Fraud is a Mental War

All people have the capacity to commit fraud. Deceit, trickery, and abuse of trust are a fraudster’s basic tools, and also characteristics inherent to all human beings. This is an insight offered by Alexander Stein, an American business psychoanalyst, and a specialist advisor in the psychology of fraud. Dr. Stein visited São Paulo last month with a group of fraud litigators to speak at the Inaugural Congress on International Fraud and Asset Recovery and Trans-Border Insolvency Cooperation at the Ministério Público de São Paulo. How does the mind of a fraudster operate? What leads a senior executive to commit financial fraud? How do sophisticated psychological expertise and strategies enhance conventional asset recovery operations?

How does fraud psychology work?

Fraud is theft carried out through deceit, sharp dealing, and breaches of confidence. The psychological DNA of fraudsters is incredibly complex. One of the main points to be considered is that betrayal and deception are the fraudster’s tools. He could not employ them so masterfully without knowing them intimately. The fraudster is governed by the main belief that everything presented, conceived or promised towards achieving his personal desires – such as certainty and security – was always based on a lie. The fraudster is psychologically driven by unpredictability, contingency and falsehood. He lives in a state of chronic disappointment, resentment, helplessness and humiliation. One developmental consequence of this is an exceptional and refined radar focused on others. As he grew up, making an effort to understand what was happening in his surroundings in order to survive, he developed certain skills that are now useful in his criminal career. In particular, the fraudster is an astonishing virtuoso in being able to perceive what people seem to need or want. Now, he is a creative, even brilliant – but unscrupulous – CEO.

Are people born with a tendency to commit fraud?

Yes. Everyone is sort of a fraudster! But, of course, not everyone becomes an evil criminal. What I mean is that the characteristics of fraud – falsehood, dishonesty, concealment – are all characteristic  inherent to human beings. These are important elements for survival, defence mechanisms to escape or defeat adversity. They are adaptive devices. From the mundane, such as replying to the common social greeting “how are you?” and replying “very good” even when you are not. Or hiding key aspects about your-self ‒ thoughts, feelings,wants and wishes. This is all with the purpose of avoiding scrutiny, judgment or humiliation. The essential point is to understand how our natural defence mechanisms turn into predatory weapons serving criminal action.

What leads a successful person, such as a bank director, to become a fraudster?

Psychologically speaking, the line dividing legitimate entrepreneurship from criminal behaviour is subtle. A creative businessman and a fraudster can overlap in many aspects. Success and personal accomplishment are not antidotes to criminal behaviour, chiefly because financial gain is rarely the main (or even the only) driver for committing substantial fraud. Opportunity and greed may play a role, but overall, high level professionals who take advantage of confidential information and power were already fraudsters before they came to their roles. They didn’t become fraudsters because of their jobs.

How do we identify a fraudster or a potential fraudster?

This is a challenging question. The best fraudsters are highly skilled in their ability to deceive and to avoid detection. But we should remember that in order for a fraudster to exercise his nefarious and anarchical power, he ultimately depends on his victims. What makes a person become a victim? Some people are more prone than others to become victims

On Leadership

This piece is part of an On Leadership round table exploring the role of first lady.

With their armies of advisers and their entourages of consultants, it’s easy to believe most top leaders would have more than their share of confidants. Anyone will make time for them. They have access to experts on any number of topics.

But in fact, one of the most defining aspects of leadership is how inherently isolating it can be for people in power. Few colleagues will speak with them with true candor. They can’t always be completely honest with those who work for them, either. And showing they’re vulnerable might help them explore their weaknesses that need improving, but it could also potentially undermine their position of authority.

That’s why many top leaders find themselves turning to their spouses for unfiltered advice. As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who advises CEOs and boards of directors around the world, I’ve found that more of my clients turn to their wives or husbands about critical decisions in their job than one might think. And if they don’t open up to the person they share their bed with, they’ve typically found someone to whom they can confide their secrets – whether it’s a former mentor, a close friend or a trusted adviser instead. (Ahem.)

The isolation that leadership creates couldn’t be truer than in the case of the presidency, which may very well be the loneliest job in the world. For Barack Obama, having a strong, supportive relationship with his wife, Michelle, is essential. Sure, he has his inner circle, but the first lady may be the only one who doesn’t ever have to call him Mr. President. Presumably (one hopes, for the sake of their marriage) she sees him at his most unguarded, listening not only to his innermost thoughts but to his innermost fears.

