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Contract fraud: The most popular game in town

We live in litigious times. Bob is suing Fred, Fred is suing Bob, ABC Company is suing XYZ Company and lawyers are proliferating in numbers at rapid speed.

Look around you — ads on billboards, ads for personal injury on television (especially the foreign language stations watched by immigrants), and enough class-action suits to destroy any number of Fortune 500 companies.

Whistle blowers? Oh, yeah. Discrimination? Worker’s Comp? Disability? Bring ‘em on.

While there are approximately 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S., just slightly over one million of them are actively working as such. Scariest of all is Washington, D.C., where there are more than 51,000 lawyers among a population in the range of 630,000.

The overall U.S. population is about 320 million, although almost 25 percent of those are under the age of 18. That means one out of every 240 adults in the U.S. is a lawyer. And that, in turn, means contract law (the result of contract wording and construction) becomes very important to the other 239 of us.

If fraud is defined as “gain through misrepresentation,” it’s a very thin divider between misrepresentation and “intentional confusion via legal mumbo jumbo.”

Don’t get me wrong, I wholly believe in mumbo jumbo because fair court decisions must rely on legalize. Lawyers understand the language of legalize because they spend four years in law school learning it. But to regular folks, it might as well be Chinese, Japanese, or mumbojumboese, and that’s where good and trusting people get caught with their monetary pants down. We too often skip over the big words, instead relying on trust of the system.

Stop it!

People constantly ask me the same question. “Leslie, how can I PROTECT myself?” My response is, “you can’t, not 100 percent, but you can lessen your exposure.”

Here’s how:

Thoroughly read all contracts. Read them right to left, left to right, right-side-up and upside-down. Remember “The Devil Is In The Details.” If you do not understand something, get it clarified, in writing, or take your business somewhere else.

If you are given a verbal assurance along with a big smile — even from a choirboy — get it in writing. Big smiles do not stand up in court.

There’s mumbo jumbo and there’s MUMBO JUMBO. The first is routine; the second is often intentionally deceitful. If every second word has six syllables and sentences are 50 words long, run (don’t walk) away.

Avoid one-way streets. If you are asked to sign something that offers full protection to the other party and almost nothing to you, chances are you’re heading for a bad experience.

When the stakes are high enough, find a good and honest lawyer. Do not base your decision on a billboard or a TV ad. Do the research.

Get a referral from a trusted source, determine the cost up front, and it really helps if your Mom and the attorney’s Mom have been best friends for at least 30 years.

Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.

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