computer-based questionnaire can actually be more effective at diagnosing medical conditions than a human being: because the computer will ask ALL the relevant questions, not skipping some that don’t seem appropriate, or being disarmed by ‘appearances’ or noble-sounding ‘assurances’ presented by the patient … as some human doctors will do.

A computer will follow the questions and answers where they lead … whereas a human will sometimes think, ‘No, that’s not likely…’ and perhaps miss a clue. A computer will ask the embarrassing questions about, say, sexual partners, alcohol consumption or needle use.

Paying attention

I mention this because, although I (deliberately) don’t make a fuss about it here, I’ve run a training company since 1991 and been involved in many seminars teaching aspects of investment, business and personal development before then and since. (None of them have involved selling property or investments to ‘students’.) As such, I’ve paid attention to what’s offered in the investment education ‘marketplace’ and seen various operators over the years posing as ‘educators’ to pitch their snake oil.

I talked elsewhere about working with one of my authors, Olly Newland, in uncovering the Blue Chip scam, and how he and I and another colleague collated evidence and material which Olly then laid before the Minister of Commerce, various Members of Parliament, the Commerce Commission, the Serious Fraud Office, the Police, and the news media in an effort to hold the Blue Chip operators accountable.

It’s a matter of public record that when his direct negotiation with Blue Chip broke down, Olly’s public agitation and his formal complaint kicked off the Commerce Commission and SFO investigations. The wad of Statutory Demands he and I personally served on the Blue Chip companies on behalf of BC victims were met a few days later with a raft of company liquidations. Bastards. It’s been frustrating to see how slow and seemingly ineffectual the authorities have been in that situation.

Anyway, back to pattern recognition: Over the years, I’ve observed various wide boys, liars, salesmen and spruikers preying on the innocent — sometimes posing as ‘investment educators’ etc. At times, for the reasons I explained  yesterday in ‘Why Speak Up?‘, I’ve tried to oppose them and sound warnings about them. I even sued one whom I regarded as particularly pernicious.

Here, from my files, is one of the FIRST I ever spoke up about: Investors International. These guys were so smooth they even sucked then ACT MP Rodney Hide into being a speaker at one of their seminars in Fiji. Window dressing.

I warned people at the time, even contacting some involved in the pyramid scheme-style selling of the seminars, telling them straight that Investors International looked very dodgy and they should avoid them. Eventually I was proved right, with Investors International boss Rudy van Lin even jailed for fraud in the US. But only after sucking a LOT of money out of Aussies and NZers with their claims of ‘quick and easy massive riches’. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?)

I warned about this 'financial education scheme' that turned out to be fraudulent. (click to enlarge)

So, if it’s all about pattern recognition, guess what? I see similar operations in action today. Do you?

As I said in Lying, my dear boy, just compounds the crime …:

Given my own journalistic background and sensibilities I sometimes try to shine a light on misdeeds — and always to provide hard evidence for my analysis and assertions. I try to focus on documentation, quoting on-the-record statements, citing provable actions and outcomes. … It’s pretty hard to argue with facts and someone plumbing your clearly demonstrable track record. (Walks like duck, talks like a duck … etc.)

As expected, some people copping such criticism won’t (can’t?) answer the facts or address their track record, …

That’s pretty much how liars deal with someone challenging them:
(1) Ignore the facts or assertions of facts
(2) Abuse and smear your critics as somehow mentally deficient or ‘envious’ of your ‘achievements’
(3) Go on working your con-game and feeding your lies to anyone who will listen … until you are finally exposed by inconvenient truth (like Bernard Madoff?) and STOPPED IN YOUR TRACKS.

Yup. True to form, they either (a) just smear their critic in an effort to impugn his credibility or (b) threaten ‘legal action’. Blue Chip’s Mark Bryers used both tactics. How do we all regard him now?

Let me say this: the old dodge-the-question-smear-the-messenger behaviour is just another part of the pattern. — Best wishes, Peter Aranyi

PS Can this headline be true?: New Zealanders easy prey for scam artists