Prepare yourself for some hearty laughs, folks. This is like a cryptocurrency scam, but a thousand times dumber. I implore you to read the full report from the excellent Will Sommer at The Daily Beast, but here’s the gist of it:
Trump supporter Hayes Kotseos runs a North Carolina pool-maintenance company, but she’s got a side bet that she thinks might make her fabulously wealthy: the Iraqi dinar.
The currency is nearly worthless outside of Iraq, but Kotseos bought millions of dinars in April, after watching a video of President Trump at a 2017 press conference. In the clip, Trump says, with characteristic vagueness, that all currencies will soon “be on a level playing field.”
In reality, Trump was talking about trade imbalances with China. But like other Trump supporters who have fallen into the dinar investment scam, which has existed since at least 2012, Kotseos interpreted Trump’s rambling statement as proof that the Iraqi dinar would soon be worth as much or even more than the dollar, making anyone who had been smart enough to buy in early a millionaire.
There is so, so much more to this story, and it is a perfect example of how wherever you find right-wing reactionary politics, you will find massive amounts of scams. Searching “dinar” and “@realDonaldTrump” on Twitter returns some absolutely hilarious tweets begging Trump to help out their bizarre “investment.” (I’ve cropped out their names since there’s no reason to broadcast them, they’ve got enough trouble to deal with as it is)
Sommer’s report clarified that while it’s difficult to measure the number of Americans wrapped up in this absolutely insane scam, court papers detail millions of dollars invested in a currency completely worthless outside the country it’s used in. A big reason why this scam has risen to this absurd level is thanks to one of the largest forces for radicalization in America today: YouTube. Searching “Iraqi dinar” on YouTube returns an endless stream of videos promising profits that are just around the corner. The reality of the situation with the dinar was laid out by Jay Adkisson in a 2012 blog post on Forbes that reads like it could have been written yesterday:
In the words of popular comedian Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid.” That phrase, as elegant in its simplicity as it is frankly true, applies with special fervor to those who continue to believe that they are about to make millions, billions, or even trillions by investing in Iraqi dinars.
Yet this scam continues to persist, and hardly a week goes by that some sucker or another doesn’t call my office to inquire about asset protection planning for the untold riches that he or she is about to receive when the Dinar finally re-valuates by 100 times or more.
Get rich quick scams are as American as apple pie, and when combined with the abject stupidity of the Trump era, this actually makes a bit of sense. Most people understand Iraq through its destabilization from our invasion, and so the idea that the dinar could “come back” to pre-2003 or pre-Gulf War levels isn’t that crazy…if you don’t even have a rudimentary understanding of economics. This scam is both hilarious and depressing, as it could only exist in a country which values the almighty dollar over reason, and doesn’t even bother to teach its kids basic economic principles in school. If you have a relative this Thanksgiving selling you on this investment, try to push them towards something less stupid and risky, like any one of the scam cryptocurrencies that have lost 90+% of their value since January.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.