In a rare interview, a convicted con man explains how he lured victims and stole millions. His story could help you recognize a scheme.
"I basically learned that investors are greedy," John Conley says.
And he should know. Conley has been convicted twice for his roles in various telemarketing investment schemes.
"The whole idea of telemarketing is to win over the people with your personality -- and that personality can be whatever you choose for the day."
Conley's most recent scam was a "boiler room" operation where his employees would cold call consumers and convince them to invest in oil and gas leases.
"You never take 'no' for an answer. You just keep pounding and eventually you will hit their greed button," Conley says.
"John Conley is not unlike many other con artists I see, that they are
very pleasant people. They use their personality to befriend the
investor," US Postal Inspector Roberta Bottoms says. "They prey upon seniors who may be spending a lot of time alone
and be lonely, so he'll spend a lot of time on the phone with them to
earn their trust and take their money."
Conley echoes, "Those people are lonely and they won't hang up, so you can keep talking on the phone. You keep talking, and they will literally tell how much is in their bank account."
Postal inspectors say more than 100 investors lost $3.5 million in this oil and gas scam.
"He would send them statements, but in reality there was no oil or gas sales, I don't think he ever sold a drop of oil or vapor of gas," Bottoms says. "This is an addiction for him. When he made that sale he got a thrill out of it. The thrill of cheating somebody and knowing he could talk them out of their money was what drove him more than the money."
Postal inspectors say Conley confessed, testified against his co-conspirator, and spent more than two years in prison for his latest scheme.
"I look back on that time and think it's just about the most asinine thing I ever did… because there was an honest way to do it," Conley says.
Some advice from postal inspectors: Thoroughly research all investment opportunities and the people associated with them.
If the victims in this case had researched Conley, they would have learned he had been convicted of mail fraud before.