It all started, as so often is the case, with a phone call. A nice cheerful chap, Andy, with a really hot tip for an investment. Ridgeback Global Enterprises. Diamond mining, they had a couple of good licences, prospects very good etc. For several weeks I stalled him off, even though I was getting almost daily phone calls. He sent me what looked like very authentic literature. At length, partly to get him off my back, I made the minimum possible investment. He was disappointed, and suggested a bigger stake. I refused. The shares were one pence each. In due course the company was floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange, and the shares climbed at one point to eleven pence. I could keep an eye on them on my computer. Why didn't I sell? They only reached 11 pence for a few minutes, and then a "big investor" decided to take his profit, and the shares dropped back to 6 pence. But don't worry, Andy reassured me, they would go up again. Only they didn't. They slowly oozed lower, until they were worth nothing. And I hope I learned my lesson. The my dear friend Andy seemed to disappear, to be replaced by am answering machine which was never answered. And life went on. Then came the clever bit!
Again a phone call out of the blue. A lovely chap called Matthew Harvey, with good news! He had obtained a list of the Ridgeback shareholders, because his company Reliance Capital, was instructed to wind up the company. And, guess what. They found that the companies mining licences were worth a great deal of money, and they had an American Diamond mining company eager to buy them. I should also benefit from a 10 for 1 script share offer, and my shares should realise about double what I had paid for them. I should be paid in Euros, direct into my bank account. I should pay nothing, no admin charge or anything!
The Tyler household became quite cheerful, and I filled in the necessary redemption form. We agreed that as long as we were not being asked for any money we could not go far wrong. Then dear Matthew phoned with fresh news. There had been a three for one share option offered by Ridgeback, which had to be honoured. The money was there. All I had to do was pay over three times my original investment, and hey presto! the money would be doubled, and the Euros flutter into my Bank account. I could almost hear them tinkling!
Now I know I am naive, but not quite that stupid! Put down on paper like this, well after the event, it all looks very clear. Spread out over many weeks, with the friendly persuasive Matthew, it all seemed quite possible. But the moment Tricia and I were asked to actually hand over more money, we smelt something large, furry, smelly and with a long bald tail! I made a very interesting phone call to the Financial Standards Authority, and confirmed what I had suspected, - there were actively investigating Ridgeback. But I also received the official letter from the Liquidator who was appointed to deal with Ridgebacks affairs. My good friend Matthew also got wind of it, and wanted me to send him a copy. And for the first time a note of peevishness sounded in his voice, for by this time I had played him along for several weeks, always keeping his hopes nicely buoyed up. "The cheque is in the post" is a well known promise!
Finally Matthew realised he had run out of time, and that it would be a good idea to change all his personal details very swiftly and move to South America. I miss his happy promising voice, with his ever good tidings. I sadly wonder how many other people he managed to con? It was a very clever one, building on an existing disappointing situation, promising redress, and at the start asking for no money at all!
I hope this may prove a small warning, if one is needed! Next time I promise to blog weekly, and to be a lot more cheerful, despite the weather! Tom Tyler.