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The Art of Deception: Five infamous fraudsters who fooled the masses

Deep down, everyone wants to live a lavish lifestyle, right? No more worrying about money. Enjoying the finer things in life. Treating your loved ones to everything they’ve ever wanted and more. But how far would you be willing to go to get there? 

For the great grifters of our time, the law was certainly no object. These high-profile fraudsters made their fortune by deceiving investors, conning the public and living large off the profits. However, their malignant misdeeds eventually caught up with them.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the UK release of The Wolf of Wall Street, which chronicles Jordan Belfort’s journey from small-time salesman to convicted criminal, the commercial finance experts at Anglo Scottish Finance are taking a look at five of the biggest fraudsters of all time…

Jordan Belfort 

It’s impossible to talk about the world’s most high-profile scam artists without talking about Jordan Belfort. Immortalised on the big screen by Leonardo DiCaprio, Belfort’s life was a whirlwind of parties, drugs and ill-gotten gains. 

His firm Stratton Oakmont, founded in 1989, saw Belfort and his team running “pump-and-dump” schemes to defraud investors to the tune of roughly £158m ($200m). As part of these schemes, Belfort and up to 1,000 stockbrokers working under him, would give investors false promises or information to artificially inflate the price of a stock before selling at a high price. 

Once Belfort and his team sold their stocks the price would fall and his investors would lose their money. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) eventually caught up with him, however, and he had to repay £86m ($110m) to his victims and serve four years in prison. 

Charles Ponzi

Ever heard of a Ponzi scheme? Charles Ponzi might not have invented this type of financial fraud, but he was so successful that the scheme came to be closely linked to his name. Ponzi, an Italian swindler born in 1882, was responsible for scamming investors out of over £15m (over £243m in today’s money). 

A Ponzi scheme refers to paying off previous investors with money sourced from new investors, creating a continuous cycle with no legitimate funds coming in. Ponzi was eventually caught out – the Boston Post wrote a series of articles exposing his fraudulent activities and he was eventually sentenced to five years in prison. He was later readmitted to serve a further seven years for a range of charges. 

Jho Low 

Malaysian businessman and fugitive Jho Low is considered one of the biggest scam artists in modern times. He is currently on the run from Malaysian authorities after a scheme to embezzle £3.56bn ($4.5bn) from the state-owned wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) into his own account. 

Low was at the centre of the international scandal, with payments from US bank Goldman Sachs diverted into offshore accounts and seemingly used for investment companies, superyachts and glitzy parties. 

Choice elements of his high-profile social life included associations with Paris Hilton, Jamie Foxx and Busta Rhymes, amongst others. DiCaprio was another A-list friend and in a bizarre set of full-circle circumstances, Low invested £79m ($100m) in the production of The Wolf of Wall Street.

Low remains on the run from the Malaysian authorities and is supposedly hiding in China. The Chinese government has denied harbouring Low, who maintains that the charges against him are politically motivated. 

Bernie Madoff 

Meet the man behind the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Bernie Madoff was responsible for conning his investors out of an unbelievable £51 billion ($65 billion), making him perhaps the most profitable scam artist in history. Hiding a shady asset management business behind a legitimate trading arm allowed Madoff to hide in plain sight for years.  

Madoff was so well-known and respected that he was, at one point, the Chairman of the NASDAQ Stock Exchange. His eponymous firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, served as a vehicle to defraud investors for many years. 

As the 2008 financial crash began to come to light, Madoff realised he was stuck: he was unable to pay back investors even a portion of what they were owed. He informed his sons, who had both been working under him, that the business was a lie. They subsequently turned him in and Madoff had the book thrown at him. 

He received the maximum sentence of 150 years in 2009 and eventually died in prison in 2021. 


Exotic watches, fast cars, charter flights and helicopters. Pretty exciting for a boy who started as a second-hand clothes seller in Lagos, right? Nigerian hustler Hushpuppi established a lavish Instagram lifestyle that flamboyantly displayed his rags-to-riches story, but he was eventually found to be behind a huge phishing scam and money laundering operation. 

Hushpuppi was a ‘key player’ in an international scam network that obtained money illegally via “business email compromise scams, online bank heists and other cyber-enabled fraud.” Perhaps most notably, he was accused of conspiring to steal £97 million ($124 million) from an unnamed Premier League club. Neither the Premier League nor the club involved decided to comment. 

