Nebraska AG’s Office says financial fraud could be 24 times larger than reported

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Blaming victims of financial fraud is providing cover for criminals, according to a nationwide study.

The AARP Fraud Watch Network is calling for an immediate change in how these crimes are discussed, saying victims don’t want to come forward despite losing massive amounts of money.

AARP teamed up with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation for the study, which found that most fraud victims are already beating themselves up for believing the criminal that conned them.

Experts say it’s an emotional experience both during the scam pitch and in the aftermath. Almost a third of victims blame themselves according to FINRA.

“The outsiders, the family members, others in the community, they unintentionally exacerbate this sense of shame and blame through the words that we use,” said Christine Kieffer, FINRA Foundation Senior Director. “That inhibits people’s coming forward. For instance, we may say ‘I can’t believe you fell for that’ or even in prevention messages, we may say ‘don’t be fooled’, ‘don’t be duped’. And in doing so, we are putting that verb and that action on the target, and ultimately the victim, and not on the perpetrator.”

The organizations recommend that law enforcement, banks and media outlets avoid using language that can be perceived as blaming victims.

They say it downplays the seriousness of these crimes, and makes it difficult to tell how big the problem actually is.

FINRA says one of the most important impacts that changing the language will accomplish is more reports.

“With more reporting comes better data, more likely law enforcement action, more likely policy-maker action and even actually better supports within the family,” Kieffer said. “You’re more likely to see family relationships that are maintained and sustained. Sometimes in the fraud experience that we currently see, there’s a lot of strain and tension in the family.”

And with more reports, law enforcement can take action.

Officers say scammers want to work as fast as possible, so you don’t think about it.

“They want to capture that emotional aspect,” Lincoln Police Department Captain Todd Kocian. “They want to get that emotional connection with you really fast, and they want you to make those really fast, snap decisions without really thinking things through.”

Amy Nofziger with the AARP Fraud Watch Network told Nebraska News Connection that “instead of using words like ‘duped’ or ‘fell for it,’ we need to put the blame on the criminal. Money was stolen from that person. They were a victim of this crime.”

The Federal Trade Commission says financial fraud cost Americans nearly $6 billion last year.

We’re told it could be as much as 24 times larger than what’s currently being reported.

The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office stresses that the real cost is most likely much higher because so many victims are too ashamed to admit what happened to them.

That means financial fraud could actually be costing Americans well over $100 billion a year.

Authorities say it is important to slow down before you act. Call your bank before you transfer funds to see if they have similar reports.

And FINRA says the best thing to do is talk to someone you know. When you talk through the event, you can see some of the red flags objectively as someone listens.

Your phone call could prevent this from happening to your neighbor, or someone else in your family.

Categories: Money, Nebraska News, News, Top Stories