Imagine you have an appointment to meet with a loan broker or financial advisor that you met recently at a networking event. They followed up with an invitation to get together and discuss a business opportunity or long term planning idea you may have mentioned in passing, and you take the bait. While most people don’t question such a routine instance of business development, the truth is that there’s some chance that the party following up with you is a fraudster intending to trap you into being their next victim.
Whether it’s an advance-payment broker, a get-rich-quick investor scam, or some other ‘can’t lose’ proposition, tens of thousands of Americans get swindled annually by someone selling them into a dead-end financial scheme. Finally, the state of Utah is taking a step to offer a small, but significant modicum of protection for unwitting victims: a database of convicted white collar criminals.
According to the NY Times, “With just a point and a click, you can browse a face book of felons, a new government website that will warn of the danger these criminals pose to society.” These are not the faces of sex offenders and serial killers, but rather mortgage schemers and inside traders, some armed with an MBA or a law degree.
These faces will soon appear online courtesy of the Utah Legislature, which approved a measure to build the nation’s first white-collar offender registry. Call it a digital scarlet letter of sorts for that state’s financial felons. The registry will include a recent photograph of Utah’s white-collar offenders and even their date of birth, height, weight, and eye and hair color.
It’s a very good idea that hopefully will spread to other states and provide a reference point to assure small business owners and even commercial lenders, which verifies that whomever they are dealing with is at least not a known criminal. It’s bad enough to have to constantly be on guard against fraud, but it adds insult to injury to learn that you were swindled by someone who’s already been caught several times before.