The scammer was arrested in Dubai in 2020 and expedited to the US to face trial for his misdeeds. One scam shut down payment systems across Malta as he tried to launder £10m ($13m) stolen by North Korean hackers. He received a prison sentence of eleven years in 2022. 

So, if there’s anything that you can learn from the five highest-profile fraudsters of all time, it’s that crime doesn’t pay. All of these scammers lived a lavish lifestyle thanks to their crimes but were ultimately forced to pay the piper. As ever, with a Ponzi scheme, or any other kind of financial crime, your luck will eventually run out. 

How businesses can use AI to tackle financial crime

As technology continues to advance at a rapid rate, financial crime has taken on a new dimension, posing a multifaceted threat to financial institutions, writes Sonia Jain, Consultant Operations Manager at FDM Group… 

According to Kroll’s 2023 Fraud and Financial Crime Report, 68 per cent of respondents expect financial crime to increase over the next 12 months, with evolving technology posing one of the largest challenges. 

Not only does it jeopardise businesses’ reputation and client trust, but financial crime can also result in direct financial losses, operational costs, and the risk of insolvency.

Traditional methods of detecting and preventing fraud and illicit activities are no longer sufficient in the face of increasingly sophisticated criminals, but this is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. 

AI is a powerful tool that is revolutionising the finance industry’s approach to combating financial crime and keeping pace with new criminal tactics.

Financial crime involves illegal activities that aim at acquiring financial gain. Financial crime can have serious societal consequences which can adversely affect the shape of the global economy. 

With the help of AI, we can leverage its ability not just to combat the crime but also to monitor the financial activities in real time to prohibit the very occurrence of it.

Here are five ways businesses can use AI to fight financial crime:

  1. Real-time monitoring

AI-powered systems play a pivotal role in the battle against financial crime by enabling real-time monitoring of financial transactions. This capability is instrumental in swiftly identifying and addressing potential threats. Suspicious activities, such as unusual transaction patterns, can be automatically flagged by AI algorithms, triggering an immediate investigation.

By detecting and responding to illicit activities promptly, financial institutions can mitigate risks before they escalate and prevent crime from occurring in the first instance. The real-time nature of AI-based monitoring not only enhances security but also serves as a deterrent to potential criminals, as they are more likely to be caught in the act, thus reducing the overall occurrence of financial crime.

  1. Data analysis and pattern recognition

One of the primary strengths of AI is its ability to analyse vast amounts of data at lightning speed. Financial institutions deal with massive datasets daily, making it challenging to identify suspicious activities manually. AI algorithms excel at identifying patterns and anomalies within these data, helping to flag potentially fraudulent transactions or activities that might otherwise go unnoticed.

  1. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Financial criminals frequently communicate through digital channels, leaving behind a wealth of text-based data that can be a treasure trove of evidence. Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms are instrumental in sifting through this textual data, scanning emails, chat logs, and other messages to identify suspicious or incriminating conversations.

These algorithms can detect keywords, phrases, or patterns associated with financial crimes, helping investigators uncover hidden connections, illegal activities, and nefarious intentions. NLP’s ability to parse and understand human language allows financial institutions and law enforcement agencies to stay ahead of criminals who attempt to mask their activities in written communication.

  1. Machine learning for predictive analysis

AI’s capacity to learn from historical financial crime data is a strategic advantage in the fight against illicit activities. By training on past cases, AI can construct predictive models that identify emerging threats and evolving criminal tactics. These models continually evolve and adapt, staying one step ahead of wrongdoers who seek to exploit vulnerabilities in financial systems. As AI systems become more attuned to nuanced patterns and emerging trends, they offer a proactive defence mechanism, helping financial institutions anticipate and tackle financial crime.

  1. Behavioural analysis

AI’s ability to construct detailed user profiles from transaction history and behaviour is a game-changer in financial crime detection. By establishing baseline behaviour for each customer, AI can promptly identify deviations from these norms. For instance, if a user typically conducts small, domestic transactions but suddenly initiates large withdrawals or transfers to high-risk countries, the system will trigger alerts for immediate scrutiny.

