The most common white collar defendant is the person that you least expect. No matter how much you trust someone, and no matter how smart or charismatic a salesperson may seem, always keep up your guard.
• Watch out for pressure tactics to sign a contract or make very quick decisions.
• Do not prepay more than 10 percent.
• Seek out a minimum of bids from 2 different companies at a minimum, and preferably 3 or more.
• For significant remodeling work or add-on jobs, be sure to ask to see the building permit.
• Ask for references. If you are going to invest thousands of dollars that type of investment warrants some validation you are working with a trustworthy person.
• As simple as it sounds, do some Google searching to see if you can dig up any dirt or complaints.
• If possible, pay with a credit card. Some victims who use credit have success disputing charges for work never delivered, while cash is much more difficult to recover.
• Companies that rely on only one person for accounting services are very susceptible to fraud.
• Even if you feel that this one employee is “like a family member,” have someone else oversee his or her work. Time and time again, our victims of employee theft (aka embezzlement) tell us this. The victim is always stunned when they find out that the defendant stole from them.
• Have another employee review bank statements to make sure transactions are authorized.
• All of our investment fraud victims were victimized by someone that they thought they could trust. Sometimes it is a person they have known for many years and treated like a family member.
• A white collar criminal will exploit a close relationship with a victim as a way to win an investor’s confidence.
• If a promoter of an investment cannot provide supporting paperwork explaining costs, commitments and risks. This is a big red flag.
• If you ever feel like you don’t understand any aspect of the investment, ask the promoter of the investment to explain it. They have a legal duty to explain material information to you.
• Vet the promotor. Put in the time to research previous work done by the investor. Just as with contractors, a simple Google search can go a long way.
• Do not throw good money into any already bad situation. Once a white collar criminal convinces you to invest in a bad investment, they will likely apply pressure to invest additional funds.
For example, in the Chad Isaacs case, after Isaacs received an initial investment for an oil and gas “working interest” he called the victim months later and asked for an additional $15,000 for a new drill head at the oil and gas drilling site (that really never existed). Isaacs said if he did not get this drill head fixed, the entire project would be a loss.
Matt Smid is chief of the White Collar/Public Integrity Team in the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office