Goldhawk Fights Back: Government Not Tough Enough on Fraud
This is a weekly column by Dale Goldhawk, Canada’s best-known consumer advocate. A journalist, author and broadcaster, Dale hosts Goldhawk Fights Back For You, on AM 740 or at AM740 ZoomerRadio, Monday through Friday from 11 am to 1 pm, in the eastern time zone. Visit his website at www.goldhawk.com.
Fraud is everywhere today; stealing money by trickery is much more common than stealing by force. The reason is that laws against fraud often go unenforced; the crime goes uninvestigated or probed poorly; and application of penalties for fraud have been about as effective as a thirty second lecture on Dworkin morality.
Things they are a-changing, as we see in the tougher sentences being given the top level con artists like Bernie Madoff and even a few Canadian miscreants. But they are not changing fast enough for the massive majority of victims of fraud across Canada.
While it is encouraging to hear the federal government brag about stiffer sentences for white-collar criminals, it is discouraging to hear the prosecutors talk only about headline-grabbing frauds like Ponzi schemes. A Ponzi scheme is a long-term fraud in which the conman takes in relatively large amounts of investment money, pays high interest rates to first investors and keeps progressively larger amounts of income until the last investors are left penniless.
I have seen many Ponzi schemes in my four decades of fighting fraud across Canada but much more often I see quick buck scams.
I see results of the door-to-door pitchmen who offer everything from driveway repair to tree pruning. In many cases, these service calls end up costing householders thousands in work never done or done so badly, the house becomes a danger zone.
I see many online frauds. You have won the lottery. You have been left a bequest. You are a test shopper… Just send us money for taxes, licenses, expenses and we’ll ship you the big bucks. Sure they will. You will never see dollar one.
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has promised legislation this fall to impose mandatory minimum jail terms, longer sentences and confiscation of assets. He might also change the practice that white-collar criminals get parole after serving one-sixth of their sentence.
We need a lot more than promises like this that strike only at the highest level of fraud and a small number of victims. I say that we need to give police, and especially the RCMP, many more resources to fight all fraud down to the lowest level — the level that victimizes many more Canadians. Current resources are laughable.
We need to clear the way so cops can investigate fraud the way they do bank robbery, without going through so many hoops they lose interest and valuable time in probing each complaint of fraud.
We need aggressive prosecution of every case of fraud, including but not limited to big frauds involving the financial industry.
We need self-regulating bodies to step up and get rid of anyone in their ranks who commits fraud and press for prosecution under criminal laws.
We need joint task forces or other ways of making all police forces and courts proficient in dealing with fraud investigations and prosecutions.
We need licensing and surveillance of sales people, not only those in the financial industry but those who go door to door and run web sites that sell products and services.
It has been recommended that Canada have a national database of licensed financial advisers. We also need an international as well as national database of scam artists and their million and one tricks. Most become known because they are so pervasive and successful.
We also need rapid and thorough education of the public so each of us can go online or to the telephone to find out from police and government if we are being duped by that door-to-door sales person or email or even the store clerk trying to steal our identities.
People like Earl Jones can allegedly steal millions through trickery but fraud, on the whole, steals billions of dollars from Canadians every year and, up until recently, nobody in power has shown much interest. Let’s not hope for a change. Let’s make them change. Let’s get tough across the whole con game board.
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ stephanie phillips
READ OTHER COLUMNS BY DALE GOLDHAWK
Gemini award nominee, journalist and broadcaster, Dale Goldhawk has earned Canada’s trust by his four decades of work exposing fraud and greed in the marketplace. To read more of his articles, go to www.Goldhawk.com (now part of the ZoomerMedia family of websites).
Don’t miss Goldhawk Fights Back , on the New AM740 Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.