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      Did you willingly "invest" your money in a business plan presented by someone who turned out to be a con artist?  Do you have an ownership agreement with this person that outlines the distribution of expenses and profits? If so, you are probably going to have a very difficult time convincing law enforcement that this person stole your money and one of the your biggest obstacles will be your written agreement - the very instrument that you thought would protect you from fraud.

     When someone you gave money to takes the money and runs, you must be able to prove that the person intended to take the money and run even before you gave it to him.  This is called intent.  If you report the theft to the police, they will probably tell you to take the "dispute" to civil court because they cannot charge someone with fraud or theft unless you can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the person obtained your money through lies and false promises. 

      Most business people who have been defrauded cannot prove intent and therefore the thief gets away with money that has been "legally" stolen.  If the thief can produce a contract in any form, the police generally accept it as documented proof that the issue is civil, regardless of whether or not you signed the contract based on lies and deceit.  This is an advantage to seasoned thieves who know that even a forged contract can be used to dissuade police to investigate if the money lost is not regarded as sufficient to expend resources on an in-depth investigation.

 ANTI-FRAUD TIPS FOR BUSINESSES:  The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Provides a free Internet
 video to help businesses protect against fraud:



Penn Jillette, magician, author, producer and partner in the top-billed Las Vegas magic show, Penn and Teller, made the following observations about business contracts in an article published in the December 2005 issue of 'Business 2.0'.

    "When we first started doing Penn and Teller shows, I though that if you had a contract, it was enforced.  I thought there were the contract police - so you'd sign a contract that says you're going to give me a million dollars, and if you don't have a million dollars, someone will step in and give me my million anyway.  Right!

     That's one the hardest lessons for a guy like me who has no interest in business but now runs a multimillion-dollar enterprise.  A contract is not much of a legal document.  It's just an agreement that two people who trust each other have made. You can't enter into a contract with anyone that you wouldn't make a handshake deal with, because everything comes down to a handshake deal.

    The more experience I got in showbiz, the less I read the contracts.  Now I don't bother.  If I can't make a deal in a phone call, and have them understand it, then it's not a worthwhile deal.  You're making a deal with people, not with the contract.  That's a mistake most people make a lot: 'We've got it in writing now.'  The contract is clarification, but it's not enforcement."


    If this has happened to you and you do not want to be a victim and you want to protect other potential victims from this thief, you do have some options. 

    (1) You probably did not perform a due diligence check on this person before you gave them the money.  If you perform one after the theft, it may still provide information that could help you reduce your losses.  CUFF will provide this background research for $59.00.  This research will benefit you as the victim and possibly provide information that will help other future victims.  Order a search by completing the Fraud Report form

    (2) Enter the person in the Internet Swindlers Database - even if you did not meet them on the Internet.  This is a proprietary database of alleged con artists provided by victims.  CUFF matches each submission with con artists already in the database to see if the person has been entered already.  If so, we will send you the e-mail of the other victim(s) and allow you to discuss your frauds, if you choose.  If information is produced which substantiates a pattern of fraud, CUFF will provide a free background search on the con artist and begin an investigation to determine whether or not there might be evidence to convince law enforcement to charge the person with fraud.

   (3) If our research turns up outstanding warrants, we will contact the appropriate law enforcement agency and publish the warrant in the CUFF Fugitive Database.  If you already know that the person has an outstanding warrant or criminal history, you can Submit the person to the CUFF Fugitive Database for free. This database is not searchable on the Internet until CUFF verifies the warrant and your personal information will not be given to anyone unless you authorize it.  When it is published, anyone can search the database for free using 48 different search criteria, including the subject's physical description, aliases, background information and keywords.

   (4) If you obtain a civil judgment against the person ,
Submit the Judgment to the CUFF Database for free. 

(5) You should also enter your civil judgment in the
Internet Civil Judgment Registry. The ICJR will send the defendant a letter advising that the judgment against them will be entered in the Internet Registry if payment is not made within 30 days.  The Registry database can be searched by anyone for free. You can include your contact information with the judgment so that a searcher can inform you of the whereabouts of the defendant or you can use the Registry's contact information and they will contact you with any tips. 

   (6)  If you don't believe the criminal justice system is equipped to handle the growing epidemic of fraud,
join CUFF, America's fastest growing grassroots anti-fraud movement that is working to change the laws and social attitude which have contributed to the laxity in prosecution.  

For legal assistance regarding contracts, collecting money from customers and other business matters, Pre-Paid Legal Services provides an inexpensive alternative to costly attorney fees.


                                          GETTING YOUR MONEY BACK
When you lose money through a scam, the chances of getting your money back are akin to getting your television back after an unknown burglar steals it from your home while you are away on vacation.  It happens only in the rarest of circumstances.  However, you do have some options.

       First, you can pursue criminal charges through the proper agency, and if this happens and the thief is convicted, you can ask for restitution as part of the sentencing.  Depending on the state and county, the thief may remain on probation until the money is repaid.

      Second, you can sue the person in court in order to obtain a civil judgment.  This judgment will allow you to have the thief's personal property seized, his bank account levied and his paycheck garnisheed.  This is a very good option if the thief is employed and has assets.  Unfortunately, the majority of the people who scam do not have stable employment or assets. 

      However, it you obtain a judgment against someone, you can hand it over to a judgment recovery specialist, which is a collector who goes after judgment debtors.  This person will have a financial motivation to find your money, and the fee you pay, which is generally 30% to 50% of the money collected, may be worth it.  50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.  AND you will have obtained justice because the thief will have had to give back the stolen money.

     An additional disadvantage of suing civilly is that a judgment is only valid in the county and/or state where it was issued.  In order for it to be recognized in another county and/or state, it must be filed as a foreign judgment.  Often this means the case must be heard by a judge in the county where it is being filed as a foreign judgment.  If it was a default judgment, the chances are even better that the count will not rubber stamp it without hearing the case.  

     To see an overview of what is available to a plaintiff in a small claims court suit, go to CUFF's Get Even Legally Page.

     You can also report a business to:

      Better Business Bureau
      Consumer World - Links to government agencies that handle consumer complaints

      The Rip Off Report

         Review the links and information above and if you feel you still need additional help or have questions, contact CUFF in the Contact form.  Do not e-mail us as we may not open an e-mail if we do not recognize the sender.