One of the drawbacks of a career in victim advocacy and fraud investigation — mixed with a heavy dose of journalism — is that I see lots of bad things.
The fightfraudamerica.com numbers are alarming: only about one in 20 inquiries comes from someone doing their homework, asking “is this legal” or “is this a scam?”
The other 19 come from those who either did not do their homework or who did it inadequately. Those 19 are the hardest to help because the damage, no matter what it entails, is long past done.
We’ve all heard the words “due diligence.” They’re thrown out there like a pointed finger. “Well of course you got scammed. You didn’t do your due diligence.” But what is this mysterious thing called due diligence and can it really put a stop to victimization?
Sadly, the answer is no. It will not bring fraud to a screeching halt, however it can significantly slow it down. And as to what it is, well that’s harder to define because I’m about to use the word “reasonable,” and reasonable is one of those sliding scale words that doesn’t look the same after the fact as it does before the fact. Simply stated, due diligence involves doing your homework before you jump, unaware, into a bad situation.
As an example, let’s talk about the lofty ambition of getting your first college degree, an advanced degree or some kind of specialization designation. More and more people, in order to juggle work/family/education in an efficient manner, are opting for online education programs. Beware of treacherous waters because illegal diploma mills have sprouted up all over the Internet. These fraudulent businesses can be total money pots for the dishonest people who run them because few would-be students know how to spot the phonies.
Red Flags: Spotting Degree Mill Warning Signs
The school will grant you a degree based primarily on past experience if you send them sufficient money.
Automatic acceptance. You fill out the application and 24 hours later you are a student. You either give them cash, a check, a credit card or all of your personal/financial information to enable them to obtain student loan money. Words to the wise: this is akin to signing a blank check against your future.
Online applications that don’t bother asking about prior schooling, GPA’s or previous transcripts. (Just give us your money. You’re IN!)
Ridiculous claims that students can earn initials in an incredibly short time. Use common sense. You will not be a “fully accredited M.D./Surgeon by Christmas.”
Tuition rates that are completely out of line with other schools. “Only $295 and you’ll get your Dental Assistant credentials next week!”
No history on the school. In fact, the website just hit the Internet three months ago and was purchased through “Go Daddy.”
YJGS? Translation, “You Just Got Scr*wed.”
MGGL? Translation: “Money Gone Good Luck.”
Drop by the Pahrump Valley Times offices, 2160 E. Calvada Blvd., for a copy of Leslie Kim’s latest book “123 Main Street … the Scamming of America.” Only $19.95 while supplies last.