by Neil Jenman
Reading Time: Apx 8 minutes
Denise Brailey is the most famous ‘unknown’ woman in Australia. But, to those who do know her, she is their hero, the Florence Nightingale of real estate and finance.
For decades this now seventy-something woman has devoted almost her “working life” to helping the victims of financial scams.
And for what?
Most of Denise’s work is pro-bono – that means for free. But unlike some of the big-end-of-town law firms who occasionally take a case for free to make themselves look better about their millions of dollars in profits, Denise Brailey has no business to fall back on. She has no other job. For much of her life she operated from a small, rented flat in a modest Perth suburb.
If the Australian public knew what Denise Brailey does to help the victims of scams, she’d be a shoo-in for Australian of the Year. Even Prime Minister – a job she’d love, even for a week; just long enough to abolish those government regulators she describes as lazy, stupid, or corrupt. How else can the same scams – albeit in different guises – keep re-surfacing? And, often with the same directors – names notoriously familiar to Denise, the sight of which often sicken her, literally. White-collar crime can cause more damage than normal crime. Many victims never recover – especially the elderly, so often the target of pernicious predators.
WHY FLEECE THE ELDERLY
There are many ‘advantages’ to fleecing the elderly; they grew up when honesty was a virtue. Their word is their bond. They are decent, dependable and, to their danger, far too trusting. They can not accept that businesspeople who look good, speak eloquently, who come from companies with safe-sounding names, who have glossy brochures, prospectuses (“government approved”) and slick websites with glowing testimonials or an endorsement from a trusted identity, can possibly have bad intentions.
Elderly folks are less suspicious. They don’t realise that the crooks who prey on them have gone to extraordinary lengths to construct an image of trust-me assurance. And those names of the directors – mature middle-aged men, clean-shaven with staid credentials – all looking so good, so trustworthy. And then, of course there are the accountancy firms, the legal people, the financial planners, even banks – all looking ever-so-respectable. It’s a cauldron of corruption where everyone has a price. Where everyone is for sale.
Greed is not only good for these rogues, but also God. It’s what they worship, their sole goal – fleece as much as possible from as many as possible and as soon as possible. And then, when they get shut-down, and investors, buyers, shareholders (or whatever name is given to victims) have lost their money, get this: The directors often blame the regulators. Their favourite line is: “We were part of a witch-hunt. Everything was going well, but the government closed us down. It’s not our fault, it’s the fault of the government agencies.”
Yes, the government agencies who are supposed to protect the public. These agencies should never have allowed these directors and their dodgy schemes to exist.
Denise Brailey is right. The crooks are smarter than the clods sent to catch them. Only when the embarrassment becomes too much, when the scheme is so obviously dodgy, do the clods close these companies down. By then, of course, the crooks (the most appropriate word for them) get away with tens of millions of dollars.
Another advantage to targeting the elderly is that many are so embarrassed they remain silent. Grandparents lose all their superannuation and never breathe a word to anyone. Unless they find someone like Denise, who can rally them, give them hope. Silence is their enemy. In the world of corporate con artists, there is a saying: “Pay the screamers first.” Those who make the most noise have the best chance of compensation.
As well as being too trusting, as well as being shamed, the elderly are also scared. They fear the big company and their big-name directors and, most of all, big-name lawyers, those amoral beings who are as bad as, if not worse, than the crooks they represent.
Many crooks can’t help it, they are like scorpions – the sting is in their nature. But the law firms who hang out with the crooks, well, they choose badness.
There are two types of laws – the legal law and the moral law. Decent people simply cannot comprehend the depths of moral indecency to which crooks and their immoral cronies sink. Before they get stung, they cannot accept – even envisage – how bad it can be. The thought of “it can’t happen to me” is omnipresent.
The biggest advantage with fleecing the elderly is this one – they die.
Take one of the cases in which Denise Brailey is currently fighting her heart out on behalf of victims. The Sterling Disaster Victims. With an average age of 80 there were 101 victims in 2016 when the scheme collapsed taking life’s savings and leaving many people homeless.
This was a scam that took their money, took their homes, took their security, took their sanity, and left them with so much stress that, in at least 16 cases, it took their lives. The sadness is indescribable. The wickedness unbelievable.
FLEECING CONSUMERS IS BIG BUSINESS
This business of fleecing consumers is a business of theft. Sure, there are no guns and masks. But there is something worse (or, for the crooks, a better way of stealing) – they use promises, followed by pens and contracts.
From what Denise Brailey has seen – and still sees – in the property and finance sectors, there is more money in fleecing consumers than in the illicit drug trade. And far less risk.
As for public sentiment, who really seems to care about people who get robbed by white-collar criminals? Not until they get fleeced, do people realise the pain. The anguish, the grief, the stress. In many cases, white-collar crime leads to suicide. Denise is constantly consoling victims. They might steal your money, she will say, but don’t let them steal your mind too. It’s often to no avail. Many victims lose their money and their minds.
