Whilst certain less than sharp minds apparently managed to misunderstand my call for sanity regarding looting hysteria the other day as it were an argument that such behaviour is okay, clearly preying on the victims of a disaster is (and I’ll put this in bold type so they don’t miss it) a bad thing to do. Even if the perpetrators are themselves desperate as a result of the same situation, and even if the victims are, say, fully-insured businesses whose staff and owners will barely notice the offence, it’s still a crime, and punishments will and should naturally apply. Naturally, the courts should take the circumstances of each offence into account – and that means the full circumstances, not merely the timing; I’d also, since I’d like to see crime reduced, argue that the emphasis should be on constructive sentences that don’t turn opportunistic, petty criminals into more serious, hardened criminals – whilst making clear that such behaviour will not be accepted.
Nonetheless, if you want people more deserving of the title “scum of the Earth” – or, as the Queensland Police have apparently dubbed them, “vultures” – I present not the spur-of-the-moment looters, but the organised fraudsters now conducting their nasty business:
Scammers are exploiting the outpouring of generosity for the Queensland flood appeal.
Charitable Australians are being warned to be vigilant amid reports of fraudulent emails, websites, phone callers and door-to-door collectors seeking funds…
Concern follows reports of scammers falsely claiming to be from major banks asking for funds…
In NSW, the State Emergency Service is investigating claims that fraudsters are calling people, claiming to be from the SES, to seek money.
Queensland Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart said that “unfortunately the vultures have started to come out” and a number of scams were operating, particularly in south-east Queensland.
Some of these involved bogus tradespeople demanding money up-front to clean or paint buildings or clear yards. They then disappear with no work being done.
Other scammers were phoning or electronically contacting householders, telling them they knew best how to handle money from federal and state authorities and then demanding their bank details.
These aren’t desperate people trying to survive a crisis and overstepping the bounds of the law – they are, by definition, organised and calculating. And they can cause a lot more damage to victims, who can lose a lot more than some personal property the waters might have taken anyway. Including, for example, trust in their neighbours and willingness to accept much-needed help. Not only that, but intercepting donations can have a knock-on effect of reducing the amount that other people are willing to donate.
And unlike with the “looting” panic, at least with the fraudsters, here media hype on the subject can do some good. Rather than prompting people to put their lives at risk hanging around dangerous areas during the height of the danger, this time it puts people on their guard and will help keep them safe.
I trust everyone reading this can see the difference.
UPDATE: Not the best people, either:
The trauma for flood victims is being compounded by some insurance companies insisting home owners delay cleaning up until after inspections.
Let’s all think positive.