By Steve Baker, International Investigations Specialist,
Better Business Bureau of Chicago, Omaha, Dallas, Oakland, and St. Louis
Every day we and our friends and neighbors are robbed over the phone or through emails and the Internet. Victims almost never meet the fraudsters in person. Why does this continue and what can be done? Although consumer education is useful, most of these thieves are only going to stop if they believe there is a real risk of going to jail – and maybe not even then.
There are, of course, hard-working law enforcers who pursue cases, but most police are used to situations where the witnesses, victims, and perpetrators are all in their jurisdictions. Most look for perpetrators by following the money. When law enforcers find trails that lead outside the US, many either give up or pass the information along to federal agencies, which face similar difficulties. Even when suspects are identified, extradition is often something prosecutors are not familiar with, and it can take months or years to bring someone back to the U.S. Fraudsters have also learned to use “mules,” such as romance fraud victims, to receive the money and send it on to them. Thus many, perhaps most, prosecutions, are of these intermediaries who have gone beyond unwitting assistance to providing active help in committing crimes.
It is hard to convince criminal enforcers to take action unless there are “guns, drugs, or blood.”
The International Mass Marketing Fraud Working Group is one of the few groups that regularly meets to share information and work together. Originally organized by the Justice Department, it includes law enforcers from the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Spain, and Nigeria, with other countries taking part periodically. It fills a real need because many fraud schemes operate worldwide, making coordination and information sharing critical.
Here are some other steps I believe are needed:
Although consumer education is useful, most of these thieves are only going to stop if they believe there is a real risk of going to jail – and maybe not even then."
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