Over the course of the past year, I have frequently heard the term “scam” used to describe some business dealings that some Expats have encountered here in Ecuador. I thought I knew the definition of “scam” but I looked it up just to be certain.
scam (sk m) Slang
A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle.
Just as I thought. I then began to think about those folks who have told me their stories and the descriptions of their experiences causing them to claim, “Scam”. From the stories they told, it did sound like some were truly “scammed” and in other cases, I’m not sure that term can be strictly applied.
That is not to say that the victims did not lose money in these cases… or did not have some horrific legal battle to confront. But there may be other reasons that the victim lost money or found themselves having to go to war in an Ecuadorian courtroom.
In virtually all the “scam” cases that I’ve encountered (perhaps 8-10) the victim has been involved with some real estate transaction or hired a “visa facilitator” and things didn’t happen as anticipated. Passports were lost when given to someone who “would help provide a visa” for a reduced rate. Perhaps some of those cases were scams with the intent to defraud but I suspect that many were simply victims choosing to become involved with folks not qualified to do the job in the first place; whether they were a visa facilitator or a land developer. Trying to save a few bucks then cost the victim much more money down the road.
Those affected quickly cried scam. Well, was it truly a scam…a fraudulent scheme…a swindle…or was it simply a combination of poor choices resulting in lost money and shattered dreams in an effort to save a few bucks or possibly to chase a lifelong dream?
Did the buyer/victim do all the due-diligence that prudent business practices suggest? Was there a language problem? Were contracts reviewed by a reputable lawyer? Were construction funds properly disbursed and managed all along the process?
Is it possible that the “scammer” truly did the best they could with no intent to defraud or swindle and just ran out of money or talent or simply were in over their head from the beginning? Does that make them a scammer? Were they truly qualified to keep the promises they made to the victim and how did the victim assure their qualifications?
It seems that the term “Scam” is all about intent. But what happens if the deal just doesn’t happen as all anticipated? Scam or just a bad deal?
I personally know of a number of situations in which the “victim’ was significantly responsible for their poor outcome and they are the ones screaming “scam’ the loudest. I suspect that those folks would have likely had the same outcome in any location if they used the same process there as they did here.
Yes, I’m certain there are scammers; here… there, everywhere. But I’m equally certain that in some considerable numbers of cases, those victims claiming “scam” simply made poor business decisions that cost them time, money and heartache. It is much easier on our egos to claim “scam” than to admit we screwed up!!
I’m afraid that the magical allurement of having a nice piece of property or a home on Ecuador’s coast grabs ‘hold of some folks’ emotions and replaces common sense and good judgment. It is also quite tempting to select a non-lawyer facilitator to assist with visa processing (some facilitators are quite skilled and honest by the way) as prices are often less. But in the end…it may not be worth it.
My worthless, chronically alcoholic father only gave me one piece of advice that I’ve heeded over the years. He told me to always hire the best lawyer and the best accountant I could afford and to use them often. After nearly 65 years, I completely agree.