After seeing two of my high school classmates go down in flames over the past month for shady financial dealings (see here and here), I feel compelled to share a few things I learned after watching this video:

1. If a financial adviser suggests you purchase investment property and says he’s found the perfect listing, your first question should be: “who’s the seller?” Because chances are, the dude putting the big sales pitch on you is trying to unload some swampland in Florida. My dealin’-with-the-Feds-now classmate might have hid behind a company name as the seller when he allegedly sold out his clients, but thanks to the miracle of the Internets, you’re two clicks away from discovering his identity. Pretty handy, that Google.

2. Never purchase any property sight-unseen. Online and/or blind purchases are fine if you’re snapping up things to decorate your house, but not appropriate for a purchase that involves legally-binding contracts, tens/hundreds of thousands of dollars…and an actual house.

3. Repeat the phrase, “I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours.” While it might be common for a financial adviser to ask for your social security number, I think from now on I’ll ask to see his/hers first and jot down those digits. That way if he/she takes out a credit card in my name and charges a hundred grand worth of donuts and burritos, I’ll take out a loan in his/her name for the amount of money it’d take to pay off my stolen identity tab. Talk about the ultimate switcheroo!

4. Since these guys were people I knew who took or attempted to take money from their former classmates and fellow church members, I think I’d elect to invest my money with someone I’ve never met before. That way when the (seemingly inevitable) rip off comes to light, I won’t have to deal with that whole grappling with the personal betrayal thing.

5. If your financial advisor’s credentials sound wonky, there’s probably a reason for that. Again, I refer you to the Interwebs, where I discovered Cliff Robertson’s bogus-sounding “Congressional Businessman of the Year” award was just some trumped-up Advertorial-type trophy. Which I would humbly accept and brag about, no doubt–but not so I could use it to steal money for donuts and burritos.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I don’t have any investment capital to speak of, so I didn’t lose any money from these guys’ shenanigans. I’ve always learned my best lessons through other people’s mistakes…this just happens to be another such occasion. Now you can say you learned from someone who learned from someone.

Also? Despite my upcoming 25-year class reunion (which I would not attend if paid cash money), I did not realize I was old until I saw the picure of the dude in the video. Not meant as a dig, just a mind-numbing fact.