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This is a transcript of the U.S. Department of Justice's identification of the impact of fraud on individual victims.  Permission has not been sought to reproduce this article, but a link to the original web document features at the foot.

Update 22 May 2006: Targets for fraud 'forgotten victims of crime'

Victims of Fraud: Suffering Emotional Harm

You might lose more than money through fraud.
 

Services for Fraud Victims: Emotional Support and Referrals

The tangible cost of fraud crime is easily translated into dollar amounts. Less easily measured, and perhaps the most exacting cost of all, is the severe emotional impact of fraud crime on many of its victims. Such emotional harm can be caused by the victim's loss of the following:Financial security Family home Business Inheritance Children's educational funds Professional or personal credibility Crimes of fraud are personal violations and often evoke the following feelings or emotional reactions among their victims: Self-doubt, Betrayal, Shock, Anger, Embarrassment, Disbelief, Blame.

Additionally, some victims experience such high degrees of shame, or fear about the loss of personal and professional respect and credibility, that they choose not to disclose their victimization to family members, friends, or professional colleagues. In some instances, an elderly or disabled victim's very independence is jeopardized, particularly if family members react to the loss by having the victim declared legally incompetent to handle his or her own financial affairs. Also, victims' family members and business associates may be financially exploited in a "domino effect" of fraudulent acts, resulting in increased feelings of guilt and blame for many fraud victims. Clearly, the impact of financial crimes goes deeper than the loss of just money.

  1. Indicators of Emotional Trauma. Traditionally, victim service providers and mental health practitioners have focused on the devastating effects of violent crime. The long-term emotional trauma of fraud crimes is not as easily seen and measured as that of a physical injury, violent encounter, or continued fear for one's personal safety. However, some of the same physiological and emotional effects experienced by victims of violent crimes are also experienced by fraud victims. These are some of those long-term effects:
    • Feeling of terror or helplessness
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Hyperventilation
    • Panic Inability to eat or sleep
    • Loss of enjoyment of daily activities
    • Depression

    Short-term effects on victims include these: Preoccupation with the crime (thinking about it a great deal, talking about it constantly, replaying the crime, wondering what they could have done differently, etc.) Inability to concentrate or perform simple mental tasks Concern that other people will blame them for what has happened Increased strain on personal relationships (even to the extent of divorce or withdrawal of support) In the extreme, fraud crimes have led some victims to attempt or succeed in committing suicide.

  2. Services and Support That May Reduce Victims' Stress and Anxiety. The following services and support strategies are not intended for all victims, nor is it expected that victim/witness coordinators will be sufficiently trained or experienced to determine the appropriateness of, or to provide, direct counseling. Counseling should be provided only by mental health professionals. This information is provided, however, to alert victim/witness coordinators to some of the possible emotional service or referral needs of fraud victims. These are some of the general, non-therapeutic services that victim/witness coordinators can provide to lessen or acknowledge the emotional distress of fraud victims: Expressing sorrow that the crime happened and asking how they can help: Paying close attention to signs of psychological trauma, including words, statements, or physical descriptors that imply hopelessness or depression, and, where appropriate, providing referrals to mental health providers, spiritual counselors, other human service agencies, or support groups, especially those sensitive to the needs of fraud victims Determining victims' emergency housing, food, and financial needs and providing referrals to governmental agencies or community programs that can help Providing referrals (including agency brochures and resources) to service programs that can address the special communication needs of victims who have diminished hearing, sight, or mental capacity or who do not speak English Inquiring about any specific fears or concerns victims may have about participation in the justice process, paying special attention to victims who are especially fearful that criminal justice participation may result in the disclosure of the crime to family, friends, professional colleagues, clients, or employers Supplying information about credit counseling services, which help victims address credit problems and formulate repayment plans and strategies Providing information to reduce victims' chances of revictimization.
  3. Identifying Appropriate Mental Health and Community Referrals. Victim service professionals have long recognized the value of providing victims of violent crime with appropriate referrals for support and services outside the scope of criminal justice-based programs and services. Victims of violence realize numerous benefits from those referrals. Victim/witness coordinators must not overlook the value of similar referrals for victims of fraud. Much of victim/witness coordinators' work to establish a comprehensive referral base for victims of fraud can be drawn from referral sources already identified for victims of other crimes. Established referral bases should include basic governmental and community-based programs, agencies, and other entities that provide general services and assistance to crime victims. Additionally, a comprehensive referral base should include contact information that provides the agency name, address, phone number, contact person, hours of operation, fees (if applicable), client eligibility, list of program services, etc. Categories of referrals include these: Mental health counseling services (especially on a free or reduced fee basis); Emergency financial assistance for food, shelter, medical attention, utilities, and other necessitates; Support groups.

