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July 22, 2021

Fraud through the roof during recession

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

About four-fifths of the way into Boogie Nights, Dirk Diggler officially bottoms out.

Derailed by a nasty coke habit, the former (fictional) porn star tries to rip off a drug dealer and ends up getting chased down the street by that same junkie, who’s now wielding a shotgun.

It’s at this moment you think back to the start of the movie, when Marky Mark was just a good-natured kid from the L.A. ‘burbs with a larger-than-normal appendage. But when he snorted up all his money, he had to turn to crime as a matter of necessity. It was the only place he could go.

What does this arbitrary late-90s movie reference have to do with anything? Fair question. The answer is, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between Diggler and the people caught up with this story, an – until now – not yet reported black cloud hanging in complement to the recession’s misery.

A study from the U.K. revealed this week that fraud has shot to its highest level in 21 years as desperate people apparently do more for cash than we’d like to think.

While bills pile up, many now find themselves – according to The Mirror – more likely to fall for schemes or cons they “should know are too good to be true.”

Investors have been ripped-off of about $580 million already in the first half of 2009 and mortgage and property scams appear to have skyrocketed in frequency.

“Hard times mean more people are driven to fraud by personal pressures,” says a U.K. official. “And more investors are sucked into schemes they should know are really too good to be true.”

It might not shock you to hear inside job fraud is on the up-and-up, too. Just counting cases brought to court, the study alleges managers in the U.K. swiped about $270 million from their companies, while employees took $44 million in the first six months of the year alone.

And if you recall, the spikes in fraud lately aren’t centralized to the corporate world, either. ATM scams in Ontario, for example, are a huge problem right now. I can count more than 10 people I know personally who have had their chequing accounts raided in the past two months.

It may be unfair to pin all this mess on the shattered economy, but it sure seems like it’s the probable candidate, doesn’t it?

It’s a sad truth, really, if the link can ever be made conclusively. Layoffs suck, yeah, and no one likes to hear families are getting booted from their homes, sure. But – legitimate excuse or not – if this whole downturn is actually turning good people bad, well, that has to be one of the top stories of the recession.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...