Well hello everyone – I’m back. And while I was away on my hols, I did wonder whether taking time off in the summer was the responsible thing to do. As long ago as 1831, astronomer and statistician Adolphe Quetelet took advantage of the new French habit of publishing annual crime statistics (they started in 1827) to observe that crime rates are not constant through the year but instead vary by season. He refined his understanding in his 1831 book “The Propensity to Crime”, in which he described a “thermic law” of crime: in short, crimes against the person peak during summer months and crimes against property peak during winter months. In 1911 Cesare Lombroso – sometimes called the “father of criminology”, and much given to reading people’s faces and skulls to detect criminal tendencies – came to the same conclusion, observing that rapes were much more common in warm weather. (Interesting fact, for your next Italian holiday: in his will, Lombroso requested that his head be preserved after death so that it could be measured according to his own theories, and it is still displayed, pickled in a jar, at the Museum of Psychiatry and Criminology in Turin. Go on: the kids will love it!)
Finding seasonal patterns in white collar crime is harder – perhaps because it is often perpetrated from a desk, and in our centrally heated and air-conditioned times, criminals can be comfortable all year round. However, there are frauds that happen at certain times of year. Big festivals – Christmas, Chinese New Year, Eid – are usually associated with big spending on food and gifts, and this offers increased opportunities for online scams, theft of credit card details and general scumbaggery. Festivals that require heading “home for the holidays” will put travel fraudsters on alert, setting up websites to sell fake tickets and skim identity and payment details. And once you’re on the move, hackers are on standby for when you just can’t resist using that free wifi on the train or plugging into that complimentary phone-charging point at the airport.
From an AML perspective, perhaps our biggest seasonal concern is everyone going on holiday at once. If the office is actually closed, that’s less risky: there’s no business being done, so there’s no worry about reduced or accelerated AML checks. But if the office is open but half the staff have already gone on leave while the other half are watching funny video clips on Youtube and mainlining the Christmas candy, well, that’s a money launderer’s best possible present.