White-Collar Crime

Judge cites danger of 'sucker lists' in refusing to release names of 'Wolf of Wall Street' victims

A federal judge last month denied a request by Inside Edition for a list of the financial victims of Jordan Belfort, the stockbroker whose crimes were depicted in The Wolf of Wall Street.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson of Brooklyn said releasing the list could cause more harm to the victims because such “sucker lists” are in demand among swindlers, the New York Times reports.

The Times spoke with Doug Shadel, an AARP expert on fraud schemes and the elderly, who agreed that being a fraud victim puts one at risk of being victimized again. “It’s pretty well known in the fraud world that the best list to get is the list of people who have already been taken,” Shadel said. “The judge is right not to let the public see that list because those are the most vulnerable people.”

One website seeking to prey on victims of Bernard Madoff claimed to have found $1.3 billion in assets of the Ponzi schemer. The site said victims would be paid after they supplied legal claim numbers and recent brokerage statements.

University of California at Santa Cruz psychology professor Anthony Pratkanis has listed to 645 audiotapes of pitches made by fraudsters to undercover investigators. He told the Times that con artists find potential victims from people who respond to sweepstakes mailings, attend investment seminars, sign up for a free trial of an investment newsletter, or drop their business cards in fishbowls.

Meanwhile, an AARP study (PDF) compared online fraud victims with those who didn’t respond to scam offers. The victims were more likely to click on pop-up ads, sign up for free trial offers, open email from unknown persons and post personal information online. Victims were also more likely to be worried about debt, to feel lonely or left out, and to have experienced negative life events such as a job loss.

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