Taken for $10,000, twice in 1 week....
It's the first week of the new year, like most people I was setting goals for the year ahead -- “New Year, new me!” At this point in my trading career I was given the green light to trade “remotely” meaning that I didn't have to wake up at 3:45am to catch the 4:40am bus to NYC and track my ass down to Wall Street before the city traders were even rolling out of bed. Mr X had a penthouse across the street and would wake up at 9:15 and stroll in at the opening bell. I was no Mr X, however I was no longer a piker who had to hide the fact that I had an Aston, (even though I only drove it in once a week. $100 a day in tolls, gas, and parking is wildly impractical) still kept the fact that I had a limo low key, didn't want everyone on the desk to start calling me wolf of wall street (not something real traders took as a compliment).
I could sleep in till 8 do my morning prep and trade the open from the comfort of my couch. This relaxing morning would turn into one of the most volatile days of my life that had nothing to do with stocks. These were life lessons I learned about myself that day that most can only imagine from watching movies like Taken when I was about to live it in for real in a few brief moment.
Its around noon, and my phone started to ring, its a random number however I decided to pick up, it's a stranger voice yelling in a frantic voice “IS THIS BENNETT??!!”
“Yeah who's this??” I reply confused
“YOUR DAD JUST GOT IN A CAR ACCIDENT!” the stranger shouts
Less than 2 seconds later, keys in hand, I’m running out the door, the Aston was blocked in by the limo, so I quickly hop in the limo and burn out and head off to god know wheres…
“WHERE ARE YOU? I’M COMING, I don't know where I'm headed?” I yell back
all of a sudden the voice of the strangers tone changed abruptly
“SHUT THE FUCK UP and listen to ME” the stranger demands
“Fuck you motherfuck tell me where I'm headed” I demand
“Listen to me motherfucker, if you ever want to see your fucking father alive again you better fucking listen” he says with conviction
Fuck, balls in your court, (mother fucker saying it internally) however now I need to play nice because I have no clue as to what the fuck is going on.
He goes on “Listen I'm going to be straight with you, I'm an ex con from Puerto Rico, and have warrants out for my arrest, your dad hit my car and he was flipping out (something my dad would 100% do) he was causing a scene so I pistol whipped him and he was bleeding so I had to take your father” Cruz explains in such a casual as if I’m one of his homies on the yard. Homie I am not.
If you have not seen the movie Taken, this is about as real life as I could relate it. However this is real life not a fucking movie.
At this point I am 2 minutes into this phone call and literally speechless, so I mutter “what do you want?” (obvious answer is money)
The voice on the other end switches to a different voice, his older brother introduces himself as Hector, and explains that he got roped into this situation and that his younger brother Cruz is a piece of shit (no really?) ex con wanted for attempted murder. All I needed to do was pay to fix the damages to the car and we’re straight.
I couldn't have fired off a faster response “Done, how much? I will bring you the cash right now, where am I headed?!”
Cruz - Dick head, convict, emotional, paranoid, wildly irrational
Hector - Nice guy, older brother, voice of reason, calm, rational
Now if you’ve seen us on IG, you might have seen us make it rain with $100k in cash, so paying some fucking loser off is not even a question. I carry $5k to $10k on me to go to Chipotle, necessary? Absolutely not. However there is a feeling of reassurance knowing that you can pay for mostly anything“if” needed. To me there is nothing more cringe-worthy than watching a guy pull out his debit card asking where the nearest ATM is.
(Pro Tip: real men carry cash)
They are not prepared for my quick response, in the moment these guys were flawless and on point. Looking back there were some chings in their armor however they had me reacting off of emotion so I was off my game. We can relate this to trading where new traders will say “BABA was so easy from $100 to $200”, yet we ask them “where will it be in 6 months?” much harder right? Same here when you're in the shit, it's much harder than looking back in hindsight and reflecting on it as I am doing right now.
They tell me that they want $5k cash and that if I call the police or hang up the phone for any reason, they will kill my father.
“I understand completely I will not hang up this phone, where am I headed?” I reply
Cruz is paranoid, “What do you mean? You have the cash? You need to go to the bank and get $5k.”
He cannot comprehend that I have the cash on me and thinks that I'm scamming them. Fucking idiot, given that I cannot explain why or how I have that “much” cash, I figure fuck it, they're in charge, I'll go to the bank and take the money out.
I get the cash, looking suspect as fuck, flying into the parking lot in a stretch limo sweating, talking on the phone to a kidnapper asking the bank teller for all $100’s on a measly $5k withdrawal, she doesn't bat an eye and I'm off.
