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Words Matter: Blame Fraud on Criminals, Not Victims

In this special episode, Bob hosts a roundtable discussion on changing the conversation around victim blaming

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Full Transcript


[00:00:01] Bob: Hi, and welcome back to The Perfect Scam. I'm you host, Bob Sullivan. Today we're taking on a topic that's near and dear to my heart, and that's changing the language around victim blaming. I hope we all know that victim blaming is a terrible thing to do. But it's even worse than you think. It's actually part of the structure which I believe enables this horrible crime of financial fraud to continue and to keep snowballing. And it is snowballing. The Federal Trade Commission just announced that consumers reported a stunning $8.8 billion dollars in losses during 2022. And even more stunning, that's a 30% increase from the last year, 30%! There's still so much more work to do. We like to think we're doing some of that work here at The Perfect Scam podcast. This April marks the 5th anniversary of The Perfect Scam. We've been at this for five years and almost 150 episodes, bringing you stories of crime, emotional toil, and bravery. At The Perfect Scam we think victims, often the most vulnerable people in society, are the real heroes, and we should be doing much more to protect them rather than blame them. So to hit this issue of victim blaming head-on, today we're doing something a little different, a roundtable discussion with three very important and special guests; Kate Kleinert, Paul Greenwood, and Mark Solomon. I'm going to let you meet them by allowing them to introduce themselves. Kate, why don't you begin.

[00:01:40] Kate Kleinert: My name is Kate Kleinert, and I'm here today because I was involved in a romance scam two years ago. And to help me get past all of this, I have become an advocate, and I'm here today to help other folks get through the same thing.

[00:01:56] Bob. Thanks, Kate. Paul?

[00:01:57] Paul Greenwood: Hi, good morning, Bob. Uh yeah, my name is Paul Greenwood. I was a prosecutor in the San Diego DA's Office for 25 years, and for the majority of that time I was responsible for pursuing crooks who took advantage of older adults, such as Kate. And so since I've left the office in "retirement," I've been trying to share the experiences I've learned in the courtroom to try and hopefully help other people avoid becoming a victim.

[00:02:27] Bob: Doesn't sound like much of a retirement, Paul.

[00:02:29] Paul Greenwood: I love it.

[00:02:30] Bob: Now, Mark, how about you?

[00:02:32] Mark Solomon: Hey, Bob. Thanks for having me, and I'm Mark Solomon. I'm President of the International Association of Financial Crime Investigators. I spent 26 years in law enforcement doing mostly financial and fraud investigations. And um, the reason I'm here today is because uh people need to understand that victims of scams and frauds were targeted by other individuals, and uh, again, we should not associate any blame to the victim. They were simply targeted. That message needs to get out more.

[00:03:04] Bob: Okay, Kate, I'm going to start this discussion with you. Because I want people to hear what it is that happened to you, and more importantly really, after you describe what happened, explain to me the kinds of things that you heard, things like, "How could you fall for that?" Or "Where did you lose all that money?" So explain to the listeners what happened.

[00:03:23] Kate Kleinert: It was just about 2½ years ago when we were in the pandemic and on lockdown at the time. I had been widowed for 14 years and never looked for another romance in my life. I was not on a romance um, social media. I was on Facebook and I got a friend request from someone who, the pictures were very handsome. Of course, that was not really the man behind the pictures, but very handsome, and he appealed to me because he obviously had read my profile, told me he liked the same things that I did, loved dogs, loved gardening, blah, blah, blah. I've never accepted a friendship like that on Facebook. Never. It's the only time I ever did, and it certainly changed my life. Um, things continued back and forth for a while talking. He became romantic very quickly, and I didn't. I was trying to push back on that, but eventually, after he said some wonderful things to me all the time, every day; he would call me and just say, "How was your day, Honey?" "How are things going, Sweetheart?" And it was just so nice to hear because I have been alone for so long. So I think that was part of what pulled me in. But after we had talked for many months, he asked me for the first gift card. And things just went from there. I ended up losing $39,000. He had promised me, promised me, promised me, that as soon as he got here, he was paying me back. And even showed me his bank account so that I could see he had money. And of course, it was all a fake. But when I tried to report this to police, unfortunately, I didn't get a very good response. The one policeman said to me, "Why are you calling here?" And I cringed. I wanted to just roll up in a ball and, and go hide in a corner. Um, and she said, "You gave him this money willingly, Hon. This is not a crime." So it really put me back in the cave, if you will, where I didn't want to come out and face anybody or try to tell my story. I was more embarrassed by that, and just shut down again from hearing that. I honestly haven't heard too much of that sort of thing from other people, although there have been a few saying, "I would never get caught in a scheme like that." "No one would ever be able to pull that on me." And I think those folks are just trying to make themselves feel better because it can happen to anyone at any time. These people are so well-trained, know what they're doing, know how to get to your Achilles Heel, and do it proficiently. So anyone is really susceptible to this, but too many people are afraid to share this news with someone with their families. They don't want to be looked down on. Obviously, you need some kind of help because you've lost all this money. And in my case, I was absolutely broke and had nowhere to go with that. So it was tough for me to face people hoping that they would not talk to me that way. But the victim blaming, we really need to steer that ship around because it's just, it's not doing any good, it's keeping victims silent, and it certainly doesn't help to get information out about the situation.

