Yes. The good con men are often recommended by friends and relatives. They are that likable. In fairness, it was not easy to check Bernie out. Many people did rely on the regulatory agencies. That is supposedly why they are there. Unfortunately the securities regulators were doing their best imitation of some of the sports monitors or the Better Business Bureau. See no evil, hear no evil (unless of course you don't pay them.)
Madoff was helped also by people recommending him to friends and family......most of us (unfortunately) will not dig as deep on someone if a friend or relative backs them up.
it is amazing how easily people will turn over hard earned money to advisers , yet will spend hours or days checking out a washing machine before buying it, or any other everyday item.