My advice to Erich Gonzales: Avoid con artists
BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - July 9, 2017 - 5:00pm

Recently, the showbiz media, Internet and social media went abuzz with news on a supposed "young CEO" named Xian Gaza, who paid for an advertising billboard in the University Belt area of downtown Manila to publicly invite ABS CBN 2 actress Erich Gonzales for a coffee date. Some found the bold gesture as gutsy and romantic, while many found it creepy and bizarre. Personally, I already had suspicions that there was possibly a scam somewhere here, either financial or even a possible romance scam? I'm often skeptical.

Don't trust people when it comes to money

Be skeptical, ask questions, do not easily trust people even if kin or acquaintances when it comes to money matters, those have always been my ground-rules regarding money even as a kid. Even towards the several honest female accountants in my office, I told them my rule of "trust no one when it comes to money, not even myself."

My accountants were puzzled and asked why, that I do not trust even myself when it comes to money matters? I told that is their job, to audit even me and my expenditures, to check on me and that they are free to even argue with me on any seemingly wrong or bad judgement expenses or checks which I sign, but which they deem inimical to our business or to my financial well-being. That is what I meant when I told them: "When it comes to money, do not trust anybody, not even yourself. It is best to seek wise assessments and dispassionate advices from others."

In this era of so much fake news in the Internet and the mostly unedited social media, there are not a few attempts at fake money schemes online or in other spheres of life by numerous con or scam artists. In businesses small or big, money matters should be handled only by trusted and competent people, and there should always be audits or counter checking by third parties.

Beware of fake emails seeking your donations or financial assistance, or people selling you incredibly and unbelievably high interest-yielding "investment schemes" which might turn out to be a Ponzi scheme, etc. There are innumerable ways for crooks of all kinds to steal our money.

Scam artists are like politicians who are often great talkers, smooth talkers. Some scammers will dupe people starting with referrals by our friends or kin, others begin with a free lunch, free gifts or free game of golf or other freebies, then slowly ensnare people into signing documents, becoming part of their "great business" and enticing us to part with our money in outright sales or "fantastic investments." Some scammers hoodwink people with their garish displays of wealth.

Miss Gonzales, be careful

Going back again to the curious case of the supposed "young CEO" who spent a lot of money to mount an advertising billboard to invite actress Erich Gonzales for a coffee date. After reading that Gonzales has responded indirectly but somewhat positively, telling writer Darla Sauler, who had notified her about the billboard, that there's "nothing wrong naman if we talk over coffee" but that Sauler had to be there too in the coffee date.

I quickly did some research on this guy's claims and his background via the Internet, but I couldn't find even a legitimate sari-sari store or other form which he owns or operates as a source of his vaunted wealth.

On his Facebook account, he claims to be CEO of the "Guanxiqian Group" based in Hong Kong and there was even a screen shot of these words in Chinese. Nowhere else in the Internet universe does this business group seem to exist, except in this guy's FB account and smatterings of showbiz news articles about his billboard ad. This seems to be an attempt to leverage the exaggerated and not always accurate stereotype of anything connected to Chinese or China as "rich" or business savvy.

What I found creepy about this guy's claims start with his atrocious grammar in his English social media posts, from grammar to spellings of words. Even his attempt to claim ownership of a Chinese-sounding "group" based in Hong Kong seemed weird, because the Chinese words he used for this supposed firm were "guan xi qian" which literally meant "connections thousands", which come across as like barok or awful ungrammatical Chinese too.  If he wants to lie, at least come out with a small legitimate business or office as a "front", but he seems to have none. Zilch.

What I came across in my research were various social media posts of people who claimed to have been conned or duped by this guy with his alleged scam deals, even former employees. What infuriated me more was an ex-employee's claim that this Xian Gaza even allegedly misused the Yolanda super typhoon tragedy to scam people of money with an alleged fake or fraudulent t-shirt fund-raising philanthropic scheme.

Using Twitter, I tweeted Darla Sauler this message: "Hi Darla, I think this guy Xian Gaza is fake in claims of owning firm in #HK, he has bad English grammar too, save #erichgonzales from possible scam." I also said that if Erich and she want to have real excellent coffee and just to relax, I'd invite both of them to a good place in Quezon City near the TV networks.

Not only is there danger of a possible scam, there is also the danger of a celebrity's fame being wrongly mis-used and misrepresented in a scam person's other dubious claims and dealings to victimize third parties. World history is replete with numerous con men and women of all kinds and differing degrees of sophistication and shamelessness. Beware of frauds, lies, half-truths.  

Darla tweeted back to my Twitter messages: "Thanks for all the messages re Xian Gaza. ? I love Erich so I'll protect her also. ?"

Once again, allow me to share my personal rules when it comes to money matters: Be skeptical, ask questions, always counter-check documents and do background checks on claims, do not easily trust people even if kin, friends or acquaintances when it comes to money matters.

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