[00:07:06] Bob: So Paul, when Kate calls local police and the reaction is, there's no crime here. Why would that happen?

[00:07:15] Paul Greenwood: Unfortunately, Kate's experience is not isolated. It happens everywhere, and this is why I've spent many years trying to speak with law enforcement, and, and even though there's pushback, and I think Mark would agree with me, law enforcement should not be the ones to determine whether a, a conduct is criminal or not criminal. Now that sounds kind of illogical to most people, but it's true. That analysis should only be made by trained prosecutors who have actually filed fraud cases. And the, the mistake that unfortunately that officer made was mistaking fraudulent misrepresentations with consent. And, and this ha--, happens a lot, Bob. A police officer will tell, tell somebody like Kate, "But you voluntarily gave that money. You didn't have somebody holding a gun to your head. So there was no duress. There was no violence, therefore, there's no crime." That is a blatant mistake, and so this is why we need more training for law enforcement across the country so that that response is hopefully eradicated over time.

[00:08:31] Bob: So Mark, you know, we've all been there. "Your car was broken into? Well, did you leave a bag in plain sight? Must be your fault, right?" Blaming seems to be this human instinct, but first of all, why, do you wonder, I wonder why that is, but second of all, why does that make it harder to fight these crimes?

[00:08:52] Mark Solomon: It, it is something historically law enforcement has dealt with and, and, you know, when we look at all different types of crimes, whether it was initially domestic violence, if it was uh sexual assaults, there always sometimes was some blame uh sometimes being associated with the victim of a crime. And luckily, law enforcement has learned about those, and, and realized that you cannot blame the victim in any crime. And I think that message needs to be heard and deliver it a little bit more when it comes to fraud and scams, and, and our seniors, and, and you know these people can be targeted by anyone of any age, and it's not just seniors. Uh, people that are, have been in professional businesses, former police officers have been victims of crime. So you know, that's the message we have to get out. And if we don't, and if the victims don't come forward, then these criminals are emboldened to do it again and again and again because they know one, that the victim already feels shame or embarrassment about what happened, and there's a strong possibility, or a moderate possibility, that law enforcement won't even investigate the crime.

[00:10:01] Bob: So victim blaming is in some way giving the green light to criminals to keep doing it again.

[00:10:05] Mark Solomon: It is. Yeah, unfortunately it's, it's sending the wrong message and it's emboldening them to keep committing these crimes.

[00:10:13] Bob: Kate, I know you've already suggested some of these things, but I, I wonder if I could hear a little bit more about some of the kinds of things that you heard that were the most painful, that, that sent you back into that shell?

[00:10:25] Kate Kleinert: Well that I was an idiot, you know, um, how could you? How could you be so stupid? Um, and, and those thing just cut to the little girl inside who was getting blamed for something that I did, you know, my father's yelling at me again. That's just how it felt, that I was being put down. Um, it's hard enough going through this without having someone say, "Oh, yeah, how, how could you be that dumb? How could you do this? You didn't even know him." Well, you weren't sitting there listening to these conversations every day. You are not sitting in my shoes at all, um, feeling the way I felt, whatever way that was at the time. So I wanted to help him. Every time he called there was some kind of a disaster, some emergency where money was needed, and I was trying to help him. So but if I may mention this, I did a, a piece for a TV station where the newscaster interviewed me, and afterwards he called me back and said, "You know I've, I've reported on these kinds of things all the time, and it's just, okay, now back to our news. You know, it's like the next story is coming up." But after listening to me and telling my story, and seeing from an individual how impactful this was, he said, "I will never think about this the same way again." So there's, I think, what we need to do is get enough information out. But we need a lot more education I think. Not only for law enforcement, for the general public as well, to understand how this happens.

