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Keller @ Large: Lessons Learned From Bernie Madoff

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WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller says Madoff’s story show how easy it is for anyone to fall for a con.

Video Transcript

PAULA EBBEN: Bernie Madoff, the man behind the largest Ponzi scheme in US history, has died in prison at the age of 82. Back in 2009, the investment banker pleaded guilty to fraud charges and received a 150-year prison sentence. It was estimated he cheated investors out of about $65 billion. Madoff had thousands of victims, from Hollywood stars to the average Joe.

DAVID WADE: The SEC investigated his company nine times before this scam finally collapsed. As WBZ's John Keller shows us, Madoff's story and the headlines we see today show how easy it is for anyone to fall for a con.

JOHN KELLER: For decades, no one pushed back on Bernie Madoff's lies and fraud. After all, he was a distinguished Wall Street figure, head of the NASDAQ at one point. And who could argue with annual double digit returns on your investments?

BARBARA ANTHONY: You had to be special. Not anybody off the street could get in. So you know, obviously you want in.

JOHN KELLER: Former State Consumer Affairs watchdog, Barbara Anthony, notes that handing your money over to Madoff gained you membership in an exclusive world of easy profit, a sort of conspiracy of wealth. It's not unlike the lure of current day conspiracy groups like QAnon.

BARBARA ANTHONY: Not everybody can get into this group. I'm a special person. I can get into this group, and I'm willing to adopt the beliefs of-- the beliefs of that group, in order for me to feel special. And I'm really not going to spend a lot of time analyzing it and questioning it.

JOHN KELLER: And these days, the allure of conspiracy is enhanced by a fragmented culture where the unedited internet is, by default, becoming one of the few ties that bind us.

BARBARA ANTHONY: Accurate information cannot keep up with the proliferation of distortions, and misinformation, and inaccurate information, that travel so fast on the internet and through social media.

DAVID WADE: So John, even though it seems like people are more cynical, it almost sounds like you think the public is becoming more vulnerable to financial and political fraud.

JOHN KELLER: Looks that way to me, David. Think about the impact that fake websites, or fraudulent claims, or fake Facebook pages have had on politics in recent years. And when it comes to financial instruments, Bitcoin, Non-fungible Tokens, are you prepared to sink your nest egg into those? Not me, brother.

DAVID WADE: I don't know. I'd take a couple Bitcoin right now. I'll tell you that much. John Keller, [LAUGHS] thank you so much. Appreciate it. Paula, over to you.