Thursday, March 7, 2013

Legislative protection?

It seems lately that not a day goes by without us hearing about another piece of legislature that has been introduced. The bills are often a mumbo-jumbo mess of legalese, recited by rambling politicians who try to explain why their bill is so important by stating why the opposition is against it.

I recently came across a piece of legislation the authors claim is to protect older Minnesotans from wire transfer fraud. A great idea, if the bill itself wasn’t a toothless piece of fluff.

Senior citizens are often the target of scams for a variety of reasons. According to conversations I have had over the years with law enforcement personnel who handle scam cases, seniors can be particularly vulnerable because they don’t always understand the latest technology, or what it is capable of. A cop friend told me once that the seniors of today come from a generation of people who were taught to respect authority, and the importance of communication by telephone was serious stuff. There are other factors, but in the long run, seniors can be more susceptible to scams.

The grandchild scam is a prime example. A grandparent gets a call from a ‘grandchild’ asking for monetary help because they are in trouble – in a foreign country arrested and threatened with jail, pulled over by a cop far from home, scared and alone in a bad place. The ‘kid’ begs the grandparent not to tell mom or dad, or some such nonsense. Then the kid asks for money to be wired.

It works often enough that scammers are still using it.

So politicians decided to tighten up wire fraud regulations, for no real reason but to appease AARP, as far as I can tell. Like I said, the bill has no real teeth and certainly won’t slow down your average scammer.

The new bill requires wire transfer companies to confirm that the location provided by the sender is where the money ends up. It provides more authority to the Department of Commerce to protect consumers by increasing penalties. It requires companies to provide a confirmation of money sent and who picked up the transaction. And it allows the sender to put on a ‘Do not send’ list to prevent repeated transfers.

Because it all seemed like a bunch of wordy nonsense to me – I could see the big old holes in all of the theories – I ran the bill past a detective I have known for years. He’s dealt with scammers who are brilliant, scammers that are complete morons and everything in between.

His response, paraphrased slightly on my part and delightfully sarcastic on his, pretty much sums it up:

1.) The bad guy will now tell grandma/grandpa their favorite grandchild was arrested in Point A but is being held at Point B; “Send the money to Point B.”
2.) Increased penalties? You sort of have to catch and prosecute somebody first.
3.) “Yes, we're confirming that Clint Eastwood or John Wayne or M. Mouse, etc picked up the $5,000 today in Bogata, Columbia.” Just like with TracFones - you need a name to buy service but it doesn't have to be a real name or your actual name.
4.) Yes, please put me on the no call list because bad guys get those lists in the mail and follow them to the letter of the law! 

Good thing those politicians are working hard on solving meaningful problems. (Wow, I really need a sarcasm font.)

Maybe next time the donkeys and elephants want to solve crime problems, they’ll consider making it a bad thing to get busted for committing a crime. They’ll consider that use of actual prison sentences and not just threats might actually be a deterrent. They’ll realize slaps on the wrist really don’t hurt after the repeat offenders’ wrists have become numb from constant smacking. Getting caught committing crime should be a bad thing, right? Not just a chance for free schooling, legal knowledge and opportunities that your average blue collar worker can’t have.

Maybe someone ought to tell them that to get tough on crime, you actually have to get tough with the criminals.

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