Monday, August 24, 2009

Invest to combat fraud

I sent this as a letter to the editor of the Derrick which ran August 21, 2009. Coincidentally, on the page before, a story ran about a local business fraud investigation.

In these tough economic times, scams and white collar crime are reportedly on the rise. Small towns and areas like Venango County are particularly vulnerable as they know there are few (perhaps no) trained resources in the police departments and throughout the justice system that can be dedicated to investigating such crimes.
Recently a friend's debit/credit card information was stolen and used to attempt to purchase items. Her credit card provider caught it. She had a pretty good idea how the information was stolen and a lead that it was device fraud, but local law enforcement could not help and referred her to the FTC website. Perhaps they simply didn't know what to do. They are not trained for it and with other seemingly more pressing crimes... But if it was your credit card and you felt there was a local tie, you would want someone locally to take an interest. The bank protected her, but who's protecting the bank?
As a community, we want to be welcoming to investment and potential investors. And sometimes they just won't be able to provide the results they thought they could. But sometimes, they never intended to provide what was promised. When it appears that is what has happened, when there is evidence that has happened - but it is not investigated because there simply aren't enough resources to investigate - the community is at risk.
This is a very tough issue for communities like ours because our resources are stretched thin. In difficult economic times, scams and white collar crime rise. We all pay for it somehow.
So, what do we do? A few years ago, Greeley Colorado faced this issue. Through fundraising efforts, the County Commissioners raised money to hire investigators. Funds came in from banks, businesses and victims.
It's a good investment. It makes the community a safer place to do business.
Most important, if you feel you have been a victim of fraud – a scam – a white collar crime – report it to law enforcement, your magistrate, or the District Attorney. If you don't report it, they can't help and will never know the depth of the problem. Fraud is not a civil matter. It is criminal.
Linda Henderson, Franklin

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