Saturday, July 16, 2005

Fraud Allegations on Weapon Purchases in Iraq

There are a lot of stories about fraud coming out of Iraq these days. The latest is that the Iraqi military has been sold about 300 million dollars worth of substandard military equipment at inflated prices. It is being alleged that buyers for the Iraqi Defense Ministry were receiving kickbacks from vendors and have since been fired. There are also sources that say that the 300 million dollar amount is only what has been uncovered so far.

Allegations are that this flourished under American supervision prior to the elections in Iraq. Several former members of the Defense Ministry are under investigation. Iraqi Defense Minister, Saadoun al Duleimi, who isn't implicated in this scandal and is part of the new government stated that he sees this as an "incubator for terrorist activity." He also said that this defective equipment has jeopardized the lives of the Iraqi military, who face combat on a daily basis.

A lot of these deals were brokered by Ziad Tareq Cattan, a former Iraq exile, who after being hired as a district councilman was promoted rapidly to chief weapons buyer. In one allegation, he brokered a helicopter deal where 100 million was paid up front and when the helicopters were inspected, they were found to be old and deemed unusable. The 100 million was never returned. In another deal cited, Cattan bought a shipment of Heckler and Koch MP5 submachineguns for $3500.00 apeice that turned out to be Egyptian copies worth about $200.00 apeice. There are allegations that Cattan was routinely charging a 10 percent finder's fee for any deal he brokered. Whether these charges are true, or not remains to be proven.

Our young men and women in Iraq are being put in constant danger by a enemy that is often hard to identify. This war of terror is also claiming many innocent victims. Allegations, such as these, do nothing but inspire the terrorists, who are coming from all over to wage war against us. In the end, if we tolerate this behavior, we are only helping fuel the flames of terrorisim.

If you are interested in other stories regarding fraud in Iraq, go to the search box at the top and put in keyword: Iraq.

For the full story in the Miami Herald click on the title.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Walmart Reports Executives Committed Fraud

Walmart has reported that Thomas Coughlin, one of their former vice presidents took as much as $500,000 for his own benefit by performing unauthorized gift card transactions and falsifying expense reports. This is now the subject of a federal grand jury investigation. Jared Bowen, another former vice president, is also being accused by Walmart of being involved in the scheme and helping Coughlin cover it up.

Bowen contends that he reported this misconduct and was in fact terminated in violation of federal whistle blower laws. According to Walmart, they conducted a professional investigation, that proves otherwise.

This is yet another sad commentary on the reason fraud is becoming so prevalent and growing in scope. Daily, we are confronted with people, who are considered leaders being accused of criminal activity. It is refreshing to see that actions are being taken against it, but in the end, it bespeaks a lack of moral fortitude becoming commonplace in the higher echelons of society today.

Click on the title for an article on this by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Farewell Mr. Ebbers (Former WorldCom CEO)

Farewell Mr. Ebbers,

Justice has spoken and you face 25 years in prison. Your lawyers were very eloquent in citing your charitable causes and how dismayed you have become at the damage to people's personal lives you caused.

Seeing you cry broke my heart, but what about all the people you caused to lose 180 billion dollars worth of their hard earned money? What about the 20,000 employees, who trusted you only to lose their jobs due to your greed?

In this venue, we try to help the victims of the world. These are real people, who work hard and hope to someday have a modest retirement. How many people have you caused to have less than a modest retirement in their future?

Hopefully, this is a sign of change and illustrates that the common person is sick and tired of becoming a victim of those who ruin lives for the sake of their personal wealth.

Fraud is increasing at a record rate. All too often, we see where large corporations put the bottom line over the personal well-being of those they call their customers. Someone needs to remember that it was the customer, who built many of these corporate giants. It is my sincere hope that the corporate world will take this as a signal that it is time to protect the very people, who have made their existence possible.

Until then, we must all continue to communicate and make people aware of this growing problem, which destroys people's lives.

For more information on this from the AP, please click on the title of this post.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Work at Home Scams

The Postal Inspection Service is warning us about a scam, where people are hired to work at home and reship merchandise. In these scams, people are tricked into receiving stolen goods and shipping them to destinations, primarily overseas. The activity has become so organized that ads are being placed on web sites for jobs, such as Monster.Com. Other people are recruited on dating sites and in chat rooms.