Leaders need candid sounding boards – whoever they may be – for several reasons, not least of which is to counter the unavoidable, and at times painful, feelings of insulation. But it’s also important because of the emotional dangers of that isolation, which can create a self-reinforcing cycle of believing in one’s own perceptions without the ability to test them against some external voice of reality. Power makes this even worse because it inhibits the upward flow of candid feedback, and instead invites varying degrees of, well, derriere kissing.

The most perilous outcome – to which far too many leaders succumb under such hermetically sealed conditions – is what I call “pathological certainty,” that state in which one believes in the absolute rightness and infallibility of one’s ideas and decisions. George W. Bush’s complete self-confidence and his apparent disinterest in the lessons of history both may have been manifestations of this problem. While it has been said that Laura Bush was a maternal presence for the president throughout their marriage, with her rather rigid moralism tempering his habits, she apparently steered clear of being a sounding board on his work. The arrogance and hubris of some leaders, which are expressions of an underlying narcissism, can go unchecked in the absence of a confidant or spouse who is able to speak truth to power.

Not surprisingly, leaders who are emotionally unstable to begin with fare even worse. When the emperor has no clothes and he is allowed to remain naked for extended periods of time, he begins to lose touch with reality and, eventually, paranoia can take hold. From a distance, it appears that dictators such as Hugo Chavez and the late Kim Jong Il have lived in paranoid fear of the outside world. Their fears lead them to exert cruel control over their domains, and, eventually, their enemies become real rather than mainly imagined.

Could a strong and loving spouse prevent this kind of extreme downward spiral? It’s unlikely, especially since it’s rare for emotionally troubled leaders to have truly intimate relationships in the first place. By the time things get to the point of a paranoid dictatorship, it’s far too late for anyone to make much of a dent.

Of course, spouses of leaders can have blind spots too, as their love, protectiveness and closeness to the boss obscures their ability to perceive trouble and deliver much-needed feedback. Michelle Obama, for instance, apparently shares the president’s disdain for the congressional glad-handing and schmoozing that come with the territory. This has contributed to, or at least reinforced, the aloofness and seeming emotional disengagement that detracts from his effectiveness as a leader.

No matter how good or bad a sounding board a spouse might be, a leader who is married but doesn’t have a supportive spouse can face the most trouble. Not only is he lonely at work–and I use that pronoun only because most of my CEO clients are in fact male–but lonely at home, too. That makes him more likely to reach out to others who may not have his best interests at heart, and who can exert undo and often exploitative influence.

In the end, it’s the personality of the leader as well as the nature of the relationship that determines whether the confidant serves a productive sounding board role, or whether the confidant simply reinforces the leader’s distorted perceptions and maladaptive behaviors.

Kerry Sulkowicz is managing principal of the consulting firm the Boswell Group, and a clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.

A Possible Window into a Life in Hiding

“THE LONG, unlikely journey of Cathy Greig’’ (Page A1, Nov. 20) is a fascinating article about a most enigmatic individual. What can be pieced together through talking to people who have followed her life story only gives us a small part of the picture. To get to the deeper questions of why and how this woman allegedly became so complicit in a life of crime and hiding with Whitey Bulger, we need to access the more hidden story of her emotional ties to her parenting figures.

As we know from psychoanalytic study, it is the unfolding of these “early object ties’’ that creates the deep impressions that lead people to act and to feel as they later do in adulthood. Psychoanalysts are committed to understanding which unconscious forces drive people to choose to behave either for the good of others or in destructive ways.

If we could only get access to this information, we could really learn about Greig and gain deeper insight into people who bond with criminals and become accessories to crime.

The Hunter of Billions

Offshore Monies When Banks and Authorities search for the proceeds of crime in offshore havens then they often call Martin Kenney.

Martin Kenney appears fresh out of the shower in the Admiral’s Lounge at New York’s JFK Airport. The frequent flyer has just arrived from a conference in Dubai and in an hour and a half will fly on via San Juan to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). He quickly packs away a Caesar salad with grilled chicken. The lawyer comes across as small and brawny, and not just somewhat.