[00:12:09] Bob: And I just want to put a fine point on it just so the listeners understand. This was a lot of money to you, right?

[00:12:16] Kate Kleinert: It was all I had. I mean literally all I had. I know for someone else $39,000 would have hurt, but not put them into the place that I was. I had my electricity turned off. I was really in trouble financially.

[00:12:33] Bob: And so you're going through all that, and yet hearing from people that you were stupid. I can't imagine how that doesn't make things so much worse.

[00:12:40] Kate Kleinert: It really does, and um, not having shared with, this with a lot of people, when I felt cut off at the knees by these people making these remarks, I, I had nobody to go talk to about it, um, because I had not found that there are support places out there and things that can be done. But it's a tough thing to go through because you feel the need to keep it to yourself.

[00:13:06] Bob: And Paul, I think it's important to talk openly about the kinds of things that go wrong. Can you recall other circumstances, maybe in training other local police officers of the kinds of things that you've heard that, you know, make you cringe today?

[00:13:19] Paul Greenwood: Well yes, unfortunately it happens, I say all too often. One of the responses uh, which is what Kate's already said, which is, "This is not a crime, so I'm not going to take a report." The second one is, "Well, um, the suspect is probably overseas, so there's no point in taking a report, because we'll never catch him. And by the way, we're so busy with other crimes, we don't have time for this." Thirdly, some law enforcement will say, "Well the crime didn't occur here, Kate. It occurred overseas. We don't have jurisdiction." So those are typical responses. The good news though, Bob, is that more and more law enforcement agencies are working in tandem with other networks. So we are actually across the country creating coalitions of financial institutions, prosecutors, law enforcement, adult protective services, AARP, International Network of Financial Crime Investigators, so forth. And by doing that, and by sharing these stories with one another, and by bringing in victims like Kate to tell their story, it's actually making a big impression on all of us. And I think the way to move forward with these cases is by taking a collaborative teamwork approach of bringing it out into a, a, a virtual network and saying, okay, what could we do? How can we follow the money? Can we identify this suspect? Sometimes, Bob, also, people will look at the amount that was sustained in the loss. And they will say, "Well I'm sorry, but it doesn't meet 'our threshold.'" To me, when I used to hear that amongst prosecutors, I would call that prosecutorial arrogance, because as Kate says, to one person, for example, $3900 is their life savings. To me, it never is about the amount of the money that is lost, it's about the conduct of the suspect. And if we allow the suspect a free ride, then tomorrow he's going to do it again. So that's why it's important to focus on the suspects conduct rather on victim blaming.

[00:15:40] Bob: Paul, do, do you have a, a story or two that sticks out in your head that, that feels particularly cruel in terms of reactions?

[00:15:48] Paul Greenwood: Well, I, yes, uh, I mean I, I've had several, but I think the generic story that I, I come with 25 years of doing these cases is so often the victim will try to say something like Kate, and will be told exactly what Kate was told, and will, and I like this phrase, "will go into a shell." And the only way that this crime is ever found out is through the victim having to go borrow money to pay the utility bill. That is normally how we have heard about these cases, and it, and it really uh breaks your heart when you, you walk into that situation and you see somebody whose life has been doubly victimized, not just by the scammer, but by the circumstances of shame, or being ridiculed, and are feeling they're all alone.

[00:16:44] Bob: Okay, so you guys have already started and it makes me inspired to hear how you want to get to the solutions part of this conversation, so that's where we're going now. So okay, Kate, let's begin with the small. So instead of these kind of cruel of things that you heard from some people, what worked better? What genuinely helped?

