As hard as you work to make money and as difficult as it is to save it, the last thing you want to do is lose any of it through fraud. Unfortunately, financial fraud is on the rise, and billions of dollars are lost each year to unscrupulous corporations, businesses, hackers and scam artists. Some frauds have been around for years. Others are more recently concocted to take advantage of modern technology and the ease of access to information made possible by the Internet.
All of us have been learning about a corporate crime wave the likes of which we have never before witnessed. Revelations about the orgy of corporate greed and fraud in the late 1990s and early 2000s have sent shock waves throughout the U.S. economy and around the world. We will be feeling the ramifications of that loss far into the future.
Yet, there's a curious thing about this particular episode in corporate history. While everybody seems to agree that crimes have been committed, most people--including the victims--have no idea what the criminals really did. Burglary we understand. Bank robbery we understand. But financial fraud, which makes theft possible on a far grander scale, is still a mystery to most of us.
Today, with many once personal decisions now made by federal, state and local government, some of us do not exercise sufficient caution when faced with the many choices and opportunities of our modern world. Even well informed persons have occasional difficulty knowing the legitimate from the fraudulent. Unfortunately, even the vast resources of government cannot stop fraud, made worse by a false sense of security among citizens.
Given the hundreds of millions of dollars that businesses and consumers lose to swindlers each year, we are highlighting this practice to help you defend against an array of deceptions involving checks, credit cards, ATMs, the Internet, lenders, construction firms and healthcare organizations to name a few. We hope you'll never be the victim or even the target of financial fraud, however, to boost the odds in your favor, you should learn how to protect yourself and when to call for expert assistance.
We also want you to understand why you should take fraud prevention seriously. It's true that federal and state laws and industry practices limit dollar losses for crime victims in many cases. It's also true that businesses and law enforcement agencies devote tremendous resources to spotting or stopping financial fraud. And many government agencies, including the FDIC, require security procedures in the private sector to help protect customers and their personal information. Even so:
Not all crimes can be prevented, and some fraud victims (especially those not paying attention to their bank or credit card statements and not quickly reporting suspicious activity) will lose money;
Fraud victims may spend a considerable amount of time (sometimes years) filling out police reports, closing old accounts, straightening out their credit records or otherwise clearing their names; and
All consumers indirectly pay some of the cost of financial fraud in terms of higher prices for goods and services (from businesses that bear the primary responsibility for losses) and higher taxes (to pay for law enforcement).
Also remember that even if you successfully sidestepped a swindle, by taking the time to report a suspicious phone call, e-mail or other transaction you can alert the proper authorities and help keep other people from becoming victims.
Many financial frauds do not even take the form of a swindle, but rather are depicted by the perpetrators as legitimate charges. If you own a home and pay a mortgage, take another look at your mortgage closing statement. Look in the series of lines numbered in the 800s. That is where the mortgage company is supposed to list its charges. Many of those charges are supposedly for payments made by your lender or broker to other companies on your behalf. They may be for as little as $5.00 or they may range into the thousands depending on the type of charge. Now ask yourself…do you have any evidence that those payments supposedly made on your behalf were ever paid by your lender/broker? They probably did make a payment, but how much did they actually pay? They may have charged you for a “courier fee” of perhaps $50, but what did the courier (if any) actually charge the lender/broker? By law, they lender/broker cannot charge you more that they paid for those items. The common response from the consumer is that they may have been overcharged, but that it is not worth fighting over ten bucks. That is what the lender/broker wants you to say. You may only be out ten dollars, but if they add that false charge to every loan (the big companies make hundreds of thousands, if not millions of loans), the amount they profit from the improper charge adds up very quickly.
Ever wonder why health care costs continue to skyrocket? Fraud is one of the major culprits. Some HMOs and even individual doctors have been known to submit false claims to Medicare, and to participate in the practice known as “upcoding.” When the government or a company (such as an HMO) is ultimately paying for treatment, they require that the medical care provider submit a listing of the services performed and to enter in the appropriate code for each procedure. Upcoding occurs when the provider enters a code for a more extensive (and expensive) procedure that the one that was actually performed. For example, if a patient has a routine blood pressure check, and the provider instead fills in the code for a full 24-hour blood pressure monitoring.
Qui tam actions are another type of financial fraud. Commonly known as whistleblower actions, qui tam actions involve financial fraud performed on the government. These frauds could involve Medicare, construction, military procurement or any type of payment made by the government for services or products that are unnecessary (by not fault of the government), not provided or not produced in the quantity for which the government paid.
Financial fraud is everywhere and affects everyone, either through higher costs, decreased security or additional paperwork. If you suspect a financial fraud, it is very important that you call Fuller & Associates, P.A. now. Our toll-free number is 866-999-3855.