Friday, November 27, 2015

Scam Tactics: Attribute Transfer

Scammers want you to trust them, and they usually try to invoke something that we respect and revere, then use "attribute transfer" to get you to transfer the respect and reverence onto the scammers. Many scams invoke religion, patriotism, celebrity, and such, in order to transfer authority, sanction, and prestige to their scam, so that the victims are more likely to accept it than reject it out of hand.

What is Attribute Transfer? 

Attribute transfer relies on easily recognized symbols linked to popular and accepted concepts. Cross, Jesus, Flag, Cartoon, Prayer, Military Service (in some areas), large and old companies, famous investors with loads of money, scientists and doctors (in white lab coats) and so on. They wish you to associate the attributes of the popular concept or symbol with this new scheme that they have.

It can be summarized as "we are kinda like that more popular thing".

This is related, but not the same as excitation-transfer theory in psychology, which is defined as "how residual excitation from one stimulus amplify the response to a different stimulus". One of the most often given examples is the cliche advice "take a girl on a date to do something really exciting like roller coaster in hopes of she associate the excitement with you".

Profitable Sunrise brochure
using Christ the Redeemer image

Example: Profitable Sunrise 

Profitable Sunrise is an international ponzi and pyramid scheme shut down in 2013 that supposedly operates out of England and solicited investments with slogan "profit with every sunrise" (which is itself a symbol) and also used the symbol of the "Christ the Redeemer statue" in Brazil (see right).

Profitable Sunrise promised payout of 1.6% to 2.7% DAILY and justified these profits by claiming that they make short-term usurious rate "bridge loans" to large businesses. Yet nobody in Europe can track down this company. The executive, "Roman Novak", apparently does not exist, as no one seem to have ever met him.

In the US its most notorious promoter of Profitable Sunrise was Nanci Jo Frazer of Ohio, who used a church / charity called "Focus Up Ministries", which was later renamed "Defining Vision Ministries" for her recruitment purposes, along with her husband and another co-conspirator.  As a part of settlement with state of Ohio, they are to pay back $108146.61 over the next TEN YEARS, AND have her "ministries" dissolved. The fine is substantially reduced from original judgment of 710000 dollars.

Nanci Jo Frazer and gang was also known to have released fake news that claimed she had been exonerated. You can still find it when you Google her name. It's bogus.

Scammers invoked attributes of religion, Jesus, sunrise (a generally good symbol), and so on to make their scheme look more realistic than it is.

Example: USFIA

USFIA started back in 2012/2013 when it infiltrated China as "American Mining 美洲犬業" claiming to offer amber jewelry at discounted prices, but will pay people if they invest money in "amber units" AND introduce yet more investors. Its owner, Steve Chen 陳力 had several previous ventures including Amkey and NGTalk that had failed or withered. Chinese government caught on in 2014 and arrested over a dozen local representatives in a nation-wide raid, but failed to stop the scam as Steve Chen operates out of the US city of Arcadia, in the suburbs of Los Angeles and based his USFIA (and various other entities, such as AFG) there. Two of the suspects escaped China to Thailand, and was repatriated as a part of "Operation Foxhunt 2014". However, the root of the problem was not destroyed, and USFIA quickly rebooted itself by late 2014 by adopting a new American name: US Fine Investment Arts, and a new Chinese name 富豪集團 (Royal Group), and shifted to "investment in Gemcoin, a new cybercurrency backed by amber". It then proceed to claim their cybercurrency is "approved" by California law, and just look at Bitcoin's meteoric rise.

USFIA was closed in 2015 by coordinated raid between SEC, State of California, FBI, US Marshal Service, and so on. A receiver took over the company and fired all employees immediately and proceed to take inventory of all assets.  Receiver's first report shows that they were barely able to find about 20 million, and Steve Chen has chosen NOT to provide a list of his assets, claiming his 5th amendment privilege to not incriminate himself. All the supposed amber jewelry with astronomical prices are vastly overpriced, and supposed inventory of amber to "guarantee value" is worth "nominal value", i.e. souvenir grade, not gem grade. The "law" that Steve Chen and minions claimed permitted Gemcoin actually repealed a law that says business may ONLY use US dollars and in no way validates or approves "Gemcoin". There are even rumors that one of the VPs in the company claimed to be related to President Obama. There was no proof that Gemcoin is actually a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. So far the only proof appears to be a PDF file that contained screenshots of "transactions" online.

USFIA is also famously used several celebrities at its events, including former mayor of Arcadia John Wuo who appeared in multiple events singing praises of the scheme and its leader. In 2015 John Wuo was a city councilman and quickly resigned after USFIA office was closed, citing "health reasons".

Scammers tried to invoke attribute of state government, bitcoin and cybercurrency in general.

How to See Through Attribute Transfer

To see through attribute transfer, you have to look through the examples and stick with just the facts and general idea, such as

  • What does the speaker want? 
  • According to the speaker, WHY should you believe the speaker? 
  • What attribute are they trying to transfer onto themselves from the symbol? 
  • Is there any LEGITIMATE connection between the speaker and the symbol?
  • What's left of the speaker's argument AFTER you cross out the attributes?