Top Ten Criminal Frauds

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There are some people who refuse to make an honest day’s living. Instead, they become scammers and fraudulently cheat other people of their hard-earned money. The best way to protect yourself against these frauds is to understand their methods and what they’re after. Below are the top ten most common or infamous frauds in recent history, although there are several other kinds of fraud out there, including pharmacy fraud and for-profit school scams.

1) Landlord Scam

This fraud is new and is currently trending. The victim sees an advertisement for a vacant apartment. The victim meets with the landlord, pays the rent, and begins moving in. A few days later, a realtor arrives to show off the property that the victim purportedly rented out. The victim calls the landlord’s phone, but nobody answers. A subsequent investigation reveals that the “landlord” never owned the property and the property is in fact in foreclosure

2) Grandparent Scam

This one is not only criminal, it’s downright evil. The scammer researches everything about you online, and then calls your grandparents. The scammer pretends to be you and tells grandma or grandpa that you’re in trouble. You’re in debt, or you’ve been apprehended by Mexican police, and you’re too ashamed to tell anyone else. So, Grandpa, would you please send $5,000 to a Spanish account and not tell anybody this ever happened?

3) Religious Frauds

Scammers prove that nothing is sacred to them. Most churches do good work and accept whatever donation is given to them. Religious scammers promise to exchange money for God’s favor. Their favorite targets are sick patients with fatal illnesses and people with mountains of debt. The best part is that churches are exempt from taxes, so not only will religious scammers steal money from cancer patients, the IRS will give these scammers a tax break for it!

4) Ponzi Scheme

This fraud is the model of “get rich quick” schemes. Investors send their money to Ponzi (who was in fact a real guy) with promises that Ponzi would invest their money. Instead, Ponzi placed the money into various bank accounts for Ponzi’s own use. If an investor ever asked for his money, Ponzi would pay the investor with money obtained from another investor. Ponzi was discovered, but his legacy lived on in Bernie Madoff, who used the same scheme a few decades later.

5) Modeling Scams

The modeling scams aim to lure young women into sex slavery.  The scammers call young women and claim to represent multi-million dollar companies or are a part of a reputable small business or agency. After months of applications and phone interviews, the representative offers to fly the young women to foreign countries to do some modeling. The process seems real, unless these young women call the company and discover the “representative” doesn’t work for the company.

6) Nigerian Prince Phishing 

The concept was simple: people would get e-mail asking for several thousand dollars. In exchange, a “Nigerian prince” would donate his fortune to the victim. A Google search for Nigeria shows that Nigeria models its government on the United States. That means Nigeria has presidents, senators, and judges, but it doesn’t have royalty. 

7) Charitable Organization Frauds

If an organization claims to help cancer patients and hires an entire staff to do it, it must be the real deal right? Not really. If the organization claims to send medication to patients, but only sends tissue paper, it’s a fraud. If the organization claims to drive patients to chemotherapy, but no such program exists, then the organization is a fraud. Like church frauds, charitable frauds receive a tax break for their “good work.” The important point is always do your research, no matter how legitimate they may sound or appear.

8) Trust Abuse

Trusts are commonly used tools for estate planning. However, trusts only work if the trustee is competent and loyal. If the trustee decides to spend the money on himself or “borrow” the money and return it when it’s all gone, the trustee has abused his position. If trustees betray the trust bestowed upon them, they are liable to the beneficiaries who were entitled to the trust.

9) Anti-Scam Fraud

This fraud is one of the most deceptive ones. The scammer pretends to be a police officer or bank and calls the victim to alert them that their identity has been compromised. The scammer offers to help the victim if the victim gives the “officer” or “bank representative” her credit card information.  

10) Subprime Mortgage Crisis

Anonymous scammers are scary. But what happens when the fraud comes from well-known financial institutions? Recognized banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America gave loans with low interest rates to would-be homebuyers. These loans were quickly bundled together with other loans and then sold to the highest bidder for a quick profit. To ensure that the loans were sold quickly, the mortgage papers were often forged or fraudulently signed. The sheer scale of this enterprise pulled the world economy into a recession.  

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Last Modified: 03-28-2016 01:27 PM PDT

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