Writing a blog about fraud is as much a surprise to me as reading it is to you. Yes I was a fraudster – and a successful one at that. I don’t think that I’m a monster. In fact If you met me socially without knowing about my past, you would probably like me and find me quite entertaining. You might even think about introducing me to your unmarried sister. Being likeable is a key skill for fraudsters.
I’m no longer a bad guy – but I hesitate to say that I’m now a good guy. My Damascene conversion took place when my own parents were scammed and the trauma I had caused for others came back to bite me badly. Had this not happened, would I still be scamming people? Yes I would. The money was too good, the lifestyle too rich and the ease at which banks and individuals could be defrauded was easy beyond belief.
So having given up being a fraudster – why go the extra step in helping two ex-cops write a blog on the subject? I’m sure a psychologist would say that some of it is undoubtedly vanity; I want to boast about my previous success. I wouldn’t argue with that. I think there is also a big part of me that is ashamed of what I did and the hurt that I caused. This is the only way I can think of to try and give something back.
As fraudsters, we used to joke about how gullible victims were and how disinterested the banks were in stopping us. My two ex-cops and blogging partners have also made it perfectly clear that fraud is not, and never has been, a priority for the police. There are too many fraudsters and too few cops. Even if the number of cops tripled overnight, they could still not arrest their way out of this type of crime pandemic. This blog might go some way in preventing people (like my own parents) from becoming victims and give a clue to the banks of the holes they have to fill in their own processes and procedures. Only time will tell.
Already, the feedback from readers of the blog has been incredible. I never thought in a million years I would be on the ‘other side of the fence’ advising people how fraudsters operate and, as a result, how to avoid becoming one of their victims. Neither did I think that I would look forward to drinking copious cups of coffee with two ex-cops to download my insider knowledge into a blog.
Judging by the questions being asked via the website, It’s probably worth me spending a few minutes ‘setting the scene’ to allow you to understand a bit about me, and why I did what I did. Obviously, I’m not going to tell you anything particularly personal from which you could identify me. Neither am I going to incriminate myself. You may think that in some of the posts that follow, I’m really talking about myself – no comment!
I’m going to describe situations which were very similar to the one that resulted in my sitting across an interview table from the officer who persuaded me to write this. Why have I stopped doing what I did? At this point I’m just about to make those of you who believe in karma very happy. My own elderly parents were scammed.
While I had always tried to persuade myself that I was only defrauding faceless banks and businesses, the reality of what I did only kicked in when I saw the enormous emotional impact first-hand. Neither of them slept for weeks. They both became terribly depressed, and my Dad blamed himself for being so gullible. In some way I hope writing this will put right some of the damage I have caused, by warning others about how fraudsters think and operate.
I have given up my old ‘job’ and now work part-time in a legitimate job earning a pittance in comparison. I use the term ‘job’ because that is exactly what it was to me. I worked five days a week. My various ‘colleagues’ and I joined forces to achieve our common goals. We held meetings (usually in coffee shops) but never took minutes, and we all benefited from the profits if things went well. We ‘networked’ with others who had the same interests, and shared ‘good practice’ if we found that something worked particularly well.
I’m in my mid 40s and I have a degree from a reasonable university in a subject that was never going to deliver a huge salary. I’m from a ‘nice’ family and they have no clue about my real past. They think I was some sort of consultant who was employed on short-term but lucrative contracts, which if I’m generous is reasonably close to the truth. I still enjoy the nice things in life such as a Rolex, and a new car, and I live in a nice apartment in a good part of London. I don’t smoke but I enjoy wine, and I feel guilty about not exercising more than I do. I have lots of ‘acquaintances’ but comparatively few friends, and they are limited to those who have ‘jobs’ similar, or associated with the one I used to have.
My biggest failing is that I’m essentially lazy. Other than me, my entire family has a strong work ethic – they would be horrified if they knew how I had funded my lifestyle. If I’m honest, I was also selfish, and arrogant. I found it difficult to feel pity for people who I took advantage of because they really should have known better. I earned more in a day than most of my acquaintances earned in a month.
Of course I took risks – but they were calculated risks. I knew that (a) as long as I didn’t get too greedy, the chances of being caught were slim, and (b) even if what I did was reported to the police, there was little chance of my being caught. The police are too busy dealing with other ‘more important’ stuff. While the papers are full of sexy cyber-crime-stopping initiatives, the simple stuff in high street banks is as easy as ever, and barely noticed – or even cared much about.
Oh, and for the avoidance of any doubt – I’m not being paid to do this.