Blog Post

Fraud and Injustice: A Global Crisis in Indigenous Communities

Indigenous peoples around the world face marginalization and exploitation, leading to increased vulnerability. This puts them at a particular risk for fraud, as opportunistic fraudsters take advantage of systemic inequalities. Fraud against indigenous communities is especially harmful due to the unique challenges these groups face. Factors like geographic isolation, lack of access to resources and cultural marginalization leave indigenous peoples vulnerable to exploitation in ways other groups may not experience. Recent cases showcase how fraud scams indigenous groups across the globe. 

 Given the marginalization indigenous groups face, they often suffer from higher rates of poverty and lower access to health care and education. This leads to less awareness around fraud risks and fewer resources to recover from fraud harms. Geographic isolation also limits information sharing and support networks. Indigenous cultures face marginalization and dismissal within majority societies, allowing fraudsters to target them while avoiding scrutiny. Ultimately, fraud perpetuates the cycle of injustice experienced by these communities.

Several examples showcase this troubling trend:

In the Navajo Nation, an identity theft ring targeted tribal members. Fraudsters used victims’ personal information to bill Medicaid for $12 million in fake rehabilitation services between 2016-2019. Many of the victims were elderly individuals who did not speak English, allowing the scheme to operate undetected for years. This scam diverted critical health care resources from an already underserved community.

 Some fraudsters misrepresent their indigenous identity for profit, known as “pretendians.” One notable example is Andrea Smith, a professor of Native American studies who was later exposed for not having the Cherokee heritage she had claimed. She exploited her fictional identity to obtain grants, speaking engagements and other opportunities intended for indigenous peoples. Such fraudulent actions allow scammers to profit from marginalized identities while taking resources from authentic indigenous communities.

 In Australia, there is a concerning rise in scams that specifically target Aboriginal communities. Tactics include high-pressure sales, offers of free prizes and unauthorized withdrawals from bank accounts.  Aboriginal communities are particularly susceptible to these schemes due to language barriers, financial inexperience and geographic isolation. Additionally, there is often stigma associated with reporting such incidents, coupled with a general distrust of authorities, making it challenging for victims to seek assistance. This combination of factors enables scammers to operate with near impunity.

 Another insidious tactic involves fake indigenous organizations or charities to solicit donations. For example, the “Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre,” was a fraudulent organization that falsely claimed on its website that it represented 60 First Nations bands. The site requested donations for educational programs that didn’t exist. These fraudulent groups take advantage of the public’s goodwill towards indigenous causes, ultimately embezzling funds. (CBC, 2023) 

 These examples illustrate the diverse nature of fraud against indigenous groups, all of which have disproportionately large impacts due to the social, economic and political marginalization these communities endure. Addressing the root causes of fraud is essential to its prevention. This might involve improving delivery of health care, promoting financial literacy, increasing internet access or fostering greater trust between authorities and indigenous people. Through more thoughtful solutions, we can combat the exploitation of vulnerable communities and create a more just society.


SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

Related Posts

Our website use cookies to improve and personalize your experience. Our website may also include cookies from third parties. By using the website, you consent to the use of cookies. We have updated our Privacy Policy.