You have just found out you have become a victim of fraud. If you are like most of us, you are experiencing a wide-range of emotions all at once. First it is denial, then it is disbelief, then it is embarrassment, then anger, and then these emotions start all over again. Welcome to the world of the fraud victim. There are thousands of you who experience the same bewilderment every day.
One of the dangers of becoming a fraud victim is trying to act like it never happened which prevents us from doing the very things we need to do to protect ourselves; and prevents us from reporting the fraud to the authorities. This lack of action can worsen the damage.
Let me explain.
No one likes to believe they can be scammed. When it happens we are embarrassed and our ego and pride keep us from reporting it to the authorities. We think I should have known better, I am too smart for this to have happened to me, and besides it wasn’t that much money anyway. If people find out they will think less of me or ridicule me.
Instead we let our ego get in the way of taking the appropriate actions. While these are normal reactions and feelings, the truth is that inaction can put you at serious risk. No matter how much or how little education you have, or what level of experience you’ve attained in your field, nothing can keep you from being scammed; at least not the first time. Once scammed you become more aware of just how easy it was for you to be scammed, and you become more sensitive to the warning signs.
You may well ask, “How am I in danger by not reporting the scam?”
You may have exposed yourself to Identity Theft and not even be aware of it. By not filing a fraud report and ID Theft report you are making it more difficult to reverse all the consequences of identity theft.
Additionally, depending on the role you played in the scam, you may be at risk of arrest. In the United States the unwitting promoter (Association-in-fact Enterprises) of a scam may be considered as guilty as the scammers themselves.
Being a promoter means you promoted the scam by creating a web site about the offer, referred others to the offer either by ones or twos, through a huge referral base, touted the offer on numerous forums with a sign-up link in your signature line, claim you can get things fixed, have direct contact with the company, or recommended the offer by any other means of advertising on or offline.
Even though you did not know it was a scam, you can still be charged. Worse yet, everyone whom you encouraged to sign-up can file a civil suit against you as well as having local criminal charges filed against you. This means both civil and criminal charges can be filed against you in more than one state, and you could face state and federal charges as well under the State and Federal RICO statutes. All because you got excited about an offer, believed it was real, and ended up promoting a scam.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, nor can you hide behind the word of those who convinced you the offer was good. You are required to do your own due diligence before investing, but especially before urging others to participate. In the US there are licensing requirements for those who recommend investments and brokering without a license can count against you as well, particularly if the investment encourages income tax evasion.
I have a very dear friend who joined a program. Before joining he spoke with the company’s legal counsel, as well as others in the program. He was convinced, based on the information provided by the their legal counsel, that the company was legitimate. Then, as many others did, he joined the program and recruited others to follow his example. He was promoted to a Regional Manager, and had people from 3 states under him. Things were going well.
Then the bottom fell out of the program, and federal charges were filed against the perpetrators of the fraud, as well as him. By willingly cooperating with the Feds by providing copies of the documents given to him by the company’s legal counsel, plus all email correspondence and attachments; the US Attorney agreed to a plea bargain.
He was able to avoid serving his time in a federal prison but was convicted of a felony, placed on house arrest and then probation. He was lucky, and he will tell you so. He will have a felony conviction on his record for life. He lost all his insurance licenses, as well as his insurance business he had worked years to develop.
What did he do wrong to end up in this situation? He did not seek outside assistance or information about the company and their program. He accepted the company’s legal counsel statements the company was legitimate as his basis for going ahead and joining the program. After all he was an attorney, and as an attorney he should know, right? You should NEVER rely solely on people inside the organization, or other promoters of the program, assurances or word. YOU must do your own due diligence, asking others not in the program for their opinion, and do your own research. There are countless forums from which you can obtain valuable information before making a decision, as well as resources here on this website. By relying on those inside the program, you are basically having the fox guard the henhouse. Good for the fox, bad for the chickens. He just accepted the person he was talking with was a licensed and accredited attorney. He did not check him out with the state Bar Association to confirm he graduated from an accredited law school, he was licensed to practice law, and was in good standing with the state Bar Association. With all the diploma mills today you can obtain any kind of degree, and become anyone you want to be. In summary, you must do your due diligence. If you are unsure what is, or how to do basic due diligence, read our Due Diligence article.
IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!
So what can you do to avoid the consequences of promoting an illegitimate scheme? First, understand that you are considered the middleman in a fraud and as an unwitting participant there are steps you can take to mitigate your circumstances.
You need qualified help and we recommend Fraud Aid, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit specifically formed to assist victims of fraud regardless of their position within the fraud network. They have the resources and qualified counselors to assist you. You can reach a Fraud Victim Advocate by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or by going to their web site, www.fraudaid.com.
You need help, and you need help from someone who has been there, knows what to do, but more importantly, who knows what not to do.