Does Utah deserve the title 'fraud capital of the United States'?

Analysis: Utah had 6th most Ponzi schemes of all states and most per capita

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  • Weston Jurney West Jordan, UT
    May 2, 2019 12:48 p.m.

    Isn't there something in some old book.....?

    Oh yes, "Thou shalt not covet," the Forgotten Commandment.

    Take that to heart and scammers won't have a chance with you.

  • Liberal Mormon Salt Lake City, UT
    May 1, 2019 1:32 p.m.

    I'd say (thanks to Hatch) based on the sheer number of Multi Level Marketing organizations alone in this state, yes, we very much deserve this unfortunate recognition.

  • mrjj69 bountiful, UT
    May 1, 2019 12:36 a.m.

    I blame this on weak consumer protection laws.

  • CJ Miles Dallas, TX
    April 30, 2019 5:31 p.m.

    Iron Rod........

    How many people do you know that make 20,000/month and found the job from a sign on the side of the road?

  • Iron Rod Salt Lake City, UT
    April 30, 2019 11:30 a.m.

    Driving on 3300 South today saw a hand lettered sign.
    “Be you own boss.
    Work from home.
    $20,000 a month.
    Call ... ......
    Legitimate or Scam?

  • NeifyT Salt Lake City, UT
    April 30, 2019 11:29 a.m.

    Perhaps scamming is just the Utah legacy.

    Reading up on things from the other headlines in the news and memories of my childhood; I was reading again about "The Great Brain" a movie that I remember seeing as a child over and over and over but ONLY at school. I didn't remember anything but the Mumps... until I started reading; and then remembered that the main character or the "hero" of the stories; why he was called "The Great Brain" was his ability to scam people. Apparently the ability to scam people is considered a good use of one's brain.

    The lead character being Jimmy Osborn in the movie (Utah family); the story coming strait out of a small Utah town set in the late 1800's. Apparently Utah has been the scam capital of the world for over a century.

    [I still don't know why they showed that movie it in school; but re-reading and remembering other scenes; now I understand why I was bullied and why the school's liked to encourage the bullying and violence ... that also was considered appropriate in that movie.]

  • CJ Miles Dallas, TX
    April 30, 2019 10:53 a.m.

    I don't understand why people can't understand the simple rule: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. People....stop giving your money to things that sound too good to be true. You just don't get those kind of returns on your money that these people offer you without some type of fraud going on. Money doesn't grow on trees. If you have money to give away, give it to charity. At least you can write it off on your taxes.

  • Back Talk Federal Way, WA
    April 30, 2019 10:39 a.m.

    Greed also plays a big part in LDS people getting caught up in these affinity scams.

    People should set investment rules to live by. If it sounds too good to be true it generally is. Dont invest with any fellow church member / friend. Dont gamble and expect to get rich quick.

    It is hard for local church leaders to warn other members about scammers who attend their same ward. In the end, be skeptical.

  • 1covey Salt Lake City, UT
    April 30, 2019 10:06 a.m.

    I'm surprised Washington DC is not on the list; and politicians affect us all. Some good advice given here.

  • OldMain Saratoga Springs, UT
    April 30, 2019 9:54 a.m.

    RE: oilerfan. Please don't misunderstand. I am in a position where I get to see the other side of that coin. I am sometimes shocked by how generous some members of the church are. I think it is fair to say that they are generally quiet about it and are the type of people who would never approach another ward member with an "exciting opportunity" to build wealth.

  • AllenL Riverton, UT
    April 30, 2019 9:40 a.m.

    Concerning investments, my advice is to stick with people who have a good history of investments. That is, stick to professionals who have a good history of results. The return from professional investing is probably less than that claimed by others, but that return is backed by a good history of investments, not by a "get rich quick" history.

  • NeifyT Salt Lake City, UT
    April 30, 2019 9:38 a.m.

    Of course everyone knows that Utah is the Fraud Capital of the World.

    Sure, this study proves it for Ponzi schemes. But I note; the study didn't bother with the thousands of other fraud perpetrated daily.