Few things make Denise Brailey more angry than how easy it is to fleece the public. The slack regulations, and worse, the lack of enforcement, the slow-moving regulators, the lack of protection for victims and almost no chance of compensation – it makes it so easy for crooks to fleece victims. Start with one company, shut it down (or have to shut-down) and then, like a phoenix from the ashes, rise again with a scam to fleece more millions.
Denise has long toyed with the idea of writing a book outlining how simplicity, greed, and gullibility – plus almost no chance of punishment – makes it so attractive for crooks. Her title will be How to Steal a Billion Dollars – Legally.
Fleecing of consumers through finance and real estate is big business in Australia. It has been for decades. As the elderly die-off at one end, the younger generation come in at the other end. The crooks are waiting for them. Perhaps, because they are being fleeced – and because the classic excuse – at least with many scams – is that it’s “not illegal” – that it might be better to call them “shearers” instead of crooks.
At best, however, these shearers are borderline legal. They always break moral laws. At worst – and this probably applies to most of them – they are true fraudsters. They have so many ready-made excuses, however, that few ever get convicted for fraud.
But what other word can be used to describe someone who promises to show consumers “how to create wealth from investment” when the first (and often only) person getting wealthy is the salesman – the fleecer, the shearer. Yes, the crook.
THE RIP-OFF MARKET
Right now, as you are reading these words, there are properties being built all over Australia – they may be house-and-land packages on the outskirts of big cities or apartments in inner cities. Whatever they are or wherever they are, they are built for the “rip-off market”.
Yes, developers are hiring builders and deliberately building low quality homes with high profit margins – profits that get shared in what was dubbed back in the 1990s by investigative journalist Hedley Thomas as “a food chain of deceit” – from the tradie with his nail bag to the builder to the developer to the sales company or buyers agents and their cronies, the lawyers, the accountants, and the financiers – they are all in on it. All looking for you – the victim.
“Lead-sourcing’ companies get paid for selling names to the sales companies – which promote themselves as “wealth creators”. You may see ads on Facebook boasting how many thousands of properties have sold from their leads. What they don’t tell you is that none – that’s right none – of those thousands of people have made a profit. They have all been fleeced.
To be clear – other than some heinous buyers’ agents (who hook up with seemingly respectable researchers who endorse them; wink-wink) – the worst scams rarely involve mainstream estate agents. If you buy property from a normal agent, especially at an auction, you should be safe.
Here’s something few people ever consider: Of all the “investments” they ever make, there is one that outperforms all other investments. Their family homes. A simple purchase. It has better appreciation than any complicated investments bought from “experts”.
So, how do you avoid getting fleeced in a finance or property scam?
Stay away from them all. At least until you get advice from someone who is not getting a commission if you buy.
Anyone encouraging you to invest in anything is a ‘suspect’. Get independent legal advice –from your family lawyer, not the lawyer tied to those trying to “sell” you.
Take your time. Think – which is something few people do in depth. Good deals are like buses, there’s always another coming. There is no such thing as the deal of a lifetime. It takes no intelligence to buy property or invest in a product – especially something you neither know nor understand.
And then, when you get into trouble, Denise Brailey comes to your rescue. Denise would rather protect you than rescue you. So, contact her if you wish – before you invest. You can do so via Jenman Support – and we will pass your details along.
Or, as always, ask us for support. Other than legal advice, we will always tell you what we feel is in your best interests.
FOOTNOTE: Denise Brailey is raising money to help those 80-year-olds caught in the Sterling Disaster. She is trying to raise $80,000 for legal fees. She launched her appeal on May 2, 2021. In four months, nine people have donated a total of $1,012.
All for a legal fight to try and recover about $18 million fleeced from consumers. Perhaps this gives you an idea of the magnitude of what Denise is facing.
DISCLOSURE by Neil Jenman: Neither Denise Brailey nor anyone connected with the Sterling Disaster Group has asked me to write this article or raise funds on their behalf. Last night (September 14, 2021), my wife, Reiden, and I chose to donate another $1,012 to help these victims. Last week, we mailed Denise a cheque for one thousand dollars. These two amounts represent the first financial help we have given Denise Brailey for many years. Sorry Denise, you deserve better – from us and many others who know how you fight so hard to help victims of finance scams. You are one of the greatest hidden heroes in the real estate world.
While you have not asked me to write this article nor to ask anyone to give you any financial assistance, I sincerely hope a few people find it in their hearts to help you. If they can afford it. I am sure if they knew how much you do for others and how you have fought tirelessly and consistently for many years, they’d all help you. Whether or not someone has given you financial support makes no difference to you when they seek your help. You help all who ask you for help. That’s one of your many special qualities.
Thank you for all that you have done for so many victims for so many years.
PLEASE NOTE: Our focus is on helping consumers. Abuse from agents on our website or Facebook page will be deleted, ignored or well publicised – it depends on our mood.
But one thing will never vary: We will never stop doing what we love most – helping polite and honest consumers get the best deal possible in real estate. And, of course, if any agents are serious about taking care of consumers, we’ll help you too. Thank you.