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Fraudsters often the people you least expect: Oswald

By Staff

Age is no barrier to fraud, says Toronto forensic accountant and investigator Dave Oswald.

Oswald, the founder and owner of Oakville-based white-collar crime investigation boutique Forensic Restitution, tells that organizations can place too much stock in profiling techniques that purport to identify the most likely fraudsters in their ranks.

“You can see how they would come up with a person in their 30s or 40s, who is trying to get up in the world, finds a flaw in the system, and away they go,” he says. “But time and time again you find that it’s the people you didn’t really expect are the ones who actually commit fraud.

“In reality, the spectrum of ages for people who will commit fraud is wide, rather than limited to a small range. You can’t say that someone won’t steal just because they’re older or younger,” Oswald adds.

If there is a common feature among fraudsters, it’s their position as “trusted individuals” in their organizations, says Oswald, recalling two instances he investigated involving perpetrators at opposite ages of the spectrum.

One case involved a 21-year-old who abused her position as an accountant at her employer to steal $700,000, sailing under the radar by spinning a story about gaining access to a healthy trust fund left to her by her late father.

“Everyone calmly accepted that explanation, and nobody suspected her,” Oswald says.

In another case, a 75-year-old man’s long-lasting fraud was only discovered following his retirement — after 50 years of service for the company he was stealing from, he says.

“He was like a trusted grandfather in the organization — the person everyone went to with their concerns — and because he was such a nice person, nobody ever bothered to question his activities,” Oswald says. “The only problem was he was taking money left, right and centre.”

The Cape Breton Post recently reported on a local couple in their 60s who are accused of fraud and theft over $5,000 involving a public health authority that employed one of them. A trial is scheduled to begin in late 2020 on the allegations, which relate to a period between April 2016 and October 2017.

Although details are light and the allegations remain unproven, it’s a warning to all organizations at risk of fraud, says Oswald, who was not involved in the case.

“These aren’t youngsters going after the big bucks. It’s an old couple who have worked for years and maybe were coming up a bit short in terms of savings as they approached retirement,” he says. “The bottom line is there’s no age at which people start or stop having the idea to steal money.”

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