This proactive approach enables financial institutions to swiftly respond to potential threats and investigate suspicious activities, enhancing their capacity to prevent money laundering, fraud, and other illicit financial behaviours while safeguarding the integrity of their operations and the interests of their customers.

Retail POS needs and wants: data, security and the best the market has to offer

It’s no secret that point of sale (POS) systems and receipt printing are crucial to retailers and hospitality businesses. Without them, they cannot enable sales effectively and grow their businesses optimally. In fact, to say they are important, for many, is an understatement.

Especially when you consider their strategic importance to not only drive sales efficiency; but to track and record sales data, and provide an optimum customer experience. What is more, within this, retailers and their customers have many different needs when it comes to managing and accepting payments. So, as the market evolves and businesses grow, what should retail and hospitality organisations consider when deploying POS systems and related technologies?

Jay Kim, Managing Director, BIXOLON Europe GmbH explains what the retail market, and wider value chain, needs to consider when exploring options that enable retail sales more effectively…

POS Needs Vs Wants

Within busy retail and hospitality environments it is vital that POS systems are “always on” and that these systems do not experience downtime. Simply put: failure to execute transactions can lead to lost revenue and a poor customer experience. Therefore, when purchasing these kinds of technologies, retailers typically consider an array of important factors. This includes network connectivity options; the performance of POS systems; how these system looks aesthetically when installed; how they integrate into the business; and the price of the investment. 

Additionally, with the need to keep up-to-date with the latest technology trends and requirements, many retailers are turning away from only using Serial or Parallel connectivity for printers. Instead, they are and moving to Ethernet, USB, Bluetooth and WLAN for integration with tablets and other peripherals as part of POS systems. Since technology has always been central to buying decisions, many retailers now build their hardware solutions around their software – whether this be a simple payment solution for an independent company, or part of a more complex omnichannel ecosystem.

Naturally, the performance of hardware within these systems is key. Printers form a vital component here at checkout. They enable the printing of receipts, coupons, vouchers, and more depending on the scenario. They are rated not only on the speed and reliability of the printing hardware, but also the performance of the cutter and print head, which leads to less maintenance and possible downtime. Within retail situations, sleek, compact printer designs are becoming increasingly popular, because retailers are looking to streamline their cash desks. For instance, cube printers have increased in popularity with their compact features and front exit feed for either on-the-desk or under-desk integration – which allows it to just fit into a POS set up easily and attractively.

Ease of integration is also essential here. With many retailers looking to upgrade their systems, many look for hardware which they can essentially plug in and play. As time means money, retailers look for installs which take hours rather than days, to avoid costly downtime and loss of productivity. Pricing is also a factor; however, a lower priced printer doesn’t always provide the quality and reliability required. Typically, when you buy cheap, you buy more, as the old adage goes.

Driving insights and protecting data 
Data and reporting is important to retailers. They need to know what inventory is being sold and when to restock. Sure, smaller companies can keep a written tally; however, larger companies often link their Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) systems with their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to allow a seamless reordering of supplies – and, sometimes they also combine both their store and e-commerce sales if that makes more sense and is more effective. This kind of approach can be crucial when used in conjunction with a more sophisticated just-in-time stock control methods.

Security is also important. Whether it takes the form of employee log-ins, systems to track transactions, or security systems to maintain secure transactions. In many European countries, fiscal law has been brought in to avoid retailer fraud. With reporting done through the cash register, fiscalisation is always done through software. However, measures can be put in place which cover both software and the POS hardware. For example, in Slovenia fiscalisation is handled through software; in Italy and Poland it is done through a specialised module and hardware within a POS device;  or in Germany’s case, the software used needs ensure it meets criteria set out by the government.

The Best The POS Market Has To Offer
There are many types of POS solutions on the market for retailers and hospitality organisations to consider. Standout options include mPOS, mobility solutions and kiosk solutions.

mPOS – The days of traditional bulky POS setups are dead, mPOS solutions are now taking centre stage as more compact, cost-effective solutions. These interchangeable setups typically consist of a tablet, printer, card reader, scanner, customer display and cash drawer; which are commonly bundled together by resellers with additional EPOS software (electronic point of sale). These interchangeable solutions provide a cost-effective solution which can be upgraded as a business’ POS estate evolves. But these types of solutions now require more intelligent printers too, such as those that can seamlessly connect to a host tablet device while supporting a charging port and up to four USB peripherals. This solution is a great way to use existing peripherals which are operated through the printer as it communicates to the tablet device via Bluetooth.