“Ok, I got the money, you heard me in the bank, where am I headed!?” I ask for what seems to be the 100th god damn time
“Go to the Mcdonalds at the corner of market and essex in Hackensack, you have 5 mins or we are leaving” Cruz states.
I am 15 minutes out in a fucking stretch limo, however fuck it, no excuses. I will be there, running red light, splitting traffic, wrong side of the road, no problem. To put this in perspective this ordeal lasted over 8 hours, I must have broken 100+ traffic violations and did not get stopped once. It’s actually mind boggling thinking back how reckless I drove that entire time.
After 8 mins, he tells me I'm late and they're not waiting, it's a setup he claims. Yeah you called me, kidnapped my father for ransom and I'm fucking setting you up, ok.
However they are holding all the cards, so I have to play to their hands and cannot lose the little rapport I have because that's the only good stock I have, other than the cash that is keeping my father safe.
They tell me that I will have to pay them first before they will make “the drop”
No problem, where the fuck am I headed, they tell me to wire the money and we'll be good, so I do as they ask and go to a CVS and western union them the money. I hop back in the limo, pumped that this ordeal is reaching the finish line and that I can get my father and get him to the hospital.
“The money is wired, here is the confirmation code 43XY23454FGR43Z” I tell Hector
“Thanks Ben, you’re doing great. Sorry for this, I fucking hate my brother for roping me into this, I have kids man,” Hector replies. He goes on to tell me about his family and kids, I attempt to be sympathetic however it takes all of my mental capital to pretend to feel sorrow for the person who is currently holding my father against his will.
I reply “I know Hector, I want this to be over just as fast as you do”
All of a sudden I hear yelling in the background and Cruz is back on the phone.
“MOTHERFUCKER, you trying to fucking scam me motherfucker, you fucked up the wire, it's no good you mother fucker, fuck this he's dead!” yells Cruz
I have never gone through such a wild swing of emotions, a few moments prior it seems as if the ordeal was over, smooth sailing almost a brief feeling of euphoria, everything was calm and now I am seconds away from losing my father over a mistake I made at the hands of some fucking convict. In this exact moment the hopeless feeling that comes over myself knowing that there's almost nothing I can do was mounting. To this day there has not been a feeling that pales into comparison as that one at a red light on Essex street in Hackensack holding the phone to my ear thinking about what I had done.
I'm yelling back that I did everything right however it's falling on deaf ears.
Hector, the older brother gets back on the phone and says “calm down B, you left 1 box unchecked that holds the funds for 24 hours, had you checked it, it would be available immediately. Look on the back of the receipt you can get the money back tomorrow, for now you will have to go back to the bank and do this again”
I apologize and tell them I'm still here and can do another wire since I still have the fucking cash that they didn't believe, yet these dumb fuckers still couldn't believe it so I ripped it back to the bank, another $5k withdrawal and did it again, and it worked this time.
At this point I am around 8 hours into this ordeal, phone to my ear flying around northern New Jersey doing everything they ask to make it to “the drop”. They tell me to go to my father's house where they will pull up and toss him out of the car. If I approach the car they will kill him and presumably me. I comply and race to my father’s house. As I get there I park the limo across the street, leave it running (just incase I need to chase them or something goes wrong), and run into his house. The front door is unlocked, and I grab his 9mm beretta that's always locked and loaded in a hidden spot.
The whole day, I played nice, complied with their fucking demands, and didn't lose my cool and tell them off. If I cursed them off, I lost and by lost meant I would lose my father. At this point, I am still on the phone and have the gun tucked under my waistband knowing that once my father was tossed out of the car, its on. I am not letting this guy get away, calm as a cucumber no hands shaking, I am ready to take Cruz on. There will be all of 2 seconds where I will have my shot to even the score.
They tell me they’re 5 minutes out, I’m tucked behind a tree, phone to my ear and my other hand clutching the Beretta under my Burberry jacket. I turn back and wonder why the fuck was the front door open to my dad's house?
As I turn around again and look at the big picture, why the fuck is his truck parked on the side? Did these kidnappers really go the extra mile to bring his car back? Granted they know his address (assuming they had his wallet), but did they really go the extra mile to drop his truck off?
I run back inside again and head to the back of his house to find him sitting watching tv…..
