Jeffrey Robinson, recognised expert on money laundering, organized crime and fraud, was interviewed on how can individuals, as well as companies, avoid being the victims of fraud:
Robinson, known as “the world’s leading financial crime author”, has written 27 books, including six works of fiction, and also several screenplays. He started out exploring money-laundering in The Laundrymen, which naturally brought him into the world of fraud.
“I’m a storyteller, I like great stories,” said Robinson. “And the money-laundering stories were fantastic. And fraud became an offshoot of that. I was interested in how money was moved. And if you look at the way criminals deal with money, you frequently see other crimes, because they commit crimes against themselves. They’re completely untrustworthy! That’s why the drug trafficker doesn’t want cash, because his best friend will steal it from him!”
He said when it comes to fraud, the problem is simple – fraudsters go where the money is, namely financial institutions and their customers.
“And the fraudsters are better organised than the good guys, and in many instances better funded than the good guys,” he said.
These are cases of personal fraud. There is also corporate fraud, which is normally perpetrated by insiders, and is oftentimes undetected for up to two years.
“Insiders in corporate fraud steal from the company because they feel entitled, because the company has done them wrong, or because they feel the company owes them,” said Robinson.
To avoid personal fraud, a person just has to step back for a minute and ask, “Why me?”
“Step back and look at it carefully, and say I’m not going to send you any money until I find out why I won this or why you need me,” said Robinson. “If somebody needs your bank account, it’s fraud. There is just no legitimate reason for doing so. If you didn’t buy a ticket, you wouldn’t win the lottery. It’s common sense.”
If you get a suspicious e-mail or phone call, just get on to Google and check what had been said or written about it.
“If somebody wants to put you in a very good deal but you have to say yes in the next 20 seconds, say no,” he added. “If it’s a really good deal, it’ll come around again. If it’s fraud, you just saved yourself a lot of grief.”
For corporate fraud, one of the ways to detect it is with a whistle-blower programme. Compared to audits, whistleblower programmes detect fraud four times more effectively, said Robinson.
“A good whistle-blower programme doesn’t turn every employee into the KGB,” he explained. “The trick is to look for anomalies, look for things that shouldn’t be there, or that aren’t there that should be. Or things that just don’t make sense.
“How does this guy who earns the same salary as you afford a summer home in Florida and a ski lodge in Switzerland? It doesn’t make sense. So maybe his wife inherited it from a rich uncle. But if you say something, at least they will look into it.”
Statistics show that one in nine Americans will lose money to fraud. The sad part, said Robinson, is that most of the fraudsters will never be arrested. And a majority of victims will not report the fraud because they are embarrassed. Companies won’t report because they don’t want the publicity.
Movies and TV have made fraudsters into glamorous thieves, and that could not be further from the truth.
RHB Banking Group has come out with a booklet, Fraud Awareness, to serve as a guide against fraud. It covers topics ranging from identity theft, skimming, cheque fraud, ponzi schemes, phishing and other methods employed by fraudsters to fool the unsuspecting. It also offers preventive measures on how to behave at the ATM machine, and what to do and what not to do in an online transaction. The booklet is available at all RHB branches.
Contact us if you would like to engage Jeffrey on insights on financial crime.