The 51 year old Canadian with Irish roots is renowned as one of the best specialists worldwide when it comes to tracking down millions that have been misappropriated by fraudsters. Whether leafing through batches of bank statements, having the rubbish of a criminal combed though over a period of months, or hiring an informer to befriend the criminal, Kenney doesn’t give up until he has managed to secure the return of most of the money to its rightful owner. Even when the search last years and costs millions.

He tracked down millions misappropriated by the super fraudster, Bernie Madoff, on behalf of a Swiss bank. However, he doesn’t talk about that: confidential. The British Financial Times calls Kenney the Top Money Hunter. Canadian specialist magazine, The Canadian Lawyer, describes him as one of the most driven and trustworthy lawyers out there, owing to his modern day Robin Hood reputation and his pitbull-style methods.

Time and again Kenney’s path leads to Switzerland. Most recently he secured artworks in Zurich that had been purchased as a vehicle to launder money by the banker Edemar Cid Ferreira. The Brazilian defrauded his bank, Banco Santos, out of $800 million. The financial institution was declared bankrupt in 2005. The man is serving a 21-year sentence for the fraud. Indeed until recently there was no trace of the money. A high-gloss magazine about Ferreira’s art collection set Kenney in hot pursuit; amongst the pile of artwork, 1000 pieces of his illegitimate collection were from the masters such as Jackson Pollock. One trail lead to a gallery in Manhattan where Ferreira was a regular customer. There Kenney discovered documents that lead to a series of storage facilities in European cities where works were stored – amongst them Switzerland.

The last place in the world
For the renovation of his villa alone the Brazilian spent $65 million. When Kenney put in action the seizure of the property, he discovered Brazilian papers that lead to a Swiss bank account that was managed by a Bahamian company in trust for Ferreira. That was two and a half months ago. Since then nine further accounts have been discovered.

“If I were a criminal, Switzerland would be the last place in the world I would hide my money,” says Kenney. “The authorities there are unbelievably professional when it comes to identifying and stopping money laundering. They are amongst the best in the world.” Indeed in the last 20 years Switzerland has witnessed a sea change in the culture of financial centres. “They realised the negative publicity and effect of the bank secrecy laws,” says Kenney. “Now they have found a better balance between the laws of privacy and justice.”

The rogues of this world still love Switzerland, however. “The air of bank secrecy pervades Switzerland and Lichtenstein now as it did then – that magically draws them in.” However the main reason why malefactors hide their money in such bank accounts is the stable legal and contract system: “A fraudster fears nothing more than another fraudster.” That’s why accounts in Turkmenistan and the Ukraine don’t have the same attraction for big time fraudsters.

Professionals can manage to set up 20 different and independent routes for their misappropriated money, all designed to place the greatest distance between the fraud and the proceeds in every possible way and method. Next to Switzerland, favoured hiding places include Lichtenstein, Singapore, Belize, Panama, the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, Nevis, the Cook Islands, and Canada. “Often one lead will lead to another – but some monies will remain forever hidden,” advised Kenney.

When Kenney is engaged on a new case, he first travels to the scene of the crime: “Initially you enter a pitch black room. There you must orient yourself and indentify Mr. Big.” Economic crime seems to be a male dominated field – only once in his career has Kenney had to deal with a female fraudster.

After that Kenney takes care of every manner of paper, documents, bank statements, everything that the victim can provide. Then Kenney tries to find out whatever he can about the Fraudster, his life style, his telephone numbers, his domicile, and his travel routes. Kenney loves private jets in particular – they are registered with a number which enables one to trace where in the world the owner has spent time.

Kenney’s goal is not just to track down the lost money. More important for the restitution to the victims is the chain of evidence that can lead to the criminal. That is easier said than done. Often economic criminals manage to place 20 to 40 different layers between them and the proceeds of fraud. Kenney follows the money from its source, through account after account across the whole world.

In one case Kenney discovered buildings in Canada that were held by various numbered companies, for example 8769542 Alberta, Inc. The capital in question came from a series of offshore companies that in turn belonged to a Netherlands Antilles domiciled company. Behind that company was a trust and behind that in turn the real criminal who had misappropriated $250 million though a mass marketing scam.

Kenney keeps a team of 25 experts in the BVI busy. There are forensic accountants, as well as experts who previously worked for Scotland Yard. Two lawyers in New York and Dublin are also included. In addition, he has a software programme that organises all discovered leads into a diagram that can also be viewed quickly according to years. Often his clients are banks – first line employees defraud the banks of money regularly.

