From phone scams to credit card fraud, there are plenty of people trying to take advantage of vulnerability. Here is how to recognise it.
Some of the most audacious frauds are actually funny such as the Brooklyn Bridge being sold several times to unsuspecting people, lookalikes pretending to be movie stars and getting a free meal at restaurants, a little girl ordering $300 worth of toys using her mum and dad’s credit card – this one was perhaps just adorable, somebody’s father pretending to be the prime minister of a country to get a table at a jam-packed high end restaurant and similar.
Incidentally, a man named William McCloundy served more than two years in prison for selling off the Brooklyn bridge and George C. Parker not only sold the bridge several times but also some of the other famous public landmarks in New York.
And then you have Frank Abagnale Jr. who was glorified in the film Catch Me If You Can. Not only do people admire him but they always hoped he would get away when he went on his spree of committing frauds.
We do at times empathise with fraudsters and thieves such as Abagnale and Papillon until something comes knocking on our own doors such as a credit or debit card fraud.
There is also a story of someone whose credit card was used to buy more than thirteen thousand Euros worth of jewellery in a country he had never been to. Took him a while to get the refund from his bank.
There are enormous frauds committed by the corporate sector.
For example Enron, the darling of the stock markets that over inflated its assets to great extents until it went bust and thousands lost their shirts, or even subprime mortgages and penny stocks that brought the world’s economy down to its knees in 2008-2009.
There’s a little joke about corporations. When a Japanese corporation has two cows, they miniaturise them and make them produce more milk. When a Hindu corporation has two cows, well, what else, they worship them.
When an American corporation has two cows, they claim they have two million cows and issue shares after listing themselves on the stock markets. Jokes apart, many corporations are known to overinflate their assets and the shareholder ends up with the wrong end of the stick.
The annual fraud and scam losses on a worldwide scale come to over $3.5 trillion each year. Quite a tidy sum.
The average person is usually the victim of most of these frauds.
Let’s have a look at some of the most common frauds and crimes that are committed and some of which are called ‘white collar’.
The Most Common Scams
Charity fund: The unscrupulous ones out there are active all the time in the name of charity but come especially alive when natural disasters strike.
Real estate: While buying make sure the property rights are clean and clear. If investing in an accommodation for which you will pay an advance and instalments for apartments and houses that are yet to be completed, make sure the developer has an entirely clean record of delivering and delivering on time.
Credit and Debit card: This is common and especially those who do phone banking are among the most vulnerable. Additionally, while paying make sure the terminal is not out of your view behind a cash counter or the reception desk and is not fixed with a card reader. While withdrawing cash from ATMs do be aware of card readers.
Malware: This is often used to get into your computer for your banking details. Always use a good antivirus and never click on pop-ups.
Ponzi schemes: Thus named after the Italian swindler Charles Ponzi. In this case, investors deposit their money on the promise of fancy returns. Initially, they do get returns and when more and more investors go on investing, money from the newer investors is used by the scamster to pay out the so-called dividends to the earlier investors for a while. Bernie Madoff who died in prison recently cheated people out of 17.5 billion dollars. Lesser known ones are always active.
Internet auctions: Beware. Make thorough enquiries to check the credentials of the auctioneer. Most of them ask for a deposit.
Pump and dump: This happens all the time. Be it stocks or cryptocurrencies. The big fish make the prices jump, the smaller investor gets enticed and starts buying at high prices and once the prices are high enough, the bigger holders sell in large volumes. So called reputable names having a large following are known to indulge in this practice. Never chase the markets.
Non-delivery: Not only does your credit or debit card get compromised, you don’t receive the goods you ordered. Take care to choose only those suppliers that have an established reputation.
Remaining vigilant is pivotal to making sure you are not a victim to any of these ploys – the best advice we can give is if it feels wrong, it probably is.
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