The Fraud Examiner

To the Victor Go the Spoils: Fraud and the Olympic Games

July 2012

By Laura Hymes, CFE


As the world gears up for another exciting celebration of athletic prowess, the criminal underworld is preparing to take advantage of our collective jubilation and the anticipation of the Games. The Olympic Games generate an economy unto themselves, and a segment of the population — eager to snatch a share of that money — will employ a litany of schemes to defraud fans.


In Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games, ticketing scams and sales of counterfeit merchandise were widespread, so London authorities have been trying their best to prevent a recurrence this year. The Metropolitan Police created Operation Podium as a division of the Specialist Crime Directorate with the goal of preventing and detecting fraud related to the Olympics. In addition to raising awareness of fraud risks and investigating suspected cases, Operation Podium has its own intelligence division that is currently uncovering and interpreting information to head off risks. Among the various schemes that agents of Operation Podium are watching for are:


Internet and email scams

Fraudulent sales

Increases in preexisting crimes


Internet and Email Scams 

One of the easiest ways for criminals to execute fraud is anonymously through the Internet. Operation Podium agents are warning the public to be wary of emails claiming that the recipients won an Olympic lottery they did not enter, with prizes such as free tickets, hotel rooms, transportation to the Games, and food and merchandise. Emails of this nature generally direct readers to an unsecure website and ask them to enter personal or financial information, which the fraudster then uses for his own benefit. Additionally, unsecure websites or attachments to unsolicited email messages can infect the recipient’s computer with malware. Malware is any malicious software, such as viruses, spyware, adware and keyloggers.


In addition to lottery emails, police are warning about messages that offer job opportunities at the Games for a finder’s fee, and others that purport to authorize business owners to sell their products at the Games for a cost. These are advance-fee schemes in which the victim pays the fee but does not receive anything in return. By the time the victim tries to follow up with the fraudster or reports the incident to police, the perpetrator has moved on and cannot be located. A list of known scams can be found here. 

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