Mobility Solutions – For busy seasonal retail periods and pop-up stores, the need for accessible printing is becoming more popular. Mobile printers are the perfect solution as they easily connect to a smart device and can print receipts or labels. As batteries continue to improve, many printers can now be used for a complete shift and recharged outside of opening hours. Many proven printer providers offer technologies that enable receipt, ticket and labelling solutions. Alternatively, another market innovation in the POS printer space is a battery-powered POS receipt printer. Much like a mobile printer, battery-powered POS receipt printers offer fixed location printing; such as at a pop-up where power is not available. This type of printer is attractive for higher volume receipting for pop-up locations; which take larger quantities of transactions; so a larger receipt roll can be used. 

Kiosk Solutions – Kiosk systems are becoming increasingly popular, which has been accelerated by the pandemic. These self-service solutions typically come with two types of printers, either a packaged printer or a kiosk mechanism, which are chosen based on the kiosk design and user requirements. Typically, stand-alone unmanned solutions are fitted with kiosk printing mechanisms which use a presenter; allowing for larger paper rolls to be used, which require fewer changes and thus less maintenance.

The Future of POS printers

The face of retail is changing. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are being complemented with e-commerce; and, with this, the use of printing and its technology is being adapted. As orders now also come in online, new software technologies such as native, web and cloud-based mPOS applications will enable printing to come directly to a designated printer for efficient picking, shipping or collecting.

Additionally, retailers will also be looking for mixed estates of printing technology covering both receipting and labelling, with linerless labelling becoming increasingly important as a traditional labelling alternative. This eco media removes the need for label packing paper, enabling variable-length labelling with either semi-permanent or permanent adhesive. This type of media is ideal for home delivery orders, click-and-collect, product markdowns and more.


The future of POS is bright and offers retailers and hospitality businesses of all kinds the opportunity to manage sales more effectively. Further, during check-out scenarios it remains important to provide customers with a receipt too – which is the legal form of proving a purchase of a product or service. While some might argue that e-receipting is coming, or is already here, this will not mean the death of the physical receipt. They will work in tandem, depending on differing requirements.

Labelling, though, will continue to innovate the industry. This is because as more business is done online, the need for labelling for services such as home delivery and click and collect will continue to rise. So retailers will require printers for different logistics scenarios within their fulfilment centres.

In either case, a POS system will sit at the heart of purchases and either offer customers physical printed receipts, or they will drive organisation and logistics operations within e-commerce distribution centres. In both cases, proven, robust, reliable and accurate printers will be required to support these operations, and provide receipts and labels for customers or e-commerce logistics teams in warehouses. 

Ensuring a merry and secure holiday season for online retailers

By Gav Winter (pictured, above), CEO at RapidSpike

The upcoming holiday season – including the renowned Black Friday – holds immense significance for online retailers. As early as the end of October, the shopping frenzy begins with enticing discounts that continue throughout December and after Christmas with Boxing Day sales, making it an unparalleled retail period.

In 2022, US consumers shattered records by spending a staggering $9.2 billion on Black Friday, proving the popularity of discount events despite economic challenges. However, this surge in online shopping also makes it an attractive target for cyberattacks, with hackers seeking to exploit unsuspecting customers.

The escalation of payment scams and the increasing sophistication of cybercriminal tactics highlight the substantial financial risks faced by retailers without robust security measures. Furthermore, the surge in website traffic during this high-demand period can strain website performance, potentially compromising the overall user experience.

Given these challenges and the vital importance of website performance and reliability, there is no better time for retailers to put preparations in place. 

Avoid online traffic jams 

In 2023, the eCommerce industry is grappling with a multitude of challenges that require innovative solutions, particularly in the face of intensified web traffic during peak shopping seasons. The ever-increasing customer demand and evolving online expectations set the stage for heightened competition. Today’s customers demand nothing less than seamless shopping experiences, characterised by lightning-fast website performance and immersive features like augmented and virtual reality, for example.

However, meeting these expectations while maintaining website reliability during the holiday shopping season is a complex task. Slow-loading and underperforming websites pose a significant risk, potentially frustrating customers to the point of cart abandonment and seeking alternatives. 