Whoever engages Kenney needs a thick wallet. A successful trace can cost $10 million, if not more. As some victims are left bankrupt as a result of the fraud, Kenney also organises investment pools that finance the recovery in return for a share in the recovered proceeds. In extreme cases, Kenney – who normally charges by the hour – offers to take the work on for a success fee: usually around 30 % of the recovery.

“My job is fun,” says Kenney. His empathy is what drives him. Often his clients are at their
wits’ end – they contemplate suicide or suffer from a heart attack. “I want justice for my
clients. Whoever thinks that slogging one’s way through thousands of files is boring is
kidding himself. In our office there is no shortage of energy. We are emergency lawyers, for
us it’s straight to the point.”

Kenney played ice hockey in college and nearly took up a professional career with the NHL. These days he channels the aggression of the sport into the hunt for monies. Even today he feels the same adrenaline that he once experienced as a young New York lawyer who returned $720 million to its rightful owner for the first time. “I worked all day long without sleeping.” Towards the end he brought in a colleague who befriended the fraudster. He recorded their conversations with a hidden recording device. For six long months he followed the malefactor’s every move until he gave in and confessed. “He offered to pay everything back if I would just get off his case.” Kenney’s intensity is genetic: His Brother, Jason, is the Minister of Immigration in Canada.

“Fraud is psychological warfare”, Kenney quotes the New York psychologist, Alexander Stein, an expert in the field. Sure it’s his personal ambition to keep the upper hand. Time and time again Kenney has had to deal with personal death threats. “Once I sat at the bargaining table with a fraudster and he roared at me that he would like to rip my head off,” Kenney shudders at the thought.

He could tell tales of robbers for hours on end, but the fast yet extremely mindfully spoken lawyer holds himself back. It’s more important for him to talk about his campaign against kleptocratic dictators. “Corruption is just as much a crime against humanity as genocide. It can lead to famine and poverty.” Together with lawyers form Nigeria, France, and Dubai he wants to procure the prosecution of corruption as an international crime before the ICC in The

Kenney personally followed the monies of the Nigerian dictator Abacha. These days he is busy trying to track down the monies of the overthrown Tunisian tyrant, Zine Ben Ali. He stops mid sentence and looks at his watch: “I have to catch my plane.”


Written by Nele Husmann

On Leadership

This piece is part of a leadership roundtable with four expert contributors – Wharton Professor Peter Cappelli, Space Policy Institute Professor Emeritus John Logsdon, NYU Professor Kerry Sulkowicz, and former NASA leadership program director Gail S. Williams – about the leadership challenges of shuttering NASA’s iconic space shuttle program.

As Atlantis lifted off Friday from the Kennedy Space Center, America bid farewell to its space shuttle program. It was an emotional moment for the country, and, in a less public way, represents a major loss for NASA workers. It was also something perhaps less obvious: a leadership moment for Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator.

So far, Bolden’s handling of this inflection point in America’s space program can serve as a lesson for leaders faced with the challenge of closing beloved initiatives–a difficult process no matter how rational and justified these decisions may be. As the centerpiece of NASA for 30 years, the space shuttle brought further glory to the agency that gave us the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, not to mention steady employment for generations of employees.

In a speech delivered to the National Press Club on July 1, Bolden did what a good leader should do under such circumstances: He made an emotional connection to his people, was honest about the facts, acknowledged the loss they’ve just experienced while putting it into larger context, and painted a vision that realistically yet reassuringly connects the past with the future.

Bolden, himself a retired Marine Corps major general and a four-time shuttle flight veteran, has instant credibility with NASA’s employees. And in his speech to the National Press Club, he drew on his own career to establish that emotional connection. “I spent 14 years at NASA before leaving and then returning to head the agency. Some of the people I respect most in the world are my fellow astronauts. Some of my best friends died flying on the shuttle. I’m not about to let human spaceflight go away on my watch. I’m not going to let it flounder because we pursued a path that we couldn’t sustain.”

Early in his remarks, he addressed head-on the concern that last week’s final shuttle flight marks the end of America’s dominance of spaceflight. Naysayers, he said, “must be living on another planet.” While he didn’t dwell on the sense of loss that some NASA employees must be feeling, he did add, “We are not ending human space flight, we are recommitting ourselves to it and taking the necessary — and difficult — steps today to ensure America’s pre-eminence in human space exploration for years to come.”