    I would be willing to bet we top the list for pyramid schemes (a.k.a. multi-level marketing) as well. I have personally been approached by others for dozens of pyramid schemes.

    And then there are other affinity fraud scams; telephone scams (have been getting a credit card fraud scam on my phone for years; and others come and go like the Apple one last year; and this year one claiming to be from social security).

    Scams are even perpetrated right on the news. I remember reading an article about the acai berry scams on KSL, and of course up pops advertisements for acai berries.

    House flipping scams are the current scam of the day.

    And I won't go into the medical and "charity" scams constantly advertised on TV; but nearly every single commercial break has one or the other.

    Yes, Utah is most certainly the Fraud Capital of the World. A cross between of expectation of "blessing of prosperity" and utter naivete; we are a breeding ground of both perpetrators and victims.

  • Nathan Andelin West Jordan, UT
    April 30, 2019 9:28 a.m.

    Not long after graduating from college, I sat with my in-laws at their home as "friends of friends" presented a Ponzi scheme. It repulsed me.

    We should focus our investments in verifiable economic activity that produces real products and services that real people (prospects) can benefit from, and never seek investment opportunities that attempt to do otherwise.

    Ask, what are we providing that really helps the people who buy our products and services, rather than the money that we might convince them to transfer to us. It's not honest to engage in unfair exchanges, meaning ones that grossly benefit one side, rather than ones that benefit both.

    Never invest in any activity where the plan is for you to gain from payments from future investors.

    You have a moral compass. Use it.

  • BYU NATION Bountiful, UT
    April 30, 2019 9:22 a.m.

    If the spirit of discernment was being used the way it was intended I have a hard time believing anybody could be the victim of fraud.

  • oilerfan Katy, TX
    April 30, 2019 9:10 a.m.

    old main -- I agree, I believe the LDS church as a whole pushes King Benjamin word and example aside. It's sad because it runs from the top down.

  • FTF Park City, UT
    April 30, 2019 8:50 a.m.

    What everybody already knew: Fraudsters are embedding themselves in LDS social networks and using faith-based naivete in their scams.

  • ConradGurch Salt Lake City, Utah
    April 30, 2019 8:48 a.m.

    The biggest problem with Utah, when it comes to business is that everyone has a friend or family member.

    You don't do business with family or friends!

  • Grandfather Ogden, UT
    April 30, 2019 8:19 a.m.

    Way to go Dennis! Good to see your editors and owners turned you loose on this one. Hopefully there'll be many more to come. There are reasons behind why Utah ranks so high. Let's get to those reasons item by item and person by person.

  • Thucydides Herriman, UT
    April 30, 2019 7:53 a.m.

    "Pugsley said Latter-day Saints are taught to trust their feelings, but while that might be a valid basis for religious decisions, it's not for business decisions."

    Actually, it's not valid for either.

  • OldMain Saratoga Springs, UT
    April 30, 2019 7:49 a.m.

    It is sad that this should be the case here in "Zion." It all stems from a desire for material things. As an active member of the predominant religion and a life long resident of the state, I must say that Brigham Young was right on when he said we would be tried far more by riches than poverty. We believe the words of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon: "... Impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.” But we have to first give our kids a leg up in basketball and dance by enrolling them in expensive clubs because our neighbors or our brother or sister-in-law do that too. There are toys we want and annual trips to Disneyland that have to be paid for. And so a whole industry is born to meet OUR "needs." It runs the from MLM's to Ponzi schemes. If you read about Ponzi, he had good intentions, too. Much of the fraud would go away if we lived what we preach.

  • JLindow St. George, UT
    April 30, 2019 7:39 a.m.

    In a culture of credulity with a regulatory environment that leans towards "If you were foolish enough to believe it, you deserve to get taken", anybody wanting to run a ponzi scheme and commit affinity fraud without going to jail only needs to come up with a product to sell first and then set up a multi-level marketing company.

  • J. Smith Salt Lake City, UT
    April 30, 2019 7:27 a.m.

