Experiencing financial fraud of any kind can be demoralizing. We tend to see the fraud all at once as a sort of revelation. It suddenly dawns on us that we have been defrauded. You can almost feel the blood rushing from your head.
Far too many investors blame themselves when they experience fraud. They had previously viewed themselves as competent – even astute — at financial matters. How can they maintain their confidence after being defrauded?
There is no reason to suffer embarrassment or shame for being the victim of a crime. Criminal fraudsters are often very good at what they do. They are often in a position of trust. They tend to play on that trust, along with people’s dreams, fears and insecurities, to get what they want.
Unfortunately, it’s not just that victims of fraud who tend to blame themselves. Our society tends to use words that reinforce a false narrative that victims of fraud are blameworthy. We say they were “swindled” or “bilked.” Or worse, “duped.” We say they “fell for it.”
It goes along with a general false narrative that financial crimes are not as serious as more violent ones because the victims are rich or insured. These crime victims aren’t suffering, the narrative holds. They have plenty.
But if you’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars to fraud, it can hurt a lot. Any more than that and you could be talking about someone’s life savings.
The AARP Fraud Watch Network, along with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)’s Investor Education Foundation, recently issued a new paper about victim-blaming. They suggest that if society could lean away from blaming and shaming victims of financial crimes, it would increase the reporting of these crimes.
If you have lost money to financial fraud, you may have recourse
Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be ashamed. If you have lost money to fraud, you are definitely not alone. We encourage you to report your experience to the proper authorities.
When the perpetrator of the fraud was a stockbroker or dealer, you may have a legal claim for return of your money. Brokers and dealers are regulated by FINRA, and the organization can help you hold them accountable through mediation or arbitration.
The first step is to hire an attorney with experience representing investors.