The end shipping destinations have been Eastern Europe, Nigeria, Brazil and the Phillipines. These groups are the same ones involved in the growing problem of identity and information theft. They use the stolen information to purchase expensive items, which are sent to the people recruited into these (work at home) scams. Many of these people are also tricked into setting up accounts where stolen funds are deposited via fraudulent electronic transfers. They are then instructed to wire the money to their so-called employers overseas. Guess who is left holding the proverbial bag when any fraud is discovered and the money is gone in a faraway land?

The Postal Inspection Service recommends checking any of these offers out through the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, or your State Attorney General. You can click on the title of this post to the Postal Inspector's warning on these scams with links to these organizations.

Please remember that if you run into one of these scams you are only helping the criminals by remaining silent.

Please report any and all activity to the appropriate authority. There is a link for reporting internet crime in the links section of this site.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Let the Buyer Beware (Summer Travel)

With the Summer holidays in full swing, many unsuspecting tourists are swindled out of their hard earned vacation money. Remember that fraudsters all over the world rely on one thing- the element of greed to induce someone into falling for one of their scams. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some of the more common scams found when traveling.

Black Market Money exchangers, who offer you a higher rate and then short you on the amount and or give you counterfeit currency.

Counterfeit tickets, particularly train, being sold at bargain rates.

Hidden charges on rental vehicles. Make sure you determine the total cost and the hidden charges before renting.

Credit Card and Check fraud. Protect your personal information and be careful what you throw away, especially in hotels. It's a good idea to use safes that are normally provided free of charge, either in the room, or at the front desk.

In some countries, be careful of your credit card being taken out of your view. The information is sometimes being copied to use in making counterfeit credit cards.

Skimming of ATM cards is on the rise. This is when the information is skimmed off your ATM/Debit card and a hidden camera records your actions on the pin pad. Always conceal your actions when putting in your pin number. The result of this is a counterfeit card being produced and your account emptied.

Being offered gems, antique items, or other great deals. Make sure what you are buying isn't counterfeit, or even worse illegal to import.

Although, Traveler's Cheques are considered replaceable, you still have to prove they weren't lost due to your own negligence in many instances.

Most important of all, plan your trip carefully. Scams on travel are all over the place and increasing with the use of the internet.

Here are some tips from the National Fraud Information Center.

"Be skeptical if you receive a call or postcard offering you a free or bargain travel package, especially if the price seems completely unreasonable. Do not give out your credit card number, checking account number or agree to send money up front until you get the full offer in writing with all costs and conditions and have time to check it out."

"Do not be pressured into buying "NOW!" This should be your first warning sign. A good offer today will remain a good offer tomorrow."

"Refuse the offer if you're told that you have 18 months or more to take the trip. By the time you try to make reservations, the company could be out of business. Many illegitimate firms will use stall tactics so your offer will expire before you can take a trip. Besides, promising that bargain prices to a desirable location are available at any time are usually false. Prices and availability vary wildly between peak and off-season. No company can guarantee below normal off-season rates at the peak of the tourist season."

"Get everything in writing. Make sure the written information includes the price of the package plus any additional charges. Find out exactly what is included in the package price and what isn't. Get the names of specific hotels, airports, airlines and restaurants that are a part of the package. Contact these establishments to double check the arrangements (Find the phone numbers yourself. Do not use a number provided by the company). If they've never heard of the firm offering you the trip, don't sign up."

"If the package doesn't include certain parts of your trip, such as air travel to and from the port of embarkation for a cruise, find out if you have to purchase that through the company or if you can arrange your own travel. Some companies offer you the cruise and hotel accommodations at cost, but then make a profit by selling air travel at a ridiculous mark-up."

"Check prices with local travel agencies. Unscrupulous companies often have hidden charges that can end up making a trip cost more than if you'd bought it through a reputable agent. You may not even find out about these charges until you are already in the middle of the trip and are unable to refuse payment. After you get all the information in writing, shop around to see who has the best deal. You may find out that the travel agent down the street can get you a cheaper trip with less hassle."

"If you need advice about a telephone solicitation or you want to report a possible scam, call the NFIC hotline at 1-800-876-7060. You can also ask questions or report fraud using our online forms."

You can go to the NFIC directly by clicking on the title of this post.