    I have found in my 60 years that religious folks are easily duped by flim-flam con-artists. They tend to put their trust easily in folks that speak the same language or put on a holier than thou (sanctimonious) facade. I was once a victim of an Evangelical fraud by 4 friends (one was the son of a preacher man; and now has his second church. He ran the first into the ground and absconded with many a re-finance funds) in Boise, ID. their scheme focused on that community and they stole millions......

  • Den Den West Jordan, UT
    April 30, 2019 7:03 a.m.

    Florida still holds that title. With Medicare fraud at the top of the list...

    As for ponzi schemes...shame on those who give their money!

  • ECR Burke, VA
    April 30, 2019 6:36 a.m.

    "Rick used neighborhood friends, political figures and religious leaders to gain other peoples’ trust. Rick used these people to validate that he was (an) honest person and a good person. Rick also emphasized his positions within the church as validation that he was a trustworthy and sincere person."

    This paragraph reveals important information. If a person uses their church position to prove they are "a trustworthy and sincere person" and then asks you to invest money somewhere, you can guarantee they are doing something fraudulent. A trustworthy and sincere church leader would avoid, at all cost, even giving the appearance of such an arrangement.

    So let's say a young father sees his Bishop as a successful businessman and asks him about investments in stock or in a start up business. If that Bishop is sincerely trying to help that young father he will NEVER ask him to invest his money in anything that will also benefit the Bishop. Steering clear of those situations as a church leader and doing the same as a member of the congregation will usually result in everyone involved avoiding financial loss and loss of trust in religion and religious leaders.

  • lpacker North Salt Lake, UT
    April 30, 2019 5:34 a.m.

    Nothing has changed since I wrote the 1990 Utah Holiday cover story “The Phantom of Fraud—Why is Utah its favorite haunt” and the book "Lying for The Lord—The Paul H. Dunn Stories" (focuses on Utah’s Afco investment fraud), as well as my 2016 YouTube video “Mormon Fraud.” Lynn Packer

  • Max Upstate, NY
    April 30, 2019 4:15 a.m.

    Having lived in both Florida and Utah, it is clear both places have a problem. Florida has a lot of retirees who grew up in a different era of trust and a handshake. They are also sitting on a lifetime of savings and are worried about their money lasting long enough. Thus they are susceptible to scams that promise high returns with no risk (always the hook). Utah is full of good, trusting people. They can't imagine someone in their ward being a wolf. But sheep will always attract wolves. Again, the hook is extraordinarily high returns that will allow the investor more time to serve and raise their families. I disagree that LDS are taught to trust their feelings. That isn't quite the correct. The brethren have taught over and over to watch for this kind of fraud. It isn't their "feelings" that are getting them into trouble, it is their desire to do good, it is their trusting nature. Sadly, there will always be wolves among us. And that will never change. As the Savior said, we need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But we often forget the part about the serpents.

  • cdnine South Ogden, UT
    April 30, 2019 1:04 a.m.

    Just be wise. ... Doing business and investing, is part of being alive and trying to be smart. So who do you really want to become and be?

    There are two sides to every opportunity; the loving, hard working, and good side, helping you towards success; and the selfish, take advantage of others, and bad side, helping you towards not succeeding and failure. So which opportunities do you choose to learn about, choose to participate in, and maybe choose to become a player in?

    And to be honest, that's the whole mortality game. Watch, listen, study, learn, then live. By choosing to act or not act. With no investment, there will be no return. Do the investments create fair transactions? Is it good business? But some things, are just not wise investments.

    Just be wise people, and play your life game honestly and fairly.

  • SLC Willy Salt Lake City, UT
    April 29, 2019 11:35 p.m.

    Luckily there is an essential oil that will prevent being taken advantage of. I'd be happy to sell some to you.

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    April 29, 2019 11:09 p.m.

    "Red Corvette - St George, UT
    April 29, 2019 5:46 p.m.
    Mormonism and gullibility go hand in hand."

    Indeed, when your religious ideology subordinates and distorts reason to/with superstitious "feelings" as the basis for knowing "truth", you open yourself to a world of deception and gullibility!

  • The Great Helmsman Salt Lake City, UT
    April 29, 2019 9:05 p.m.

    Yes. 100%. No doubt about it. A metaphysical certainty.