A lagging site can disrupt the flow of shoppers as they explore and add items to their carts, undermining the convenience and enjoyment of the shopping experience. Impatient buyers are more inclined to abandon their carts, leaving behind potential purchases. These abandoned carts not only translate into lost sales but also represent missed opportunities to engage with customers and foster brand loyalty.

Data from Statista underscores the critical importance of a seamless user experience in online shopping. In the second quarter of 2023, approximately 85% of mobile orders in the UK were left uncompleted, with seven out of 10 carts abandoned on computers as well. This evidences the significance of an optimised website, especially when competitive prices for similar products are available elsewhere.

To combat this challenge, online retailers must prioritise website optimisation to ensure swift and seamless experiences for their customers, especially during high-traffic periods like Black Friday. A responsive and well-optimised site not only reduces the risk of cart abandonment but also enhances customer satisfaction, encourages repeat business, and reinforces a positive brand image. 

The rising threat of cybersecurity

While the digital age has brought tremendous opportunities for online retailers, it has also increased the threat of cybersecurity breaches and data theft, particularly during high-traffic periods like Black Friday. 

One of the most insidious among these threats to the eCommerce sector is the Magecart skimming attack. This type of attack involves cybercriminals injecting malicious code into a retailer’s website, allowing them to steal customers’ payment data. With the holiday season approaching, these attacks become even more tempting for cybercriminals seeking to capitalise on the surge in online shopping.

But Magecart attacks are the tip of the iceberg. Cybersecurity threats come in various forms, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, ransomware and phishing attacks.

Online retailers must be prepared to defend against these threats to ensure the security of their customer’s data and the reliability of their websites.But, strategies and solutions for website owners must encompass the full spectrum of web health: performance, reliability, and security.

A multi-pronged defence and optimisation strategy

Online retailers must adopt a holistic approach to address these challenges, safeguard their customers’ trust, and optimise their websites for the upcoming holiday shopping rush. While monitoring and optimisation are essential year-round, specific tools can help during busy periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday:

1.      Implement a layered security approach

The best approach to eCommerce security is a layered one that uses multiple tools. Online businesses must have security measures in place to both prevent and detect attacks. Cyber attackers are constantly devising new ways to disguise their techniques, so it’s crucial to analyse your site for vulnerabilities, as well as attacks in progress.

2.      Conduct stress testing

To prepare for the holiday season, carry out stress testing to understand your website’s normal performance limits. Scaling up your infrastructure is vital to handle the increase in traffic. This could involve adding more machines or using auto-scaling and load balancing for cloud-based solutions.

3.      Implement uptime monitoring

Uptime monitoring is essential to ensure your website remains accessible during busy sales periods. Use uptime monitoring tools to detect issues and ensure prompt resolution. In case of problems, leverage social media to keep customers informed and consider extending the same discounts to customers who couldn’t access them on the sales day.

4.    Utilise performance testing

Prioritise website performance by conducting load testing to understand your site’s capacity and potential bottlenecks. Ensure static content is delivered from a content delivery network (CDN) to enhance loading times. Implement load balancers to distribute server loads and consider serverless cloud technologies for scalability.

5.     Synthetic monitoring

This can play a crucial role by providing a comprehensive view of the user experience. It ensures that website owners can meticulously track the entire customer journey, starting from the home page and extending to product pages, item selection, cart management, and the checkout process. By regularly conducting synthetic checks, website owners can rest assured that these vital processes are functioning correctly and consistently over time. This proactive approach not only helps identify and address issues before they impact real users but also contributes to maintaining a seamless and reliable online experience, ultimately leading to higher customer satisfaction and improved website performance.

Mitigating the effects of holiday season traffic

Black Friday and the holiday season present both opportunities and challenges for online retailers. While the potential for increased sales is enticing, the risk of cyberattacks and website performance issues looms large. Protecting and optimising your online retailer website is not just about safeguarding your business for a single day; it’s about building trust with your customers for the long term.

A comprehensive approach that combines cybersecurity measures, performance optimisation, and synthetic monitoring is essential. By implementing these strategies and staying vigilant, online retailers can ensure their websites remain operational, customer-friendly, and secure throughout the demanding holiday season. Remember, preparation today will safeguard your reputation and revenue for many years to come.