Why are Turks so easily conned?
The title should’ve actually been a bit longer: Why are we so easily conned, and what does technology have to do with it?
I know that there are con artists everywhere around the world. I know that the first Ponzi scheme happened in the U.S. But when it comes to mass conning, I believe that Turkey is a global leader. It’s recurring, such cases happen every 10 years or so. A self-proclaimed savior of poor Turks comes up with a revolutionary idea to make every Turk rich, only if they act quickly and give money from their savings. And thousands of people fall for it. The most notorious names in Turkish history are Sülün Osman, Banker Kastelli, Jet Fadıl, Kenan Şeranoğlu and the latest, Mehmet Aydın.
Among these names, Jet Fadıl deserves a special mention, because he swindled people numerous times since 1987. He says he is creating a fantastic project and takes money from people who hope that once the project is finished, they will become rich. He first promised to build a hotel called Caprice, then a housing project called Jetkent, then a 100 percent national car called “Proton.” He then promised to manufacture another car called “İmza.” His latest fraud was to build an Islamic hotel called “Caprice Gold” in the Maldives in 2014. These are all projects he promised he would do, but failed to. But I am sure that if he comes up with another project, people would still give him their hard-earned money, as they have done so very recently with Çiftlik Bank.
Çiftlik Bank, which means “Farm Bank” in Turkish, might be the biggest con in Turkish history. Mehmet Aydın, its founder, collected a staggering amount of 511 million Turkish Liras from 80,000 people and vanished. Çiftlik Bank was a gamified version of a classical Ponzi scheme. He set up a website called Çiftlik Bank where you could buy virtual animals and in turn the bank would give you the profits made from these animals. They believed they actually bought the farm animals and made profits by running huge farms.
According to a recent piece by Hacer Boyacıoğlu on Hürriyet Daily News, the owner of Çiftlik Bank, Birlik Beraberlik Tarım Hayvancılık İthalat İhracat Sanayi ve Ticaret Anonim Şirketi, collects money from members by promising them “halal” profits between 1,000 liras and 10,000 liras per month. Ekolium Bilişim Yazılım Firması, apparently based in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, claims its members make 2,253 liras a month by investing 10,000 liras. Another firm, Maden.im, collects money from members through an online mining game. The company claims that the more new players the existing users bring in, the more money they can make.
This really is the definition of Ponzi scheme, isn’t it?
But why are people falling for it again and again? What does technology have to do with it?
My shortest answer to that is that we fail to teach critical thinking to our people well enough, we give more importance to being rich than being satisfied with our lives, we praise the rich more than the educated. And technology makes it easier to find people with the lowest critical thinking abilities and create new methods to streamline cons like Ponzi schemes. Also the belief that people in the tech world can get rich instantly, makes people fall for new cars and virtual farms faster, just like the huge number of Turks who bought bitcoins when it was above the 15,000 dollar mark. I strongly urge the government to rethink about changing the education system. We really need to be better at critical thinking, understanding technology and having financial literacy. Otherwise, as new technologies emerge many more Turks will lose their-hard earned money.