(Props to K. Chang over at Oz's place for the link)
Emergency Handbook: What to Do When a Friend Loves Woo
How you can help a friend or loved one with a potentially harmful pseudoscientific belief
My father has been a "get rick quick" scheme addict for decades. It used to be he'd spend "night on the town" money on a book and six cassette tape lecture set for someone's "buy real estate for no money down" type of deal and that would scratch his itch for quite some time. But as time passed the scammers got more sophisticated and through weight of age my father grew less sophisticated (he's in his late 80s).It's the #1 most common question I get: My wife, my friend, my mom, my boss, is investing their health or their money in some magical or fraudulent product/scheme/belief. What can I do about it?
This is a tough situation to be in. Whether it's a loved one who's ill and is being taken advantage of by a charlatan selling a magical cure with no hope of treating the illness, or a friend who's out of work and is going into deeper debt to buy into a hopeless multilevel marketing plan, it's really hard to watch. The hardest is when they have a real problem and are expending their limited resources trying to solve it with a medieval, magic-based system that you know can't possibly help. But all too often, they think it's helping. Cognitive biases, anecdotal thinking, placebo effects and cognitive dissonance combine to build a powerful illusion that our brains are hardwired to believe in. At some point, it falls to a caring friend to try and rescue them with a candle of reason.
You're up against a foe who's far more formidable than you might think. This isn't like settling a bet with a friend where you can look up the answer on Wikipedia, see who's right, then buy each other a beer..,.
My very first experience in the "anti-scam world" was finding out enough about Russ Whitney and the seminars he ran to argue successfully with the presenter of that local seminar that I could cost him more money across the three day event than it would cost to refund my father's money. With four days lead time I was able to dig up enough crap to make a con man cough up better than two grand. To be honest it was darn easy to find derogatory information on a scum bag like Whitney but still, not bad for my first time out. And it did reveal a new passion to me.
Yet, just last week my mother intercepted a piece of mail my father was set to send out with a $30 check for what was called "The Little Magic Book of Big Money." Some people refuse to be helped. But I remember how grateful I was to the people who posted to and/or ran the websites with the information that helped me with the Russ Whitney deal I mentioned above. The only way to pay them back is to do what they did, helping provide the other side of the sales pitch for the people do who want to be helped.
Now is not a bad time to thank all the people who have helped this site help other people. Thank you.