[00:17:02] Kate Kleinert: Actually, it took me so long to even tell my sisters, but the fact that I braced myself for them to say, "How could you do this," but they each told me how brave I was, and how sorry they were that this had happened, which was very comforting to me. When people look at you and say, "I'm so sorry this happened to you, I can't imagine," and right there, that's the key; you can't imagine what it's like. You don't know what this is like. So to pass that judgment is tough. But I still think it's a question of educating the public on how these things work and the effect that they have on people, how easily this can happen to someone by a really smart, practiced criminal who goes after you until you give in.

[00:17:53] Bob: Mark, what's the first thing say a law enforcement officer, local, or whoever is the first point of contact, what's the best thing for that person to do when they hear from someone like Kate?

[00:18:03] Mark Solomon: Is be objective and don't judge and, and their job is, is to protect all victims of crimes. We have an obligation to investigate these crimes. Just like Paul said, you need to take that complaint. You need to follow-up on it. I got to meet Kate uh at our conference, the international conference last year, and when she said those words that the police officer said to her, it hurt all 600 people in that audience, and that was a mix of law enforcement, private sector investigators, and that was the wrong answer that should have been given. We do have some good news is that since meeting Kate, Paul, myself and the International Association of Financial Crime Investigators took on her case, and we've been investigating it. It is in the hands of the FBI right now, and like I said, we're hoping that there'll be some justice. But that message should have never been said, and we need law enforcement and prosecutors to understand this whole, um, you know, Paul, AARP, myself, we have built a program of instruction for law enforcement and prosecutors that we're hoping to roll out this year where these see these cases in a different light. And, and they, they don't blame the victim, they blame the suspect. They don't ignore cases, they accept them all and, and work them, so that, you know, and, and like Paul says, not every person is in the United States uh that are committing these crimes, but you don't know until you investigate it, and we also have the ability to arrest people in other countries and work with other law enforcement agencies in other countries.

[00:19:39] Bob: Paul, what do you tell local law enforcement that they should do when they first hear from someone like Kate?

[00:19:43] Paul Greenwood: It is number one, take the report without as, and, and I love how Mark phrases it, "without judgment." And be objective. Gather as many facts as you can on a timeline. Uh, I want to know where was the money withdrawn from and how did you first meet the suspect, and uh how many times did you uh send money, and in what form did you send it? Did you send it through cash? Through UPS? Did you send it through a bank wire transfer? Did you send it through a bitcoin ATM machine? Through gift cards? What, what methods did you use? What did the suspect tell you to say to your financial institution when you walked in to withdraw this large amount of cash? So those are the kind of facts and then I would say, take those facts and give them to your local prosecutor as soon as possible. And then I turn my attention to the prosecutors associations in every state and encourage them to take these cases seriously. And, and then for them to share that information with the federal prosecutors, 'cause you never know. When we did that with one case, it actually became part of a circle of 52 suspects from India, and it was taken over by the Texas US Attorney’s Office, and indictments were issued and extradition treaties were signed and, and actually this became a very successful prosecution only because we were part of a bigger wheel of sending information, and all the dots joined up. So that's why one case alone may not seem significant to law enforcement, but it could be part of a larger jigsaw puzzle that can finally be determined and identified.

[00:21:35] Bob: Kate, I want to go back to something that you said earlier which really has been sticking in my head since you mentioned it. And just to get a little deeper into the psychology of victim blaming, you started to say that you think people say, "How could you fall for that," or something like that, basically to protect themselves, so that they just feel better about themselves. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

[00:21:59] Kate Kleinert: I think being a victim to this sort of crime is available, if you will, to everyone out there, and people want to think it's not going to happen, or perhaps it has happened and they're covering up for that. You've got these grandparents scams going on where someone calls a grandparent in the middle of the night and says, "Your grandson has been arrested or in an accident or whatever." The grandparent's very upset, of course, and wants to help. But it ends up being a scam, but those folks are afraid to tell their middle-aged children because that person's going to turn around and say, "Mom, I told you. You are not making good decisions. It's time for you to go into the home." So the older folks are afraid on several levels of trying to tell anybody about this. But I always think if someone is trying to put you down, it's because they're trying to raise themselves up. So when they say, "How dumb could you be?" "How stupid are you for falling for this," and "I would never do that" is just someone trying to enjoy the fact that they're able to put that loop on your neck, you know, and put you down again. But it's so difficult when you’ve been through this on many levels, not just losing the money financially, but losing that relationship that I thought I was going to have. I thought I was getting married again. You know I thought I was going to have these kids in my life and what have you. So it's a much bigger loss than just the money.

