“Of course, you trusted her—she was a friend,” said Dad, sarcastically repeating my statement, sneering at the naïvete of a daughter all of 54 years, definitely more disappointed than angry.
Actually, my swindler had wormed her way into my friendship; she was the sister of a friend of a friend. It was all part of a swindler’s strategy. She had come offering jewelry on easy installments, a good deal all in all: I paid in postdated checks, spread over six months to one year. As it happened, she was merely baiting me with false trust.
We had had dealings for at least three years when finally she struck. She asked to see my jewelry collection, suggesting an upgrade—in her words, “Keep the good pieces, and replace the inferior ones.” Three engagement rings caught her immediate attention—what were those doing there?
I told her I had had them for years, gotten them for my three boys for when the occasion came. In fact, when one of them became engaged, I decided to buy a new ring, having somehow grown uncomfortable with the idea of using any of the three, all previously owned, all with their unknown and possibly dark histories. My discomfort was promptly relieved: My swindler would get them out of my hands quickly and at a price most fair.
Sure enough, a few months later, she turned up reporting a buyer for one of the engagement rings, and promising to find others for the two left. She took all three rings, but paid, in postdated checks of her own, for only one ring, the one with a sure buyer. I had no reason to worry. In fact, I had begun to be sucked in.
The first two postdated checks proved good. With the third, she asked that I hold it for a week. When the grace period lapsed and I deposited the check, it bounced. Her bank account had already been closed, and she became scarce and, soon after that, altogether unreachable. Reaching the friend who had introduced her to me, I learned she had herself become a victim—a bigger victim, in fact. More and more victims were soon turning up, and somehow we all knew one another.
Within the year we got an even greater shock: She was reported to have shot herself in her high-rise condominium home in Greenhills. Upon hearing the news, we victims all rushed to the hospital, but not so much to commiserate as to make sure this was not part of an escape plot from us: We were set to file suits. The supposed suicide had been taken away all covered up, and at the hospital no one was allowed to see the body. Shot in the head, the suicide might have been unrecognizable anyway.
Speculations went to diabolical lengths: It was a housemaid who had in fact died, killed by an assassin her mistress, our swindler, had contracted precisely to simulate her own suicide and allow her to leave the country.
The plot thickened further when we discovered that a house she owned, the very piece of asset we were eyeing to freeze, had just been sold and that her children had all left the country. She could well be with them somewhere abroad enjoying the fortune we had all contributed to.
We’d like to believe, for our own sense of closure, that our swindler had died and that, for our own sense of justice, she had done so by her own hands.
It was with much reluctance that I told my lawyer dad the story—he who had the habit of rubbing it in, lest the lesson go unlearned: “Don’t you know the only one who can fool you is someone you trust?”
He went on: “Always act defensively. Remember the only one you can really vouch for is yourself. If there’s any trusting to be done, leave it to the other fellow. Especially in money matters.”
Whom to trust and how much to trust are tricky enough. And when trust is given out of the prospect of making inordinate profit, the swindler finds the perfect sucker, one willing to risk everything, as we see happening all around today.