Ponzi Scam? More Like Ponzu Scam

How to avoid getting grifted by Asian American con artists.

January 11, 2010

DESPERATE TIMES create desperate people. Some people get a job at The Java Hut on the weekends. Others start brown bagging lunches. But some - the crafty - start gritting. With the capture of "Hipster Grifter" Kari Ferrell and conviction of Norman Hsu of misappropriating Democratic party campaign funds, some of the most notorious Asian con artists have been caught. But you are still at risk. Here are some tips to avoid being the next victim of a con artist:


* Google

* A healthy suspicion

* New locks

Never trust an innocent face - even if that face looks just like your own. The more a person is like you, the more likely they're going to stiff you on airfare to New York and steal your favorite coat. How do I know? Let's just say - Schmudy Schmim - if you're reading this, I know we were both going through our post-graduation crisis, but I want my $250 and Banana Republic coat back. Also, never trust a person who always tells you their BMW is in the shop. That BMW does not exist. Google your friends and coworkers. It only takes a few seconds but could save you decades of therapy, distrust and bad credit. Ferrell was eventually ousted from her job after a co-worker searched for her name on Google and found out she was wanted in Utah for check fraud. And hey, you may even be able to get a good bounty out of it!

Never pay for anything if you have even the tiniest notion that a person is a grifter. Even if it's only $1. Even if they're decked out in designer duds and seem genuine. You'll never get back this money or the dignity you'll eventually lose from resorting to the most passive-aggressive email campaign you'll ever embark on. (Subnote: Using fictional dead relatives and sudden illnesses to get your money back only makes you as bad as the grifter.) Try to avoid this and stick to threatening legal action by your lawyer/father/uncle/cousin/amateursumo-wrestler friend.

Follow these simple rules and just remember to be cautious. Times are tough for everyone - even the grifters. As some people have hypothesized, a grifter like Ferrell was able to avoid capture because she looked just like every other Asian American hipster in Brooklyn. Stereotype? Yes. But you may also be thinking, "OK yeah, maybe a little true." So just be careful and don't trust anyone. But, before you do that - can I borrow five bucks? I, uh, left my ATM card in my other skinny jeans.

Writer Annette Lee