    When seeking to identify appropriate mental health and financial assistance referrals, victim/witness coordinators should consider the following agencies:Governmental agencies, such as state or locally funded mental health clinics and health and housing agencies, that protect and serve aged or physically or mentally disabled persons, Area agencies on aging Nonprofit victim advocacy groups, legal clinics, or volunteer programs (such as those directed at the elderly) Nonprofit mental health agencies Churches, community food banks, etc. Utility companies (which may defer payments, consent to payment plans on delinquent accounts, or enroll qualified fraud victims in "utility-share" programs).

  4. Determining Appropriate Referrals. Before referring fraud victims to a mental health agency or nonprofit support program, victim/witness coordinators may want to determine first that the agency Understands the emotional ramifications of fraud crimes (which may differ from the emotional ramifications of violent crime); Provides services to victims of financial crimes (many nonprofits limit their services to victims of violence); and Where possible, provides specialized programs that specifically address the needs of fraud victims (such as support groups). Inappropriate referrals can significantly heighten fraud victims' frustration and anxiety.
  5. Additional Referral Needs. Some fraud victims have additional referral needs. For instance, some victims have limited access to transportation due to physical or financial restraints and will need transportation assistance to mental health or financial assistance appointments. Victim/witness coordinators will find it helpful to compile a list of volunteer agencies, cab companies, or community transportation services that provide door-to-door pickup for disabled victims or have reduced fees for indigent victims. Victim/witness coordinators also play a vital role in the establishment of linkages between elderly victims and local governmental and nonprofit agency programs and services. The simple act of linking service to victim can do much to improve the emotional welfare of an elderly fraud victim and could reduce the chance for fraudulent revictimization in the future. Victim/witness coordinators might wish to establish links with the following types of agencies: Adult day centers Area agencies on aging Home nursing providers Volunteer programs that pair senior volunteers with senior clients Adult protective service agencies.
  6. Locating Appropriate Referrals. Additional sources for gathering victim-related referrals include these: Local prosecutors' victim assistance units (many will have already compiled an extensive referral directory) Victim assistance units of state attorneys general (some have funds that provide victims of certain fraud crimes with financial assistance; for example, Maryland's Office of the Attorney General has a fund for elderly victims of home repair schemes) Local, state, and national victim assistance networks Local, state, and national volunteer agencies, such as the American Association of Retired Persons or local senior volunteer centers Interfaith administrative offices (which often maintain a registry of local churches, synagogues, and other religious entities that maintain charitable funds to assist community residents) Local and state professional licensing associations, such as the state association of licensed therapists, physiologists, or psychiatrists, which may be able to name members who sometimes provide counseling services free or at a reduced cost Hospital social workers, who often maintain databases of both governmental and nonprofit agencies that provide housing, medical, and financial assistance to indigent or other qualified citizens State victim compensation programs Local and state law enforcement agencies County, state, and federal governmental agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and departments of social services, human resources, housing, and transportation, which maintain registries of programs and services (for example, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides housing assistance to elderly victims of certain fraud crimes) Local sheriffs and police chiefs, who may be members of the TRIAD program, in which the local sheriff, police chief, and leaders of the older or retired community work together to reduce the criminal victimization of older people In fraud cases involving numerous victims in different jurisdictions throughout the nation, victim/witness coordinators should consider contacting the prosecutor-based victim assistance programs in those jurisdictions to learn of local programs and services.
  7. Assessing and Updating Referrals. The importance of gathering feedback on service referrals must not be overlooked. Victim/witness coordinators should learn which agencies are best able to meet fraud victims' needs. Some programs gather referral feedback by Telephoning victims and asking about their satisfaction with the referral, Disseminating written surveys to victims to learn about their satisfaction with the referral agency, or Disseminating written surveys to referral agencies to learn about their services, location, and service population.
  8. Establishing a Support Group/Counseling Program. In the past few decades, support groups addressing societal problems (gambling and alcohol and substance abuse), health issues, and crime-related needs have proven to be invaluable for dispensing emotional support, sharing information.

Courtesy U.S. Department of Justice

Link to article on USLAW: http://www.uslaw.com/library/article/article_497.html?area_id=7

See also: General Fraud