Eating Your Lunch

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The Justice Department is urging Americans not to get burned by a half-baked scam called the “Free Lunch.”

“It happens during every economic downturn,” says a spokesperson for the department. “Someone cooks up the idea that you can get something for nothing, and hungry citizens begin to believe it’s true.”

Officials say the latest version of the Free Lunch con involves the promise of no-cost health care for all Americans. Because everyone craves quality health care but few can afford to pay for it, investigators are convinced the scheme has the potential to feed the fantasies of millions.

Here’s how a Free Lunch scam works: A smooth, well-dressed individual who speaks very persuasively convinces normally rational people that Free Lunches belong on every menu, as a matter of right. These people recruit volunteers who persuade others to join the party.

Once enough people are clamoring for a Free Lunch, the con artist heads to Washington to give Congress a taste. Congress steps up to the table and passes a Free Lunch Law. The swindler becomes a cult hero, and is rewarded with power, prestige and a tall white hat.

According to the Justice Department, the scam typically collapses when the Free Lunch turns out to be expensive and everyone realizes someone will actually have to pay for it. The con artist who came up with the scheme then makes the rounds of the lecture circuit, earning enormous speaking fees explaining how to prepare the Free Lunch properly the next time.

“Be wary of popular, articulate people offering a recipe that involves more sizzle than steak,” says the Justice Department spokesperson. “Several of these schemers are known to be traveling around the country today, asking for your help in getting to Washington.”

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