Stealin' Is EZ: Here's How Shannade Clermont Almost Got Away With Financial Fraud

The country's leading financial adviser, Eszylfie Taylor, schools us.

Shannade Clermont, one half of Oxygen’s notorious ex-bad girls, the Clermont Twins, was indicted earlier this month on charges of aggravated identity theft, wire fraud and access-device fraud. She’s being accused of stealing an unidentified deceased man’s debit card and racking up a total of $20,000 in fraudulent charges months after his death by drug overdose back in January. Shady boots, no? 

Well, the star, who currently has over 800K followers on the Instagram account that she shares with her sister, appeared in federal court just last week to enter a plea of “not guilty” and must return to court Oct. 2 for sentencing. While we sit on the sidelines watching this fiasco play out, we wonder why it took $20K, a reality TV sensation and a dead guy to shed light on something we’ve all been in fear of—financial fraud.

Eszylfie Taylor, the country's leading and African-American financial adviser, chopped it up with BET on this particular case, but also on how the average Joe can go about living NOT in constant fear of financial fraud. “It’s kind of a Catch-22 in this day and age with technology being what it is and being able to work remotely and do meetings remotely and docu-sign and all these things don’t actually require someone’s physical presence. On one end, it makes for an easier business, and on the other hand it makes things like that possible,” says the founder and president of Taylor Insurance and Financial Services in Pasadena, CA.

Here’s his advice to keep you from getting 'Clermonted':

How to catch credit/debit card fraud?

“First thing is to place ill intent. I had a story: The car was broken into once and they stole a briefcase and got a copy of checks and tried to open up accounts and literally one of the things they did is try to Western Union money to themselves. I literally called the police and was like, just go to the Western Union and whoever tries to pick it up then that’s who did it. That case was super simple, but they were like, ‘Yeah, yeah,’ and they then didn’t…That’s a drop in the bucket, right and so unfortunately again unless it’s egregious or a very large dollar amount or maybe in this instance, a high-profile case will they even do something about it.”

Why it's so easy to get away with in the first place?

“I don’t think proving it is the big burden. It’s more or less who’s going to get involved and prosecute, that’s the bigger question. Typically, as the consumer, if you fell victim to identity fraud and there were $20,000 of fraudulent charges to you, as long as those charges got refunded to you, typically you really wouldn’t even care what happens, and that’s the problem.

"So the people who are actually facilitating these things have no disincentive to not do it. Right? Card gets shut down, OK, I’ll try it again. So that’s the biggest challenge. The financial institution has to take a look at ‘What’s the cost for us to process paper work?’ and all that. It’s more cost effective a lot of times for them to just write off the debt, then spend the money.”

How to prevent it from happening to you?

“The biggest thing is that people have to be mindful and monitor their credit. There’s credit monitoring services where anytime a new trade line is opened or any change to their credit report they’re notified, and this happens whether good or bad.

"You got to make sure there are no trade lines or activity happening that you didn’t authorize. It’s a pain in the butt to try and get those things off, and rectified and removed. I would tell people to sign up for those type of services that allow you to monitor your credit and make sure that you know that there’s no unauthorized activity.”

So how could Shannade Clermont have done this?

“It’s actually pretty simple, unless the financial institution was notified that the person died. For example, if you have a credit card right now and you got hit by a bus tomorrow, is your AMEX just going to shut off? No. It’s going to be on and more so, if there’s constant activity on it, they’re going to be less alarmed because the bills are racking up.

"Where it would create an issue is that obviously if that person is dead, then no one is paying that bill. But typically you got to be 60, 90, or sometimes even 120 days delinquent before they really start looking into things. So if she racked up charges, who knows…I doubt she was sending in payments, but if she would’ve sent it in payments she could’ve perpetrated the fraud even longer.

"At some point, if a bill is not being paid, that’s going to draw attention. And that doesn’t mean again that they know that the person is dead, they would probably just shut down the card at some point based on payments not being made. And if the individual is passed away, obviously there is nobody returning the voice mails.”

So, boom…

“Again, in this kind of situation because they're famous to some degree, that’s what’s drawing attention to it. What’s happening in that situation is unfortunately a common occurrence. Until the financial institutions are notified, then that’s it. So that’s where a lot of the work that I do comes in to play, with the estate planning and having proper documentation, what are all your investment accounts, what are all your bank accounts, what are all your insurance policies, who’s your successor trust, and who are you appointing to handle all these financial affairs in the event your incapacitated or passed away. It would be that person’s responsibility typically then to notify the financial institutions and close out the estate.

"I’m intimately involved in all aspects of my clients' lives. That’s why I can be knowledgeable on credit and investments and the like because we take what I call the macro perspective. We’re looking at everything, and that’s one of the things that really separates us from maybe the big wire-house guys like the Goldman Sachs of the world.”

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