Fraud Victims Vulnerable to Severe Stress, Anxiety and Depression

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation issued a new research report, Non-Traditional Costs of Financial Fraud, which found that nearly two thirds of self-reported financial fraud victims experienced at least one non-financial cost of fraud to a serious degree—including severe stress, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and depression. While the Stanford Financial Fraud Research Center estimates that $50 billion is lost to financial fraud every year, the FINRA Foundation’s innovative research examines the broader psychological and emotional impact of financial fraud.

“Fraud’s effects linger and cause distress well after the scam is over. For the first time, we have data on the deep toll that fraud exerts on its victims, and the results are sobering. This new research underscores the importance of the FINRA Foundation’s work with an array of national, state and local partners to help Americans avoid fraud, and assist consumers who have been defrauded,” said FINRA Foundation President Gerri Walsh.

The research report found that:

  • nearly two thirds (65 percent) reported experiencing at least one type of non-financial cost to a serious degree; and
  • most commonly cited non-financial costs of fraud are severe stress (50 percent), anxiety (44 percent), difficulty sleeping (38 percent) and depression (35 percent).
  •  Beyond the psychological and emotional costs, nearly half of fraud victims reported incurring indirect financial costs associated with the fraud, such as late fees, legal fees and bounced checks. Twenty-nine percent of respondents reported incurring more than $1,000 in indirect costs, and 9 percent declared bankruptcy as a result of the fraud.

Additionally, nearly half of victims blame themselves for the fraud—an indication of the far-reaching effects of financial fraud on the lives of its victims.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to list a few suggestions to protect themselves from financial fraud.
  • Explain how FINRA can assist consumers who have been the victims of financial fraud.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are a few indirect financial costs associated with funds?
  2. Why nearly half of victims blame themselves for being victims of financial fraud?
  3. How and where should you report financial fraud?

Fighting Against Medicare Fraud and Abuse

Don’t Stand by…..Speak Up!

Have you ever witnessed something that you knew was wrong and wondered if you should report it?  Did you want to say something, but didn’t because you were afraid of negative consequences?  Don’t be afraid, because there are federal laws to protect you.   Indeed, as a bystander, you can play an essential role in preventing violence, wrongdoings, and fraud.

Reporting information or activity that you suspect is illegal, dishonest, or false is your right.  Reportable violations could be abuse of authority, gross waste of funds, a specific danger to public health or safety, or gross mismanagement.

Social Security’s programs were originally created to serve the American public, and 80 years later they still provide critical support to people of all ages.  As good stewards of the tax dollars, Social Security Administration designs its systems to protect against fraud, waste, and abuse.  However, its systems can’t catch everything.  And that’s where you can help.  Report wrongful acts and protect lives as well as taxpayers’ dollars.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to comment on the statement: “Nearly 70 percent of consumers believe the Medicare program would not go broke if fraud and abuse were eliminated.”
  • What would YOU do if you suspected fraud or other wrongdoings, including wasting taxpayers’ dollars?

Discussion Questions

  1. Social Security Administration (SSA) will pay about $887 billion in Social Security benefits to almost 60 million individuals in 2015. What specific tools the SSA uses to fight fraud and protect taxpayers’ dollars.
  2. How does the SSA investigate people who provide false, incomplete, or inaccurate information to defraud the government?

Defrauding Investors

On May 28, 2015, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced fraud charges against William Quigley.  He is accused of creating a scheme to steal from investors and from a brokerage firm where he worked as the director of compliance.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that was involved in a scheme to solicit investors to buy stock in well-known companies or supposed start-ups on the verge of going public.  The SEC alleges that:

  • The securities were never purchased for the investors.
  • Quigley wired the money out of the country or he withdrew it from ATM’s near his home.
  • he had accomplices, two brothers who live in the Philippines.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students prepare a position paper on how to protect themselves from investment fraud.
  • Have students go to the Securities and Exchange Commission website (sec.gov) to learn how SEC protects investors and maintains fair, orderly and efficient markets.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can federal, state, and local governmental agencies protect investors from investment fraud?
  2. What punishment should be meted out to investment fraudsters?

Tax Scams

Phone calls from criminals impersonating an Internal Revenue Service agent are the most common and serious tax scams reported by the IRS. Taxpayers should be aware the IRS never calls demanding payment or to ask for a credit card; the agency will first make contact by mail.

Phishing involves a taxpayer receiving an unsolicited email trying to obtain financial or personal information.  These phony emails often look very official with an IRS logo.  Tax-related identity theft occurs when a stolen a Social Security number is used to file a tax return for a refund.  Fraudulent tax preparation services prey on innocent taxpayers with promises of large refunds.  Be sure to investigate the credentials of the tax preparer and make sure the preparer will be available after April 15.  Avoid tax preparers who base their fees on a percentage of the refund or promise a large refund.

Other common tax scams include inflated refund claims, fake charities, filing false documents to hide income, abusive tax shelters, falsifying income to claim tax credits, and excessive claims for fuel tax credits.

For additional information on tax scams, click here:

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk with others to obtain information about actions taken to file their taxes.
  • Have students prepare a list of warning signs of tax scams.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What attitudes and behaviors can result in a person being a victim of a tax scam?
  2. What actions can taxpayers take to avoid being a victim of a tax scam?

Managing someone else’s money

Millions of people serve as fiduciaries, someone who manages money or property for another person who is unable to do so. This responsibility provides caring assistance while also protecting the person from potential scams and fraud.  Many older Americans experience declining capacity to handle finances, which can make them vulnerable.   The main responsibilities of a fiduciary are to: (1) act in the person’s best interest, (2) manage money and property carefully, (3) keep money and property separate from own, and (4) maintain good records.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published four guides to help financial caregivers, particularly those who handle the finances of older Americans.  These guides are designed for those who serve as agents with power of attorney, a court-appointed guardian, a trustee or as a government fiduciary, such as a Social Security payee.

The guides will assist financial caregivers as they: (1) plan and implement their duties, (2) attempt to avoid scams and financial exploitation, and what to do if the person is a victim, and (3) require additional information; the guides tell where to go for help.

For additional information on a managing someone else’s money, go to:

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/managing-someone-elses-money

http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201306_cfpb_msoa-participant-guide.pdf

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to someone who manages money on behalf of someone else.  Obtain information about the activities and concerns they have encountered.
  • Prepare a list of actions that might be taken to avoid scams targeted at older consumers and other vulnerable audiences.

Discussion Questions   

  1. What are situations that might require a person to manage the money of another person?
  2. What are examples of frauds and scams aimed at older consumers?
  3. How might a person avoid frauds and scams?

Bogus $10,000 Credit Line

In May 2014, the Federal Trade Commission mailed checks totaling over $3.7 million to over 26,000 consumers whose bank accounts were debited without their consent by EDebitPay LLC.  The company deceptively offered a $10,000 credit line that was really a membership to a website where consumers could buy goods.

In 2011, a federal district court ordered the company to pay more than $3.7 million after finding that the defendants were in contempt of court for violating a 2008 court order by selling a bogus “$10,000 credit line”, and a “no cost” prepaid debit card with hidden fees, to consumers who were unemployed or had poor credit.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them.

For additional information on fraudulent business practices, go to

http://www.ftc.gov

Discussion Questions

1.  How do you discover that someone has debited your bank accounts?

2.  What steps can you take to prevent such fraudulent business practices?

Teaching Suggestions

Ask students what actions might they take to ensure that their credit cards and other financial information are secure.

Ask students to compile a list of resources a person can use to report such fraudulent business practices, and check out a company’s reputation before signing a contract.