I’m always astounded by how much fraud we simply let slide in our everyday life. I think a lot of people assume that if there was fraud going on in front of them, they’d call it out. But then, those same people probably picture fraud as some sort of money laundering scheme taking place right before their eyes, with money changing hands between big, intimidating men who chuckle and wink to one another.
Even at that, I suspect a lot more people would keep quiet than you’d expect. Who wants to mess with big, intimidating guys with lots of money? Not me.
The thing is, most of us are never going to see such overt, cartoonish fraud taking place. Those cases are usually isolated in areas that are not frequented by most of us. I also don’t think they actually take place like that anywhere but in gangster movies.
Real fraud, though, happens all the time. It takes place on a big level on Wall Street regularly. There are rich people in offices dreaming up fraud schemes that are just on the right side of the law. No one stops them. Even when they cross that line into illegality, it’s rare someone steps up and fights them on it. It’s rarer still the government steps in on its own.
Even more amazing, most of us deal with fraud on a regular basis and do nothing about it. Think of the spam emails you receive, the robocalls that are clear scams. It’s rarer these days, but many of us also receive clear bank and mail fraud scams. What do we all do when we encounter these things? We delete the email, we hang up the phone and block the number, we tear up the letter and throw it in the trash. In short, we make sure we’re protected from the fraud, but we leave everyone else exposed.
These schemes wouldn’t exist if no one ever lost money to them. At heart, we all know that, but when we come across these scams, we don’t do anything. Why is that? It would be quite easy to get hold of some local government official and complain. We could notify lawyers or look up what office of the federal government deals with these issues. We could talk to journalists or write letters to the editor in local papers. There’s a great deal we could do, but we don’t do it.
And since we don’t do it, for no other reason than disinterest and laziness, as far as I can tell, how can any of us be certain we’d do anything if we saw those big tough guys winking and passing money around? After all, those guys are still out there, at the end of the phone line or writing up those emails and letters. We just don’t see them in person. But seen or not, I don’t think we actually care enough.
Which is why there’s still so much fraud in our system, and it’s doomed to stay there forever.