When cases of fraud make headline news, they sometimes involve major-name players like Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme that left his investor victims completely penniless, or the case surrounding Fannie Mae mortgage fraud.
While these million- or even billion-dollar fraud cases are indeed newsworthy, the truth about fraud is that it can happen much closer to home. Even more alarming, it doesn’t have to be a six-figure crime to be devastating.
International Fraud Awareness Week, hosted each year by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, looks at not only the kinds of fraud out there and the resulting damage they cause, but also tries to stimulate national conversation surrounding preventive action. The resources offered by the organizers and supporters provide information on how fraud can manifest, and what affected individuals and businesses can do about it.
A proportionately small number of consumers are affected by those headline-grabbing kinds of high-profile fraud, but the statistics on fraud as a whole paint a different picture. What is truly interesting about fraud is that so many of us are likely to be indirect victims of this crime: insurance rates can go up, transportation costs increase, retailers raise prices to recover the lost revenue, and much more. Even things like “skimming” fraud, rampant in both education and government contracting, harms us as taxpayers since the money we contributed is misused and redirected.
On the home front, fraud can affect individual victims in a variety of more direct ways, such as identity fraud, romance scams, utility fraud, and more. These crimes tend to not only have a financial impact, but they also can leave a lasting emotional toll as well. The results of these kinds of crimes have been shown to instill feelings of mistrust, paranoia, and loss and can even cause harm to family relationships. In some cases, it has even led to physical health damage as well.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s most recent Aftermath report on identity theft and fraud, “Strong physical reactions were reported as a result of victimization. Topping this list was stress (64.3 percent), sleep disturbances (48.3 percent), and an inability to concentrate (37 percent) followed by fatigue (35 percent) and headaches (33.6 percent). More than 23 percent of respondents had to seek professional medical help for their physical symptoms, and 15.6 percent of those who did not seek help indicated that they would have but could not afford it.”
The ACFE’s ready-to-use resources for fighting back against fraud include shareable videos that foster an understanding of the crime, a look at fraud crimes that target businesses of every size, a fraud awareness checkup, and more. They’re perfect for sharing in the workplace, sending in an email format to friends and family members, or offering to your community organizations who might be interested in hosting an awareness event of their own. No matter how the word gets out, the result of this type of awareness can mean fewer victims of this crime, and fewer individuals are suffering its long-term effects.
Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.