Fraud​—A Global Problem

CHARISMATIC and soft-spoken, Wayne seemed to be exactly what Karen was looking for in a husband. “He was everything I had ever prayed and hoped for,” said Karen. “Everyone who saw us thought we were just perfect together. He made out that he idolised the ground I walked on.”

There was a problem, however. Wayne told Karen that he was third in charge of the Australian Secret Intelligence Organization. He wanted to resign, but they would not permit that. He knew too much. They would kill him! Together the couple worked out a plan. They would marry, pool their assets, leave Australia, and flee to Canada. Karen sold her home along with everything she owned and entrusted the money to Wayne.

The wedding took place as planned. Wayne fled the country, but Karen was left behind, abandoned, with less than six dollars in the bank. She soon learned that she had been caught in a web of elaborate lies woven for the sole purpose of defrauding her. Like an actor, Wayne had assumed a role​—a role tailor-made to appeal to her. His background, his interests, his personality, and his professed love for her were fabrications to win her trust​—a trust that cost her more than $200,000. A police officer stated: “She’s been emotionally raped. You put the money aside​—it’s just incredible how much hurt can be done to a person.”

“My emotions are all over the place,” said Karen. “The man he portrayed himself to be wasn’t real.”

Karen is but one of the countless victims of fraud worldwide. It is not known how much money is defrauded from others, though the figure is estimated to be hundreds of billions of dollars and is increasing each year. Besides financial loss, victims like Karen suffer great emotional pain in knowing that someone​—often someone they trusted—​took advantage of them.

 Prevention Is the Best Policy

Fraud is defined as “a scheme or knowing deception to obtain money by means of false pretenses, representations, or promises.” Sadly, most fraud goes unpunished because it is often difficult to prove that deliberate deception has actually taken place. Further, many swindlers understand and exploit legal loopholes​—they know how to defraud people in ways that are difficult or impossible to prosecute. Moreover, to bring a criminal case against a swindler takes considerable time and money. Usually the ones who are convicted of their crimes are those who have stolen millions of dollars or who have done something shocking enough to merit widespread attention. Even when a swindler is caught and punished, probably he or she will have already spent or hidden the swindled money. Consequently, victims seldom receive compensation for the money they have lost.

In short, if you are swindled, you will likely have little or no recourse. Far better it is to avoid becoming a victim than to try to figure out how to get your money back after you have become one. A wise man wrote long ago: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3) The next article will explain ways in which you can protect yourself from fraud.