  • loweye salt lake, UT
    April 29, 2019 9:03 p.m.

    Elsleuth,
    When you say people are getting money from the government that they don't deserve, does that include those billionaires, the 1%, who are getting billions more from the government through tax cuts? Do you also believe they don't deserve it?

    Just asking

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    April 29, 2019 6:34 p.m.

    Does Utah deserve this title? You would have to ask the FBI. They are the ones who gave us this title.

    My guess is not all of Utah deserves it. Just Utah county. They seem to have more than their share of fraud compared to the rest of the state.

  • Utah_Happyman Orem, UT
    April 29, 2019 6:31 p.m.

    Greed is the underlying issue. Getting something for almost nothing is a big deal for those who want to live the highlife, instead of being fiscally responsible.

  • Mainly Me Werribee, 00
    April 29, 2019 6:26 p.m.

    "...Utahns are simply too trusting, particularly when the person soliciting an investment is in their Latter-day Saint ward or shares their religious affiliation."

    Oh, yeah. Our good, faithful Latter-day Saints ripping off other good, faithful Latter-day Saints. Whatever happened to the ability to discern?

  • Elsleuth Valencia, Ca
    April 29, 2019 6:17 p.m.

    My father used to say, "Don't try and get something for nothing." That fits with get rich quick schemes, gambling and getting money from the government when you don't deserve it.

  • SLCMom Salt Lake City, UT
    April 29, 2019 5:18 p.m.

    It's just plain embarrassing that Latter-day Saints are so gullible - and obviously, there are many who are also incredibly corrupt and take advantage of the trust within our community. Last month our bishop - who works as a state prosecutor - gave an entire 1-hour lesson to all of the adults in our congregation about affinity fraud. He told stories about how "good" members of the church have defrauded so many people here. How thousands are losing their nest eggs and retirement funds. He gave a list of warning signs. He also offered great practical advice. Such as:

    "Do your homework. If major, mainstream investors in the world [well-known people like Warren Buffet, or Bill Gates, etc] aren't getting on board with this latest "amazing opportunity," then you can bet it's a scam. Stay away."

    It doesn't matter if this is your Bishop, your Stake President, your neighbor, best friend ... anyone can get caught up in these things, and ruin your life.

    "If it sounds almost too good to be true... it is."

  • Kralon HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA
    April 29, 2019 4:56 p.m.

    "The database only includes Ponzi schemes. Given all the other white collar fraud that occurs in Utah, it understates the volume of financial scams in the state."

    Having worked for decades in the financial sector, my experience is that it also HUGELY understates the volume of financial scams in New York and California.

  • shamrock Salt Lake City, UT
    April 29, 2019 4:52 p.m.

    I remember President Reagan saying about arms control: "Trust but verify." Sadly, when it comes to investments, the motto should be, "Never trust. Always verify."

  • stevo123 Driggs, ID
    April 29, 2019 4:44 p.m.

    Affinity fraud is a real problem in Utah.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    April 29, 2019 4:42 p.m.

    Do we want to live in a culture with too much trust or too little?

    Most who deride Utahns for being too trusting are the same folks who insist we be even more trusting when people apply for social services.

    If I give money to someone claiming to be homeless and starving but he really isn't either, is that fraud that should be derided, or generosity and compassion to be lauded even if it is sometimes taken advantage of?

    It is nice to live in a place where neighbors and I think nothing of lending each other tools (or even a firearm), where moms swap babysitting without keeping records of who owes who how much time, and where we generally assume each other are honest.

    That all said, don't lend or invest more than you can afford to lose; if it sounds too good to be true it almost certainly is; and get rich quick is a nice way of saying greedy and lazy. So be prudent.

  • UtahBlueDevil Alpine, UT
    April 29, 2019 4:06 p.m.

    Trust is a delicate thing, and when abused, often takes a long time to heal. But I have for a long time been very reticent to do business with friends, because friendship should not be a place where "buyer beware" needs application. Only do business with people you are willing to take legal action against. Kinda sad, but it is the way it is.

    Members taking advantage of members (or anyone) is just a very sad state of affairs we need to be very careful of.