In his more private leadership role inside NASA, one presumes that Bolden is attuned to the multiple layers of meaning in the shuttle’s last flight, ranging from the literal loss of jobs to the more purely emotional losses of purpose, self-esteem and organizational pride that may come with such a transition. He would do well to tolerate, and even encourage, employees to voice such feelings. No matter how exciting the new plans might be, it’s a crucial step in helping the organization transcend this loss and move on.

Not surprisingly, though, it’s those future plans that have been the primary focus of Bolden’s public speeches: “It is vital that we keep exploring. …So we keep generating new knowledge about our planet and our universe and new solutions to the challenges our planet faces on many levels,” Bolden said. And, like other charismatic leaders, he set this future within the context of NASA’s history–from its founding 50 years ago by the “young President Kennedy” to the re-articulation of its mission now by the “young President Obama”, who has challenged the agency to explore asteroids and, eventually, Mars. His evocation of youth effectively yet subliminally connects the mission of NASA to what’s modern, preparing the next generation of NASA workers, as well as Americans generally, for a new phase in the agency’s development.

None of this, of course, comes easily. We can only assume that what Bolden conveys so effectively in public gets translated with equal conviction and passion when he addresses NASA employees internally. External political pressures to reduce government spending will undoubtedly make it harder for NASA to achieve all of Bolden’s — and Obama’s — lofty goals. And the extensive investigations of two of NASA’s darkest moments, the tragic Challenger and Columbia disasters, have already revealed NASA’s ongoing struggle with internal organizational problems and their impact on decision-making. While NASA hasn’t cornered the market on dysfunctional organizational culture, the stakes are arguably higher (and higher profile); and to the extent that they persist despite being identified in both investigations, these management hurdles won’t just disappear with the end of the shuttle program.

Shuttering an icon represents not only a logistical challenge for an organization but also a profoundly emotional one for its employees. So far, Administrator Bolden seems to be handling the passing of the shuttle era masterfully; to continue to do so, he’ll need to attend to the varied feelings of loss, even while articulating a path for passionate re-engagement with the future.

Kerry J. Sulkowicz, MD, is a clinical professor of psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine and, as managing principal of the Boswell Group LLC, advises CEOs and boards of directors on leadership and organizational culture. (Dave Cross)

Keeping the Con Artist at Bay

The woman’s boyfriend came to her with a scary story – gangsters were after him! He needed several thousands of dollars to pay them off. She wrote a check. But it happened again. And again. Eventually, the wealthy young woman’s family intervened. “He was asking someone who had a lot of money and who would give it to him,” says Karen Altfest, principal of Altfest Personal Wealth Management in New York City, who said it was just one of the many examples she has seen of how wealthy people can become targets.

“She needed a lot of support, and treatment for years,” says Altfest, author of Keeping Clients for Life, and co-author with her husband, Lew, of Lew Altfest Answers Almost All Your Questions About Money. Altfest often speaks about investing to women’s groups and at seminars.

Since the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal erupted in the media, more people have become aware of investment fraud and other financial crimes, which can range from simple street schemes to ‘sell’ fake winning lottery tickets, to grand illusions realistically portraying phoney companies, complete with brochures, fake employees and bogus testimonials. Economic crime is the tropical rainforest of thievery, with a proliferation of constantly growing and adapting scams.

Scores came to light between late 2007 and 2009, when the economic squeeze had investors rushing to cash out of what they thought were solid investments. “We saw many collapse during the financial meltdown – when the tide goes out you see who is not wearing a bathing suit,” says David Nanz, FBI supervisory special agent, whose team helped bring down Scott Rothstein, the Fort Lauderdale attorney convicted of running a Ponzi scheme – in which the money of new investors is used to pay off the old investors, and usually fund the Ponzi-schemer’s lavish lifestyle.

According to the FBI’s 2009 Financial Crimes Report (the latest figures available), securities and commodities fraud investigations rose by 33 percent over five years, going from 1,139 in 2005 to 1,510 in 2009, representing billions of dollars in losses.

What’s more, the increased participation of Americans in securities and commodities markets – nearly half of the population owns stocks or bonds in some fashion – and the advice to diversify investments are also giving fraudsters a new playing field, the report continued.

