Sunday, March 18, 2012

The vocabulary of fraud, business crime, and scams

This post is about fraud of one type or another. Through several exercises we look first at the vocabulary of business crime, also known as white-collar or financial crime, and then at the world of scams.

Click and Drop - Where you see this sign, mouse over for instructions

Business crime collocations

Exercise 1 - Match the beginnings and endings

1. creativeatrick
2. insiderband corruption
3. marketctheft
4. moneydtrading
5. ponziepeddling
6. identityfscheme
7. briberyglaundering
8. influencehfund
9. confidenceiaccounting
10. slushjrigging

Exercise 2 - Enter the expressions from Exercise 1 to match their definitions

1. - Illegally buying and selling a company's shares based on privileged non-public information, for example professional information.
2. - Often used to mean a reserve of money kept in a special and possibly secret account for making illegal payments to others, eg government officials
3. - When your personal information is stolen and used without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes.
4. - The illegal practice of using your political influence to obtain favours or preferential treatment for another, usually in return for payment.
5. - When competing companies act together and agree prices etc, to their own advantage but against the spirit of competition.
6. - A fraudulent operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation
7. - Illegally giving money or gifts to somebody, often a government official, so that they will act in your favour.
8. - An attempt to get money illegally from somebody by gaining their trust and making them think you are genuinely what you say you are.
9. - Manipulating financial figures within the letter of the law, but not within the spirit of the law. - Also known as 'cooking the books'
10. - Hiding the source of illegally-gained money by, eg, investing it in legitimate businesses.

Word formation

Exercise 4 - Complete the table

verbnoun (thing)the person
who does it
1. bribe  
2. embezzle    
3. forge      
4. defraud      
5. fake      
6. counterfeit      
7. swindle    

Some explanations

Bribery and corruption - These two words are often used together - "bribery and corruption are rife in this country"
  • corruption - dishonest or illegal behaviour, especially involving people in authority
  • bribery - abstract noun for the activity of giving bribes
  • bribe (n) - an amount of money or a gift given on a specific occasion to buy favour
  • bribe (v) - to give an amount of money or a gift to buy favour
Fake, forgery and counterfeit - These words have very similar meanings
  • fake - used to describe something or a situation which is not genuine or real
    • She was wearing a fake fur coat
    • He faked his own death
    • He knew that at £25 it was obviously a fake Rollex
    • Do you think he's really ill, or just faking
  • forge - relates especially to the copying of things which are printed or in writing - documents, passports, signatures etc.
  • counterfeit - used especially for money and branded goods
Confidence trick - it's a con! - In informal English we often use the word con. Notice the different ways it can be used as a verb:
  • To con somebody out of something
    He conned her out of her life's savings.
  • To con somebody into doing something
    She conned me into buying her old car.
  • To con your way into something
    He conned his way into the job.
It can also be used as a noun and as an adjective
  • It was a con / a con trick.
  • He's a con man / con artis / con merchant
Whistleblower, to blow the whistle
A whistleblower is somebody who tells people in authority or the public that the company or organisation they work for is doing something immoral, dishonest or illegal.
In the most famous cases, the whistleblowers make their information public via the media or the Internet. But in the vast majority of cases, whistleblowers tell their superiors within their organisation and the matter is dealt with internally.
While in the past whistleblowers have often been badly treated by their employers, organisations are increasingly seeing their value, and many have set up internal whistle-blowing procedures.

Some odds and ends

Exercise 5 - Use the words in the box to complete these expressions related to tax

1. Companies in the UK pay tax.
2. Most individuals pay tax.
3. A trick for not paying tax, legally or illegally, is a tax .
4. Legally paying as little tax as possible is called tax .
5. A tax is paid at the same rate by everybody.
6. Illegally not paying tax due is known as tax .
7. Companies are often registered in a tax , where taxes are low.
8. Somebody who lives abroad so as to pay less tax is a tax .

Exercise 6 - Enter words meaning false, not real by adding the missing vowels

1. ( f _  k _  )
2. ( b _  g _  s)
3. ( sh _  m)
4. ( ph _  n _  )
5. ( sp _  r _   _   _  s)
6. ( ps _   _  d _  )

Exercise 7 - Fill the gaps using the words in the box

1. Activity that is possibly dishonest but not necessarily illegal is sometimes called practice.
2. If you the accounts or your taxes, you dishonestly change the details or figures.
3. Changing the accounts for illegal advantage is also known as cooking the .
4. Illegal activity is also known as behaviour.
5. The word is used for some unspecified dishonest behaviour.
6. A is when an organisation tries to hide illegal activity.
7. If something is or fishy, you suspect it is illegal or risky.
8. Another way of saying something is suspicious is to say that you smell a


So far we have been looking mainly at corporate crime, the sort we read about in the newspapers but which is unlikely to have a direct effect on us.
But now we move to an area which affects us all. Most of us, at one time or another, will have had an email offering us huge amounts of money in exchange for some sort of upfront or advance payment. Or playing on our emotions to try and get us to help somebody in apparently tragic circumstances.

