Posted by Todd Smith
Years ago, a close friend told me, “Todd, don’t believe anything you hear and only 50 percent of what you see. Then you will only be disappointed 50 percent of the time.”
While that may sound harsh, I have found it to be true. He owned one of the top CPA firms in Florida for nearly 30 years and told me story after story of how his clients had lost millions of dollars by trusting the wrong people.
When I was young and naïve, I trusted just about everyone. In fact, I trusted people until I was given a reason not to trust them. The problem with this way of thinking was that I continued to find myself being the victim of deceit and theft. In addition, I constantly found myself aggravated with people who shared private and confidential information.
Example #1. How my accountant stole $73,000
When I moved to Tampa in 1991, I needed to find a new accountant. After meeting with several, I selected one I liked. A couple of years later when making one of my quarterly tax payments, he told my dad (who was working for me at the time), “Just drop the check off at my office and I’ll make sure it’s deposited and allocated to the correct quarter.” The check was for more than $73,000.
The following year I received a notice from the IRS stating I owed $73,000 in back taxes. I quickly hired a new accountant to figure out what had happened. He determined that the IRS had not received the payment, yet the check had cleared my bank.
When we requested a copy of the check from the bank, we learned that the accountant had scratched out “IRS,” made the check payable to himself, and deposited it into his personal account.
We called the police, filed charges, and had him arrested.
Example #2. How my relative was scammed for $50,000
Years ago, a relative asked me to go along to meet with someone who was going to handle some of her money. We walked into a nicely decorated office that resembled a bank. It had the standard bank-type signage showing the return rate on its CDs, and full-color brochures displayed on a walnut table—everything that would make it appear to be a legitimate financial institution.
We met with an elderly gentleman dressed in a suit who explained his conservative investment philosophy. He convincingly presented a safe, secure investment backed by a major insurance company. He even provided full-color brochures describing the investment in detail.
Everything appeared to be in order, so my relative invested $50,000. About a year later, the office closed and she had been scammed out of a portion of her retirement fund.
While I would like to say these two cases were flukes, I have had countless people try to take advantage of me over the years, each disguised in a different way and many of which would not be considered illegal, as is the case in the next example.
Example #3. The plumber who stole $35,000
Several years ago, I was building an investment property. My builder secured a bid of $42,000 from a plumbing contractor for the required plumbing work. When we awarded him the bid, he said he would give us a $7,000 discount, if we paid the full amount in advance. Since he had been in business for 30 years and had a proven track record, I made the decision that saving $7,000 was worth paying him in advance.
I paid him $35,000 and never heard from him again. He filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter and left me with no options to get my money back.
Example #4. The fake domain-name company
About a month ago, a company in Asia contacted me. Their email indicated that someone was trying to secure all the Asian domain name extensions for Little Things Matter. They gave me a list of all the domain names and indicated that since I owned a trademark for Little Things Matter, they would give me the first right of refusal on purchasing the names.
I suspiciously observed their website. It gave the appearance of being a professional site with a legitimate business. When I checked to see how long they had owned their domain name, I discovered that it had been purchased just a few months earlier. That sent up red flags, so I did an internet search. I found that other people had been swindled out of hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of dollars because they trusted this company.
Trust is to be earned
I could write a book about these types of stories. My biggest takeaways from all these experiences are to be cautious, do your research, consider your risks, and choose your relationships carefully.
Being guarded about whom I trust is not limited to money situations. I am also extremely careful to whom I provide information I would not want to be shared. I have learned the best way to keep information private is not to tell anyone, including those you trust.
Let me also suggest being cautious of anyone who indicates any religious affiliation. While I am a person of faith, I don’t talk about my faith in business situations or when I am trying to earn someone’s trust. When people start talking about their faith in order to gain your trust, be extra careful.
While this lesson may be difficult to accept, I have learned the hard way that trust is not something you simply give away. It must be earned.
What’s been your experience on this subject? Please tell me in the comments section below this post.
You have nothing to lose by being cautious, guarding your trust until people have proven they are trustworthy. At the same time, you have everything to lose, including your savings, damaged relationships, and your reputation, if you give away your trust easily.
Character, Decisions, Entrepreneurship, Financial, Leadership, Relationships, Respect, Responsibility, Self Control
Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.
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