[00:23:31] Bob: Well you just suggested many people are literally afraid of losing their freedom if they come forward and tell their middle-aged children.

[00:23:38] Kate Kleinert: Yes.

[00:23:39] Bob: That, that seems like a, a horrible burden to have to encounter with everything else that's going on.

[00:23:44] Kate Kleinert: Right.

[00:23:45] Paul Greenwood: And Bob, that is exactly the experience I had so many times. You know the question I would ask the victim delicately after we had discovered the crime, "Why didn't you say anything to anybody?" And that's the exact reason many, many times over that Kate has just repeated, which is "I was afraid of losing my independence." And the trouble is that these crooks figured this out long ago, and that's why they're so brazen and bold in what they do because they rely on the victim wanting to stay silent because of this fear of losing their homes and their independence.

[00:24:19] Bob: If I were a criminal trying to devise a system that would help me perpetrate my crimes forever, it would be this code of silence that we've all sort of instilled voluntarily on victims, and that's great that we're talking about this. I, I do think the message is getting through to people. All that aside, let's be honest, despite the good work of all the folks involved here, romance scams, grandparent scams, crypto scams, all kinds of online scams are really just getting worse. The dollar values are, are going up. Mark, what has to change?

[00:24:50] Mark Solomon: I think education. I, I think what we're doing here on this podcast, what Kate is doing on the national level, what Paul Greenwood has done throughout his career, not only prosecuting but educating, this is what we need to do. The IAFCI recently formed a partnership with Match Group, uh one of the largest dating websites, and they are conducting a year-long campaign that we're assisting with to educate people that are online. In Kate's case, she was not on a dating website, she was just on a social media. So we need to make sure that our media, our social media sites, everybody is talking about this.

[00:25:29] Bob: Paul, what has to change on, on a grand scale?

[00:25:32] Paul Greenwood: I think we need to really emphasize and push this theme of, it takes all of us in the community to be part of the solution. And I think it involves uh financial institutions, because if we can convince uh the corporate powers of every financial institution; banks, credit unions, investment broker firms, that they need to train their staff daily, weekly, monthly, tell them about the latest scams, tell them how it operates. And so whenever a customer, a client, a member walks into that office and asks to withdraw $10,000, it should immediately raise a red flag. So I think financial institutions bear a big responsibility, and, and a big part of the teamwork approach along with law enforcement and with local prosecutors, and then get your general public involved. Adult sons and daughters need to be part of the solution, too. So they can, wherever possible, keep an eye on mother or father's transactions. And the number of times, Bob, I have adult children phone me up, angry because they just discovered that their inheritance has evaporated, right. And that's really what's driving this phone call, is their anger at losing their inheritance. And, and I would let them go on for a little bit, and then I would say, but where were you in the last 18 months? Why weren't you involved in your mother's life? Why is it that your mother has been living alone and you are now, only now, resurfacing. They don't like that conversation at all. Um, so I think we need to encourage everyone to be part of this response.

[00:27:20] Bob: Kate, what do you think could be changed on this wider scale?

[00:27:22] Kate Kleinert: I was hoping you would call on me because I have been saying from the beginning, the way I see it changing is making commercials and having them play during the game shows that folks watch, or the soap operas, or at night when, when the adult children are home from their jobs. People have to see what's going on before they'll believe it. So when a 60-second commercial, the first 30 seconds could be, show how devious these people are. Show some examples of how trained they are, how whatever you say they've got a playbook that they're flipping the pages and getting the right answer to you. Show how that can be done. How easy it is to fall under their spell, and the second 60-seconds should be where to go for help.

[00:28:11] Mark Solomon: Bob, if I could add to that, and, and Kate makes a great point about getting it out into the public eye, there was a Stop Senior Scams Act that was just enacted, and The Federal Trade Commission is taking the lead on that very uh topic of educating, getting it out in the public eye, so I'm, I'm part of one of those working groups, and it's just in its initial phases, but the government is seeing that, the people are seeing that this is the best way to get this information out there. So hopefully, over the next couple of years you are going to see more and more of that out in the media.