Trust but Verify
Few of the schemes would surprise Altfest, who has been advising investors for more than 25 years, and has become an advocate for widows, retirees, and others who suddenly come into a large amount of money and may be naïve about investing.

“I like to tell people about how to form a portfolio,” and how financial decisions can be tailored to a person’s life, she says.

And it seems that in life, just like in school, doing one’s homework is crucial.

“We tend to trust our gut a lot, and instincts are good,” she says, “but you want to have transparency. You don’t want the kind of adviser who says ‘I’ll take care of it, I’ll handle it.’ ” Altfest says prudence dictates not having the adviser be the same person who also handles the money. “If you have Charles Schwab sending you a monthly statement, you are getting conformation that the money is really there,” she says, adding that funds should remain in the investor’s name and giving thumbs down on co-mingled accounts.

“That should give you a comfort level,” she says. “All these things protect the investor.”

In the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, new clients often come in and say, “You seem like nice people – but how do I know you are not Madoff?”

“People now feel they should ask that,” Altfest says, noting that, paradoxically, part of Madoff’s genius in attracting investors was his coolness. “It certainly didn’t sound like he pressured people.”

And those high pressure sales tactics are something Altfest says people should guard against – even if they come from legitimate companies. She tells of one elderly client who came to her after salespeople from a major investment firm showed up at the woman’s house, sat in her living room and would not leave until she signed up with them.

Why didn’t she kick them out? “She didn’t want to upset them,” Altfest says.

She suggests that everyone bring a trusted relative or longtime friend to such meetings, “who can say no for you.” And remember, she says, making quick decisions is to be avoided.

“If it sounds good to you on Monday, it is going to sound just as good to you on Friday,” she says.

A suddenly profitable business, or sale proceeds realized by Internet entrepreneurs, can lead to similar pitfalls, says Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and founder of the Boswell Group, a New York-headquartered consulting firm focusing on the psychology of business.

“Part of what makes them vulnerable is the lack of knowledge of what to do with it,” he says. “You need all kinds of advice and help. The most basic thing these people are told is that they have to diversify – therein lies the opportunity for schemers and scammers,” he says, echoing the FBI report.

The challenge of weeding out good offers and advice from bad can be overwhelming, he says. And overwhelmed people may tend to become passive, he adds. Some may also have anxiety about having so much money – as well as guilt, which, Sulkowicz says, are also risk factors for becoming a victim.

The Con in the Confidence Scheme
There is a reason they call it a confidence scheme. Unlike breaking and entering, grand theft auto, or a jewelry heist, the perpetrator plays on the natural emotions of those they target.

Victims can be left feeling foolish, embarrassed, and guilty for perceiving that they in some way contributed to their own fleecing. This is just what scam artists count on.

What makes a fraudster good, is identifying the emotional soft spot in the potential victim that they can hook into, says psychoanalyst Dr. Alexander Stein, also of the Boswell Group. Stein, an internationally regarded expert in the psychology of fraud, says part of the problem is that society, including the legal system, often shift at least some culpability to the victim (“he was greedy”).

“One of the things that makes criminal fraud unique from any other kind of crime, is some form of participation,” he says. “Fraud is about manipulation and trickery. At some level, that has given rise to such a characterization.”

But part of the fraudster’s skills, he says, is being able to suss out what the victim wants and position himself or his product to provide it, building on normal human desires, emotions and relationships. “This is something the best of them understand in how they manipulate their victims,” he says. And gaining trust is at the heart of the process. “This is someone who has learned to hide himself in artful ways.”

Trust, first built then betrayed, is the window into the minds of such criminals, Stein says. “They leave a psychological fingerprint that is telling about their own experiences,” he says.

Typically, he says, such a person was unable to come to terms with an early dislocation or trauma that someone with more resilience could overcome. “Fraudsters are crippled in regard to this and they are unable to come through these experiences in a workable way, and instead, harbor acidic reservoirs of rage that get unleashed on others.”

These people, adds Stein’s colleague, Sulkowicz, often first come across as seductive, and tend to make all kinds of promises.

The key though, is how they act when they don’t get their way. “They are very accommodating until lose interest in you.”

Investors must do background checks, references checks and consider, at least at the beginning, staying with a well-known name or institution, Sulkowicz says.

“What we are talking about is trust. And trust is relationship based. It’s not something you can sell, it’s something earned over time.”

By Karen-Janine Cohen