As a young boy I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where food was always freely available and I can’t ever remember being told ‘sorry, we can’t afford it’. I was also aware that children in my school weren’t so fortunate; they had free school meals and wore their siblings hand-me-downs. One particular friend was one of six kids, they lived in a council house, their mum cut their hair and they had never been on holiday for years. I’m confident that some well-intentioned criminologist would predict that they were ideal candidates for a life of crime. In fact the reality is that they all turned out to live perfectly respectable (and successful) lives. I’m not sure if this can be ascribed to either ‘nature or nurture’ however, when I compare this to my own personal (lack of) integrity it makes me think long and hard about how I got to where I am now.
When I was growing up, the crimes that hit the headlines were the likes of armed robbery and kidnapping, neither of which appealed to me in the slightest. I might be being a little ‘picky’ however, the prospect of running away from a bank with a gun and cash box full of money doesn’t appear to make much sense. Firstly, there is a good chance that I’m going to be confronted by a Police Officer with a gun. I’m reliably informed by my resident police advisor that these guys undergo a great deal of training, and (if either their own safety or that of the public is threatened) they would not hesitate to put two large holes in my chest. They are regularly quoted in the press stating that they do not ‘shoot to kill’ but rather they ‘shoot to stop’. Unfortunately I’m guessing that stopping and killing are often one and the same thing as the latter is the unintended consequence of the former. Given the rise in knife crime and the increase in armed patrols, I imagine that the chances of being confronted are now much higher.
Secondly, armed robbery in the UK usually attracts a sentence of 5+ years, even for a first offence. Other types of crime are dealt with much more leniently, especially what the press love to describe as ‘white collar crime’ thus giving it a veneer of respectability.
Drug dealing was another obvious career option. Whilst I do not want to sound like a snob, most of the people in that arena are hideous. Whilst I could (at a push) pass off some of my fellow fraudsters as a friend from my tennis club, these guys often look as if they could be extras from a straight-to-video blood lust movie. Whilst they are also concerned about being confronted by armed police officers, they are even more worried about having to protect their merchandise from other drug dealers.
Firearms are cheap and easily available due to the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the free passage to and from our newer European member states. Given my views on self preservation (see above) and the fact that I don’t think kevlar matches any of my existing outfits, I decided to stay clear of this too.
My police advisor assures me that this benign view of fraud is most certainly not shared by him or his colleagues. He has a grudging weird type of respect for the team that carried out the Hatton Garden safety deposit raid; apparently it was technically a burglary rather than a robbery, and no weapons were used. On top of that, many of the boxes that were opened belonged to those who (for whatever reason) wanted to hide their assets from everyone else. In my experience, ‘normal’ people don’t do that.
He has witnessed at first hand the abject misery caused to the victims of fraud. He actually believes that some of these crimes have resulted in some victims taking their own lives, and yet as far as the courts are concerned, those (like me) get away with very light sentences, sometimes even having them suspended rather than going direct to prison.
As I’ve said before, I’m essentially lazy and selfish, although I probably wouldn’t use those terms on a dating website. With those character traits, I came to the stark realisation that I wanted to live a comfortable lifestyle without running the risk of (a) being caught, (b) being shot or (c) being handed a long sentence upon conviction. You don’t have to be a genius to see why fraud wins at every turn.
For those of you who are familiar with the book ‘Freakonomics’ by two American economists Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner they will recall the mantra writ large throughout their book that ‘people respond to incentives’. I contend that this is all that I am doing; Fraud offers me huge returns with little effort and even less risk. That was incentive enough for me.