[00:28:45] Bob: I'm a big believer, Encountering Kate is a really powerful tool.

[00:28:49] Kate Kleinert: Yes, yes.

[00:28:50] Bob: The human face on what happens, the human toll on what happens, the more that people who work in this field, law enforcement, banking officials, everyone, all of us, the more we encounter these real stories the better. Kate, I just want to drive home the whole cycle of victimization that you went through, the emotional toll. You lost someone you thought you loved. The financial harm, and then the shaming and blaming. But here you are, on the other side. You're out there helping others; you've taken charge of your story. How did you get there?

[00:29:24] Kate Kleinert: I think part of it is the pioneer blood I have running through my veins, plus um, because a lot of people do curl up in a ball and can't continue. Um, when I finally realized that this was a scam, and boy it, you know it took a while before it really hit home, and I knew that I was out of money, and I was beyond the age of getting a full-time job easily to try and make it up, that I was really in trouble. How was I going to survive this? And I sat and went through different things; how could I get some work, how could I make some more money, what could I do? And this speaking across the nation like I've been doing, really sort of fell into my lap, and I'm so grateful for that. But people have to understand also that the day that you realize this, that this is a scam, the day you finally face the fact that those kids who have been calling you Mom on email are not real, the man who's been saying how much he loves you is not real, that's the day that you have to face things, but it isn't the end. You know losing money, losing all of your money, has a far reaching effect. It just goes on where I had lived on my credit cards and my cards were maxed out. The interest was so high, et cetera, et cetera, and this past summer when it got hot and I tried to turn on my air conditioning, it didn't work, and I knew I didn't have money to call in a repairman to even look at it. So I was using a portable air conditioner. In a day in July, my house burnt to the ground. Along with my six dogs, did not get out. My hospice dogs that I have taken in. So I've lost all my money, and now I've lost all my possessions as well. So if I don't stand up and keep moving forward, I'll be stuck there forever.

[00:31:33] Bob: Boy, is that a message that people need to hear. Um, Paul and Mark, is there anything you want to talk about with regards to getting to the other side of, of being a victim?

[00:31:41] Paul Greenwood: Well, this is why Kate's story is so powerful, because of, of the multilayers of the impact of the conduct of this crook on her life. And, and this is something which I tried, when it comes to sentencing, if, if we are ever fortunate enough, and we are getting better at identifying these suspects, bringing them to justice; one of the things we've got to convince the, the judiciary of, is that these are violent crimes. That we shouldn't reserve the term "violent crimes" just for stabbings, shootings, and, and physical assaults. This is as violent a crime as, as Kate being stabbed because of the layers of impact. And unfortunately, there are times when a victim doesn't recover, like Kate has done so beautifully, and they take their own life, because they cannot face the future of financial uncertainty, of the embarrassment from victim shaming, et cetera. So we've got to convince that whenever we're successful in, in identifying, capturing, and prosecuting, we've got to convince the courts to send a very powerful message back to the crook fraternity that we will treat you as if you have physically harmed Kate.

[00:33:00] Mark Solomon: And Bob, I'd like to add, I know there are people listening to this episode right now that have fallen victim to these scams and haven't reported it. Again, please come forward. Report it. Kate is just the ultimate example of bravery and courage to step forward. Again, people are not targeted because they're clueless or not smart or maybe they've lost some faculties. So you should never be fearful of coming forward, never be fearful of being a--, ashamed. You were targeted, come forward, report it to law enforcement, so we can investigate and stop this from happening to other people.

[00:33:43] Bob: And come out of the shadows. More and more people now have the awareness to respond appropriately when you come forward and say, "I was a victim of this terrible crime." There's more of us now who believe that it's not your fault, that it's the criminal's fault, right? It's easier to do than it was maybe 10 or 20 years ago, I think.

[00:34:00] Kate Kleinert: Yes.

[00:34:01] Bob: So Paul, I'll start with you. Are there any resources that you want to point listeners to that they could use to learn more about this, or to learn how to change their language or to, to help uh, the family members?