Exercise 8 - Fill the gaps using the words in the box

1. A scam or is a plan for fraudulently getting money from people.
2. A outfit is a company that overcharges for work that is not up to normal professional standards, or one that "takes the money and runs".
3. If you get off, you are cheated or made to pay too much for something.
4. In psychic or clairvoyant scams, the victims are often because they have recently lost a loved one.
5. Lottery and prize scams tell you that you have won a prize – but first you must pay an "administration fee".
6. In the so-called Nigerian scam you are often offered huge to help somebody get money out of Africa or set up business in your country.
7. In online scams the person you have struck up a relationship with might ask you for money to help them come to your country.
8. Health scams include so-called miracle and slimming products.
9. A particularly nasty scam involves asking for to fake disaster relief charities.
10. A scheme is a bit like a chain letter: you send a small amount of money to somebody, and find a number of other people to join who send money to you.

Expressions and idioms connected with being tricked or fooled

Exercise 9 - Fill the gaps using the words in the box

reel · lure · luring · phishing · prey · bait · sinker · swallow  
Quite a few words to do with scams come from fishing and hunting. The fraudsters entice people with (1) - (uncountable) the food that is used to attract fish or animals so that they can be caught. This as also known as a (2) (countable), and this word can also be used as a verb, meaning to attract people to a scam.
The word (3) - the animals etc, hunted by other animals - can be used to mean potential victim(s) or used in a phrasal verb with the preposition on.
Somebody can fall for or (4) something "hook, line and "(5) , just as a greedy fish might try to eat the hook, some of the fishing line, and the weight that is attached to it. And then the fraudster will (6) in his victim, just as a fisherman winds in the fish on his line.
And finally we have the internet scam of (7) , where fraudsters try and get your bank details by (8) you to a site which looks like your bank's.

Exercise 10 - Complete the story with words from the box

charlatan · duped · fell · gullible · had · led · line · minute · pull · sucker · taken · candy · talk · took · yesterday  
She had always considered herself impossible to fool. If anyone tried to (1) a fast one on her, she'd tell them, "I wasn't born (2) , you know.", and add, "Do you think I'm a complete (3) ?". And she'd think to herself, "Some people are so (4) they'll believe anything they're told. But not me.".
Then along came Peter, an investment banker, or at least that's what he had (5) her to believe. She was totally (6) in by his smooth talking and easy charm, and let him (7) her into investing some money in one of his funds. He (8) her into thinking the fund was doing really well, and she (9) for his story, hook, (10) and sinker. She ended up putting all her savings into it.
Peter turned out to be a complete (11) , and (12) her for all she'd got. "I was well and truly (13) ", she said later. "So it's true what they say about fools. There's one born every (14) , and I was one of them.", adding, "It must have been like taking (15) from a baby."

Phrasal verbs, prepositions etc,

See if you can spot any patterns in the following exercise

Exercise 11 - Fill the gaps using the words in the box

for   · from   · in   · into   · of   · off   · out   · up  
1. He embezzled thousands his employers.
2. She talked him lending her his car.
3. He conned her of all her money.
4. He was duped investing in a non-existent holiday venture.
5. A lot of companies go to great lengths to get of paying tax.
6. They lured him giving them his bank account details.
7. I told the boss I was ill and I think he fell it.
8. She was taken by his charm.
9. They defrauded their 'customers' out millions of pounds.
10. The fraudsters took their victims everything they'd got.
11. He was totally ripped when he bought that car.
12. She was just leading him the garden path. She had no intention of marrying him.




Baiba said...

You seem to have heard my inner voice asking for exercises on crime vocabulary (going to teach next week). A bit hard for my average students but will be perfect for the brightest. Thank you very much!

Warsaw Will said...

Hi Baiba, my day job is teaching in company, and the first part was originally written for a group of auditors, so it had to be tough. I've just tried it out with a couple of non-bankers, and it is difficult, I admit. Maybe some day I'll try and get round to giving a few more clues.

Dominic said...

This is outstandingly good.

Warsaw Will said...

Thanks a lot for that, Dominic, and also for adding your name to the follower' list, and especially for your kind comment on Facebook; I was wondering why this post was getting rather more attention than usual today.

It's all the more encouraging coming from another EFL teacher, and having discovered your IELTS site I intend to have a bit of a poke around. Incidentally, you might be interested in one of my earliest efforts, on idioms from gambling and horse-racing, which could be said to be related.