What is up? Gas prices, food prices, unemployment, crime, housing foreclosures, finance charges, health-insurance premiums, airplane tickets, and the price of many other goods and services. What is down? Consumer confidence, securities markets, the value of a dollar, housing construction, and many other leading economic indicators. In what has been described by some as desperate economic times for many citizens, there is almost always one thing you can count on to spike upward—the number of con artists. Those who work to protect the public from con artists report a hike in consumer complaints and consumer scams. Beginning in the late 1960s, an energized consumer-protection movement has muscled up to ferret out consumer rip-offs. Yet, if real progress had been made, why is the next big consumer scam still so tempting an option?
Many sociologists and even the courts recognize that the appetite of some to fleece consumers may just be insatiable. Further, the inventiveness of the “next” generation of con artists both recycles tried-and-true scams and invents new ones. For example, vulnerable consumers still believe that a leaky roof can be repaired simply by sprinkling a powdery substance on it. Moreover, tech wizards can now easily steal your identity, even if you work hard to protect against this threat. Where did enforcement go wrong?