[00:34:12] Paul Greenwood: Well, fortunately we, we, we're, we're so much better off these days with resources online. Uh, when I started out uh in 1996, having, we'd just created an Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit; there were so few. But now you can turn to The Federal Trade Commission that Mark has already referenced, you can turn to the website for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, you can go to your local Better Business Bureau, you can certainly, and I would encourage people to contact the AARP Fraud Watch Network. They have a phenomenal team of volunteer counselors who will listen to your story and not be judgmental and help where they can, and I would say also, turn to your local adult protective services. Um, if you know of somebody within your family or community who has become a victim of any type of elder financial exploitation, please do not hesitate to contact your local adult protective services. And finally, people know at AARP how to contact myself, Kate, and Mark. We're always willing to uh, get on an email with anyone and, and if we can, offer some advice and put them in the right direction. But there's lots of resources out there.

[00:35:27] Bob: And that Fraud Watch Network Helpline, the number is 877-908-3360. It's available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. A human being answers the phone with really helpful advice and an empathetic ear. So that's 877-908-3360. Mark, do you have any resources you want to share with people?

[00:35:49] Mark Solomon: You know, I think Paul stole most of my thunder when it came, you know, the Fraud Watch Network. And what I love about the Fraud Watch Network is, is many of these volunteers were victims of these frauds and scams. So they understand exactly what the, the emotional, the financial, uh, impact that it's had for this person that's willing to step forward. And again, there's no judgment there, uh, it's available all the time, um, you could go onto our network as well. Uh, we have uh some incredible information about various scams and frauds. We also do a podcast called IAFCI Presents The Protectors, and that educates uh the general public on anything from fraud to scams to cybercrime. So um, reach out to local law enforcement. Reach out to your family members. You know, um, they are there for you if you've been targeted by a scam, they're going to help you. Uh, like I said, the more you talk about it, the more you'll build up that courage, and there shouldn't have to be any judgment by anyone about what happened to you. You're a victim of a crime.

[00:36:56] Bob: And I know, Kate, lots of people have called you a hero. I'm going to call you a hero, but for the purpose of this podcast, what I really want to call you is a role model.

[00:37:05] Kate Kleinert: Ah.

[00:37:06] Bob: Because what, what we need are thousands more Kates to step forward the way that you have. So what kind of advice would you give to someone who might be on that edge right now thinking about stepping forward, but not haven't quite taken that step yet?

[00:37:18] Kate Kleinert: The most sympathetic ear I found was on the AARP Fraud Watch Network. Um, it was finally someplace where I did get some support. The man I spoke to was a detective in his working days and was now um, retired and doing this volunteering. He said to me, "That hammer you have in your hand that you're hitting yourself over the head with, it's time to put it down." And I need to get that on a t-shirt or do it in cross stitch or something, because that has stayed with me. And not only do they have these sympathetic volunteers on the phone, there is also the REST Program, which is a place where you can go to talk about what's happened or talk about what's happened to a loved one and get some help. And it's all done virtually, of course. Just be able to talk about your story. You can get that information by calling the Fraud Watch Hotline at 877-908-3360. But that is really where I got the most of my help. And I'm so grateful.

[00:38:24] Bob: And put that hammer down. I've heard you say that before; I get a lump in my throat every time you say it.

[00:38:28] Kate Kleinert: I, It gets me all the time, but how, how wonderful that that's what I heard from this person on the Fraud Watch line.

[00:38:35] Bob: Kate Kleinert, Mark Solomon, Paul Greenwood, thank you so much for the three of you, uh, for the time you shared and the wisdom that you shared with us today.

[00:38:43] Kate Kleinert: Thanks so much.

[00:38:44] Mark Solomon: Thanks, Bob.

[00:38:45] Paul Greenwood: Thank you, Bob.


[00:38:50] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Thank you to our team of scambusters; Associate Producer, Annalea Embree; Researcher, Sarah Binney; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; and our Audio Engineer and Sound Designer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.



In this special episode of The Perfect Scam, Bob hosts a roundtable discussion on changing the conversation around victim blaming. Far too often, the blame for financial fraud is directed at the victims rather than the criminals. This keeps victims from speaking up and enables the crimes to continue. Bob welcomes special guests: Kate Kleinert, a romance scam survivor-turned-advocate; Paul Greenwood, a former prosecutor and head of San Diego’s Elder Abuse Prosecution Unit; and Mark Solomon, former police detective and president of the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators.

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