The answer is yes according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). And, worse yet, it is expected to continue in the near future as the rescession takes its toll on jobs and wages.
The ACFE is the world's largest anti-fraud organization, dedicated to reducing business fraud. In their 2008 Report to the Nation, they found that nearly a trillion dollars of business annual revenues were siphoned off due to fraud. Now, their newest report indicates the level of business fraud is rising.
Rising faster than the Wall Street churning fraud of the late 80-early-1990's, that spawned Glenn Frey's hit song "I've Got Mine", the fraud investigators at ACFE said the expect fraud to continue to increase during the next 12 months too.
Their latest report is based on a survey of fraud investigators, who reported an increase in fraudulent activities in the last year over past years. The report, "Occupational
Fraud: A Study of the Impact of an Economic Recession", blames the increase on "intense financial pressures during the economic crisis." There mere existence of an opportunity for fraud to occur was not enough, according to ACFE.
As the ACFE President said, "Desperate people do desperate things."
These are tough times and they're right. The fear of personal disaster can cause many otherwise honest merchants and business people to consider and do things that might not occur in a normal economy. The result for you? Be more careful than ever. After all, the only thing that makes Bernie Madoff unusual nowadays, may be the sheer size of his fraud. The more ordinary acts of fraud may be happening all around you in ordinary small ways.
A fourth of the fraud discovered in the ACFE's 2008 Report was just plain overbilling. That could be as simple as bogus charge card billing or phone bill statement in small amounts of $15 or $20 which adds up to millions of dollars because many people don't look over their charge card bills carefully or just don't complain long enough or loud enough about the suspicious small charge on their account.
Don't waste your money. If you see a charge you didn't authorize on your account statement, call and demand that it be removed and don't take "no" for an answer. Then, report it to your state Attorney General's Consumer Fraud department and demand that they investigate.
Crooks will always be crooks, but these hard times are causing many near-crooks to turn the corner, costing consumers millions of their hard earned dollars.
Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves since 1978.