What is a Fraud?

   FRAUD consists of a deceitful practice or device, used intentionally to deprive another of his right or to injure him in some manner. usually for the purpose of material gain Frauds have been practiced since the beginning of time. Even the Bible records instances of fraud: Jacob, for example, defrauded his brother Esau of his birthright. Through the centuries individuals have fraudulently claimed thrones. titles, estates. and fortunes, companies have sold stock, and rights in nonexistent wells, expeditions, and Land Museums and art galleries have defrauded with fake antiquities and paintings. The Cardiff Giant, dig up near Cardiff, N.Y., in 1869, was exhibited to the public as a petrified man until the fraud was revealed by a Yale professor; a cutter admitted carving the statue. No group has been safe from the smooth-talking, genial, and persuasive salesman who will "double your money in half the time." The bigamist, the forger, and the counterfeiter are all perpetrating frauds.

   Frauds and swindles are a big but illegal business throughout the world. Millions of dollars are lost every year through schemes and rackets practiced upon the unwary consumer. Most of these schemes are based on the universal human desires to be healthy, wealthy, and happy. Everyone would like to get something for nothing or a lot for a little. The housewife as well as the businessman is preyed upon by the swindler, whose beguiling promises take advantage of the consumer's lack of knowledge. Organizations such as the Better Business Bureau have detected and classified more than 800 such swindles. including trick contracts with fine-print clauses; mail-order dentures and glasses that never properly fit: merchandise coupons for overvalued. fictitious, or misrepresented goods: "free" memberships, services. and merchandise that carry a small "tax" to cover handling; solicitations for so-called charity projects. dances, and benefits where the only charity is the swindler himself; unordered or C.O.D. packages that may contain bricks or newspapers. Among the most vile swindlers are the "hearse chasers" who claim the deceased person ordered or made payment on all manner of things from Bibles to cemetery lots. Cures for cancer, hair loss, and obesity are offered to the unknowing.

   Many of those who are cheated refuse to admit that they have been duped or admit it too late to catch the swindler. In some cases no laws have actually been broken; in others federal or state statutes have been openly defied. No one can prevent a man from taking a "hot tip" on a horse race, but the sending and receiving of sweepstake lottery tickets through the mails is against the U.S. and the Canadian postal laws.

   The best way for the consumer to protect himself is to follow the advice of the Better Business Bureau: Before you invest, investigate; read before you sign. When a doubtful proposition is offered, it may be useful to ask oneself: What are the facts, and do they agree with the representations? What are the promises, and are they reasonable? What is the past record of the principal? The right answers to these questions can save the consumer time, money, and embarrassment.