Hey Bennett! What are you doing here! My dad replies cheerfully
I don't skip a beat “Dad grab your Magnum now, they’re coming!!” As I have his Beretta in my one hand cocking it and my phone pressed to my ear with my shoulder holding it up (with the phone on mute for all of 2 seconds so Cruz can't hear)
He’s looking at me like what the fuck is wrong with you?
Now at this moment, you might be realizing that this was a scam which it was (thank fucking God). However in the moment, I quickly came to the conclusion that it was still on, and that they had my uncle who lived close by and mistakenly called me instead of my uncle's son. (I was so wrapped up in the moment, just like when your friend joins the latest MLM scam, ever notice how stuck they are that it's going to work, or in this case, that this was actually happening)
My dad goes “Uncle Ben is in Miami”
I am rushed with every ounce of endorphins left in my body and start to hysterically laugh, I have spent 480 painstaking minutes on the phone with these guys and just hang up on them. No goodbyes, no fuck you you're dead, just click.
(it was an iPhone so I really just hit end call)
We go to the police station and report it, and let's just say me causally saying that I was robbed of $10k and could care less, these cops were not very sympathetic, however for me the money meant nothing, my father was safe and that's all that mattered. Remember how I fucked up the first $5k wire? I didn't, that was just part of their script, to get me, the mark, to think that I only lost $5k when I actually lost both. Have to tip my hat to them for that, very smart parlor trick that I didn't realize until after explaining the story to the police, twice.
Now this is only Monday, the first week of the new year, so no biggie life goes on. The funny part in all this is that I know who these people are. When you wire money it has to go to the actual scammer or someone they trust enough to pay them. I know where they live, but after it was all said and done, I was happy for them. The lessons I learned were worth every penny. I know now that if another version of Taken were ever to happen again in my life and it is actually real, I will know that I can react under pressure.
Later that week there was a business associate through a mutual friend that owed me a little more than $10k so I figured at least I could get back to even on the week. The friend knew what had happened to me earlier in the week and timidly relayed to me that the degenerate wasn't going to pay me back.
“Let him keep the money” I reply
“The whole ten thousand?” My friend asks confused?
“Its cheap, now I will never have to deal with him again” I reply calmly
The first week of the new year I was now $20,000 in the hole and couldn't be happier. I learned in that week that money means absolutely nothing to me and to never get emotional over it. I had a vacation planned at the time to Mexico (ironically where the money was wired to) for a week with my GF at the time. She was trying to sympathize saying she understood if we didn't go due to the $20k haircut. But fuck that, nothing's changed we're still going and we're going to have a blast.
I came back from the trip and made it all back, by the end of the month I was green. I made back what those suckers took from me with a smile and a tan in January.
Now after this happened, I started to do my research on how these scammers work. We've all gotten the nigerian prince email who has $1,000,000 and needs some money for a bribe or the lowest amount of taxes ever to bring the money over and you're rolling your eyes like no shit I’ve gotten that email 100 times and know its a scam. That's the exact reason, the scammer doesn't want to talk to you, they want to talk to the 0.0000000001% of the population that are dumb enough to think that it's real.
Now you might be thinking aren't you that dumb ass percent of people? You just got scammed for $10k from those exact people? The answer is yes I did get scammed, however had those scammers tweaked their approach of selling fear, life or death and urgency and stopped to ask me a few questions, like what do you do, what are you driving etc, They could have just as easily taken me for $100,000 that day.
Now these scammers were selling fear, life or death, and urgency, a hard tactic until you really know your mark. However on social media we see the flip side of the scams, the “you're missing out on this easy money!” The no experience needed, 95% right, little money needed, make money in your sleep type scam. 5-10 years ago it was penny stocks (even after people watched Wolf of Wall Street) they still think they are not getting scammed. Then after the mass or most of the mass becomes aware that penny stocks are for losers, they tweak the scam. Same pitch different product, after penny stocks it become the Binary Options scams, than the Forex guru scams and now with Bitcoin at $11,000 everyone is all of a sudden a bitcoin guru yet they all follow the same 4 pillars.
- No experience
- No or little money (broke people)
- 95% right
- Make money in your sleep (lazy people)
Now you know why you see us exposing scammers on IG, we will get DM’s from people wondering if said “guru” is legit or not and 99% of the time, after 2 minutes of digging the red flags come up.
We are starting to see scammers pretend to be “old ladies” to seem nice and trustworthy yet you can quickly figure out it's a guy behind the scenes
So if you are ever wondering why we expose and shit on these scammers, now you know. A wise trader use to say in our morning meetings “if it sounds too good to be true, it usually has a dick.”